The Seed: Conversations for Radical Hope

Integrity & Transmutation: Moving Beyond Cultures of Domination with eppchez yo-sí yes

March 07, 2023 Pendle Hill, Dwight Dunston, eppchez yo-sí yes Season 2 Episode 3
The Seed: Conversations for Radical Hope
Integrity & Transmutation: Moving Beyond Cultures of Domination with eppchez yo-sí yes
Show Notes Transcript

eppchez yo-sí yes, a Quaker playwright, inventor, and spiritual companion, offers ways to practice noticing patterns of faithfulness and patterns of oppression to begin moving through transformations of self and community. Using eir own experiences in reparations work and Quaker business settings, ey and Dwight detangle integrity and perfection, calling us  instead into processes of transmutation. Through an interactive audio experiment, eppchez invites us to look inward: What would it look like to move beyond cultures and cycles of domination? How can we use noticing practices in our communities to better align our actions, words, and values?

Read the transcript of this episode.

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eppchez yo-sí yes is a Quaker playwright, inventor, and spiritual companion living in Philadelphia. Eir work uses historical research combined with channeled wisdom to remember what our culture of domination has tried to erase. eppchez is one of many Friends working to implement a cultural shift toward active anti-racism among Quakers. Ey are called to earnestly and imperfectly model strategies to do reparations and build systems that make integrity and care more possible. 

To experience more of eppchez's work, visiwww.almasengine.com


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The Seed is a project of Pendle Hill, a Quaker center, open to all, for Spirit-led learning, retreat, and community. We’re located in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, on the traditional territory of the Lenni-Lenape people.

Follow us @pendlehillseed on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and subscribe to The Seed wherever you get your podcasts to get episodes in your library as they're released. To learn more, visit pendlehill.org/podcast.

This project is made possible by the generous support of the Thomas H. & Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund.

eppchez yo-sí yes  0:00 
...To actually be able to look at what it means when we take on domination. And from that place, begin doing the imaginative work that is required to move beyond.

Dwight  Dunston 0:26 
You're listening to The Seed: Conversations for Radical Hope, a Pendle Hill podcast where Quakers and other seekers come together to explore visions of the world that is growing up through the cracks of our broken systems. I'm your host, Dwight Dunston. This season, we're creating a space to explore the Quaker testimony of integrity. Together with our guests, we'll talk through the challenges and possibilities of aligning our intentions and actions, in embodying our values with authenticity and grace. 

Our guest today is eppchez yo-sí yes. eppchez yo-sí yes is a Quaker playwright, inventor, and sprirtual companion living in Philadelphia. Eir is one of many Friends working to Implement a cultural shift toward active anti-rascism among Quakers. Ey are called to earnestly and imperfectly model strategies to do reparations and build systems that make integrity and care more possible.

Welcome, eppchez yes, to Season Two of The Seed: Conversations for Radical Hope. We are so, so excited to have you here today. Thank you so much for coming.

eppchez yo-sí yes  1:34 
You're so welcome. It's my pleasure to be here.

Dwight Dunston  1:37  
We want to start out the way that we typically do with our guests--is just asking them to really center in on on the present moment. So for you, eppchez, what is it like being you today?

eppchez yo-sí yes  1:53 
Today, in particular, it's a good day. I get to have a conversation with a friend, so that feels good and grounding. It's been a bit of a struggling week. The way my life is organized, I kind of am like just holding, you know, seven different balls, trying to juggle them all. And I don't really have very good structures set up to support myself in that. So sometimes I just feel like I'm dropping everything. Just trying to have grace with myself and feel like okay, some things didn't happen, yet. We'll just pick that ball back up and try to keep moving.

Dwight Dunston  2:36  
Yeah, I feel like I have those weeks. This week isn't quite like that, but last week? I needed all the grace. So thank you for sharing that. You might already know this, you know, we're bringing you into our season two of The Seed: Conversations for Radical Hope. And this season, we're talking with guests about integrity, one of these foundational pillars of Quaker faith. And I am so curious, because the the idea of integrity, you know, in Quaker spaces alone, it has been a source of many different kinds of conversations. And many different folks trying to engage with what it actually means, let alone in the world--when we're thinking about integrity, how is integrity lived out in different spheres. And I'm curious, you grew up Quaker?

eppchez yo-sí yes  3:29 
Yeah.

Dwight Dunston  3:30  
You potentially grew up hearing this word a lot...

eppchez  3:34 
A lot, a lot.

