Pt. 7/31 in the Moon Cycle blog series.
How did I get here, to this moment, this breath? This movement of fingers on the keyboard, this sitting in a chair in a room I can call my own, in a house I share, in a city I love but am still getting to know? How did I get to this moment of writing, of posting a blog? It’s such a simple question, five words, nothing fancy, no complex construction. And yet the answering of it could take a lifetime. My lived answer has, quite literally, taken my lifetime. A meta-analysis could go on indefinitely. I find it so interesting that any particular topic, no matter how seemingly discreet, could expand to fill as large a space as we might create for it. In this case, I’ve set a timer for 25 minutes. 22 minutes remain; long though the inquiry could be, I’ll keep this one to a shorter reckoning.
What are the details of my life today? How do they this differ from a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four? For better or worse my adult life seems to have included many transitions, large and small. Reflecting on this narrative, I found myself pondering the question – how did I get here? – this evening as I walked home after a full day’s work in downtown Oakland. Exactly one year ago I was in a very different place. I was living in upstate New York, in the Hudson River Valley, in a shared cottage. I had left New York City a few months before. Although I didn’t anticipate moving back to Brooklyn any time soon, I otherwise had no sense of where I would be landing within the year. At the time I had only loosely contemplated living in California, and had no firm plans to move here. Perhaps partly because the move happened so quickly, and was not something I had planned for years and years, in many ways living here has felt like a dream, like my life here is being dreamt up by some grander entity as I move through space and time.
How did I get here? Let me illustrate how challenging it can be to attempt a comprehensive answer to the question. The other evening I went to dinner with friends who live in a co-housing community in my neighborhood. How was it that we became friends? She and I first met at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, in 2011, when we both still lived in Brooklyn, New York. As she said the other night, who would have guessed at the time that, years later, we’d be neighbors in Oakland, sharing casual meals and walks to the park together?
How did I get to Aspen? In January of that year, I spoke to an audience of scientists at American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on the occasion of the 1-year anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake. I gave an impassioned speech about supporting Haitian-led efforts to rebuild their country, and leveraging technology to support human rights. An audience member was inspired and recommended me as a speaker to the head of the Aspen Ideas Festival, who was planning a section on social media that year.
How did I get to AAAS to speak on a panel on January 12, 2011? Already this is getting complicated. It was surely due to work Digital Democracy was doing in Haiti post-earthquake. But how did that happen? Well, let’s see, partly because of a connection we had to grad students from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, which was thanks to a friend I met at a conference in South Africa in 2008, which was thanks to research that Mark and I did in Southeast Asia in 2007, which happened in part due to a trip I took to Thailand in 2003, which I took because of activism I got involved with in college, and so on and so on, back and further back still I can trace the motions and links and connections that have been forged over the course of a lifetime.
So, here I am. A moment in time, temporarily and misleadingly frozen against a backdrop of shimmering connections, loose and strong ties that bind, ongoing evolutions that led me to this moment. I don’t have some grand theory about it all, I don’t know whether there’s a moral to the story, but as a question to contemplate, how did I get here? provokes rich meditation.