Macarena: [00:00:00] I use the term femme rather than female because in part I wanna get away from that history and also because I want to pull it away from the histories of reproductive logic, the histories that have embattled the female body. And so this femme becomes more possible to me as a figure for not just embodiment, but for thought, action, engagement, connection.
Helga: Do we meet the people we need exactly when we need to meet them? Is there a power in being open to this sense of destiny? And how do we balance those transformative encounters with the foundational joys and traumas of childhood? My guest today is Macarena Gomez Barris, professor and chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University.
She's also the [00:01:00] founder of the Global South Center at Pratt Institute. I’m Helga Davis and welcome to my conversations with extraordinary people. Thanks for being here. In this conversation, we talk about how we can and must find beauty in the most ambiguous of places. How she uses the word femme to escape the embattled histories of the word female, and how she's moved on and how she hasn't, from a first traumatic swimming lesson with her father.
We were talking about the fact that we've had to reschedule a bunch of times. And the feeling that we share that whatever happened we were supposed to be here. Right now.
Macarena: It does feel that way. Yes.
Helga: And tell me why it feels like that to you.
Macarena: It feels that way to me because I can already tell you're an interesting and grounded person, [00:02:00] and I am working very hard to be more of that person, more of the time, um, within myself. And so it means it's a good sign to me that I'm on a very good path right now. And so I just had a little, oh, check okay, good. I'm on the right path. I'm vibrating in the right ways and I have encountered this special person on my journey and feel very grateful for it.
Helga: Thank you for that. And thank you for this. So then my question is, what is it that takes you out of feeling grounded?
Macarena: The world is a busy place. It's an over-determined place, if you will. It's a place where there's a lot of noise all the time. I was thinking about the sky the other day and just the ways in which the sky now is a place where it's not just, [00:03:00] you know, airplanes and helicopters and it's the satellites and the fixed satellites and the sense of being watched and the sky that was once so incredible, even in the middle of Manhattan, with so much light, you could still catch some specks up there and know that we're more than this on Earth. I get distracted by that and I worry for my daughter. I worry for my son. I worry for the daughters and sons that aren't mine, but are ours collectively, and those distractions can be so forceful.
Helga: How do you work with your kids around this issue? Do you find them particularly distracted?
Macarena: They're, they're a plugged in generation and the other day I was reading an article in The Guardian and it was one of those kind of fear mongering pieces about what technology is doing to our children. And [00:04:00] at the same time, there's some truth to it because physiologically, there's bones that are growing at the base of their spine that they can now map because the neck is bent so much forward, watching the phone, that kind of forward movement, looking down rather than looking up, you know. We're hooked in, you know, so what it means to find truthful connections, moments, and to speak to them in a way that's loving and joyful and with intent and purpose, that takes a lot of pedagogy, a lot of thinking about, it's a complicated mix right now, because they don't want to hear I love you. I love you. I love you
Nor do they wanna hear, this is what you should be doing. Put your head up, right?
Helga: But this is, this is a thing, and I think by extension, we don't wanna keep being afraid of everything. So sometimes I find that I have to [00:05:00] turn the radio off. Or I turn it on because some part of me feels addicted to the feeling of being afraid because then if I'm afraid, I don't have to do the things or say the things I know to be true. I can just be afraid, and I'm working really, really, really hard to understand what the balance is for that in my life and in the way I go about being in the world and the way I go about being in my work.
Because there are things that I know I need to know. There are things that I know I need to see and look at and watch and be careful about. And at the same time, my eyes are tired and they hurt. And they hurt from seeing, they hurt [00:06:00] from feeling, they hurt from being in spaces where I feel and witness a kind of hopelessness and so and so, so, so then what do I do?
