Over a year ago we started work on an issue of Skin Deep called Is This the End?. It wasn’t supposed to take a year to make, but as we sit here in a world undergoing massive transformation, the final copies in our hands, we can’t help feeling like the magazine was waiting for the moment it was most needed.
So we want to share the editor’s note with you, written in January 2020, as an opening to some of the ideas circulating in the issue. Right now we need things that can build and strengthen our collective capacities to create, imagine and produce. We want you to take a moment to lament, reflect, forecast and rewrite. The world will soon need to be rebuilt. What do you want it to look like?
If you’re able, we’d love you to buy a copy of the magazine, to take that time to read, learn and share in this moment between worlds.
Please stay safe, reach out to your vulnerable friends and neighbours, take care of each other. Love from Anu, Lina and the Skin Deep team.
It’s a funny time for us to be writing our editor’s note, given that when we first put out our call for submissions at the beginning of 2019, we’d hoped to have the issue in your hands by August. Yet, here we are, writing to you from January 2020, contending with a different set of circumstances and endings than the ones that had inspired the title for the issue: Is This The End?
We had intended to publish responses to that question before Brexit (an unending saga of a different sort), before the year was out, before the immortal soul of Toni Morrison passed on, before the decade was over, and before so many other critical turning points in our collective epic. But what began as a playful provocation, perhaps a reflection of a general mood, at some point, became a rhetorical refrain and a recurring question for our team. This issue, ironically, has felt never ending and continually deferred. Its assemblage has been delayed, frustrated and slow, though never uncertain, because we had an unwavering investment in thinking through the question of endings. With this issue, more so than any other, we’ve had to contend with the reality that our political and social lifeworlds impact our individual and collective capacities to create, imagine and produce. The daily onslaught of white supremacy in action, of facism on the rise and of widespread resistance and protest have had their impact on us, our process and this issue.
There is always someone, somewhere for whom the world is already ending. We don’t always have the same name for it when it happens: Hiroshima, Trail of Tears, the Nakba, Cortés, Jim Crow, the East India Company, George W. Bush, 1619, the Holocaust, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Nagasaki, Cecil Rhodes, the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, the return of the Dajjal/Anti-Christ, the border, COP21, Windrush, General Lothar von Trotha, Partition, Saddam Hussein, and so many other small, private, named and unnamed endings. Is This the End? was, therefore, always meant as an incitement to grapple with, a simple question that we desperately needed nuanced answers for in our lives, our organizing, our resistance and our learning. Because the fact of the matter is that the end of the world, if and when it comes, will be, and already is, uneven. YES/NO were neither options nor the point, because what matters more is: “now what?”
That’s why, with this issue, we wanted to invite you all to collectively hit the pause button with us on that moment between the last scene and the end credits. We want you to sit with us in the dark of the cinema to take a moment to forecast, lament, reflect and rewrite. Maybe even talk about why, for some of us, it feels like we’ve been watching apocalyptic thrillers on loop since the film 2012.
When everything feels like an endless stream, feed or scroll, taking time to pause and reflect on closure can feel futile, counterintuitive or even terrifying. And, yet, it feels like something vital for us to be doing at this moment. What about our lonely, individual tragedies, or endings by another name? What about our public, collective triumphs, or beginnings by another name? What about the threshold between them? We might want to take this time to think about the lessons and payoffs that we want for our stories. Asking – rhetorically, facetiously and a little bit earnestly – Is This The End? was an invitation for all of us to begin to define our own endings and to imagine their alternatives. What we are sharing with you is a collective processing of what it means to end, and what it means to begin again.
As you leaf through these pages, we hope that the writers, poets, activists and artists whose works you encounter will help you find your own definition for endings. In ‘A Self Care Intuitive Map for Endings,’ Jade Begay and Suzanne Dhaliwal give us an expansive guide on how we deal with transitions and endings, through patience and ritual. We have stories of unrequited love, odes to the end of friendship, reflections on what it means to end one stage of your life and move through to the next. We talk to climate activist and lawyer, Farhana Yamin – who has been working to stop climate change for almost three decades and still doesn’t feel like she has done enough – about how we go through deep periods of depression, and move through to grief and healing, from false hope to loving rage. The interview explores how activism and the work we are doing is an act of love, that giving up is not an option, and how we must work collectively and pragmatically over the next decade if we want to save this planet. Shabaka Hutchings reflects on the blurred lines between our world and the others that exist on the edges of our reality, making the connection between the end of our life on this earth and the beginning of a life in the ancestral realm.
Finally, we come to the inevitable loss of Toni Morrison’s spirit in this world on 5 August 2019. Her death could not go unremarked upon in this issue, because the endings she wrote have not only been formative for us as readers but also as editors. She gave us stories that devastated us to heal us and endings that forced us to return to the first page once it was all said and done, just so we could be sure about how everything had started. If her enduring wisdom has taught us anything, it is that there are endings that, so often, provide no comfort at all, but that require a certain kind of forgetting after having borne witness. With certain stories that have such traumatic conclusions, the kindest thing we can do, especially if want to find any way to make sense of the madness, is to try to leave them behind. She reminds us in Beloved that when everything is said and done, and all the characters are dead and gone, “it was not a story to pass on.” It’s a refrain that she repeats three times at the end of Beloved and a warning that is worth heeding as you grapple with endings and the ways they unfold into new beginnings. Lay some things to rest, make space for new growth, and be grateful for the enduring, unending impressions left on the world by the likes of Toni Morrison and the characters she left behind. After all, endings are inevitable, but what happens in between one ending and another, one beginning and the next, can be magical and everlasting.
If you’re able, we’d love you to buy a copy of the magazine, which you can do here.