S. Lily Mendoza
Lily Mendoza is Professor of Culture and Communication at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, USA and Director of the Center for Babaylan Studies, a non-profit organization committed to decolonization and indigenization among diasporic Filipinos on Turtle Island. She hails originally from the Philippines in the traditional homeland of the Ayta and other indigenous peoples. Her latest (co-edited) book publication is Decolonizing Ecotheology: Indigenous and Subaltern Challenges (Wipf & Stock, 2022).
Lily Mendoza, “Liberation at the Cusp of Apocalypse: A Small Move from Making More to Making Beauty”
In a world full of grief and trauma, unmetabolized and metastasizing into cancer-like growth that is wreaking havoc on the Earth’s ecosystems and auguring the end of life as we know it, what is left for us to do? “We make beauty anyway” is the fierce and stubborn reply of original peoples who still carry a measure of intactness in their lives amidst our modern culture’s unrelenting assault. This moment not being their first holocaust—many in fact have not ever been in one—fighting the corporate giants that would dam their waters, clearcut their forests, pave over their farmlands, bulldoze their sacred places for real estate development, etc.—their call is not just to fight, but to keep the seeds of real culture alive through the hard lesson of learning to suffer with grace, beauty, and dignity.
The writing here will explore such a witness, beginning with my own mid-30s encounter with indigenous magnificence in an ethnomusicology classroom at the University of the Philippines that spoke profoundly to my body before my head could comprehend—a sensual “conversion” away from civilization’s hollow trappings into an ever-deepening embrace of land-taught wisdom and grace by original peoples both in the U.S. where I now reside (and teach) and the homeland to which I return with regularity. In the mix, I will trace the way liberation has become an adventure out of the grip of our species’ delirium of supremacy (gone hyper in colonialism’s development conceits and mainstream Christianity’s convictions of universalism) and into a “small ordinariness” shot through with the grand potency of a seed.