Macarena: That is exactly it. You know, and that balance, that balance of finding this space of critical hope, which is not just this liberal hope that imagines a kind of straightforward progression narrative, but a kind of sense of holding all of that's happened, that deep history of everything we know to be true. And there's different degrees to which people have experienced that history and have passed that history in their very bones, and have metabolized the terror. And when you say that your eyes are [00:07:00] exhausted, I hear you. And the exhaustion, it's so deep, and we could talk about it like I did when I was more of a sociologist as a structural problem or the kind of ways in which the exhaustion comes out of the, knowing how far we are yet so close at the same time, proximity and distance from what it is that we want to realize. It's not easy utopia that I'm speaking about. It is about presence somehow, isn't it?
Helga: Tell me what the “it” is?
Macarena: Yeah, the thing that would not make you so exhausted, the thing that would not make your eyes tired.
Helga: Do you know this poem, a Cavafy poem called Waiting for the Barbarians? I will paraphrase it badly, but the last sentiment of the poem is that everybody's waiting for the barbarians to [00:08:00] come. And in the end, the barbarians don't come and so the villagers wonder who they will be without the barbarians and without this, this attachment to the coming of the barbarians. And so my answer to you in part is that who am I without this kind of fierce vigilance and then what do I do? So it's to learn about living with and seeing through tired eyes, but then finding ways to see the moon, to appreciate the sky, to appreciate the leaves that are on the ground now.
Macarena: What I notice in your response is also the [00:09:00] comfort with stillness, careful words, poetry, imagination, all the things we need right now.
These are critical resources that we need, you know, in this moment, this tired and seeing moment that is also the eyes that are tired from witnessing such atrocities. I had this one experience that was so powerful when I was in Peru doing research. Walking along the Urubamba River, which is a full river, magical, beautiful river, green, brownish, kaka-colored river.
But it was deep night and there were no lights. There was nothing. And I felt very scared, very scared. I talk about it and I, I've written about it, but so scared that I didn't know what to do next. I just, such deep, primal fear and I would [00:10:00] just put one foot in front of the other and walk the path as we do. And I, something clicked, I don't know what it was, mountain air, what it was that really, that doesn't exist, that that sense of deep anguish and fear was all somehow a construction. I just had a deep existential sense that this was true, and that was a shifting moment for me, and I tried to go back to that moment. Again, if we speak about source material for the walking that one does with tired eyes.
You know, that kind of knowledge that one can both withstan but that the fear machine that is planetary is just that. It's a machine. It can be dismantled. It can look different.
Helga: And you don't think that's easy for us to say from the comfort or whatever the comforts are. [00:11:00] Having a coffee every morning, uh, being able to do so we're not hungry. We're not forced to go and find clean water every day. And I know that these things are extremes or they're not, but they're also realities. And I feel that in some ways people just don't wanna hear this anymore. But I look at the things that we're doing as a country and as a world, and I have to use the word “people” as meaning more than me or you or this city or this country. I have to, there's, there's no way that the world—that we could be talking about blowing up the world again without the negligence of a way of seeing [00:12:00] among people.
Macarena: There's so many ways to speak about this, but I've often more recently spoken about it as a war against the earth and it's peoples, and especially it's racialized peoples and it's a war, it is because they, the kind of colonial, “they” have convinced minds and hearts that this is how it is and this is how it always will be. And that war is enliven and fed like a hungry beast by those we know—
Helga: By our neighbors, our families—
Macarena: white supremacy.
Helga: We don't have to go that far. Right? It's right where we are. Right where our feet are?
Macarena: It’s right where our feet are. That's interesting you say that about the feet because I, I do think there's [00:13:00] something about always having shoes on, not having the feet in the ground, you know and not actually touching this incredible planet that we're on, this incredible being that we live with, you know?
And you strike me as someone that knows this, but I feel that there's so many that take, take, take, take, take. Everything is owed to this incredible being that we live with and alongside the pluriverse that is this, this incredible time space continuum. And I feel a lot of gratitude and pain in that respect too.
