by Brittany Tracy

From the slow rumbling plane, we reach Atlanta through moguls of clouds pleasantly bounding, all albugineous foam and crepuscular rays; it’s a fair-weather day that still looks like southern summer. It’s tarmac and trees forest green or blood-root red, the suede concrete of ball courts, lots, and parceled, shallow roofs of one-story warehouses. The highways are a rosy gray, and Atlanta looks like caps, canes and investment portfolios. A tie-sporting Texan plays solitaire next to me. Days later, on the flight home, it’s an older woman who taught first grade in New England, who knits and who loves Elvis.

My roommate, Charmeita, reminds me, that, as a man thinks, so is he.

PSO is back-to-basics and functional architecture: reconnoiter bias from education media environment experiences (by de-subjectification observation); cope with coping styles; we are told you can give a man a fish or teach a man to fish but we’ll build fishing schools; we are told (that) you put the right people in the right positions and give them the right support.

Not dissimilar, a peer tells me over soy stir-fry and cocoa cake that composting, as a technical enterprise, varies with location; that temperature, aeration, feedstock, moisture and acidity are determinably bound to, by, climate and ecology. I think about nutritive feedstock and you are what you eat, and how that’s necessarily rooted in the present. I don’t mean tofu. Alan Watts: the folly of humanity is to feed ourselves what isn’t real, what isn’t here, what we can only feebly re-present at expense of our living this. My concern is to refocus on participation, to invest, with no return, thoroughly.

Our discussion cohort defines poverty and its causes on a roll of cheap brown paper unfurled on the wall at a slight angle — my fault. We take a gallery walk through this perspectival jungle: starvation, pervasive, crisis, consuming, stifle, lack, no food or hope. I write about in-group / out-group, strategic, systematic disenfranchisement, and subscription to exclusive cultural patterning. We all have attachment disorder. We all, also, participate in the paradox by which people are deprived when they don’t have but they do have what they have: deficits and assets. How to assess poverty? Someone writes that often people need resources in a place full of resources — feedstock particular to them? Someone else’s causal list is the least casuistic thing I’ve ever read — it goes on and on, for a while, and the last item is: life situations, &c. No kidding. Someone else else writes our nation’s history. Situationally, people don’t have the same rights: The People’s History? The operational definition of poverty (two or more generations): handmedown voicelessness, says the gallery walk, this inability to actualize (to be a being human). Says a person, poverty encompasses intangible development, too; self-growth, self-fulfillment; and our preoccupation with material security promotes a type of poverty no less crippling. PSO is, as I thought, about entrenched social patterning — someone says, trained to live in poverty, so, too, are others trained to be affluent; dismissing class, we’re all trained into being.

[H.] sapiens means to know but connotes to taste, and these should by no means be mistaken. For Descartes, it was the capacity to think; but, if as a man thinks [so is he], we encounter the what as the generative platform from how and why emerge. A counselor in our discussion group clarifies: not maladaptive behaviors — drug abuse, physical abuse — but just plain-jane abuse; that violence is not about guns — it’s about people’s lives.

PSO reminds us to listen, that what I don’t know I don’t know is more important than what I think I know.

“How does your project build capacity and empower the community?”

The question of PSO — evaluative and re-evaluative, simultaneously prompting for the what, why and how specific to our service — is a question of life.