My intentions were good. I started this project a few days ago on my birthday. I told myself I’d keep it simple. Write for a few hours in the morning and then work on sewing and get out in nature, but I’ve been a horrible failure. The past two days I ended up staring at the screen all day, buried in my map, pulling out different parts, but the story just wasn’t coming together. In fact, what I really wanted to talk about was rocks, because someone trolled me on Twitter with the comment “rocks do not have a spirit.” For me, this is THE big question. Maybe it’s best that I make my position clear from the beginning. I’ll tie it into Texas and mythology through Pegasus. Pegasus carries Zeus’s thunderbolts. The flying horse got the job after Bellerophon attempted to ride up and storm Mount Olympus.
Bellerophon, a warrior of Corinth, refuses the advances of King Proteus’s wife. This creates a problem for Proteus who sends Bellerophon on to his friend King Iobates. Iobates tasks the warrior with a series of challenges meant to bring about his untimely death. Among Bellerophon’s most notable successes is killing the fire-breathing Chimera, a lion-goat-serpent monster that had terrorized the Lycian countryside. This is accomplished from the air after Bellerophon tames the flying horse Pegasus with assistance from the seer Polyidus and the goddess Athena who gives him a magical gold bridle. Eventually Iobates realizes the gods are protecting the warrior, and to stay in their good graces he offers his daughter Philonoe in marriage along with half of his kingdom.
Bellerophon accepts the gift and happily raises his family, but eventually his pride gets the better of him. He feels his accomplishments are such that he deserves to be able to visit Mount Olympus, so he embarks with Pegasus on a journey up to those lofty heights. At the last moment, Zeus sends a gadfly to bite the flying horse and, in its bucking, dismounts the rider. Bellerophon falls from that great height, but he does not die. Instead, he lives as a blind, crippled wanderer, alone “devouring his own soul” for the rest of his years. No one will help him because he has betrayed the gods.
To my way of thinking, Pegasus Park, Dallas’s social impact biotech hub, exemplifies the gate-crashing, uninvited guest. The age we’ve been pushed into by public health lockdowns is one controlled by analysts and technicians who imagine themselves worthy of hanging out with Zeus. Demi-gods with fancy degrees and elite credentials pilfering tools of the heavens they don’t fully understand in a treacherous quest to usher in a cybernetic, post-human age. Looking down from on high, beings of the earth are reduced to passive repositories of molecular material available for energetic reorganization and modification. Their aim is to manufacture new forms of “life” to feed insatiable market demands for unnecessary consumer goods and creative finance products. I choose to stand with the yeast!
Ovid’s Metamorphoses speaks of Greek and Roman gods meddling in mortal affairs, often inflicting abrupt and dire transformations. Nanotechnologists, computational biologists, particle physicists believe they are mature enough, wise enough, to wield the lightning bolts of transformation. They aren’t.
Them: “Rocks don’t have a spirit.”
Me: “Perhaps that is the case for the story in which you are living, but you don’t have the authority to assert that for all other beings.”
The prickly comment came on the heels of my natural offerings at places like the Rice University Biosciences Center being labelled “witchcraft.” Such assertions are not surprising. Troubling, but not surprising. I’ve long felt that among scholars Silvia Federici’s perspectives on women, witchcraft, the commons, and nature hold the most relevance for these times. Federici’s work provides vital context around dispossession, gender, indigenous knowledges, emerging markets, and structural adjustment. The imperative for progress at any cost means those who center cycles of nature and reciprocity become targeted for marginalization if not erasure.
As I write this, I reflect on a trip our family made several years ago to pay our respects to the children buried on the grounds of the Army War College, the Carlisle residential school. General Richard Henry Pratt’s memorial marker states: “The way to civilize an Indian is to get him into civilization. The way to keep him civilized is to let him stay.” The plaque is a stone’s throw from the hospital building where hundreds of children died, now a boutique hotel for officers visiting the War College. The past is not past.
If you’ve been following my work, you know my contention is that the biosurveillance state didn’t result recently from the mis-guided actions of a few bad actors. It is systemic. At Carlisle Residential School children were removed from their homelands, families, language, and spiritual practice to remade as blank slates for an imperial project. They built the campus, now used for graduate-level training of high-ranking officers, with their own hands. Many died there. This project is evolving into the Metaverse. Seeds of domination, of coerced labor and resource extraction coming after cell function and brain wave signatures, date back centuries. We are entering a new phase, one where predator energies are reconceptualizing bodies and minds as bioreactors and data farms.