And wariness and all of that at the same time. So grateful, you know, so—
Helga: What I offer you [00:14:00] heterogeneous earth being is my capacity for queer language and relations, my scarred body that like yours is a femme conduit. What is it about the female that is so important to your studies and your work and your practice? And it's important to the radical restructuring of decolonization visual arts memory, land, and sea restitution.
Macarena: First of all, it's very powerful. Thank you for saying my words back to me. That is really beautiful to hear them in your lips. Thank you. I mean the female, the, you know, this sense of a gender that was once and [00:15:00] continues to be maligned. Maligned, not just by kind of a hetero patriarchal force, maligned too by certain forces of, you know, white feminisms and certain strands that thought we could not talk about connection to land and place and soil and sand and plant life and the botanical, because that would be essentializing the female identity as a biological essence, too close to natura. We'd say in Spanish, “too close to natura rather than culture.”
I use the term femme rather than female because in part, I wanna get away from that history and also because I [00:16:00] want to pull it away from the histories of reproductive logic, the histories that have embattled the female body. And so this femme becomes more possible to me as a figure for not just embodiment, but for thought, action, engagement, connection. And every indigenous African indigenous society that I've ever studied, has always thought about, you know, Madre Tierra as a source. Madre Africa. Madre Tierra. Madre Planeta.
And the mother's also often a maligned force. So I already knew that you and I would have a connection because one of the times we couldn't come, it was very specific. One was [00:17:00] because I was doing caretaking. Another is you were doing caretaking of your mother. And I thought, exactly right. This person.
Exactly right. So I don't wanna overstate it. For me, it's not about women in the abstract or the universal category. I learn from all kinds of places in this sense. But I am invested in this femme figure, and I'm not sure I understand its full potential yet, but I do know that it's something to return to, to long for, to uplift, to support, and that supports us.
Helga: Are you familiar with Audre Lorde's essay “Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic is Power?” One of the first things she says is that the very word “erotic” comes from the Greek word, eros, the [00:18:00] personification of love in all its aspects. Born of chaos and personifying creative power and harmony. This is kind of exactly what you are saying and I'm wondering if you would speak about this in relationship to radical hope.
Macarena: I'm glad you brought up Audre Lorde, that is wonderful. Her attention to embodied knowledge, embodied ways of learning things and ways of writing. Such an incredible writer, someone I greatly admire. I'm sure Audre Lorde had her own fears, but we don't see that.
Helga: And so much also in this essay of what she speaks about is the dance with an embracing of power, of her own power as it relates to her own pleasure.
Macarena: Absolutely. I mean, that is, I think the queer femme sensibility and desire is what Audre Lorde's pointing to out of the wreckage, out of the chaos, the destruction, this enlivened force, you know, that is, that does take pleasure in the micro because the macro picture can often look very disturbing even the micro can look very disturbing as you were pointing to earlier, but it is a kind of source materially and pleasure. I mean, I think this is why I had abandoned, to a certain extent, kind of an academic voice in my writing, looking for something more pleasureful to me, [00:20:00] something more poetic.
I had started crafting a kind of vocabulary that was theoretical, but that could capture something about this desperate end, critically hopeful moment we're living in. And I turned to creative writing and I've come back and I'm doing all of that. But I think in coming back to thinking about sea edges, there's so much pleasure in being at that sea edge.
It can be an erotic space, central space. And I mean that in the sense of the full senses, you know? Of recharging the tiredness of working from a different orientation. The ions, the, the, the energy fields, the magnetism, the liquidity, all of that, you know, that is femme erotics. That's how I see it. If I may.
Helga: Ooh, yes, please do. But then relate that to critical hope and to your own pleasure in this body that remembers, that moves through the kinds of spaces that is now looking for a different way to be expressive and chaos, sorry, we can't forget chaos.
