We spoke with Andrea Gibson about the properties of empathy, the assemblage of possible futures awaiting humanity, the sensation of your brain needing a hug and what emotional colors they would like to paint the word with.
I think the choices we make in the next few years will determine the longevity of our tiny blue planet, but of course I don’t know. I know so much less than I ever have before.
We asked Andrea to meditate on these constellations and tell us what came to mind.
Snow falling in the hair of a wish.
How you say “sickness” when your nose is stuffed up.
Best dancer in the club.
What Dracula’s best friends call him.
Drink more water.
Angel of the get-through.
Per the recommendation of Dr. Seuss.
To me, one interesting aspect of our divided, confused present is that we see many trying to forcefully build a new society, in a way, in the shell of the old one. It’s suddenly become essential to many to treat others respectfully regardless of their walk of life, while the old era coarsens, hardens, kind of digs its heels in. What do you think about all this? Do you see a near-future where things are mended between people and their ideologies, or do you think we are we headed toward even more division?
I see many different possible futures. Some beautiful, and some terrifying. I don’t see it being a long road to peace from where we are standing. I see it being a short road, but also a short road to the terrifying. I think the choices we make in the next few years will determine the longevity of our tiny blue planet, but of course I don’t know. I know so much less than I ever have before. I spend most of my time wondering. Right now I’m wondering if a new society can be forced. I doubt it. Pushed, yes, but not forced. Nothing can be born against its will.
I like you pointing out that respect has become more essential. I like the idea of that being true. Some evidence to back up that theory — I was just telling a friend how kindly strangers have been treating me since the last election, and I’ve been guessing it’s because I’m visibly queer. I think much of the world is kindhearted and I think people are wanting to go out of their way to express that, this year specifically.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “How are you?”, a pleasantry. Generally, nobody cares about how strangers are. But I’d like to ask how you are, in a detailed way… what’s your internal weather like right now? Where on the whole continuum of emotion are you at this moment?
I don’t see people generally caring about how strangers are. I feel a tension in my ribcage and something in me wants to argue, but not my words. Something wiser than my mind wants to argue. And now I’m unpacking apathy and thinking it’s probably the second most influential state of being on the planet and that thought could knife out my heart with a single swoop. The good news is I believe the more influential state of being is love. Speaking of love — I’m lonely. The kind of lonely that I’ve only ever seen in the movies — specifically E.T. I’m lonely like I’m light years away from my home planet. Lonely like it hurts to not know what your face looks like while I’m answering these questions you’re asking. My internal weather is blizzard-ish. But, I still have my eye on the beauty of each snowflake.
Today I was listening to a podcast about the dying process and the meds that are given in hospitals to minimize pain right before death and my soul started typing letters to my body saying, “Don’t take the medicine, don’t take the medicine, don’t take the medicine.”
I’m not sure if most people read anything beyond listicles these days, but I wish we all wrote beautiful poetry for each other. What drew you toward this medium of expression? Do you tend to think in that way day-to-day, when the abstract feeling of words takes precedence over linear meaning?
I write poetry because I long to communicate and I can’t easily form coherent sentences in conversation. I say “um” a lot. I sweat through my shirt when someone asks my name. I don’t know anything except what I’m feeling and sometimes, thank goodness, there’s a word that matches that feeling and I reach into the hive and grab it, my fingers all sticky and stung and sweet. Twice in my life, I was stung by a bee on my tongue. Maybe that made me a poet.
Today I was listening to a podcast about the dying process and the meds that are given in hospitals to minimize pain right before death and my soul started typing letters to my body saying, “Don’t take the medicine, don’t take the medicine, don’t take the medicine.” Pain is a conversation I don’t want to shut down, especially in the moment I’m asking directions to eternal peace. Maybe poetry is the directions to eternal peace. And pain, at least one compass.
Can you think about what colors you’d like to paint the world with intellectually, socially, emotionally, but as literal colors? What are they and why?
I was very sick for a long time before finally getting diagnosed with Lyme disease. One of the first treatments I tried was called IV ozone. The process involved removing a pretty large quantity of my blood, oxygenating it with ozone and putting that blood back into my body. When I was very sick, I’d notice that when the doctor removed the blood from my body, the blood in the clear hanging bag was dark brown and thick, almost like peanut butter. I was told that was common for the illness. A few months in the doctor told me that sometimes patients could shift the health of their own blood by the choices they made.
So I started doing experiments, paying attention to what I was doing in the hours leading up to the IV appointments. It was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. On days I had spent hours arguing or crying or having a panic attack, my blood would remain very brown and thick. But on days I spent meditating or laughing or have a loving conversation with a friend, my blood would be much more red. And if by chance I had had great sex or was for any reason ecstatic about something that day, I’d go into my appointment and my blood would be bright, bright red.
So when I think about the colors I’d paint the world with, my mind races to red, in all of its shades from dark to bright. If I had my choice, I’d pick a bright red world for all.
Being that so many people are seemingly at the ready to have each others’ heads, what do you think about radical forgiveness — forgiving others freely, even if you see their actions as evil or abhorrent? From there, how capable are you of that?
I think the hardest people in the world to forgive are ourselves. Especially the people we once were — the people we are trying to no longer be. I have historically had an easy time forgiving just about everyone but myself, and if ever I’m having trouble forgiving someone it’s almost always myself I’m struggling to let off the hook.
So, yes, I love the idea of radical forgiveness, but maybe the first step towards that is self-forgiveness. I heard once that shame is the closest state to death. Healing shame, I imagine, would be life-giving to the entire planet.
Once, I was on an airplane that I was certain was going to crash. The depth to which I loved the stranger sitting beside me was immense. I loved him simply because he was human and sitting beside me.
I really like the phrase “clothes horse.” I had that in mind while shopping for shirts the other day and I hope I can name a band that someday. Beyond brands, styles or genres, what feels best to you, physically and fashion-wise?
On stage the other night, I suddenly felt as if my brain needed a hug, so I asked the audience for a bandana that I awkwardly tied around my head for the rest of the show. The next day I found myself synching my belt two notches tighter than was comfortable because my hips were desperate to be held. My socks are also too tight and I prefer them that way. I lace my boots so snug the tops of my feet have lace-shaped grove marks in them at the end of the day. I often wear a scarf snug around my chin.
They make these little outfits for dogs called Thunder Jackets that squeeze the dog’s body tight and it calms them during thunderstorms. If they made human Thunder Jackets, I would buy one and wear it every day of my life. And, if I had my choice, everything would be made of velvet. Only once in my life do I remember enjoying wearing a dress, and the dress was velvet, and pine green, and my grandmother made it by hand. When she died, I inherited her thimble collection. When I got them in the mail, I put one on each finger and started typing a poem.
Finally, if you could change one thing about human nature, what would it be? How do you see this working out in a realistic setting, at all levels — social lives, governments, schools and the rest?
I would presence the inevitability of death in every moment. I would do away with whatever it is that gives us the sense that there is always more time. Imagine what this day would look like if every single one of us was living as if this were our last day. Once, I was on an airplane that I was certain was going to crash. The depth to which I loved the stranger sitting beside me was immense. And it mattered nothing to me what that person was about. I loved him simply because he was human and sitting beside me and because there was no promise of another day to love.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: March 8, 2018
Total questions: 8 + 7
Word count: 1641
Reading time: Six minutes
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About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
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