Life, the Universe, and Everything

I turned 42 years old nine days ago. The old folk wisdom says that this will be the beginning of my sixth cycle of brand new cells, as the body completely replaces itself roughly every seven years. It’s a fun idea, and a handy way of looking back at different stages of your life over time. How has my life changed since the last time I was a “brand new person” at the age of 35? What are the things that have changed me since the recent past of 2015?

One of the great things about having a blog is I can actually revisit the things I wrote at the time. In 2015’s birthday post, I talked about becoming more politically active and how, just through the process of engaging with the world, I found myself standing further to the Left. That process has definitely continued, though these days I don’t identify with any particular group. The Political Left as an organized entity makes me uneasy. At least on Twitter, the focus appears to be on what everyone else is doing wrong and not what we can do to build the kind of world we want. It’s disheartening to see us tearing each other down in a frenzy to be the most pure representatives of our spaces. The discourse has become furiously hostile and relentlessly alienating. 

In the seven years since then we’ve endured the Trump Presidency and are still dealing with the fallout. Politics has become increasingly rabid, and at least in the United States it feels like our choices are a party willing to dismantle democracy and embrace fascism in order to hold onto power and a party that refuses to recognize the reality of how dire things have become. 

Capitalism has all but erased the middle class. The effects of climate change are no longer hypothetical; we’ve seen record-breaking heat waves in the United States, the United Kingdom, India and just about everywhere else this summer and lived through truly apocalyptic wildfires here in California. More than one friend who’d escaped the skyrocketing costs of living in Silicon Valley nearly lost their homes, and we can only expect these disasters to get more intense. At the exact time we should be pushing for radical changes to our way of life, those in power have made it harder than ever to disrupt a system that works to benefit only themselves. Meanwhile, around the world citizens are seriously contemplating candidates running on racism, xenophobia, mysogyny, anti-intellectualism, and brutal authoritarianism. 

Seven years ago I also posted a week-long series of entries about 2 the Ranting Gryphon, how he abuses his platform to harm some of the most vulnerable people in our fandom, and how we can combat this poisonous influence by being more mindful about the way we disagree in public spaces and focusing on doing good. Since then, 2 has been largely deplatformed in the furry fandom but still stubbornly refuses to admit to the real harm he causes. Instead, he’s doubled down by joining a loose network of far-right, fascist figures — and recently invited to a “non-political” political convention as the Guest of Honor. While he’s no longer the far-reaching fandom celebrity he had been, the attitude he represents has spread like a cancer in our community. People like him have weaponized pop culture to such a degree that we can no longer be a fan of, say, Star Wars without having to wade into stupid arguments made by disingenuous people who don’t care that they’re misrepresenting the core lessons these stories teach us. The fact that we have to debate the same tired arguments instead of actually moving forward as a society is a win for them. And looking at the state of conversation in and around our communities, they’re happy taking up so much oxygen in the room. 

I used to believe that it was important to engage these folks, especially in public. After making earnest attempts to talk through these knots both in public and in person, I don’t think it’s productive any more. Many of these people know exactly how much time they’re wasting “just asking questions”, and our precious energy could be better sent constructing the communities we want to build. Action, I’ve learned, is so much more important than rhetoric.

I haven’t written on a regular basis in a few years, but seven years ago I was still practicing with short scenes every Friday. I had internalized the belief that I would never be able to say what I meant in a way that affected other people; we’re in an environment where people simply aren’t willing to listen and consider ideas that caution against the indulgence of anger, and I just didn’t have the energy to look for ways to adapt my message for people to hear them. I didn’t believe I had the patience, grit, or talent to change minds. 

It’s been a rough seven years, by almost any measure. But I’m starting this “Seventh Era” Jakebe feeling more content than I have ever been before. I’m taking those first stumbling steps back into writing, working to organize my thoughts, and focusing on doing things I’m proud of. It’s less about whether or not I can convince you to come around to my way of thinking, dear reader, and more about expressing myself in ways that help me get closer to the person I want to be. 

I’m learning how to be gentle with myself, how to push myself to improve, how to trust myself more readily. I know I don’t have all the answers. I know my perspective is riddled with blind spots. But I also know that I can take being told I’m wrong — eventually, and that I’ll always try to be a better person than I was yesterday. 

I still believe we can create our own Heaven out of this Hell. All it takes is tending to the needs of the people around you, of supporting each other and strengthening our community. I’m ready to try this again, with a better sense of boundaries and a more balanced expectation of exactly who I am and what I can do. I can also take more chances, be more experimental, and be uncomfortable in unfamiliar territory. This blog will reflect that — you might find essays about Dungeons and Dragons, or the latest pop-culture juggernaut demanding the conversation. I’ll talk about being a furry, or being a Silicon Valley professional, a reader, a writer, a Buddhist, a Black American. I might even talk about the new hobbies I’ve nursed over the pandemic, like cooking or video games. 

This blog will be a reflection of me, so it’ll be pretty chaotic and unfocused, bouncing from one topic to the next. Maybe it’ll settle down into one groove for a few months, then shift gears to something else. Maybe it’ll eventually sharpen its focus to one or two subjects. Who knows? I don’t, and that’s exciting. 

More than anything, I want this to be a place where we can talk about the things that matter to us, disagree companionably, and inspire each other to build a better world out of the one we have. I can’t guarantee a regular posting schedule from now on, but at least it’ll be a bit more active than it has been the last few years. I’m looking forward to catching up with all of you.

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