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Hot75: (re)Cognition Summer Edition

Everything about life is sticky and tactile. Anything you brush against even slightly has a high chance of clinging to you. Sometimes we do it intentionally, weaving webs of connections and associations, but most times it is accidental.

I attended an artist talk a few weeks ago at Inman Gallery. The artist, Alexis Pye, was in conversation with the Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Dr. Anita Bateman. The show being discussed was titled, The Melancholic Girls Brigade: The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me. It was a beautiful show I had luckily gotten to tour privately alongside other black women a week or two prior, and so I had the necessary context to enjoy the talk to its fullest. 

One statement Alexis made has latched itself onto my brain and is slowly becoming, or maybe always has been, one of my truths. She said her work utilized elements from the masters not only because she is in conversation with the past and desires to place her mark on it, but also that those elements she draws from said masters are to “get others into the work” - catch their eye, give them something to connect to - and things she draws from her life and her interests - her easter eggs, which include the Squirtle glasses from Pokémon - are to "get her into the work” because, at the end of the day, creation is a selfish act. You have to like what you’re putting down on the page even when you’re referencing or playing in something else. 

Just as creation is - needs to be - a selfish act, it's also a collaborative one. This takes me back to the first or second Hot Literati ‘24 piece I read. I believe it was Victoria who briefly touched on artistic asexuality. Something about that stuck with me and provided one of the first of many strings that continue to tie me to my current cohort. There are so many strings now that it sometimes feels as if my fellow writers crawled into my head and are routinely plucking strings that have been hiding dormant - giving me the courage to reveal the tacky bits on the other side.

In that same vein, it sometimes feels as if - in my head - there are hundreds of tuning forks ringing in various pitches. When I hear or read something sticky, one of them rings clear and starts to bounce a sweet pitch around that brings clarity to other forks in multiple different sections. When Alexis, responding to a question I posed, said “why aren’t you painting these? [pieces from her sketchbook rather than technical “grades well” pieces she had been doing at the beginning of her art school career],” it was a deafening ring that synced with a previously tuned fork from when Hailo requested I publish one of my recipes. I’ve written about synchronicities and association games, and this is just another facet of all that.

I’m not a scientist. I did graduate high school as a science student (top five even), but I’m not actually a science girly. I just like patterns and formulas. My curiosity regarding those may not naturally lean towards the sciences, however, I really enjoy the idea of string theory. Truthfully, I barely understand it and may have possibly bastardized it to suit my needs, but such is life. In my defense, scientists also barely understand it themselves, so I am in good company.

String theory states that everything in the universe is made up of unbelievably tiny strings which vibrate and produce effects that we have interpreted as atoms and the like. How does this affect my other favorite theory that particles only “exist” when they’re being observed? Are they still vibrating strings? Do the vibrations just get stronger under the weight of observation like how increased pressure on instrument strings create louder sounds? If there are any scientist literatis I’d love a more sound opinion on this, but the questions alone are fun to play with regardless. I’ve done a bunch of worldbuilding (for fanfiction AUs that may never be published) with these concepts.

If everything is tiny strings, then that means everything is connected, because if everything is strings, what else am I supposed to do but connect them? It is my belief that I exist to connect. To play games of association. To weave tales. To stick to others and in turn be stuck upon. 

Despite my utter contempt for sticky fingers, all these sticky synonyms and metaphors have been in part to emphasize my longing to return to the syrupy joy of childhood. The easy curiosity, endless whys, solemn pinky promises, whimsical structure, and especially the long hours spent playing outside with others. Play has been a big theme for me this year, large in part due to Hot Literati. I coincidentally saw an ad for a workshop about creating a summer field guide to help return to one's inner child, so of course I signed up because - synchronicities. Others may do it for the vine/gram/plot, but I will always do it for the synchronicities. In this workshop (which in full disclosure I still have not completed due to a shitty attention span) we were asked what play means to us. I closed my eyes and in my visualizations, I realized that while I enjoyed and spent a large amount of time reading and daydreaming on my own, the idea of play always circled back to playing with other people. For me, the best play is done with others. It’s a collective and collaborative act. 

I was speaking with Ananya last week and we both happened to have the same pair of Tiktoks run through our for you pages (there’s something to be said about the algorithm here). One was a treatise on fun being revolutionary (I did not finish it), and the other (which I watched more of yet still did not finish) was a counter revision by another creator stating that our play and our rest can only be revolutionary as a collective. We’re not resting unless we’re all able to rest. We’re not having fun unless we’re all having fun. Anything else is just an attempt to cosplay or assimilate to the “leisure” class. That rang for me not just because it was intentionally analogous to “none of us are free til all of us are free” but also because it reminded me of my own reflections on play and creation.

