Write to the Future→
This is an exploration on hope. This is an exercise on writing futures we want to see realized. This is a piece about the impossible that we can write into existence and the things we can choose to change. This is a piece about the power of imagination as a fruitful first step towards active realization.
Part I: Why Hope?
I didn’t own a proper television until last year. I missed writing in hotel rooms, at airports, and at bars. When the pandemic hit, I bought a television and signed up for Hulu Live so I could play the news in the background as I wrote. I think it’s because I can’t write in silence because silence is a privilege, and I’ve been challenging every aspect of my privilege for a few years now. I think it’s also because the droning tones of history repeating itself, on an infinite loop, force my brainwaves to leap into the quantum possibilities of the implausible.
Currently in the news: The Future of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine.
“Futures” have been thrown around so carelessly lately. Especially when so many Black humans remain constantly deprived of theirs.
My social skills have atrophied and, in many ways, so have many of my thoughts and sentence structures.
Last summer, I picked up Albert Camus, because existentialism tracks, because long days make me yearn for the dark, and because Camus had a cat named Cigarette—which is the one thing I want to quit but I’m terrible at quitting; although, lately, writing is a close second.
I underlined a section in Creating Dangerously that reads:
“In the end, art created outside of society cuts itself off from its living roots.”
I thought it was funny to read “society” and “roots” in the same sentence because I still feel like one is in the active pursuit of destroying the other at any given
I asked the editors of this essay for an extension... In the previous piece, I’d spent too much time in 1987 because that was the year that my mother died and in my dramatic arc I felt it was the beginning of my story. Then I realized that it was bad form to spend so much time indulging in the inciting incident, and even worse form to take a “devising the future” assignment and make it about my fucked-up past.
I was asked to write about envisioning and devising the future, but anyone who has worked with me knows that I am not great at devising a future we feel comfortable knowing, but rather am great at making us feel very anxious about the futures we don’t want to think about. I hope to change that.
Since the pandemic, the words around my work have shifted from “it’s confusing” to “it’s hopeful.” Interesting how our Present circumstance can rewrite our Past feelings and dictate our Future wants (more on that below)...
The dystopias, the fucked-up-topias, the mirrors-to-a-future-society-if-we-keep-down-this-path-topias have… hope? Apparently. That says a whole lot about our present.
I guess it’s true that we write what we know and (cue the tiny violins) I boldly state that when you lose your mother as a young girl, who is convinced she is a boy, your emotional nutrition depends on hope. You gorge on it. But where I used to feed on it, now I’m obsessed on growing it, because I know no other way and also I’m known to prefer farm-to-table over fast food.
Future and hope are interwoven, just like past and memory.
I am indeed a hopeful nihilist with positive existential tendencies. I think that translates to: humans are messed up and we are all going to die but if we take our cue from the more-than-human world, we too have the capacity to evolve and not be prisoners of fear. No?
As a playwright who thinks in Spanish, my first language, but writes in English, a lot of my work gets lost in translation.
I can imagine that some people will instinctively feel hope is a privilege and not everyone is so lucky, and yet I humbly offer my recent discovery during Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) at our synagogue, listening to survivors and the children of survivors of the Holocaust, and also the discoveries from accounts of survivors of cartel violence: they say that hope is what gave them the vision of their own future. In fact, the vision of their possible future was, in itself, hope.
Future and hope are interwoven, just like past and memory.
Part 2: The Impossible
Every morning for the last who-knows-how-many years I’ve written down at least six impossible things before breakfast because I fell down the Lewis Carroll rabbit hole in 1987. Over the years, at least two of those impossible things have come to be. The impossible is only impossible if it remains unimaginable. It remains unimaginable if we pretend today that the past imperfect has any agency in creating the future.
Devising our future starts not with the economy of a tweet but with altering the logic from visions of what we wish to see. Devising our future, in my opinion, starts with removing our fear around our ability to create it. Devising our future means rejecting what we think we know, because knowledge—like a child who knows not to touch the fire because it causes harm—is usually based in fear.
Like Ursula K. Le Guin states, “Great self-destruction follows upon unfounded fear,” and so perhaps it follows that great (self?) realization follows upon found hope. And if I have learned anything from not knowing much it is that any change we wish to see in the world start with Self.
I can only speak for myself because I do not know anyone else’s experience, but I find it’s great practice to write down impossible things every morning because, after doing it for so many years, you come to realize that it’s actually very difficult. Imagination is a muscle, after all…
Additionally, as I’ve always said that I don’t want to make it in theatre but, rather, make it anew, imagining the impossible for the impossible is even more challenging. Nevertheless, here are six impossible things in envisioning a new theatre field and, most importantly, a more just and sustainable world.
Six Impossible Things:
- “Kind” is the new “Successful” and everyone wants in on it.
- Extractive practices are not only illegal but also, globally, cultural taboos.
- Our more-than-human counterparts (some people call it “nature”) have equal rights to humans and, bonus, the hottest and fiercest lawyers are those who represent it (move over corporate law, here comes Wild Law!) [see Bolivia for reference].
- Capitalism is a religion you can opt in or out of, it’s left out of politics, and if you’re balls-deep in it people probably won’t date you.
- The theatre and entertainment field stops pretending that it’s not racist.
- We eliminate the critics and the idea of “the expert” and leave theatre criticism to children ages six to twelve.
The impossible is only impossible if it remains unimaginable. It remains unimaginable if we pretend today that the past imperfect has any agency in creating the future.
Part 3: Consider the Writing
I have a confession: I love math. When I lived in México, I was on the track of “físico matemático” meaning I was identified as a high schooler who was definitely bred for physics and math. In considering playwriting, I consider the formulas—which are not new at all. I consider the roots of the formulas and I consider the society that bred the formulas and I consider the quote about society and roots. And, in devising our future, here is my problem: the formula does not speak to the future that I want to see, but rather it perpetuates the past that I want to change. In other words: the formula has already solved for “x” and that is no reason to write, for me.
So this is what I do and you can do it too. I take a blank page and divide it in three equal parts. On one part of the page I write “The Past.” I consider this: The Past is imperfect. Memory is not conjured and manifested as an exact representation of what was. In fact, it is reshaped and repurposed every time we access it. History was written by victors. Our parents are saints, and liars. Their parents were too. What happened to us is no longer us, even if we think it is—it is physically impossible. The past shapes us, yes, but as the only constant in life is change then it is most probable that we too have changed, and so the past no longer is our present. What is that part of my past that no longer is? What is that past that I have changed? And I write it down.
On another part, write “The Now.” I consider this: Everything that comes to mind is The Now. The awareness that this sentence is a sentence, that I’m using words that I’ve learned to put together into a language that I learned second to my native tongue, the scratch on the side of my torso where my cat scratched me, the sweet taste of wolf berry… That is The Now and it has no judgment of The Past and it has no hope for The Future. It’s mindfulness. It feels lacking but it’s not.
At last, I write: “The Future.” I consider this: The formula is flawed. Something is not working if people keep dying because of who they are, because of the color of their skin, because of what they worship, because, because, because. Something is wrong, but to look at where it went wrong risks me getting stuck in the anger of what was and so I have to imagine a what if, I have to imagine a what about, and I have to imagine, and I have to imagine, and I have to imagine. And imagination is scary, and imagination is misunderstood, and imagination is criticized but I do it anyway and you should too. With wild abandon.
AND THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN.
FUTURE: You are what we can imagine you to be.
And, hopefully, that is a good place to start.