The first time I’ve ever heard of “the linear perspective” was when I was at Standing Rock in 2016. It was at a training orientation meeting for settlers. One of the things they explained to us was not expect things to happen in an A + B = C manner; that there was a specific way that things tended to unfold there.
So, this is a post I have wanted to write for years now. And this post is going to be hella all over the place. It’s about the linear, colonial way of being our culture is steeped in. It’s a critique of linearity in social justice spheres. About the allergic reaction people have to anything remotely new agey. About being out of the “woo closet”. About the false dichotomy of science and spirituality. This post reflects the bridging within myself of these polarities. Like, I remember when I would kinda roll my eyes whenever anyone mentioned chakras, and look at me now — probably the hippie-est new ager out of all of my friends :P
So I wanted to write this after Julie Payette’s speech when she became the governor general and people subsequently shitting on astrology and the like. Things have shifted a lot since then, and there is a lot more room for nonlinearity nowadays.
After Julie Payette made her speech, there were lots of people applauding her take-down of “pseudoscience” such as astrology.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Julie Payette. (I even wrote a report about her when I was in grade 3 or 4 about women astronauts.)
But I’m gonna quote Molly Meehan on this:
“Fuck the idea that these practices are bullshit, that it’s inherently dangerous, or that it is a symptom of anti-intellectualism and anti-scientific thought.
It’s not trying to be scientific. It’s not trying to be intellectual. It’s trying to tell a story. It is trying to be a mirror in which you can see yourself clearly, and thus affirm your existence.”
Humans have been watching the stars and making meaning from them for millennia. Astrology, witchery, magic, are valid spiritual beliefs, just like any other. and they can peacefully coexist with scientific thought.
I think it’s very telling that people like to shit on something that mostly feminine, queer, and/or coloured folks follow. Hmm, I wonder why that is?
Oh right, because a linear, concrete-evidence way of thinking is itself an ideology, one that’s largely inextricable from Western, patriarchal, colonial ways of viewing the world. That way of thinking of course has merits and has led to some beautiful things, but to imply that it is a comprehensive viewpoint or should be the exclusive view is absurd. Exclusively thinking in this mode is what has led to the messed up state of the current world. Not to mention, so many studies don’t even take the findings of physics/quantum mechanics into account (i.e the observer effect).
And it’s possible to be feminist and woke and be steeped in this fundamentally patriarchal viewpoint (Actually, I would argue that’s more common than not. I would argue that much of the history of social justice has been about getting marginalized folks to fit into colonial structures rather than critiquing the structures themselves.)
“As women, we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge. We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth of feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibilities of it within themselves. So women are maintained at a distant/inferior position to be psychically milked, much the same way ants maintain colonies of aphids to provide a life-giving substance for their masters.” — Audre Lorde (as per the 70’s it is a pretty gender binary quote, but do adjust it in your head to make it inclusive)
There are things that can’t be quantified and and labelled and put in a box. There are things that don’t belong in a neat point — counter-point debate.
If you see a linear, rational, Point A to Point B, scientific worldview as THE viewpoint, then your wokeness needs some work. and this doesn’t apply to just to people who identify as social-justicey, but everyone.
I think to live exclusively in the mental, rational realm is to live in a way that is cut off from ourselves. this cutting off within ourselves, the suppression of the body and the heart and the spirit, then is reflected in the brokenness of the world outside us. The worst part is, most of us don’t realize that there even is a schism within ourselves.
And about my personal relationship to magic. Honestly, life became a lot more interesting and a lot less depressing when I stopped taking everything at face value.
I remember when a friend told me that words are spells. Think of the word “spelling”. He gave the example of travelling to a place where you don’t know the language. Once you learn a few words…boom, a whole host of options become available. you can ask where the trains station is. you can order food. you can express your gratitude to the strangers who help you along your travels.
There’s infinite possibilities in between the lines. i think the colonial structures benefit when we believe in the church of hyper rationality, when we forget that magic is in the mundane.
This is my official coming out of the woo closet post. I’ll be over here doing me some spells.
I’ll end with this quote:
“When you are reading chapters in your book about the differences between animals and plants and humans, you are reading more about the interests of the different mostly men and some women who are defined as “discovering” the principles of life. When your textbook says that cells were not discovered until after the microscope was invented in the 1500s and not really named as true until the 1800s, you are not learning the full story. You are not learning that traditions across the globe did not need to see through a microscope to have a felt sense or a sacred awareness of the billions of personalities that organize themselves into organs and systems and energy tides and balances. Life is not invented or discovered. It is lived.”
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Originally posted in 2019.
Photo Credit: Dennis Truong / Navodhi Ranatunga