My least-favorite MLK quote 👎

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

Hate cannot drive out hate, but it can drive out love. That’s what it did in Memphis, 1968, with a bullet through the Lorraine Motel.

People love to wrap themselves in warm blankets of complicity with cherry-picked MLK quotes. It’s bypassing—shielding us from reality and absolving us of action. The reality is that white people hated MLK, JFK distanced himself so as not to lose votes, and the FBI launched an entire program that surveilled him, intimidated him, and LITERALLY TOLD HIM TO KILL HIMSELF.

Speaking of folks who bypass with MLK quotes:

It is our responsibility to see history clearly. To see King clearly. King became more radical with each passing year of his ministry. In 1966, two years before his martyrdom, King began “the first significant Northern freedom movement ever attempted by major civil rights forces,” King said Chicago would be the first front in a campaign for justice against the “involuntary enslavement” of blacks in Northern slums.

He was met with a rock to the back of his head.

“I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hateful as I’ve seen here in Chicago,” King said later that day. “Yes, it’s definitely a closed society. We’re going to make it an open society.”

In honor of MLK’s legacy as a radical, here are four lesser-known quotes—not on love and light, but on capitalism, peace, ignorance, and poverty.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find nothing radical about these words at all.

  1. “We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor—both black and white, here and abroad.”

  2. “If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I do not want peace. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I do not want peace. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people.”

  3. “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolution about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each seep forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”

  4. “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil. The time as come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty.”

The Fool’s Journey🃏

Tarot reflections on 2019

As a writer, I am a deep believer in the power of stories, archetypes, and imagination. A friend of mine, a powerful witch, explained this in a way I’ll always keep with me:

“Imagination is powerful. We know this instinctively as children, but we forget it as we grow—as our shadow sides occlude behind ego, trauma, and conditioning. What our mind creates is as real as we allow it to be. When we make believe, we are literally making belief.

We know Jesus Christ was a real person who was crucified. But did that death redeem the sins of the world? Christians of course believe this, but I’d argue that the empirical reality of the atonement is irrelevant. Through belief, Christians make it as real as anything. Ask any Christian: do you believe 2+2 equals 4? Do you believe Jesus atoned for the sins of the world? They’ll answer both with confidence. The power is not in empiricism, but the story. Faith and imagination are the very same thing.

Reality is malleable, and interpretative tools exist beyond monotheism and religion in general: astrology, tarot, nature, magic, Jung, yoga, the occult, the otherworld, the arts.

My spirituality has taken on new dimensions as I’ve embraced this idea. People might say they believe truth is everywhere, but they often mean it in a cliché, bypassing sort of way—compartmentalizing lower-case truth (other religions and philosophies) and capitalized Truth (their own). In this way, their pre-existing preferences hum merrily along with a COEXIST sticker slapped on the bumper.

Archetypes vanquish these hierarchies. With archetypes, there is only the symbol and your relation to it. The deepest, bone-soaking truths are found and created with your own imagination. They are not revelations. They are birth.

This is why I love tarot. Tarot cards are prisms. They reflect my learning and sojourning in iridescent fractals, helping me claim my own narrative. Recently, I did a bit of numerology to discover my tarot card of the year. One of the many ways to do this is to first, figure out your Soul Number. Add up the numbers in your birthdate—then add the numerals of that integer together. For me, that’s 6+1+4+1+9+8+8 = 37; 3+7 = 10. Then, to get your card of the year, add 2+0+1+9 to your Soul Number. For me, 10+2+0+1+9 = 22.

There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana. The first and last (numbers 0 and 22) are associated with the Fool, as the Major Arcana tells the story of the Fool’s journey. This was my tarot card—my archetype—of 2019.

The Fool represents new beginnings, new experiences, personal growth, and courage. Our hero stands on a precipice, leaving everything behind, with only a small knapsack and a white rose representing purity and innocence.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite decks, Our Tarot, where the Fool is represented by my dearest Joan of Arc (😭).

Like her friends and family, we cannot know how the saints’ voices sounded to Joan. She might have hallucinated them, or she might have invented them to support her cause. Regardless of what provoked her to act, Joan of Arc believed in her purpose in life. The Fool signifies the beginning of a journey; it means living out your personal truth even if you must take risks to do so. Joan of Arc as the Fool sends us a very clear message that we should keep our eyes, ears, hearts, and souls open to receiving direction.

