Alternate Histories: 5/21, 4/9


[These come from two different conversations, with two different young men.]

I’m not worried about RI, I’m worried about the earth. We’re supposed to be these great beings of light … We are the potential to change the world, only a few are in control and they have lied to us to get us to serve them. We all have to serve each other.


Just take the precaution! I have a son, he’s turning three in a week and I worry about what kind of life he’s gonna have. I don’t have time to put any thought into my future, I’m too busy thinking about his future … How do you not at least care not to make it worse?



In this story, everyone, not just J, is thinking about J’s son’s future—that everyone knew about this little boy, including me, including T, who spoke to me earlier in the day, including every other person who spoke to me, including everyone who passed by me, and their mothers (if living), and their employers (if any), and the guy who sold J his hoodie at the flea market, and J’s son’s pediatrician, and J’s son’s mom, and the bank clerks at the downtown Bank of America branch, and the people in charge of Bank of America’s hiring policies, and the people in charge of Bank of America’s corporate sponsorships, and my husband, and the Nature Conservancy.

What do we want J’s son’s future to be? Normally, when you want to know what someone wants or needs, you ask them, but J’s son is three. If you ask him what he wants, he might say “Ice cream!” or “Spider-Man!” He might whine, “I wanna go home,” or yell “Poopoo!” and run around in a circle.

Until he can figure out what he wants, we want J’s son to be able to walk strongly and calmly, living and lovely. That means no one can be waiting to hurt him—which is not a problem, because in this story, everyone’s focused on J’s son’s future, on fostering him in the larger sense of that word. We need trucks that will bring him food; we need the food to be grown with fertilizers that won’t poison his water, and those trucks to burn a fuel that doesn’t poison his air. We are here to serve J’s son. The plants and trees that make the oxygen he breathes, the water that washes him or cools the land he stands on, the buildings where people make decisions that benefit him, also serve as places for him to exercise his curiosity and his courage, so the people who own or tend these things must continue to do so, and make sure he can get to them. He’s welcome in most places. Adults are eager to answer his questions, to keep an eye out for him and other kids, to arbitrate and mediate, to wean them away from their tiny jerk tendencies and power trips, to teach them to wait and be calm.

We want J’s son to be kind, to be a carrier of kindness rather than damage, so the people around him have to model kindness, especially toward those who are weaker than they are—which includes him. That means J, too, needs room to be kind. The people with whom he works, the people who see him on the street, recognize that he, too, is alive and lovely. His safety too, his sustenance, is important to them, and they will protect it. They will help him separate his work from his survival—they will see what they can spare. They will make no room for people who want to destroy him.

64 years later, J’s son serves his turn at the reparation meetings, where he and two other people decide what is due from someone who’s wronged someone else to the person that they have wronged. J is dead. J’s son’s mother, too, is dead, and so are most of the older people he learned from when he was growing up, including T, who had been a prayer leader all his long life, helping people find each other’s strength and mourn each other’s losses. The people in charge of Bank of America’s corporate sponsorships are dead. My husband and I are dead. Many of the trees that J’s son played under when he was three, and four, and five, and nine, are still alive—most trees live longer than most people—and J’s son still wears the hoodie his father bought at the flea market, much mended, much faded.

Does it seem strange to you—to place yourself in the service of J’s son like this? Who do you serve now? Who serves you? Follow the lines outward from the center of your chest, or wherever you keep yourself: where do they go?


One thought on “Alternate Histories: 5/21, 4/9

  1. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 6/1, 4/20 | climateanxietycounseling

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