Friday, June 30, 2017

What are we nourished by?

Recently I re-read Paths Toward Utopia: Graphic Explorations of Everyday Anarchism. It is a small book of "picture-essays" illustrating ideas and examples of anarchism in action, such as 'Solidarity Is A Pizza', 'Borrowing From The Library' and 'Deciding for Ourselves'. I found them inspiring, artful and simultaneously calming and energising to view. The writer Cindy Milstein and artist Erik Ruin communicate their ideas simply yet allow for complexity, and their works enabled me to envisage and think through how anarchist ideas do and could work in practice in today's world and future worlds.

I kept returning to one page of a two page spread entitled 'Food For Thought'. On the left hand side was an illustration of 'what are we consumed by?'. Some of the negative and harmful things that take up our minds and time were listed, in an illustration of rushing water drowning and swamping desperate individuals. I identified with some of them, others don't bother me, but I could in seconds, almost automatically, come up with dozens of alternative 'negative' things that I think too much about and which sap my energy and joy. That's only too easy to do and we're all highly practiced at it, so skilled at this negative generative capacity that we barely notice we're doing it. That page was not the one I kept returning to.

Instead I was drawn to this page, entitled 'What are we nourished by?'.


What Are We Nourished By? In Paths Toward Utopia: Graphic Explorations of Everyday Anarchism by Cindy Milstein and Erik Ruin.

Here was water flowing to and around people, as they gathered and washed in it, gazed at the life-giving liquid as they cupped some in their hands. Each wave had something written on it that nourishes. Many of these I identified with, and just reading them fed me a little, felt like water to a thirsty mind. It felt good to read them when I first got the book some years ago, it has been good to re-read them, and it amplifies the good to write some of them out here. Some answers given to the question of what nourishes us:

Getting lost in good conversation, in person.

Labouring out of passion, not compulsion.

Being healed, on our own terms and via support structures.

Noticing the stars.

Participating in processes of our own devising.

Breaking rules that don't make sense.


Loving oneself.


Producing what we need, in ways we enjoy.

Hanging on to our humanity.


Reaching out.

Speaking truth, as our power.

spiring towards abundance for all.

Mentoring, teaching, learning, as something we all do, gladly.


Asserting the commons against the commodified.


It's so important to practice these things and others that nourish and support and strengthen us. It's telling how much harder it is to come up with these concepts, to remember them, to practice them, how much less skilled I am, and I think most of us are, in thinking of such nourishing ideas. How much less automatic it is. This positive generative capacity feels less, even though it is greater.

I could think of a few more:

Swimming in the sea.

Laughing with joy.

Understanding and being understood.

Being with true friends.

Eating sustainably produced food.



Thanks to Milstein and Ruin and everyone else involved in this book, for illustrating these paths towards utopia in such an encouraging and energising way, that at the same time is complicated and imperfect, just as the path itself is. Here's to thinking more of what nourishes us, taking more nourishing actions, and practicing more often our capacity for the positive.

--- Read more and buy direct from PM Press (no doubt you can purchase this book from larger, well-known online booksellers, but you may want to consider getting it from a more ethical source):

Paths Toward Utopia: Graphic Explorations of Everyday Anarchism by Cindy Milstein and Erik Ruin.


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