Future-Bending Manyfesto: Volume 2
featuring Joost Vervoort, Anansi, & River Kenna
Future-Gardening (ii), by River Kenna
The Soul of the Future, by Anansi
Summoning an open-hearted devil: an invocation, by Joost Vervoort
Future-Gardening (ii): Water the Garden
by River Kenna
River is struggling to find a self-description that isn’t “Mythosomatic Philosopher” but frankly he’s coming up short, so we’ll keep that for now. He teaches Somatic Resonance to help modern people ground into the wisdom of the body, and Mythopoetic Inner Work to help people navigate the unconscious. He also organized this whole Manyfesto shindig, so if you’re enjoying it please support it.
Once you’ve taken a good look at what futures want to grow from you, and sought out other people working to grow worlds that cohere with yours, it’s time to look for what you can do to tend the garden as a whole, and favorite plants in particular.
This is where people often make the mistake of thinking there’s nothing I can do—I don't have the money or connections to make a dent here.
And this is where I remind you: if you have money and resources to help move the ball forward, excellent, wonderful, do that; but if you don’t, there’s still so much you can do. Even if we stay strictly on the level of providing money and resources, there’s still so much you can do without money or resources yourself.
Let’s take a quick look at two ways of watering and fertilizing the garden that I’ve seen around lately: hype-bending and irrigation.
Last month, a friend gave me $500 without spending a dime.
He tweeted some comments about my Somatic Resonance course, just a few asides about how his practice was developing and how the course felt to him. Two of the people who interacted with that post ended up buying the course in the following days.
Just by talking in public about something he was already doing, he gave me a month of rent and ensured my ability to keep working on this stuff a little bit longer.
If someone is doing work you like, work you enjoy, work that helps grow the future into the kind of world you want to leave to those after you: talk about it.
This can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it—a throwaway tweet or a video essay describing their work—but make no mistake, this stuff makes a significant material difference.
First off, it leads more people to their work, puts more money in their pocket, allows them to continue doing the work, which is no small feat. A lot of the future-tending work people like me do is constantly on the razor’s edge, and this kind of hype-bending is a huge book.
Secondly, it puts their work (and work like it) more deeply into the water. Even people who aren’t into the future you’re bending towards, who aren’t following the garden you’re tending—even those people will end up hearing some of these terms, noticing some of these ideas, feeling more familiar with that direction. Again, this is no small feat. Simply getting a large mass of people to have a fuzzy background understanding of (and positive association with) the futures in question, it moves the needle a lot.
There's a line from a book by Charles Portis — I can't find the exact quote — that goes something like "I find it much easier to act on the authority of other people's causes; second-hand purpose flows through me more easily."
In the past year, I've witnessed several instances of the power of this impulse.
I saw one guy on Twitter raise money for a new laptop for a creator he respected.
I saw a couple of folks band together to raise almost $40,000 for the rebuilding of someone else's home after it burned down.
I saw one person simply look at a handful of creators, say to himself "I want them to have the time and money to put their projects into the world," and reach out to his network to collect funding for that to happen.
There's a powerful mechanism at play here. While seeing someone raise money for themselves and their own projects is standard and barely registers, seeing someone raise money for someone else's projects leaves an impression. It draws us in, intrigues us.
I remember a podcast with Daniel Ingram a few years ago, he was meeting with people to find funding for projects that researched medical and psychological aspects of meditation. He said that he was having a great time, that it was fun to go around asking for large sums of money as long as you aren’t asking for yourself.
If you see work that needs more money, time, help, resources—you can reach out on their behalf to pull it together.
If you see a person, organization, or project that represents a vision you want to see more of, one of the most effective things you can do is provide some irrigation: reach out to people and say "this is worth our time, care, and attention; let's work together to contribute to this vision." Help gather these trickles and tributaries of resources into a flow that moves exactly where you want it to.
It can be as simple as contacting the person, finding out if there's something they need, and setting up a donation page to help them get it. Or it can be as complex as finding out what they need, and then reaching out to your contacts to network and pull together larger amounts of resources and connections to make things like events and publicity happen. Imagination and will are the only bottlenecks.
By lending your face and voice to someone else's projects, you can completely transform what is possible. You're not only transforming their project, you're sending ripples out to everyone working on similar projects. The entire field just got a bit more visible, a bit more intriguing—simply for the fact that someone who isn't directly involved felt strongly enough to implicate themselves in the vision.
I have my eye on a couple of people/projects I'd like to do this for, but the moment doesn't seem ripe yet. If you see visions where the moment is ripe and the ask is clear, go for it. There's really no barrier to entry when helping gather resources for those who need them.
That’s Not the Limit,
Here, I’ve only been writing about nurturing the garden with money and resources—the least subtle and most well-understood ways of making a difference. I started there to make a point: that even if we stay in that mindset, where cash is king and power is the bottleneck, there’s still a lot of room for any given one of us to make a difference. There are still ways to move things along and nurture what’s emerging. We can hype up projects we love, we can put ourselves out there on their behalf to make good things happen.
