🎧 Move towards what we long for
How do we spend less time thinking about what's wrong, more time creating what we want?
Framer is a newsletter that uses frameworks to break down big, systemic ideas.
👂 You can listen to this newsletter on Spotify. This one is 9 minutes long. 👂
It’s been a minute. I’ve been quiet because I’ve been tired.
In this lull, I’ve been reflecting on a question Adrienne Maree Brown asks in her book, Pleasure Activism, "how would we organize and move our communities if we shifted to focus on what we long for and love rather than what we are negatively reacting to?"
In the spirit of being imaginative about the future that we’re all actively creating, together, this newsletter will focus on a framework called Protopia Futures. It was born out of a desire to shift the collective imagination towards hope and beauty.
First, we (collectively) sense that something is wrong…
Before we get into imagining something more beautiful, I do want to acknowledge that many of us are feeling burnt out. I am not the only one who’s feeling drained.
A couple of weeks ago, I re-posted an excerpt from an essay called “Your Life Has Already Been Designed” by David Cain, to my Instagram Stories. I’ve never had so many people write back to me saying, “I feel this.”
Here is what Cain wrote that resonated so much:
“The eight-hour workday developed during the industrial revolution in Britain in the 19th century was a respite for factory workers who were being exploited with 14- or 16-hour workdays.
But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.
We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.”
My body tingles with recognition when I read this. Why do I often feel so exhausted at the end of the day? Why do I often feel like something is missing — like I need relief or an escape?
I first grappled with this in 2016, when I was doing a permaculture project with an organic farming cooperative in the Brazilian Amazon.
The small, tight-knit farming community couldn’t have felt more different than my reality, living and working in some of the biggest, most expensive cities in the US. While one community member shared that he envied the opportunities I had, I envied the community they had built. While I had options, he had the time to be generous with the people around him.
A fellow American on the project observed that capitalism has given us the luxury to pay for services that were once provided by friends and family. We outsource tasks that once facilitated a sense of mutual care, like babysitting or meal preparation.
Why does it seem like there is a tradeoff between independence, economic opportunity, and community? Do these have to be in tension with one another?
How do I channel Adrienne Maree Brown here? How do I fold in the generosity and care that I long for into my daily rhythm?
How do we envision (and create) the future(s) that we long for?
In an effort to imagine a different lived reality, I’d like to share the Protopia Futures framework.
Protopia Futures is a framework developed by a community of people who wanted to create a generative approach to conceptualizing multiple types of futures. I encourage you to read the full framework and foundational thinking behind it.
The framework is organized around core principles, rather than being prescriptive about a specific solution. Principles are value statements and describe how something should feel. I love using this approach because it guides my intuition. When I know how something should feel, I am naturally drawn to making decisions in that direction. Rather than overthinking, I can ask, does this feel right (for me) or not?
The key thing that struck me about the Protopia Futures framework is its tenderness. How do we start to radically love and accept ourselves, so that we can radically love and accept others? The hope is that we can not only co-exist, but learn from one another while coming from a place of generosity.
Here is an excerpt from the Protopia Futures framework, defining the 7 guiding principles:
PLURALITY — BEYOND BINARIES: We consider mere “tolerance” a failure and actively resist the violence of sexism, misogyny, racism, colorism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, classism, and any other forms of discrimination and exclusion. Nothing embodies our approach as accurately as these words by Alok Vaid-Menon: “Creativity reveals all categories to be artificial and unambitious.”
COMMUNITY — BEYOND BORDERS: Our narratives are narratives of communities coming together rather than glorifications of individual “hero journeys” of magical saviors. COMMUNITY is the hero of our futures.
CELEBRATION OF PRESENCE: Our futures are embodied and interdependent. We revel in expanded sensory experiences and consciously make vital space for neurodiverse expressions of intimacy, care, and radical tenderness.
REGENERATIVE ACTION & LIFE AS TECHNOLOGY: With recognition of destructive feedback loops already in motion, we consider sustainability solutions entirely insufficient and aim for regenerative practices in every aspect of our civilizational construct. We prioritize biological over mechanical technologies as the only truly viable long-term strategy. We grow, not just build.
SYMBIOTIC SPIRITUALITY: We appreciate the importance of spiritual practices from the dawn of humanity and their role in human culture-making. We therefore quest for spiritual practices that acknowledge ancestral wisdom, whilst also expanding rather than stifling scientific inquiry.
CREATIVITY & EMERGENT SUBCULTURES: From the interwoven journeys of our Ancestors to the future living fabrics of our cities, we celebrate the role of creativity beyond the elitism of disciplines previously labeled as “artistic.”
EVOLUTION OF VALUES — CULTURE OF CONTRIBUTION: We must depart from colonial/neocolonial individualist cultures of exploitation and greed, and endeavor to nurture cultures of equity, contribution, and planetary mutuality. We envision the values of a material degrowth society.
As I sit with these principles, I’d like to:
Remember or discover systems and societies that encourage mutual care. Humans have a long history of gathering and collaborating; it’s only in very recent history that we have started to glorify the individual in the way that we do.
Make space for many flavors of desired results. Imagining the future is not a prediction; futures are plural and personal to the folks who imagine them.
Move away from extractive mindsets and towards contribution.
Gain a deeper understanding of biology. I’ve started gathering inspiration around this topic on a dedicated Instagram page.
What kind of future(s) are you longing for? I’d love to hear from you.
Perhaps we can start creating the lives we long for by at least describing how we’d like them to feel.