This is our violent Seven.
When we were writing our joint memoir Co-Creation: Fifty Years in the Making, we looked at the parade of years and realized that every seven years we had hit a node of change. Something had to be released, and something new had to be incorporated. This one is shaping up to be a stunner, but it’s right on time.
We’ve begun, for obvious reasons, to start talking about what if. What if the fires come close and we have to evacuate, and what if the fire actually were to take our home. It’s already happened to two families we know well, and to countless others in our area. Nobody’s exempt.
We’re being meticulous about masking and distancing and hand-washing and staying home except for necessary provisioning, but what if? I’m eighty, Conrad’s not far behind, we’re in a vulnerable cohort. If either of us were to survive an infection, would life still be something we could recognize?
And then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room: the election. Already there’s a ginning-up of incitement to violence, no matter which outcome. Could we live under four more years? And what are our options? It took us thirty-three years to get back to California, and we live in a little local paradise. A lot of our life-energy comes from where we are. Our creativity is based in the English language; we adore Italy and our daughter, but we’d be unmoored and rootless.
So there it is, the looming Seven. What are we prepared to change? All the past letting-go experiences have been painful, but the new growth has always been something we embrace with a full heart. Why would this be different? I can’t say I’m not apprehensive, but we’re doing what we can to stay light on our feet. We’ve danced this dance before, but this time the music is more Wagnerian. “One step ahead of the shoe shine, two steps away from the county line”—it sounds different with heavy brass and kettle-drums, but maybe we can dance to it anyway.
A friend pointed out the obvious: the rage factor on the Web is a pandemic. I hesitate to launch a scientific study, fearing the consequences, so this is only in the nature of a thought experiment. Imagine that some poor soul ventures a Facebook post with a single word:
Besides 42 Likes, 16 Loves, 6 Laughs, 5 Griefs, a variety of perplexing emoji’s, and a number of photos of dogs, there are these:
- Why not just go ahead and use the n-word? You casually skim over 5,000 years of canine enslavement that goes unrecognized by neo-Liberalism.
- YO TRUMP!
- Who are you calling a dog, asshole? Stand up and own it!
- What about cats? I’ve never read a more homophobic, cis-gendered, heteronormative, ableist, white male supremacist statement. Yes, the cosy middle-class sit-com picture: this old smelly animal curled at Daddy’s feet, with all that that implies.
- FUCK BIDEN!
- FUCK TRUMP!
- “Dog” is a dehumanizing term. They are feeling creatures. Just take a minute out of your self-centered day and look in their eyes.
- Dog is making God into an anagram.
- It’s not an anagram, it’s a palindrome.
- Is not.
- Just because he humps Aunt Ethel’s leg is no reason to mutilate his nature.
- Who says he’s male? Are dogs always male? He might be a bitch.
- Thanks for this enlightened hate speech.
- It’s a semordnilap.
- God and dog.
- This brings up the horrible moment in Sunday School when they said that dogs didn’t have souls so they couldn’t go to Heaven. That finished Sunday School for me. Religion is crap.
- I hope you never feel the pain of having to put Ragsie down. Your thoughtless note ripped open a wound that’s been there for twenty years.
- You sound pretty fucked-up.
- You sound pretty stupid.
- YO AOC!
- I can’t stand her.
- White fragility, anyone?
- What about the 2nd Amendment?
- “Dog” implies there’s one kind of dog. What do an Alaskan malamute and a chihuahua have in common? They’re two different races. Trying to wipe out “difference” is just a subtle form of racism.
- Racist is racist.
- Racism is not relevant in the world of dogs. They’re all equally oppressed.
- I wouldn’t mind being as oppressed as Buddy. Free food, lays on the carpet all day, gets up to poop.
- Like the current POTUS.
- What I hate about bicycles, they’re fine if they had their own roads, but you get behind one, they don’t move over, they just poke along and you never know what to expect.
- I’m outta here.
After some consideration, I don’t think I want to try this.
Are you old enough to remember pop rocks? The candy that suddenly popped and fizzed in your mouth? It wasn’t around for very long, but it was an intriguing idea. You put something sweet in your mouth, and it went off and did its own thing. For me, that’s what poetry does.
We belong to an oral tradition poetry group that used to meet in a tightly-packed crowd in a private living room four or five times a year to spend about three hours (with a break) listening to each other share poetry from memory. That was the only rule: no reading, you must have taken it into your body and mind before sharing. Now some of us are meeting in the open air in a circle of benches adjacent to a lovely country church, and we’re doing it every two weeks. It’s soul food.
I know a lot of people think poetry’s not for them, but it makes a difference when it’s something you hear spoken from the heart, not find silent on a page. For one thing, it takes a little longer. It allows the time for popping and fizzing, and it’s also graced by the essential pheromones of each speaker. No, you’re not close enough to smell them, but that’s the effect.
Sometimes what’s spoken is something new to you, and that’s its own fizz. And sometimes it’s something nearly everyone already knows, and there’s that special whump when the first words land and you know what’s coming. When I hear “I went out to the hazel wood,” tears spring into my eyes, because I know where we’re going: “The silver apples of the moon, / The golden apples of the sun.” And the time it takes to get there is filled with the extra savor of those well-known words, spoken by someone who loves them enough to share.
Or this: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold . . .” It is rushing and tumbling toward the time we are in now, and there is something both painful and comforting that it was seen so clearly a hundred and one years ago. Painful, because it feels true, and comforting, because we are still here to try to learn to see.
Nowadays it’s seen in live concerts when a singer hits the first notes of the crowd’s favorite: everybody erupts in a yell because they know what they’re about to hear, and they really want it. It must be baked into us from the times when we gathered around the fire to hear the bard sing. It creates an instant circle of high-amperage connection.
Today, hate is doing this. It’s good to remember that it’s not the only thing that does.
A weekly view of the world we
wake into every morning.
Books and Media by
Bishop & Fuller
AKEDAH: THE BINDING
a novel of promises broken or kept
a novel of blue-collar ghosts
a novel of puppets & renewal
50 Years in the Making
A Memoir of the Creative Life
35 Snapshots for the Stage
A Novel of Dystopian Optimism
From Inanna to Frankenstein