This is why I intend to always do my best to play in communion, especially this (re)Cognition Summer. Sometimes that can be as simple as trying out group classes or sports (I would love to find a game of kickball for adults in Houston), and other times it can be volunteering in my local communities. It can look like passing or leaving out drinks and snacks for people who can’t afford to stop while working or who can’t afford it period. It’s extremely hot here and I’ve somehow managed a heat rash while freezing under the weight of the A/C every night, so any support for those stuck in the sun is necessary. 

I’ve been meaning to watch Sitting in Bars with Cakes, so maybe after I watch it I’ll take a page from it and find a funky bar to sit in with some cake and meet strangers to ask about their childhoods. Maybe I’ll do it often enough to become a regular somewhere before the summer ends. If I play, I want at least 50% of it to be done in community. Creation is a collaborative act. So is play. As is life. 

It recently hit me that this is the last summer I’ll spend large swaths of in my childhood home with very little responsibilities, and both my parents at the exact same time. Once July ends, I’ll be out of the house, living in a new and unfamiliar city with a new job and starting a Masters program. This summer is a gift, one I can use to heal my inner child. 

Here’s another synchronicity. I watched Hit Man the other day on Netflix. It was enjoyable, I’m glad rom-coms are back. Glen Powell’s character was a professor of philosophy and psychology who originally believed that people don’t change. His ex-wife (and only friend because he was a loser - albeit an endearing one) posed the idea that people can indeed change. It only requires consistent new actions in order to create new habits and neural pathways to overwrite the old personality. This sounds like something else Hailo told me once. As people we can choose to tell and believe any story about ourselves. If you want to be outgoing you just have to believe it. You just have to live it in the present. 

I recently encountered a quote from Eckhart Tolle that encapsulates this. He said, “The mind, to ensure that it remains in control, seeks continuously to cover up the present moment with past and future, and so, as the vitality and infinite creative potential of Being, which is inseparable from the Now, becomes covered up by time, your true nature becomes obscured by the mind.” 


I tend to over focus on planning for the future because I feel discomfort in the present and don’t enjoy facing it. I am discomforted by the present because I am unreconciled with the past. I would like to reconcile with my past so I may stop strangling the future and settle comfortably in my present Being. I can do that by reconnecting to the child I was in the place I was as a child. 

Here’s how I plan to do that. It's like Hard75 but Hot. Five focal points; nutrition, hydration, movement/play, mental stimulation, and progress reports. In order to not overwhelm myself, as I’m already participating in the (re)Cog summer challenge, I’m including the summer rules as a sort of classroom guidelines and also folding some of them into the focal points.

𖦹 Have a set meal time or snack time. Make and pack said meal/snack every night before bed. In the spirit of schedules and eating without screens, after your meal/snack, set aside 30 mins to an hour to catch up on your shows a la after school TV time.

𖦹 Chug a glass of water, using both hands like a child who just finished playing outside, a minimum of 3x a day. This should occur naturally as a result of -

𖦹 Playing twice a day. One playtime should be outdoors such as the assigned phoneless walk, intramural sports, a day party, swimming at a community pool, clubbing til the sun comes out, painting in the park, volunteering, etc. Indoor play can look like happy hour/coffee dates, crafting, writing (this can also be an outdoors play), baking, trips to the library, etc. The (re)Cog summer challenges fall under the play category as well. 

𖦹 Honestly, the indoor play can double as mental stimulation, but I challenge everyone to pick up a children's book they once loved. For me this will include The Boxcar Children series, The Clique series, and The Wedding Planner’s Daughter and its sequels I just found out about. Read it in a little nook or corner. Mine is the seat by the window in the playroom.

𖦹 And, finally, record it! Preferably in Web2 if you have an old camera or dated phone lying around. My goal is to post a short video diary or physical photo collage a few times a week. As a part of the (re)Cognition Summer challenge, send one of your video diaries or art projects - or a photo of it - to Hot Literati or a friend somewhere in the world.

There may be 104 days of summer vacation, but it's already July. Luckily, summer doesn’t end until the autumn equinox in September, so that’s more than enough time for 75 days of inner child healing. I'll be starting on the new moon, July 6th, and ending 75 days later on September 19th, day two of the full supermoon. Isn't that serendipitous?

My final note before this becomes even longer than I intended is this quote:

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.

I hope this summer we can all begin to undo all the false tethers and choking strings that are keeping us suspended in time and indecision. I hope that in reconnecting to our individual cognitions and inner children we can come closer to our true Beings and find comfort in our present selves.

The 5th (re)Cognition summer challenge is to send one of your video diaries or art projects - or a photo of it - to Hot Literati or a friend somewhere in the world. (If you send it to a friend, write to our address and tell us what it was and who you sent it to.)


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