Part two: Wishes
Nothing makes me feel more alive than helping solve other people’s problems. It makes me feel powerful, useful, connected and of service. It is necessary work, and it uses all my skills: deep attention, creative problem solving, vengeful empathy. But the focus on problems, which tend to arise in moments of or approaching crisis, means we can never plan very far into the future. Because most of my loved ones have very little money or security, we use chewing gum to plug the leaks only long enough to get us to the next disaster. This is the way most of us must live right now at the intersection of many multi layered crises. We feel we can’t dare to wish for anything in case it distracts us from the crisis at hand, as if wishing were an unacceptable indulgence. Sybille Peters is an artist who has theorized wishes as a fundamental part of rigorous research practices. If it wasn’t for her work I think I would be unable to use the word without rolling my eyes at the same time. But what if we challenge ourselves to see through these emergencies and to go towards our wishes despite all the holes in our boats? After all, those holes are only going to get plugged, not really fixed, until we reach some sort of destination. Right now we keep going in circles. I think that in some way we use our own personal crises as a distraction when we are afraid of what we might wish for. So long avoided in the name of survival, we may not know our wishes, or we may not recognize them, especially if our wishes do not comply with what is on offer. We may feel like our wishes are not utterable, or that we don’t deserve to have wishes, either because we’re obviously a failure or because we already have too much. We may feel that our wishes don’t make sense in a capitalist context. We may have never seen a good wish come to fruition. We may feel that our wishes are too weird or individualistic or simple to talk about in the company of people we respect, who appear to have much better wishes. Or maybe there simply isn’t time to talk about this bullshit, which will keep us from the work of survival… and inevitably lead us to more disappointment. Making wishes in the apocalypse feels risky. But maybe the apocalypse in one way came from too many neglected wishes.
If all our crises are connected, then all our wishes are conspiring
I have a sixth or seventh sense that your deepest wishes may not be that different from mine. It takes time to be able to understand and articulate them. Even if I knew my wishes I may not be able to describe them because there aren’t many opportunities to practice that type of thinking or speaking. I don’t think wishes can live in a vacuum. Wishes are social. We create them together as we survive and learn what we want to escape and what we want to go towards. We hold them together. It is hard to wish for what we haven’t yet seen. And what if all we know is that we don’t want any more of what we have been exposed to? This is very scary. We may sometimes fixate on solving problems as a way to avoid having dangerous wishes. Our wishes might demand that we abolish this society and create a new one, one that can meet all our wishes. An honest wish can make it hard or even impossible to continue to participate in this society. How are you going to go to work for minimum wage if you know it is completely disconnected from what you want or believe in? What if the only way to meet your wish in our present society is to do something or benefit from something you hate? Me too. But the dangerous wishes are there, under the bed like a monster designed by you for you.
The wish beneath the wish
As a member of a Triangle in the Hologram there is an opportunity to see someone’s struggles in relationship to their spoken or unspoken wishes. In isolation it can be really hard to remember our larger goals and wishes, especially when we have learned to be placated with bad news, untrustworthy information and massively unequal and unfair living conditions. This project asks all participants to uphold a forceful optimism: we will survive better together. We can create a world where our wishes are contingent on each others’ fulfillment, not on endless competition. And we suspect that the wishes we each have, when put together, can give us the energy and sustenance we need to engage in the coming crisis. We can solve each others’ problems as we go towards our dreams, and getting closer to what we want will give us the energy to continue to deal with the never-ending list of emergencies. The Hologram is one methodology for unpacking our wishes, because I suspect that there is always a wish hiding below our wishes. For example, you wish for a house on a nice piece of land, somewhere quiet and beautiful. Many people do. But the first level of unpacking includes the following questions: Why might you wish for that? Had you been taught to want that? What are you reproducing? Who else benefits from that wish? Who suffers at the hand of this wish? Is another layer beneath that? It’s important not to get caught up in beating ourselves up for our wishes, but ask deeper questions, to understand what they are trying to say. What kind of person is constructed by this wish? A taxpayer? A head of household? A gardener? A home decorator? A mother? Does the wish produce the character that you need and want to become, in the conditions that we are living in? What is below this wish? Is it that you seek stability? Do you desire safety? Do you want to experience natural beauty every day? Do you want to ensure your access to food? Do you want to be able to create a safe space for others in your community? There is always a multitude of wishes below the original wish. Maybe it’s wishes all the way down. By looking below the wish without shame, we may be able to understand what it is that is non-negotiable, and how we can meet the wish without compromising our values. Because if we fail to question and complicate our wishes, most of us at some point will have a hard time striving to meet our unquestioned wish within a system that is actually killing us or others so that only a handful can have their wish fulfilled, if indeed it is their wish and not a proxy. The work of excavating our wishes, of carefully and optimistically discovering our wishes beneath our wishes, and the ways our wishes are connected, is some of the work we can do in the Hologram.
Questions for consideration
- What have you been taught to want?
- What do you wish you wanted?
- What do you want not to want?
- What do you pretend to want?
- What if you do not want what is on offer?
- What do you want?
Move your arms as if you are swimming freestyle, extending one, then the other, in constant motion in big circles, elbows pulling the arms above your shoulders.
As you swim imagine yourself in a vast ocean. Night is falling and a storm is coming. You can’t see the shore, so you use your intuition to orient you. Project yourself in that direction, and swim vigorously so that the motion will naturally put your breath into rhythm. Continue for 7 minutes.
Now, make a list of the three biggest challenges you currently face. If you overcame each of these challenges, recovered your energy, and realized you could safely make a wish, what would that wish be?
What would it feel like to have support confronting these challenges? How would the three people you listed in Activity 1 offer you the kind of support you need to get to the wish? Create an invitation to your triangle that describes the type of support you would like to receive if they would join your Hologram.