dain saint art and activism for an abundant society

cynicism is a cul-de-sac

June 14, 2022

you found a nice spot
at the end of a street
and chose to stay
to build your home
to raise your family
to look down your nose through
half-closed windows
at the rest of your neighbors
as if the premium you paid
makes your position superior
never noticing that
your road goes

they cannot imagine if they do not see it in a book
even when they see it its they book that tell them how to look

"i'm just being realistic" is just another way of saying "i can't imagine what i can't see."

its one of the reasons that utopian fiction is so sparse. writing conflict it easy. writing "paradise" is hard.

because we know strife, we know pettiness, we know backstabbing and hypocrisy and the failings of mankind. it's so easy to look around and see people acting in self-interest, taking the easy way out, taking short-term gain over long-term success, and say "see? i told you so."

it makes it seem like, in order for things to be better, we have to be better.

daniel quinn wrote that (and i'm paraphrasing) every system of government and commerce would work if people would just be better than theyve always been.

the free market economy works (so long as people dont create monopolies, enslave children, or poison the environment)

communism works (so long as people dont try to gather power for themselves at the expense of others).

and we see all that and cannot possibly imagine a path from here to a supposed utopia free of all the sins of man to which we have become accustomed.


that's just a story.

it turns out giving every homeless person in america a home is cheaper than leaving them homeless. that's reality. thats what the data says. we say its "not realistic" to hide our discomfort with giving people things they "didnt earn," and look for examples of people gaming the system to say "see — told you so."

we thought the government would never truly consider a universal basic income. then covid hit and suddenly receiving stimuli and PUA is no longer unrealistic.

we worked in offices that would never go remote in a million years (until they had no choice).

there are other ways of living, all around us. tribal, cooperative, socialist, collectivist, hermetic, interconnected, intradependent, car-free, experimental, batshit crazy ways of living that we havent even begun to understand.

but the house at the end of the cul-de-sac that says "that will never work" is too comfortable. never mind the termites.

cynicism says "it will go how it has always gone (and it has always gone badly.)" cynicism is a mask for apathy, and apathy is a mask for depression. cynicism is learned hopelessness spoken aloud.

cynicism is futurelessness.

there are deeper truths out there. but first we have to move out of the cul-de-sac.

i'm tired of futurelessness

June 6, 2022

you feel it, don't you?

the creeping dread that this is all there is — that we reached a peak and are simply falling down the gravel-lined hill into oblivion.

that bad is exponential and good is linear.

it feels like: i recycle 6 cans while exxon dumps a thousand tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

it feels like: i cant save for a house while a hedge fund buys up the block.

it feels like: i vote and vote and vote while politicians do what they damn well please.

it feels like: fourteen people shot in front of a rita's.

it feels like helplessness. it feels like powerlessness. it feels like futurelessness.

and i'm tired of it.

it's meant to be overwhelming, isn't it? we are hit with a constant deluge of information that falls into two categories — upsetting or distracting. we're meant to be so worried about making rent that we can't effectively organize. we're meant to be more concerned with how our activism looks than what our activism does — and lord knows, i fight with that myself. to be an artist, who wants to make a living on that art, whose art is opposed to the systems of power and commerce needed to make that living, is to sit uncomfortably close to the problems. and i don't feel like i have a solution. not yet.

all i know is that the story of futurelessness isn't getting us there.

i've been managing my own depression my entire life. when i have an episode, one of the mechanisms that keeps me in it is learned helplessness:

Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

and what is futurelessness if not learned helplessness on a mass level? when we begin to believe that none of our actions will stop the shocks?

as i've learned, the only way out is changing our story.

we need to create a new story, something to believe in, something to have faith in. a story that puts us back in the driver's seat of our own destinies.

i know from experience that in the pit of a depressive episode, any story that says "i have the power to end this" feels worse than impossible — it feels delusional. it feels like a fairy tale, like we're lying to ourselves. believing in something with no evidence we can see makes you a crazy person.

but i would rather be crazy and work to build a better future, than be "sane" and accept things the way they are.

so i'm building a new story of the future, in hopes that it can be a guide for the crazy. i can't wait to share it with you.

let's get crazy.

the tree of time

March 14, 2021

consider a tree. it begins as a sapling, young and green. pliable, but unsupported; delicate and unprotected. over time, it brings together sunlight, air, and water to form wood; to grow. the green sapling expands from within, leaving behind layers of wood. the elements put stress on the green flesh of the tree, prompting it to grow a thick bark, to protect itself. as the tree grows, the wood in the core grows thicker, and the bark becomes more durable — and the green remains sandwiched between the two.

tree diagram

the green is the part of the tree that is most alive. it brings nutrients to every branch and leaf, it grows in new directions, it is rich with water and minerals. the wood within provides structure — and also, a memory of how the tree used to take up space. the bark anticipates challenges and protects the green.

time, for us humans, is like a tree in this way.

our past is the wood: a document of everything we used to be, providing structure and stability for what we are now.

our future is the bark: our attempt at knowing what is coming, and preparing for it

our present is the green; a thin moment, rich with possibilities, the only part of our experience that can truly be changed. the only part that is truly alive.

but when we see a tree, we see it in its entirety. we hold the entirety of the tree as a singular, undivided object. we don't judge the woody knots of its past, or the rough estimations of its future. we see how its present blooms and withers in cycles over time, and we understand that that — all of it — is the tree.

can we do the same with ourselves?

can we love the past that shapes us?

can we cherish the future that protects us?

can we live fully in the present, in all its richness and aliveness?

and can we embrace the entirety of our tree for what it truly is, without judgement?

spring is coming. i'm excited to see how we all bloom.

new show this spring

March 7, 2021

thrilled to announce i'll be performing this spring!

update: this event has been moved to the fall

the event will be live, outdoor, socially-distanced, and fun. more details as we get ready to announce.

join the newsletter to get details as soon as they drop.

black and blue

July 10, 2020

i had one too many conversations with well-meaning white friends asking, "but why are they protesting in philly when this happened in minneapolis?"

so many hadn't even heard of the move bombing.

so we set out to create a comprehensive timeline of the history of police brutality against black philadelphians, from the founding of the department to today.

take some time. learn our history.

black and blue screenshot 1 black and blue screenshot 2


research: tommy rowan, craig mccoy, valerie russ
editing: megan griffith-greene