Dwight Dunston  3:35 
And yeah, I want to just open up, you know, what have you come to understand is the meaning of the word integrity, what are some experiences you had that helped to shape that definition? And yeah, maybe even ways you see it being misused or misconstrued?

eppchez yo-sí yes  3:53 
Yeah, because it is one of those, you know, Quaker SPICES, those those values, that, you know, in Quaker youth programs get brought up a lot. But like, I've always kind of joked that I have integrity baggage the way that like people from other religions might have kind of like shame baggage and things like that. So you know, it has weighed on me heavily since I was a child. And I think particularly the ways in which it's an impossible standard. And I used to get really twisted up about it as a teenager in particular, trying to hold myself to this standard that is actually not possible within the world that we live in, like the way that consumerism works in this country? It is actually impossible to live with complete integrity to pacifist values. And, you know, when you're a kid and you're like, trying to figure out how to live in the world, or what you want to grow up to be like, there are definitely times where I was just like, got kind of nihilist about it be like, 'Oh, I can't live into a perfect version of this standard. So, you know, forget it all.'

Dwight Dunston  5:18 
Mhmm.

eppchez yo-sí yes  5:19 
But what it has come to mean for me is much more about a place to return to, an intention to return to, and about showing up to do the best that I can in any given situation, which to me, that's what integrity is about is about aligning the moral, the value structure, and the active, the actions that we take the ways we're showing up in space and in community.

Dwight Dunston  5:50 
And I'm curious about this young eppchez who felt, who grappled with--I just want to go back for just a second--who grappled with this nihilism. Was there a moment for you, maybe there's a story or, you know, I'm sure there are many stories that got you on the path to where you are now. But I'm curious if anything's coming to mind, just as you learn to have more grace with yourself from--during your teenage years to growing into adulthood, is there anything that sort of changed for you or an experience that changed integrity, what it means to you?

eppchez yo-sí yes  6:24 
I don't know if I can pinpoint a specific story, but what I've drawn on more recently is the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, and how that relates to integrity. Tikkun olam is like to say 'repair the world,' and I, my mother's side of my family is Jewish. And so sometimes I will borrow from the traditions of that part of my ancestry in my spiritual practice and ways of understanding the world. But that story is about a vessel of wholeness that was shattered at the beginning of the world. And the concept of 'repair the world,' it's not that any of us can, you know, put together the whole vessel. But it's about looking around to notice, I'm going to come back to noticing a lot here.

Dwight Dunston  7:19 
Great, great.

eppchez yo-sí yes  7:20 
But to notice what broken shards of the vessel are within my individual reach. And just focus on picking those pieces up. And having faith that within the rest of humanity, there are enough people doing that same thing in their little spheres, that together, organically, the vessel begins to come back together, as we pick up those shards and start trying to match the puzzle pieces together to, you know, to bring the metaphor full circle there.

Dwight Dunston  7:57 

Yes, yes.

eppchez yo-sí yes  7:59 
And so that understanding of repairing the world as an individual that it is not about big actions, necessarily. It's about what what is it within my reach that I can do that will make a difference, or start to bring wholeness back to people and to the world.

Dwight Dunston  8:22 
eppchez, I would love to begin to talk about your noticing patterns of faithfulness and oppression training, just orienting our listeners to the work that you've been doing, and sort of the thinking behind them, the impetus, and how people have been experiencing them.

eppchez yo-sí yes  8:39 
Yeah, well, there's a lot of history there. This practice has come to me through work that Lisa Graustein and Niyonu Spann have sort of shepherded, to bring this concept of noticing in Quaker discernment, which I think was something that people, individuals within different committees in different places were doing, to have a 'noticer' or who would, at the end of the meeting, be able to lift up anything that had happened during the meeting that needed to be lifted up. Often things might include like, if certain people had been speaking a lot, and other people hadn't really had an opportunity to share. And also any kinds of microaggressions that might have occurred throughout the the meetings. And then in 2019, New England Yearly Meeting tried an experiment of bringing in a practice of noticing patterns of oppression and patterns of faithfulness to their yearly meeting sessions. And...what is a pattern? A pattern is a social script that is played out, consciously and unconsciously. A pattern of oppression is a social script that upholds a harmful status quo. A pattern of faithfulness is a social script that helps us live into our wholeness as a community and the wholeness and full humanity of people in our community. We know something is a pattern, because we see it happening again and again and again, right? If you witness something in your social space, you know, during a business meeting or something, and it feels a little funky, it feels a little off, but you can't quite pinpoint why, that's okay. Like, take note of that. And if it happens again, and you get the same kind of spidey sense, I talk about spidey senses a lot. Then, over time, you start to be able to identify what pattern is at play here, what what is the harm that is happening or has the potential to happen?

