Zoom Out

Galaxies Collide, NASA

Days One and Two at the 2014 GIA conference in Houston have gone by quickly — jam packed days with sessions from early morning (8:00) through evening (9:00 or 10:00 + socializing) and almost no breaks. I have been Tweeting during several sessions @Lutman_Sarah and taking copious notes for future posts that will take some time to compose. So stay tuned.

On Monday the very first session I attended was Art and Tech: Bending New Technologies to Native Traditions, organized by Wendy Red Star, Program Associate, and T. Lulani Arquette, President and CEO, of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, based in Vancouver, Washington. The session provided a platform for three Native artists to present their work to a relatively small but deeply engrossed audience. Its description promised an exploration of  tradition as a vital piece of a cultural continuum that is fluid, and added that, “Native peoples are not trapped in amber.”

The three artists who shared their work were Raven Chacon, composer; Rose Simpson, multi-media artist, and Kealoha Wong, poet. Follow the links and check out their work or better yet go and find them and their work in person. In thinking about how I would tell you about the session, which moved me and I’m guessing others to tears, I decided to ask National Slam Legend Kealoha if he would share a portion of the 14-minute poem he performed. It’s part of a larger work he explained as his life’s work — a 90-minute exploration of the intersections between the hard science he mastered as an MIT-trained physicist and traditions of creation storytelling. His electric performance took us from the Big Bang to primordial ooze and to dinosaurs, birds, and homo sapiens and then out into the cosmos to see ourselves in the grand perspective of geological time.

When the poem, Zoom Out, reached its climax, the right stage was set for what conferences like this are all about anyway — to get some necessary perspective on what life means in your corner of the universe, to get a grip on your own cosmic insignificance and to remember that joy is the answer to life’s mysteries and truths. “you, me, all of us … are transient … / you will not be you in the grand scheme of things, which makes all your suffering trivial / which makes your ecstasy the only thing worth remembering as part of the universe”

Zoom Out

tonight… i want you to think about your life

i want you to think about what you stand for and realize that all the suffering you’ve ever experienced
means nothing in the long term
for every year you live, the universe will be around for trillions
and for every friend you’ve made, there are billions yet to be born that you will never meet
in the grand scheme of things, we are nobody
and yet at the same time, we are everything
we are X and Y chromosomes
we are G, C, A, and T genomes
we are complex carbohydrates, simple proteins, soft tissue, hard-wired neurons…
we are strong bonds linked in nervous systems
and while this earth’s surface is covered with 65% saltwater,
we are walking bags made of 65% salt water
merely mimicking the environment that we evolved from

and when we are done, this flesh we call our own returns home to the sea when we dissipate… evaporate into water vapor
and these bones…
these bones will be broken down by the roots of the tallest trees
while this earth, hurling through space, will freeze and boil as it has for eons as it orbits the sun
which in five billion years will transform into a red giant and scorch all life as we know it,
it’s last blast before it fizzles into a whimper remembered by nobody,
or maybe charted by aliens as they peer through telescopes
logging our sun as a piece of data that came and went
and these aliens, whoever they may or may not be
i want them to think about their lives
i want you to think about your life as you study me through your primitive telescopes
and i want everybody, the aliens, you, and me, to realize that even when our hearts break,
or when work sucks or when rents due or when someone somewhere says something stupid about you
even in the face of homicide, genocide, and suicide
in the face of racism, sexism, classism, and insert really bad word here – ism
no matter how much life may suck for you or for other people,

zoom out

zoom out and realize that all the evil in this world is transient…
heck all the good in this world is transient…
you, me, all of us… are transient…
you will not be you in the grand scheme of things, which makes all your suffering trivial
which makes your ecstasy the only thing worth remembering as part of the universe
expressing itself in one giant orgasm known as the big bang
we are its aftermath sigh
its alibi for not having a reason
you are the universe learning about itself
you are the universe asking itself why it’s here
you will soon be the universe not learning or asking anything
you are everything and nothing at the same time
and no matter how hard it is to admit, no matter how afraid we get and how much we want to deny the truth, the truth is… well the truth is we’re gonna die
maybe not tonight, tomorrow, or next year
but sooner or later we’re all gonna die

but the truth is hard to swallow,
and so we do everything we can to avoid the big picture because the big picture is paralyzing…
and so we focus our eyes on the day to day dramas of our lives…

but not tonight
tonight i want you to think about your life right here
not here, the Hotel ZaZa in Houston,
but here… this world… planet Earth
here… this galaxy… this universe
we are not cavemen anymore
there are no saber tooth tigers lurking in the shadows
yet most of us cling to our fears like the animals we evolved from
what are we so afraid of?
we’ve been etching the same patterns in the same predictable places for years
why do we live the way that they tell us to?
and who the fuck are they, anyway?
it’s about time we start doing what’s in our hearts because that’s all we’ve really got
i want you to think about all the things you wish you could do
and tonight, i want you to do one of them
and tomorrow, another
our lives are temporary art pieces…
we are works in progress…
so i say paint your ass off…
use florescent yellows and reds in the places where there aren’t any color
dance for the moment
sculpt your life out of soil and make the universe smile
be the expressive process that is humanity

tonight, i want you to think about your life
and tomorrow, i want you to live it

© 2009 Kealoha