— From the Fool —
I had a fight with my sister. I have a sister. She’s okay except for her theories of economics.
She’s a whore cause she’s gotta make a living, and I’m a fool, same reason. You do what you’ve got a talent for, and what the Invisible Hand of the Market demands. To hear her tell it, the hands she deals with are pretty visible.
We don’t fight much. But we got into it big on why should a few guys have all the money?
My thing was, if everybody got a raise, just a little more, I could go out on the street, put out a pot for tips, and tell jokes. They’d toss in a buck or two, if I’m good. Spread the wealth.
Her thing was, she doesn’t want to keep doing cheap back-alley tricks. She’s got aspirations. She’s aiming high. All she needs is hit it big with a billionaire. The more billionaires, the better the odds.
Would they hire a fool to make them laugh if they’re not up to the other thing? I asked.
They don’t need to laugh, she said.
They don’t ever laugh? I asked.
Sure, they laugh at the people they screw — meaning that metaphorically, she said. (She was an English major.)
But she said I should be a big comedian on TV and make a million bucks but I’d have to work late and stand up when I tell a joke. Be a stand-up comedian. But I don’t see anything funny about standing up unless you fall down, and there’s no future in that.
And I don’t see any point in having billionaires if they don’t give me some money. She says they’re there to set an example. Example of what? Making billions, she said.
But my sister hasn’t scored any billionaires yet. I told her stop working truck stops.
— From EF —
I love dirt. Not housecleaning, that’s small-d dirt. No, I mean Dirt. Gaia. Terra. That stuff you can kneel on and dig in and heave around by the shovelful. Since we moved to Sebastopol, I’ve had multiple opportunities to be up close and personal with Dirt.
I could have a garden — if we could outwit the gophers. After doing a lot of reading and web-searching, we decided on double-dug raised beds. We dug four plots, 3×12 ft., a foot deep, and it sure meant moving a lot of dirt. We lined the pits with gopher wire, framed the beds, and filled them up with amended soil. First major dirt of the decade.
Second: California has three kinds of houses — those who have termites, those who have had termites, and those who are going to have termites. We were in Class A. There needs to be a minimum clearance between the dirt under the house and the major support beams, and in some places it had silted and gophered up into actual contact. Somebody had to crawl around under the house and excavate, and I was the one who was small enough to wriggle in.
I thought it would be repulsive, but it wasn’t. I suited up with cap and goggles, coveralls and gloves (terrorist chic), took a big trouble light on a long cord, and crawled in commando-style. I scraped a small Buick’s worth of dirt out, piling it in restaurant bus bins and pushing it to the entrance for CB to empty. It made a nice hillock.
Third: the septic system’s drain-field. Lacking the tons of bucks required to get an Expert to fix its failure, we set about finding old building plans, measuring to find the D-boxes (which distribute what comes from the tank to the pipes of the drain-field), and digging down for the clogs. Three feet down, we were told, but it turned out to be six, and the only critter small enough to fold up at the bottom of a six-foot cylindrical pit was me.
What ensued was weeks of crouching at the bottom of the pit, wielding an array of heavy-duty snakes, hauling roots and goop out of the buried pipes. It wasn’t nasty. It was cool, quiet, and just smelled like damp dirt. Eventually I got one fifty-foot pipe entirely clear, and the other one better than halfway. Then we filled the pit.
Fourth: my current dirt-dance is terracing and sculpting the side yard. What’s this all about? Lately I’ve been battling a resurgence of depression, a demon I thought I’d licked long ago. Once again, the earth beneath my feet is my ally. Kneeling, feeling, taking time to see and smell how immensely rich and complex that domain is. Tuning the mind out, tuning the senses in.
— From CB —
For quite a number of years, I’ve risked the fate of my soul on email discussion boards. It’s no news that a special sort of violence thrives therein. I’ve seen friendships shattered, groups blown sky-high, nice people sprouting porcupine quills. Is this the 21st Century manifestation of Hermes the Messenger gone mad, filling each missive with epithets: idiot, fuckface, shithead, troll?
Once in a while, I get drawn into these bloodbaths. I usually fall into the role of Libra balancing-act, arguing for a more tolerant dialogue: “Hey, could everybody just be . . . nicer?” Recently, a respondent said, Yeh, you’re more tolerant of bullshit, and that’s not a virtue.
In fact, deep down, I’m viciously judgmental. I’m not an integrated individual. I push hard against qualities I feel are “natural” to me — self-deification, self-pity, selfishness, laziness, feeling I ought to have the biggest piece of the pie — and I usually manage to make my actions, if not my inner being, the actions of someone I can respect.
But I digress.
Why does the Internet so often become a battlefield? How do electrons whanging on screens attain the virulence of needles? I would guess that it’s isolation. One’s deepest isolation is within a multitude, walled off from that multitude. It hones you like the old razor strop.
It manifests in road rage. It roils the debates of academia — a disputed Shakespearean punctuation, the carbon dating of a Neanderthal pinkie. It erupts in the hellfire of drones.
Into a measure of isolation blend a cup of righteousness, three teaspoons of ego, a pinch of logic (whole or cracked), six liters of frustration, and one broken egg to glue it all together, and you’ve got a banquet ready. Now just invite the zombies.
Like the automobile, the Internet is a tool that gives us vast mobility and vast rootlessness. We’re alone amid multitudes. We see the Other as the symbol of all that corrupts, the maddening slow driver in the fast lane, the human stripped down to a single disgusting tattoo. Then our sociopathic selves run amuck in a world shrunk down to chessboard or circus of fleas.
When I was a kid, my toy soldiers were lead, not plastic, and even a missing arm or head didn’t give them a free pass home. I’d line them up, throw sticks or clods to kill them — battles raged under a lonely, childish war god. But sometimes I gave my soldiers names and life stories. That changed something in me. I chose a different battle. I became a dramatist instead of a general.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014