One of the powerful tools that I'm really excited about is something that I've been calling preemptive noticing. I'll use my Green Street Meeting as an example. I was on the reparations committee there, and the committee was trying to get the meeting to discern around a proposal that would redistribute some of our meeting's wealth to Black community members in our neighborhood. And when that decision was coming before the meeting, we said, 'let's do a little preemptive noticing.' So that Friends will be aware of, what are the things that are likely to come up in their bodies, that are likely to come out of their mouths, when this question of redistributing wealth to Black community members is before us, right? So patterns, like not trusting Black people with money. Oof. Really like, something that if somebody is acting out of that, and you like point at them and say, 'That's what you're doing!' Like, all the hackles are gonna come up. But if before the decision is even before them, you delineate a few things like that that are likely to come up, it makes the whole body aware of those scripts that are in their bodies, that are in the room already. And it makes it much more possible for the potential to see those scripts before they come out of our mouths, and choose a different path. So, you know, it does start with noticing, but for me, noticing is not the end goal, right? You notice, so that you can interrupt, so that you can choose a different path. You know, find that third road, which I refer to those things, those are miracles. When a new path presents itself, that's what a miracle is in my book. Where the patterns of faithfulness, and paying attention, and noticing, those come in is because those present guidelines, or those help our imaginations, figure out, 'Oh, I'm stuck here in this script that is harmful. How do I imagine a better script right now?' And then we can turn to the patterns of faithfulness that we've noticed to start to see possibilities for creating a different script. So, that's why the noticing faithfulness is so important, because it really helps us to know where we want to go.

And the interruption, that's always going to be more effective on the individual level. If you notice that harmful pattern coming up in yourself, and you interrupt yourself, that's always going to be so much more effective than somebody else in your meeting, saying, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, I think we're going into some of this harmful pattern territory.' So, that's why the pre emptive noticing feels so helpful to me as a tool

Dwight Dunston  14:25 
Yeah, yeah.

eppchez yo-sí yes 14:25 
Because it really can help prime people to notice these things as they're coming up for themselves. And again, you know, to be able to--ultimately, it's to be able to act with integrity, because we're a community that's saying we want to be antiracist. And sometimes, some friends don't know how to really go about that.

Dwight Dunston  14:51 

I'm curious, eppchez, as you spoke about it potentially not always being easy to speak from that place of integrity, right? You say something in a meeting, folks come up to you afterwards there, they say, 'Thank you for sharing that; I was thinking the same thing, but didn't know how.' And perhaps preemptive noticing can support individuals to do this. But are there any other tools that you would offer to individuals as they look to be in more alignment with their own sense of integrity, knowing that it can be scary to do it can be ostracizing to do? How would you support friends or listeners to take that risk, even when it might be scary?

eppchez yo-sí yes 15:37 
Yeah, I believe that the most fertile ground for practice is within oneself. And that's a space where no one else is going to judge you. You can be wrong, you can be messy; it's not gonna hurt anybody else for you to take the opportunities to notice these scripts as they move in you. So, you know, we're all inundated with white supremacist nonsense from day one in this culture. And other kinds of nonsense patterns that we might want to interrupt, but antiracism is a big focus for me. And so I do try to bring that focus in as much as possible in this noticing work. And also, because like the realities of anti Blackness, in our culture, in particular, stem, a lot of the other forms of oppression. So that's why I, you know, tend to focus there. So for an individual who's interested in learning to notice and interrupt, yeah, key into yourself. And that is the most like, fertile training ground for this work, because we all have lots to notice, in the ways that we're showing up. And also at times in the ways that the world shows up against us, depending on each of our positionality and identities. I mean, one thing that's really specific, you know, take the time to look at those agenda items. And maybe go back over the agenda after the meeting, like, what did happen here in this space? What scripts were being played out? What do we always talk about when the budget is before us? You know...

Dwight Dunston  17:39 
Mhmm. I want to talk about, I mean, eppchez the artist has been here the whole time, it is who you are. And you are somebody who writes, who performs on stage, who uses their art to create conversations for others, uses your art to work through things in yourself. And we want to actually play a little clip from an experiment that you've been working on called "Guided Transmutations." And before we play it, I'm wondering if you can give listeners a brief description of what what this offering is what this medicine is, and just kind of set them up for what they're about to hear.

eppchez yo-sí yes 18:25 
Yeah, I'd love to, absolutely. Yeah, so this is a piece of interactive theater that invites you as the listener to experience a transmutation, a change. The transmutation that I've been really kind of obsessive about over the past few years is this question of--well, it's like one of the big ones for our time, right? How do we move beyond a culture of domination? But for me, in thinking about how we do that, I believe we have to think about how we fell into this place, as well. And this truth about how most people fall into acting out of domination is that the majority of us experience a lot of subjugation. And then, when we begin to experience some amount of privilege, it becomes privileged and dominating. This is certainly an experience that describes whiteness in America. But it's not only about that experience. It's something that is much more universal than what white people have been about in the United States and in the Americas writ large, if we're honest. And I like to be as, as a Latinx person, I really like to be honest about that! So, looking at the transmutation from subjugated to privileged and dominating, I hope gives people some amount of grace with themselves to actually be able to look at what it means when we take on domination as part of the mantle that we're carrying. And from that place of actually being able to look at what it means, perhaps being able to begin doing the listening that is required and the imaginative work that is required to move beyond domination as a main tactic for living.