The exchange about stones and spirit came after I’d shared an image of a rock from my collection. This collection lives in bowls and on bookshelves and in dark corners of my backpack when I forget to take them out when I come back from a walk. Finding the right one was a nice excuse to spend time picking up these natural treasures, sorting them, holding their essence in my hands. I’d been trying to locate a passage I’d read a few years back about animist elements in the Ojibwe language – Winona LaDuke speaking about stones, asim, having spirit and agency. Turns out for the Anishinaabe when you pick one up, it may have chosen you!
On my quest for this passage I stumbled upon short story in the New Yorker, “The Stone,” about a girl finding a sacred object on a family trip to the great lakes and how her relationship with it evolved over the course of her life. The closing lines are “As the blood seeped into her brain, she dreamed she had entered a new episode of time in which she and the stone would become the same through the endless repetition and decay of all things in the universe. Molecules that had existed in her body would be joined with the stone’s molecules over and over, in age after age. Flesh would become stone, and stone would become flesh, and someday they would meet in the mouth of the bird.”
…meet in the mouth of the bird.
That, my friends, is sacred frequency.
To me Erdrich’s passage echoes John Trudell’s potent observations about the origins of the human being. “The DNA of the human, the bone, flesh, and blood, is literally made up of the metals, minerals, and liquids of the earth. So, we are parts of the earth. We are shapes of the earth…we have being. That’s our essence; that’s our spirit…all the things of the earth have being, spirit. Our relationship to power and reality is in that understanding of who we are. We are forms of the earth, and that’s reality. Nothing will ever change that reality.”
That is what these technicians cannot comprehend. We are forms of the earth and nothing will change that reality, no matter how many particles or frequencies, today’s manifestations of Zeus’s lightning bolts, they bombard us with.
In a post from 2014, John Two-Hawks writes of spirit roads; each person’s being unique. We are here to share and learn from one another and grow in our wisdom while connecting to the greater good. As people take their sacred journey, we must stay grounded in the earth lest we be set adrift like a tumbleweed, unstable and of no use to anyone. To connect with spirit, we must be in touch with all six directions, yet be firmly rooted in the ground – that imperative for GROUNDING. Pegasus was taken to great heights by the hubris of Bellerophon’s misguided Olympic aspirations. He rode the trajectory of perceived progress to a very bitter end. Compare his calamitous attempt with sacred work of the horses and riders who fulfilled Jim Miller’s 2005 vision of a journey to Mankato honoring the victims of the l862 mass-execution by hanging of Lakota men authorized by Abraham Lincoln. These horses are of the earth as Pegasus was to the air.
“This horse has the six directions that we use in our ceremonies. The two front legs represent the west and the north. The two back legs represent the east and the south. The head points up, the ears point up, represents up above. The tail points downwards towards Mother Earth. When you put those six directions together, it’s a sacred center. You can pray while you are on your horse. You can think about a lot of things. Some people can remember things that ancestors went through. It’s the horse leading the way, because of its healing power.” From Dakota 38+ 2.
To my way of thinking, there are two types of people in the world. Those who believe natural things of earth, water, and sky have spirit and those who don’t. Those who embrace animism, and those who consider it silly, or perhaps even profane. Everything I’ve learned since the biosurveillance state has rolled out, especially with regards to bioengineering, particle physics and frequency, tells me we are living in a universe of sacred energetics where dynamic communication beyond anything that we can imagine is happening all the time. Onto that network, the authentic cosmic dance, molecular engineers desire to place a counterfeit web. It is our task, for those who take it up, to bear witness, to speak the truth, to put positive affirmations into the world, and to listen for the songs of life sung by the brooks, breezes, birds, and cicadas.
They never asked permission to use their thunderbolts on us.
We cannot give consent.
Our DNA is a fractal antenna signaling the universe.
Life isn’t a computation.
Life isn’t an electrical engineering schematic.
Life isn’t a data dashboard.
Pi used in equations is an inadequate substitute for that which eternally unfolds.
Nature is (mostly) curves. (h/t Sofia Smallstorm)
“A stone is a thought that the earth develops over inhuman time.” Louise Erdrich