Sensuous Activism

In the past year, I fell in future love. A single kiss travelled across time and space to land between us. Future familiarities so unexpected, it took my breath away. In that moment, my mind and heart were flooded with future memories, myriad physical, erotic entanglements, uncontainable laughter, arguments over misunderstandings and wretched tears, quiet times together, walking, eating, napping, our limbs interwoven with the sun streaming through streaky windows to warm our resting forms, labouring in fierce philosophical and political debates well into the twilight hours…

While i am in an open relationship, this person does not have such an arrangement with their partner. So rather than taking the home-wrecker route, we stepped back, mostly through unspoken agreements, and walked away. Because, well, life is so short and there are seriously waaaaay more important things to think about and do in the world rather than needlessly and selfishly breaking the hearts of those who we are supposedly meant to hold dear.

It has been some time since this encounter, and am beginning to wonder if it was all imagined. Wonder if perhaps for this person, it was simply a passing fancy. Yet whenever i remember this chaste touch, the blood rushes through my veins until my body pulses with desire. I don’t know if we will ever meet again. Do not know if that kiss travelled from within this lifetime or came from much further afield, two, three, eighty-eight generations from now. Meanwhile, the desire keeps enfolding into my muscle memory, invades my dreams at night, leaves me breathless.

This past summer, my family (Peter and Ashok) and i took a road trip to Tennessee, USA, the first time for us all. The USA was collectively agitated with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We stopped by a small town south of Ohio State, can’t quite remember where – perhaps Kentucky?? – for a coffee rest. We could not anticipate what awaited us. Right in the downtown core, protesters and counter-protesters were screaming at each other, the threat of physical violence so palpable. Pro and against Roe v. Wade camps were mere metres apart, corner to corner, mirroring each other. My body became all jangly and i burst out crying from the vitriol, self-righteousness, and ugliness that was flung to and fro. I also felt deep compassion for them all, for behind every scream, mocking laughter and taunt there must have been a story of pain and loss left untold. The protest could be understood as a public outpouring of internal, embodied tumult, a release of suffering in the presence of others.

The late venerable Vietnamese Buddhist monk, educator, and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh described the situation in his homeland that forced him to become a refugee. He said that he would not side with the North Vietnamese, which made them suspicious of his intentions. He said that he would neither side with the South Vietnamese, who also then considered him a traitor. His life was in danger for not choosing a side, and he was left with no recourse but to flee the country.

The complexity of political issues become lost in the oversimplification of justice into one of two sides. In activism, the mouth seems much larger than the ears. Bodies move similarly, regardless of positionality, in a state of war readiness. The air is over-salted with the sweat of anger, deontological duress, and the struggle to create power over one another.

But how can activism become more viscous, liquefied, a salve rather than salt to the wound?

I just returned from a three-month stay in Japan. For the most part, was assisting in the harvesting of kōzo, one of the key ingredients for making washi paper. With such intense manual labour day in and day out, food tasted particularly sumptuous. I started paying closer attention to たれ (tare), all of the exquisite sauces that envelope meats, vegetables, grains, fishes (raw and cooked). I started to imagine ways in which private erotic desire (non-home wrecker variety…eep!) could be a type of social たれ, to include all, encompass everyone to ultimately change the viscosity, texture, flavour intensity, and the chemistry of public political activism and discourse.

Key question: What are the mechanisms by which private erotic desire can transform into public sensual activism? (Type: methodological and epistemological)

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