This is the year I embarked on my Fool’s journey. Like Joan, I started listening to voices—not of saints or angels, but of my ancestors, earth kin, past selves, and intuition.

I stood before the lone and dreary wilderness and then ran into it. Literally—I ran three hours into a godforsaken desert without another soul or sound for miles. I got a nice new job 37 floors up One World Trade Center and quit it eight days later (RIP, sunset views of Lady Liberty). A sidewalk poet in New Orleans wrote me a poem with a prophecy. I went to a cabin upstate and catalogued the plants and animals around me. Visited the Hezbollah Museum in Lebanon (sorry mom, didn’t tell you) and drove the Beirut-Damascus Highway. I went to therapy every week, and yoga almost every day. In the Azores, I fell in love with Brock again at Bar Caloura. I took a French class. My writing was published in a magazine under the title “Let the Land Speak.” I read more and wrote more than I have in a long time. In Utah, I broke covenants and curses. I found a coven. I mourned at graves and spoke to the dead, caressing the grass where they lay. I made offerings in Central Park—squash and fruit and flower mandalas below a gentle tree. A white-haired crone spoke to me of night vision, and invited me for a walk—where else?—in the desert.

I’ll close with lines from “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman.

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines, 
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say, 
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, 
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.    I inhale great draughts of space; 
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought; 
I did not know I held so much goodness. 

Thank you, 2019. Thank you, 2010s. You were magic, you were seismic. Your lava and ashes laid fertile new ground. My walk has just begun.

Alternatives to tithing 💌

Get others rich or die tryin’ 😎

As I left off saying the other day, there are infinitely better ways to spend 10% of your income than by giving it to the Mormon church.

I see this as not only a strategic imperative from a financial perspective, but a moral obligation from a privileged one. Why on earth would you continue to give to a Church that has a $100B slush fund? (Which, casual reminder, is just one of its myriad financial assets, to speak nothing of the real estate it owns around the globe.)

One thing I always hated about tithing—even when I was fully active in the Church—was how impersonal it felt. Write a check, fill out a form, give it to a man in a suit. There was no way of knowing exactly where your money went, and the line items on tithing slips are laughably vague.

But ssssh. The Church’s lack of financial transparency is a call to faith. Trust that it’s going where the Lord needs it most. The mantle of the Lord is upon the Brethren.

Call me faithless. I left the Land of Obey and moved into grey—where what I gave, and how much and to whom, was no longer a matter of decree, but conscience. Giving took on new meaning. It shifted from a rote task to a way of being. I became more attuned to real-time needs of everyone and everything around me. Inactive in a faith community, but active in a global one.


Everybody’s financial circumstances are different. My goal with the advice below is not to say “this is exactly where to donate and when,” but to give you a framework that’s worked for us.

Over time, we’ve found organizations that we’re both passionate about. They call to us in one way or another, and there’s something beautiful in letting intuition guide you. I love the idea of each individual tending what tugs at their heartstrings, with the world nourished by the collective.

Of course, you have to balance heartstrings with effective altruism. I read this article a while back about a Wall Street trader name Matt Wage:

One of the major charities Wage gives to is the Against Malaria Foundation, which, by one analyst’s calculation, can save a child’s life on average for each $3,340 donated. All this suggests that Wage may save more lives with his donations than if he had become an aid worker.

“One thought I find motivating is to imagine how great you’d feel if you saved someone’s life,” Wage says. “If you somehow saved a dozen people from a burning building, then you might remember that as one of the greatest things you ever did. But it turns out that saving this many lives is within the reach of ordinary people who simply donate a piece of their income.”

With all that as context, here’s how it breaks down for us. I guess old habits die hard: we still use 10% as a starting benchmark. But because we don’t see it as a God thing, we’re less inclined to check out once we reach it.

The bulk of our income comes from Brock’s work in sales, where we anticipate steady paychecks with periodic windfalls from commission. Working with this general flow, here’s a few of our favorite places to support.

STEADY GIVING

Small monthly donations. A mix of national, international, and local nonprofits. They reflect our most cherished experiences and interests. The intersection of these two things, I believe, is fertile soil for empathy and action.