Macarena: I mean, that is, to me, the hub of creation, if you will, that space of creative practice, that space of rehearsal, that space of play. And for me it is in the waves, you know, being tumbled by the waves. In this book that I'm writing now, the opening is about learning at a very young age to swim in a very [00:22:00] difficult current and the metaphor's obvious there, but going back for more, going back for more in the big wave, you know, and the waves tumbling and just being both physically exhausted by it, but exhilarated again, and so that exhilaration of combining my own inhabitant with something else. Something else that I don't quite understand. And when I hear this description say of an ocean or the Pacific Ocean that I know quite well, the Atlantic Ocean. It's often in human language, but there's a presence, you know, that Aruba based cultures have always understood.
There's a forceful presence of the tide and moon and gravitational poles and wave patterns, and its randomness and all of [00:23:00] that chaos that's there. That's both patterned and unpatterned. That's so powerful that I can't but help but take pleasure. Even if it's industrial, polluted waters andI know what's happening at the oil refinery just two miles down the road, I'm still, I'm still there. Present for this liveliness of being.
Helga: Tell me about learning to swim. Where were you?
Macarena: I've learned a couple of different ways. One, by my Chilean father when we first came here from exile in Chile and came to the United States, came to Los Angeles, had friends that were way more established then we ever hoped to be, had a pool and he just threw my sister and I in the deep end and that was it.
And that was his training from a [00:24:00] kind of Spanish colonial imposition that this is how machos train they're offspring.
Helga: Do you remember this, being thrown in?
Macarena: Yes. Oh, yes. Panic. Terror. Forced to do it. He waited I think a little too long. My sister jumped on top of my back. The both of us went down.
In the book I'm writing, there's always a drowning, you know, four year old inside of me cuz I feel that sense. But then him positioning himself as the savior father figure, I'm sure that did wonders for his parenthood. That, but more joyfully, you know, learning how to swim in the Pacific tide at Zuma Beach, which has an incredibly deep indigenous history that I just have learned more about now. A beach that's really a frontier beach and so biodiverse in Malibu, where many of the fires have [00:25:00] happened. Yeah, that's an incredible set of memories there because it's not an easy place to swim.
Helga: Have you ever spoken with your father about this first of his lessons?
Macarena: Yes and no. I think I sublimated it. I turned it into many other kinds of beautiful views as we do. I talk about submerged perspectives and all of this. So I mean, it's not a collective drowning, it's a very individualized experience, but it certainly taught my body to swim.
Helga: So you did learn to swim that day?
Macarena: Oh yeah. I did. Forcefully.
Helga: Do you think in part because you knew he was there that you would, you would be rescued at some point? Here's why I ask. I don't know [00:26:00] how old I was, maybe five or six, and my favorite cousin took her daughter, who is nine months older than I to a dude ranch with horses and the one horse took a bite out of my Afro. You know, you pet the goats and the sheep and, and then we went to the pool and I was watching people swim and I was sure I could do that. No problem. And so my cousin went away and left us there by the pool, and there was one part of the pool that everyone seemed very excited to be in. And so I went over there and I jumped in [00:27:00] the deep end of the pool and I couldn't get up, I couldn't get out of the water, and I was, I was flailing and I couldn't scream. My mouth was full of water. My eyes were wide, wide, trying to look and see if someone would see me. I heard a kid walk by and say, “Hey, look at her,” and kind of giggle and then walked away. And then I heard another person come by and say, I think she's drowning. And the next thing I remember was a big, white, furry man jumping in the water and pulling me out and putting me back up on the side of the pool.
And as it turns out, [00:28:00] because I got a good yelling at from my cousin, I was standing on the side of the pool and standing on the yellow paint that said six feet deep. So I didn't, I didn't see it and I don't know that I would've known what that meant anyway. I just was attracted to and drawn to the fun that everyone—everybody lined up and they jump in and they pop back up, and they swim back to the edge, and I was convinced, really convinced that I could do that. And so he pulls me out of the water and I'm completely stunned. My body feels that whatever to die meant that it was very close to this. And then my cousin and I ran around to the other side of the pool and then jumped in as we could stand up there.