But there’s much more beyond just resources. I’ll get into that next time.
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The Soul of The Future
anansi is the Soul Director, a sorcerer cultivating dopeness, flow, and soulfulness through the divine vehicles of art and adventure. slide in his DMs and say somethin' crazy if you dare.
It's funny finding myself writing a piece for a manifesto about the future right now. You see, an important moment in my life was Killing The Future at a fateful Vipassana retreat in 2019 and allowing my future to unfold however it Desired, cutting me loose into the sea of time and destiny...so...what am I supposed to say about this thing I killed inside of me?
I'll just have to keep doing what I always do then, and just vibe my way through :P
I've endeavored to surrender my will in favor of the Divine Will, as an act of faith, and trust, that it will lead to the Best Possible Future Beyond Imagining. And I'm gonna keep doing that. So instead of painting you a picture about what the Future could be, i'm gonna honor my way as the Soul Director, and LISTEN and ASK the Future what it Desires.
anansi: Dearest, holy Soul of the Future, what's up? What do we need to know, to hear, to see??
The Future: *compels the Soul Director to weave three living sigils to speak through*
anansi: it is done!
The Future: I have three messages for you:
anansi: I hear you. But we're scared. We don't know if things will be ok. Can't you assure us All Will Be Well?
The Future: no. of course not. This is the Game. What need would there be to cultivate Grace, kindness, courage, faith, the most powerful qualities a soul can integrate, if I were so easily contained?
anansi: ...i mean, yeah, you're right, but it would be a lot more comfortable.
The Future: and so much less Alive. are you really ok with that, Director?
The Future: i Know.
The Future: Face me, eyes open, heart open, ears open. Let me wash over you, let me transform you as you pass through my threshold, over and over again.
anansi: You are Terrifying though.
The Future: And so much more. Let me be.
anansi: ...I suppose I'd ask the same of anyone as well. The least I could do is extend you the same courtesy.
The Future: Trust me. Trust yourselves.
anansi: Ok, I will. Thank you, wise Soul of the Future.
The Future: You're welcome. Keep going. Keep dreaming. Keep listening, keep watching my movements, my distortions, my divergence. Dance with me.
The Future: *disperses*
Well, you heard the spirit folks.
Embrace the mystery.
-anansi, the soul director
P.S. What? You wanted more? Some grand vision? Sure, I could do that. I could paint you a crazy ass picture. I could blow your fucking mind. But that's not what I think you Need. That's not what I think you even really Want. You just want to know it's going to be ok right? You just want to know it's all gonna be fine? I'm not going to do that. I don't fucking know. That's not the damn point. It's going to be what it is. Keep listening, face the present with integrity and heart, do your work, give your gift, and maybe, just maybe it really will all be Ok. We got this.
P.P.S. Embrace the mystery!!
Summoning an open-hearted devil: an invocation
by Joost Vervoort
Joost Vervoort is an Associate Professor of Transformative Imagination at Utrecht University. He focuses on the intersection between imagined futures, transformative and radical action, games and creative practices. He co-runs the Dharmagarage, a group of friends diving into meditation and imaginal practice; and sings in metal band Terzij de Horde.
The world we live in is insane. Life is an incredible mystery, but it can seem like everything in society is set against it. Global ecological destruction is mostly just an accepted path. What humanity, warmth and solidarity we find in our lives really exists despite dominant trends in politics and business. The intensely destructive and blind logics of our world colonize us, and we are convinced that following them is what it means to be serious, adult, respectable, successful. In the face of this pervasive colonization, we struggle to access anything like the personal and communal emotional and energetic resources that would allow us to bring real alternatives to life.
We are taught to underestimate the power of our embodied imaginations; or to streamline them so we can be narrowly creative in reproducing an ever shifting status quo. Cut off from our own richness, we just survive as best we can. Thinking we are serious, we are in fact unable to look deeply and seriously at what life really is, in all of its mystery, tragedy, depth. We ignore our anger, our grief. We are also unable to be truly playful – unable to look at all this nonsense with a humorous eye, turn it around, subvert it. Unable to mess with what really deserves to be messed with.
This is an invocation, a demonic ritual of sorts, to help wake up the open-hearted devil that lives inside of you. To connect, bodily and imaginally, to your inner rage, grief, darkness – and your playfulness, your humor, your wildness. Because the world needs it. Inspired by my imaginal practice work with my friend and mentor Rosa Lewis and my group Dharmagarage, I’ve used a version of this in a training with PhD students, because they often struggle to keep access to their own inner experience in the face of mounting pressures. This invocation is an example of a perspective that drives much of my work: that deep seriousness and deep playfulness are not opposites, but that both are complementary pathways into the depths of mystery and complexity. In those depths, your inner devil lies sleeping.
This section is a guided meditation that you can either read and experiment with, or you can listen to the recorded version here. The recording is about 30 minutes long.