WINDFALL GIVING

Intuition plays a big part in deciding how to distribute self-styled tithes. My favorite way to do this is to read the news and then search, search, search for the best organization fighting for what breaks my heart. That visceral reaction, that “How can I help?!”—it’s a guiding spirit. The rage I felt about ICE’s poultry plant raids led me to the Mississippi Center for Justice. Reading about indigenous climate activists murdered under Bolsonaro’s regime led me to Amazon Frontlines. I try to make sure windfall giving goes to more niche organizations (ideally, a place that works with local hires and community partners). They may get less press, but the work they do is no less vital.

  • United Negro College Fund—Hey, isn’t it messed up how Harvard was built on a legacy of slavery and has an endowment worth $40 billion? For this and a million other reasons, you should support UNCF, which provides $100M worth of scholarships to 10,000 minority students each year.

  • Mississippi Center for Justice—They’re fighting for Curtis Flowers. Organizing rapid legal response to ICE raids. Litigating Jim Crow era barriers to black electoral participation. Forget your congressperson. These are the people fighting for our democratic ideals. See also: Make the Road New York, The Innocence Project, Immigrant Families Together, Mijente, United We Dream, New Sanctuary Coalition, No Mas Muertes, Border Kindness

  • Amazon Frontlines—I’m impressed by how they truly put indigenous partners at the center of their work. Others merely use them as marketing props.

  • Hour Children—Provides services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in New York State. Their prison-based programs help mothers build and deepen bonds with their kids, and their community-based services (housing, job training, child care) provide practical support to women post-release.

  • Muddy Paws Rescue—If you follow me on Instagram, you know what a soft spot I have for Muddy Paws! I wish we could foster all the doggos all the time, but we’ve found that it’s not fair to Mojo, who gets very anxious. Foster families are indispensable to Muddy Paws, but donations are too.

  • Anera—If you’ve ever wrung your hands over how to help Palestinian refugees, Anera is it. Strong communities require building up local expertise, rather than a top-down development model (looking at you, UN). Anera staffs 12 offices in LebanonGaza and the West Bank exclusively with people who come from the communities they serve.

AD HOC GIVING

Know someone with a GoFundMe emergency? Have a friend who’s fundraising for a good cause? Donate! It may not be tax-deductible, but that’s not the damn point 😇 If it crosses your path, it’s a call to you. Answer when you can.

You need to stop paying tithing 💸

Non-Mormons, feel free to sit this one out.

Mormons: Stop paying tithing. It’s a blind misallocation of your resources and goodwill.

I stopped paying tithing long before I left the Church. I don’t recall exactly when, but it was around 2014 when the Church’s doublespeak really started to bother me. Things like how gay people were cool as long as they weren’t gay-gay, and women were so spuritchul unless they wanted institutional spiritual power.

One day, I woke up and saw tithing as a tool to control my behavior. A box I ticked on temple recommend interviews. With that, I was done.

I’ve been quiet about these thoughts because people’s money is their business. But the more time goes by, the worse I feel about that silence.


Here are four key points from yesterday’s news in the Washington Post:

  1. The confidential document, received by the IRS on Nov. 21, accuses church leaders of misleading members—and possibly breaching federal tax rules—by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works. 

  2. The complaint was filed by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors.

  3. Ensign is registered with authorities as a supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of the Mormon Church. This permits it to operate as a nonprofit and to make money largely free from U.S. taxes.

  4. Philip Hackney, a former IRS official, said the complaint raised a “legitimate concern” about whether the church’s investment arm deserved its tax-exempt status. “If you have a charity that simply amasses a war chest year after year and does not spend any money for charity purposes, that does not meet the requirements of tax law.”

IN ONE SENTENCE: The Church owns a company that’s taken tithing to build a $100 billion investment fund that it does not pay taxes on, and that it has not used for charitable purposes.

(Just wait. It gets worse.)

To contextualize what a billion dollars is—and by extension, 100 billion: the average income of a full-time salaried worker in the U.S. is $46,800 (2018 data). Assuming this person spends literally nothing and only works, it would still take them 21,000 years to make one billion dollars.