And ever since [00:29:00] then, I feel that when I am close to the water that I'm always asking its permission to enter and imploring it to not take me and so that you learned to swim from that experience is so interesting to me because that's what I wanted to do. You know? That's what I wanted to do. And that's been my relationship with the water ever since,
Macarena: And that's been my relationship to punishing men ever since
Helga: But one saved me. We can't punish them all.
Macarena: One saved you one.
Helga: Okay. One. You're just saying one. Okay.
Macarena: And he had no reason to. I mean, he wasn't gonna get anything back from it necessarily. So that altruism is, we'll give him one.
Helga: You are listening to Helga. We'll rejoin the conversation in just a moment. Thanks for being here.
Avery: The Brown Arts Institute at Brown University is a new university-wide research enterprise and catalyst for the arts at Brown that creates new work and supports, amplifies and adds new dimensions to the creative practices of Brown's arts departments, faculty, students, and surrounding communities. Visit arts.brown.edu to learn more about our upcoming programming and to sign up for our mailing list.
Helga: And now let's rejoin my conversation with writer and educator, Macarena Gomez Barris.
What is the role [00:31:00] of imaginative spaces in your work and where you are right now?
Macarena: I think they live very deep inside me. I don't have them exteriorized for me very often. This feels like a beautiful, imaginative space. I mean, I think there is a reason I think that I've turned more intentfully to writing fiction, writing stories, writing from embodied memory, writing with my entire body rather than just my head. You know, I've come to trust my head and my analysis and my thinking. I've had good training in some ways, bad training in others, but for the most part, you know, learning to know and trust that I live in a world of [00:32:00] ideas and a world of, you know, wonderful characters and a world of organisms, and a world that's both made up and been constructed before I got here and will live on after I leave, you know, and worlds within and worlds external to this world. All of that feels possible to me in writing, in dance too. But writing is my real place right now. So that’s where I allow imagination to happen, but I think there's something too about a kind of desire for even what we imagine to be a normal encounter, that whatever is quote unquote supposed to happen in that encounter, that it can be redone, reworked, rethought about, undone, pushed.
Helga: Absolutely. I, I think all the time about how I, I really spend a lot of time thinking about the people I'm going to be in conversation with. I tend not to listen to them speak with other people, but I read things. I look at photographs of them in different spaces, and then when I am confronted with them, and I don't mean that in an adversarial kind of way at all, I do my best to let go of all of that to know what I think I know and then not know anything. And then there's something very fascinating for me about looking at people before I hear their voices. And one of the things I was noticing [00:34:00] about you and I was saying, I can't wait to see her eyes. Your eyes are, so, um, what would I say?
I wouldn't say they were expressive in particular, but I would say that you are in there. I see you in there, and that they're large. You don't blink a lot, and you look and you see.
Macarena: How moving, thank you. Thank you for that gift. Thank you for seeing me. That is me. That is me. And with my eyes, I want to return something to those I encounter and with my eyes I feel that they hold a kind of essential, [00:35:00] like they do for many, for many, they say that's where we're young. The windows to the soul, famously, of course, immaterial presence. And a reminder, and I like to remind those I encounter, of course with you,so much gets downloaded because I'm open to other people's downloads and with you.
Wow. A lot gets downloaded so you can return the gaze. Let's just put it that way.
Helga: I brought you a present, look.
Macarena: Oh wow. Is this the present?
Helga: Yeah, but you should open it. It's beautiful. That's my, my three year old on the outside that loved crayons of different colors and I like to write stuff and the words that I learned, I wanted to write them all in [00:36:00] different colors on paper, sometimes on the walls, but I wanted to to have fun making and drawing the world or a name that then became part of some feeling that I had.