Drop your awareness into your heart, slowly. Don’t ‘look at’ your heart from your head. Instead, feel what it’s like to be a heart at the centre of your body. Take some time to feel how your breath moves through the sensations of your heart area. From here, let other parts of your body express themselves as themselves in your experience. Feel into a sense of well-wishing, a hope and wish for this body to flourish and be happy. Wherever this appears in the body, let it blossom and flourish. See if you can feel into a sense of curiosity, openness about this blossoming of embodied experience. Imagery of blossoming and flourishing may help this move. Be with this for a while.
Feel into existential fear. What makes you fearful, worried, about being alive on this planet? Let the imagery come. Where in your body does this fear live? Take a while to just feel it. We spend a lot of time ignoring and pushing against our fear. But if we can just feel it with openness and curiosity, it’s not so bad. We’re moving through fear into the emotions we are going to focus on today.
We go to sadness – a good antidote to fear in my experience. Feel into the sadness of being alive on this planet. Feel into what it means for you that life is impermanent, that death is coming. That you lose the people you love. That you are not in control of this. How fragile and vulnerable life and the things that make life good really are. This sadness is just a part of life. Good to feel.
But there is another kind of sadness. Sadness about everything that goes wrong in the world but doesn’t have to be like this. Feel into a sense of how much of the fullness of life is being missed because people are just trying to respond to the demands of insane systems that only benefit a few people. Feel into the destruction of lives, dreams and ecologies. This sadness isn’t just you. There are things going wrong with the world. Where is this sadness in your body? Let it flourish if you can.
Anger might be bubbling up now. This is good, we’re going there anyway. Anger is important – it is an activating, mobilizing emotion. The fire of anger can pull individuals and groups out of despair. Feel into your anger about everything – horrifying injustices as well as dumb, stupid shit. Where is the seat of anger right now in your experience? Can you let it grow? What colors and imagery come up?
So, you’ve felt your fear, your sadness, your anger. Now, really open everything up and soak in the strange mystery of being. Feel how everything about experience is profoundly mysterious. Profoundly non-obvious. The very sense of consciousness is deeply, deeply strange and wonderful. Maybe there is a deep, deep stillness here. There is real absurdity here. Become this profound strangeness and wonder for a while. Wonder wondering about wonder. What feelings, colors and images blossom up?
Now, follow the absurdity into a deep playfulness and humor. Isn’t existing ridiculous – and especially the kind of living where we’re sleepwalking and self-hypnotizing, worrying about lots of nonsense? Feel into this sense of humor and playfulness, and really open up to it. See if you can experience any resistance to it as absurd as well. There is a profound, sharp, searing, wise intelligence in this kind of deep, playful humor.
Ok. Take a deep breath. Now, see if you can let this playful, deep wise humor exist together with your anger, with your sadness, and with your sense of mystery and wonder. You can imagine holding your sadness and anger in one hand; your humor and playfulness in the other hand; and your sense of mystery and wonder at the core of your body. Notice how these energies start interacting with each other – creating a wild, fiery playfulness, dark and sad humor, a powerful sense of care and wonder, and other combinations.
Time to summon your open-hearted devil.
Feel into this question: if your wildness, humor, anger, care, wonder, sadness, and playfulness would manifest themselves into a transformation of your body into a devil, a demon, a wild god or spirit, a powerful, dangerous magical being but with an open heart to all life, what form would you take? Take your time to feel into this and let the images come.
What form and shape are you? What is your skin like? What are your teeth, hands, perhaps claws like? What energies emerge in you and surround you? How big or small are you? Do you wear any clothes? Do you have any symbols, tools or ceremonial objects? What do they represent? Where do you dwell? What ecology of spirits, beings, natural or constructed environments surround you?
You’re free to use your body to fully embody your inner devil. Hiss, growl, grimace, bear your teeth. Raise your arms to the sky. Enjoy this, and take your time. How does it feel to be this creature while being open-hearted to the world and to life?
Now. Being this devil, what do you want to do? Imagine what you would do next, right now. And what you would do in the next couple of years. Would you be a creature of vengeance? Of righteous protection? Of trickery and deceit? Of absurdity and illusion? Of wild inspiration? Imagine your actions and future path concretely.
Next, imagine that you are still your secretly and inwardly your devil, but outwardly you look like you look now. You return to your life. How would your relationships, your work activities change if you would stay within your current life, but as a secret, heartful devil? I recommend spending some good time with this, working out the details, and imagining possibilities. You can return to this imagining later as well, of course.
So, you’ve summoned your inner devil. This being might change, expand, develop more details over time, of course. See what happens when you keep embodying it. Maybe make, draw or write something to remind yourself. In the training with the PhD students, they all made colorful, wild masks to remind themselves of being this creature.
Finally – the best thing about this is being devils together. Sociologist Erika Summers-Effler writes that communities who allow for a space where dark, unaccepted emotions can come out can provide the basis for collective critical consciousness and subversive action. Go explore devil summoning with other people. Let’s create a heartful devil insurgency against the soulless horrors of the world.
That’s Volume 2
We’ll be back in a bit with Volume 3.
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