Last year, the Presiding Bishop, Gérald Caussé, quoted President Hinckley in a General Conference talk: “When all is said and done, the only real wealth of the church is in the faith of its people.”

Well, heh. About that.

The whistleblower claims the church receives $7B billion in tithing each year. $6B goes to the IRS’ required “religious, educational or charitable activities”—with the additional $1B transferred to Ensign. Based on internal accounting documents from February 2018, the complaint estimates this portfolio has grown in value from $12 billion in 1997, when Ensign was formed, to about $100 billion today. (If these returns seem impressive, eh. I did the math. It’s roughly a 7% rate of return.)

You know what’s even less impressive? The whistleblower, who is testifying under penalty of perjury, says that in its 22 years of existence, the fund has not been put toward any direct religious, educational or charitable activities.

If for some ungodly reason you haven’t thrown something across the room yet: he also says the fund was used bail out two of the Church's for-profit entities.

First up: A $594 million bailout to Beneficial Life, a Church-owned insurance company that went belly-up in 2009 after credit default swaps turned out to be a bad idea. (Oh, you didn’t hear about this?)

What’s worse than bailing out a for-profit insurance company with nonprofit assets? How about spending more than double that amount—$1.4 billion—ON CITY CREEK MALL?

Man, credit default swaps and malls. Where’s the gift of financial prophecy when you need it? 🎩


I’m not in the mood to equivocate: I think the Church has Dorian Grayed itself into a toxic, morally unsalvageable institution.

Here’s what it has to say about this tithing issue:

From the newsroom: “Over many years, a portion is methodically safeguarded through wise financial management and the building of a prudent reserve for the future. This is a sound doctrinal and financial principle taught by the Savior in the Parable of the Talents and lived by the Church and its members.”

(Ah, yes. Ye olde we-squirreled-away-$100B-tax-free-because-that’s-what-JESUS-would-want. An impenetrable defense. Gah, foiled again!)

And from the Church-owned Deseret News: The Washington Post says the Church of Jesus Christ has billions. Thank goodness. “The church actually practices what it preaches regarding provident living and self-reliance. They take seriously the biblical story about Joseph and Egypt’s seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.”

oOoH, Technicolor Dreamcoat Math 🌈 If it takes an average person 21,000 years to save $1B, and the Church has $100B, it’s officially prepared for TWO MILLION YEARS OF FAMINE. Let’s turn that moon to blood and get this party STARTED.


Back to the whistleblower, David Nielsen. Together with his brother, Lars, he wrote a 74-page supplement to his IRS complaint criticizing church leaders for continuing to seek tithing, despite having huge unspent reserves.

He wrote: “Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?”

As he was writing that document, Lars Nielsen said, he reflected on his mission to Sonora, Mexico, where he encouraged members to pay their tithing.

“One woman in particular, a very old woman who had dirt floors, went without tortillas for a week, so she could give her tortilla money to the Mormon church so her sick child would hopefully get better,” he said. “I am so utterly ashamed that her money, week after week, has gotten buried in a mountain, which is Ensign Peak Advisors.” (source)

To reiterate what I began with: Tithing is a blind misallocation of your resources and goodwill. You need to take control of these. It is your responsibility not just as Mormon, but as a person with a global family.

More tomorrow with ideas on how to do it.

The Age of Instagram Face 👄

Anybody who’s talked to me in 2019 has probably heard me gush about Jia Tolentino, a staff writer at the New Yorker. Each week when I get the magazine, I flip to the contents page to see if she has a feature. Any millennial woman who cares about the intersections of selfhood, culture, and technology should read her work. Last week, she wrote something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.

The Age of Instagram Face: how social media, FaceTune, and plastic surgery created a single, cyborgian look.

It’s a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips. It looks at you coyly but blankly, as if its owner has taken half a Klonopin and is considering asking you for a private-jet ride to Coachella. The face is distinctly white but ambiguously ethnic.

It’s Instagram Face, duh. It’s like an unrealistic sculpture. Volume on volume. A face that looks like it’s made out of clay.