When your prayers for rain are finally answered, it is with a flood. Chuckling waters whoop and holler around, tearing at your leaves, and pulling out your roots. You cling desperately to the safety of the soil, but the current is too strong. The floodwaters sweep you away. The soil that gave you everything is gone. You want to cry out for her. But you are drowning. The waves turn you around, pulling you under. Whirlpools twist your roots, twist them up into legs. You do not want legs. You want your roots. They toss you onto an unfamiliar shore. You try desperately to sink your roots down into this new soil. But your legs have become solid limbs. You concentrate and try to send new growth probing underground. But the ground here has a bad taste. You notice the other plants. They look sick to you. Maybe the soil here ... is poisoned. Perhaps these feet can get you somewhere where the soil is safe. And nourishing. You begin to walk.

Dwight Dunston 23:06 
Yeah, curious if you want to tell us any more about the metaphors or images that you were working with in that in that piece.

eppchez yo-sí yes  23:15 
Well, in understanding how that transmutation occurs and having compassion for that experience a little bit, my hope is there's some medicine there for figuring out how to imagine and transmute ourselves out of that, into a place of becoming nutrient for the world, which is my hope for what people who experience a lot of privilege can lean into: just focus on learning to become nutrient with our lives and how we show up.

Dwight Dunston  23:56  
Yeah, I think about as we continue to play with this plant metaphor and this metaphor of the seed, you know, or podcast, it's, it's something we just talk a lot about: the seeds growing up through the cracks of our broken systems. You know, so those seeds need nutrients in order to grow. And I think we're making the case on this season of our podcast about integrity potentially being one of those nutrients that helps that seed to grow. And just how do you, yeah, how do you see integrity, being a nutrient in your art in your in your way of being?

eppchez yo-sí yes  24:35 
If energy cannot be created or destroyed, then transformation is our only hope. And if that's the case, you know, integrity is a value that provides a kind of guide, a kind of, you know,  bumper rails on the bowling alley, for transforming that energy. And I say this about magic all the time: that like we're living in a time, and we have been living in a time for centuries, where basically all of the magic in our world has been sort of siphoned into money. And there's so many things that actually still can hold that creation potential, creative potential, aside from money. It's in community, it's in plants, surely. It's, it's all around us. But as long as we're, you know, stuck fixated on on money, it's really difficult to find the magic and the potential of spirit in other places in the world. And so integrity can just be that--I don't want to say impossible--but like, that high standard, that highest standard to look at, and to bring myself back, you know, away from capitalism, away from what I think friends might say is like these 'worldly things.' And back into valuing relationships, valuing community, valuing the kind of resiliency that is going to get us through whatever times the the world has in store. So yeah, I see it as that like, mark on the horizon to keep walking in the direction of.

Dwight Dunston 26:42 

Yeah, yeah.

eppchez yo-sí yes 26:45 
Might never get there. But as long as I'm, you know, keep reorienting myself in that way, I'm like getting closer to using my life to be nutrient for, for myself, and for others in the world.

Dwight Dunston 27:04 
Yeah. And just want to say thank you, eppchez, for being nutrient here today for us all, and for the work that you do in the world. It makes such a difference. It just can't be understated. Your commitment to integrity is really blessing us all. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

eppchez yo-sí yes  27:29  
Wow, you're so, you're so welcome. I really, I feel the same for for everything you're bringing and thank you so much for having me.

 

Dwight Dunston 27:52
Pendle Hill is a Quaker center, open to all, for Spirit-led learning, retreat, and community. We’re located in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, on the traditional territory of the Lenni-Lenape people.  Visit us at PendleHill.org. Many of our guests are teachers, leaders, and speakers at Pendle Hill. For a full list of these upcoming education opportunities, visit our events page at pendlehill.org/learn.

This podcast was produced and edited by Ariel Goodman, with editorial support by Pendle Hill education associate Anna Hill, and advising from education director Frances Kreimer. Our episodes were mixed by Leah Shaw Dameron. Our theme music is the I Rise Project by Reverend Rhetta Morgan and Bennett Kuhn, produced by Astro Nautico Records.

This project was made possible by the generous support of the Thomas H. and Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund.

To experience more of eppchez's work, visit www.almasengine.com

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