Macarena: It's incredible. It's incredible because what I have before me is an envelope that I have yet to open, and it has a star, or across the crossroads leading into my name with the A looking almost like the anarchist A, but you did not go there. But that is exactly right. And then the breaking apart of Maca rena. And that's something I've been thinking a lot about my daughter is applying to colleges and she's written her entire college essay on her name, and she's made [00:37:00] me think about the importance of names and naming of course. And that “arena” in Spanish is sand. And I'm writing a novel about sand. So, and the “maca” is an Andean root, so I'm writing about Andean sand, and so you remind me with this way of showing me the rainbow, the star that's embedded here, the way that you've written my name, that again, I'm where I should be in this moment. So thank you for that. Incredible. So I may open it. Ah, ah. Oh my gosh. What is this? Lovely, oh, incredible scent.
Ah, flower. Ah, this is so beautiful. You pressed flowers for me. [00:38:00] Thank you. These are gorgeous.
Helga: So these are Jasmine flowers.
Macarena: Yes, they are. Why'd you choose Jasmine? You want me to say?
Helga: Nope. Do you have an idea why I chose Jasmine?
Macarena: I mean, I think they look like beautiful little birds to me. There's five of them. They smell gorgeously. They remind me of my childhood in good and bad ways.
Helga: Can you say something about that?
Macarena: So during Covid, the first attempt at writing a novel, is a book called Latchkey, and that is a book about a troubled young woman, very painful, painful book based on my childhood in the Sierra Nevada foothills.[00:39:00]
Maidu indigenous territory, gold country, terrible things happen near there. And that house itself is a beautiful, beautiful house. It lives in my memory, it's both fantastical and part of a childhood home when I was torn from my LA fabric into the Sierra Nevada foothills. And so there was my father, punishing in his own ways and then the stepfather, very punishing person and he loved jasmine and planted it all around the entire house. So jasmine was both a place to go to smell this gorgeous smell and also a symbol of a kind of natural borderline fortress that he owned a place of, you know, of the owner. So it's, you're giving me back something here with this for me.
Helga: [00:40:00] One of the things about doing the caretaking that I think is here for me is the work of trying to find beauty in places of deep and profound ambiguity. And so I'm always looking for that because if I can do that, I can be more honest in my caretaking and more kind.
Macarena: Kindness matters, doesn't it?
Helga: It does.
And so I bought, I saw this jasmine plant and so many of the blooms were not yet open, and I got all excited and I went home and I got the soil and I got the pot that I thought would be most beautiful for the plant and I repotted it. And over the [00:41:00] weekend, so many of the blooms, the blossoms opened.
And I was just so happy to look at it every day, you know, like, yes, look at you ah. And then this morning I noticed that they began to fall off. And so in an effort to continue to find beauty in them, I looked at the plant. and I can see that there are so many yet to come and that the ones that had fallen still had something to give.
And so rather than put them in the garbage or find fault in them, or find sadness in them, or find fear in them, I put them in that envelope. [00:42:00] in hopes that you might enjoy them?
Macarena: Well, I receive them joyfully in the space of ambiguity that they produced for me, with a feeling of, again, just being able to plunge into spaces that are not already so easy to inhabit, like my own psyche and my own memories.
Yet, knowing that there is possibility there and change and mutation and a life and because you've handed me that. So thank you. Really, really beautiful and I will continue to think about this gift beyond our time together now. And your rainbow of my name.
Helga: I may have to take a picture of it.
Macarena: It's gorgeous. It's stunning.
Helga: Macarena, what's a thing that you do every [00:43:00] day that you think every person can do to illuminate, to encourage, to inspire some part of their journey?
Macarena: Meditate. Meditation for me has been so key. So many practices around meditation. I mean, you offered me a meditation just now, a story and a meditation.
We've been talking about presence. We've been talking about ways of inhabiting the planet with pleasure, recognizing the terror, recognizing the histories that are archived within us and how we engage them. But there's something about sitting with self in the silence, in the gaps, acknowledging all the forms of electricity.
I think it's just so essential [00:44:00] and I think there's not enough time. And then for me, when that happens very early in the morning, that's when I choose to do it, I think it can happen whenever one does it, it shifts my entire sensibility for that day. and it allows, just gives so much more space to the day, so much more space to the moments that difficulty becomes just part of everything that we do.