Cyborgs. Cyborgs! Immediately, my mind turned to the three of the biggest Mormon influencers on Instagram:

Amber Fillerup Clark, 1.4M followers:

Wearing some staples from @landsend holiday collection. You can use code: AMBER for 50% off full-price styles, they have tons of gorgeous colors and cashmeres that you will love 😍 Link in bio. #LandsEndHoliday #LandsEndPartner
November 22, 2019

Rach Parcell, 1M followers, whose personal cyborg serf militia comes armed with balayage and Nordstrom affiliate links!

The perfect pinky nude lip combo. When your lip combo matches your garden roses, you take a selfie! 😂 Found the prettiest new lip combo from @walmart! The gloss is the perfect pinky nude! Shop this new fave combo on my @LIKEtoKNOW.it! #Ad #WalmartBeauty #HereforEveryBeauty http://liketk.it/2CWmR #liketkit
June 29, 2019

AND I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING UP THIS PERSON OR HER NAME: Cara Loren Van Brocklin, 1M followers.

@vichyusa products have always been part of my daily skincare routine and now with the launch of their new #Mineral89 Eyes Hyaluronic Acid Eye Gel, I have another amazing product to add to the mix! Let’s be honest, chasing my 3 kiddos around, mixed with work and everything else during this holiday season can cause some serious stress and lack of sleep. Both of those factors cause damage to my skin, especially the sensitive undereye area, so anything to help brighten the dark circles around my eyes and depuff the puffiness of my is a big win in my eyes! Also, Mineral 89 has been a go-to for skin hydration and has been producing noticeable results for me for the last few years!  Check it out at vichyusa.com and use “CARA19” for “20% off and free shipping.” #purityispotency #ad
December 10, 2019

As a tomboy who sees gendered, regressive “ideals” peddled as self-care or personal improvement, beauty is fraught territory for me. I am constantly conscious of the time, money, and energy I spend on it—or want to spend.

When it comes to the motivations (and manipulations) of women today, nobody hunts truffles better than Jia. In this article, she describes her research visits to plastic surgeons in LA, and everything—down to her description of a Beverly Hills cafe—reads like science fiction.

It wasn’t hard for me to understand why millennial women who were born within spitting distance of Instagram Face would want to keep drawing closer to it. In a world where women are rewarded for youth and beauty in a way that they are rewarded for nothing else—and where a strain of mainstream feminism teaches women that self-objectification is progressive, because it’s profitable—cosmetic work might seem like one of the few guaranteed high-yield projects that a woman could undertake.

On Kim Kardashian West, who is described in the article as “patient zero” for Instagram Face:

Kardashian West, who has inspired countless cosmetically altered doppelgängers, insists that she hasn’t had major plastic surgery; according to her, it’s all just Botox, fillers, and makeup. But she also hasn’t tried to hide how her appearance has changed. In 2015, she published a coffee-table book of selfies, called “Selfish,” which begins when she is beautiful the way a human is beautiful and ends when she’s beautiful in the manner of a computer animation.

On the early conditioning that all women receive:

I had worn makeup at sixteen to my college interviews; I’d worn makeup at my gymnastic meets when I was ten. In the photos I have of myself at ballet recitals when I was six or seven, I’m wearing mascara and blush and lipstick, and I’m so happy. What did it mean, I wondered, that I have spent so much of my life attempting to perform well in circumstances where an unaltered female face is aberrant? How had I been changed by an era in which ordinary humans receive daily metrics that appear to quantify how our personalities and our physical selves are performing on the market? What was the logical end of this escalating back-and-forth between digital and physical improvement?

And the paragraph that is perhaps the crux of it all:

We talked about the word “addiction.” I said that I dyed my hair and wore makeup most days, and that I knew I would continue to dye my hair and spend money on makeup, and that I didn’t consider this an addiction but a choice. I thought about a line from the book “Perfect Me,” by the philosopher Heather Widdows: “Choice cannot make an unjust or exploitative practice or act somehow, magically, just or non-exploitative.”

Go read the entire article. It’s not terribly long—maybe 7-10 min?

My other 2019 Jia favorites include:

  1. Her book, duh.

  2. The Quiet Protests of Sassy Mom Merch

  3. Please, My Wife, She’s Very Online

  4. Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African “Game of Thrones”

  5. Outdoor Voices Blurs the Line Between Working Out and Everything Else (if you’ve been targeted by their IG ads, you have to read this)

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