And you know, I had a very long meditation the other day. I thought I was in the right orientation to the world and I felt off somehow the other day off, off kilter. But the fact that I had taken that time, I'd known I was off kilter, and I did impose myself a couple of times that day. I think I entered into a tour guide space a little closer than I might have otherwise. I think I reacted to my daughter a little too [00:45:00] quickly. I think I cut someone off as I—all the things that we do, you know? But I could see all those things and I thought, I'm accountable to myself here, you know, I'm more of witness to myself and I can see myself and there might have been bigger catastrophes that day otherwise.
Helga: Otherwise, do you have a particular thing you do or say or do you just sit?
Macarena: You know, uh, my wonderful friend Saidiya Hartman taught me about morning pages. So it's the morning pages. Straight getting up writing three pages of whatever comes to mind for me, it's often fuzzy. It's, it can be unilluminated, it can be dull, it can [00:46:00] be blank. It can be pushing myself ,hard on myself. It can be many, many things, angry, but by the time I'm done writing those three pages and then I put the headphones in and I sit twenty, thirty, forty minutes, however much I have, there's a different experience at the end of that entire cycle. So those morning rituals, I mean, I guess, you know, in another place in time there would've been different kinds of rituals. Yes, there would've been, right?
Helga: Yes, there would've been.
Macarena: What comes to mind for you?
Helga: I also sit in the morning, I light a candle. If I can't light a candle, I try and find some kind of clear vessel and I put water in it. My thing is not to get hooked on the stuff of meditation. I don't want the [00:47:00] cushion or the beads or the incense, and I say it that way because so much of that feels like commerce and that people think if they don't have those things, that their meditation isn't valid, that there's nothing to be gained or learned there.
And so I want to dispel, in every way I can, that notion, because what it leads me to is whatever you have or don't have, and wherever you are, you can sit and it's enough.
Macarena: Absolutely. It's enough.
Helga: So I sit, I watch, I wander, and whatever is there, I allow it to be there. I don't ever say you shouldn't think that and try to find curiosity [00:48:00] even in the things I don't wanna be thinking.
I make coffee often and I'm not a person who needs coffee. My mom drank coffee every day, and so it connects me to her in ways that I am not connected to her otherwise. I also have a book to write in. I commit to one page because my notebook is big.
Macarena: Be your whole morning.
Helga: Lest you judge me.
Macarena: One page is beautiful.
Helga: My notebook is big. I only need one page and like you, there are so many times that it feels like utter nonsense and I just say, okay, and then I get up and I start [00:49:00] my day.
Macarena: That's right. That is right.
Helga: Is there anything you feel I haven't asked you that you would like to talk about?
Macarena: Where are you on this planet this time?
Helga: So funny. I opened my copy of Octavia E. Butler's “Parable of the Talents,” and there's a beautiful sentence. Consider you were born not with purpose, but with potential. And I read it yesterday and I ripped off my t-shirt and went and got a huge sharpie and I wrote that on the Sharpie and I wore it all day, and then I slept in it, and I was gonna wear it today too.
I didn't, but what it [00:50:00] does is it frees me from thinking that there is one purpose into the space that I can potentially occupy many spaces, and so I don't have an answer for what my purpose is, but the things that I do draw me to my potential and that gives me a lot of pleasure.
Macarena: All coordinated and choreographed in powerful ways for us to glean from potential, potential.
Thank you for that.
Helga: Thank you.
Thanks for listening to my conversation with Macarena Gomez Barris. I'm Helga Davis. Join me next week for the first part of my conversation with video artist and cinematographer Arthur Jafa.
Arthur: I mean, some people look into the abyss[00:51:00] and they shout back what they see, and that's it. It swallows them. There's some people can look into the abyss and they're just fucking tough as nails and just step back from it.