I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’d tried before, a couple of years ago, and just couldn’t get traction even though I adore Gaiman. But this time I’d seen a brief YouTube interview, him talking about the genesis of the book coming from a visit to Iceland. That caught my attention and seemed about right, because my own experience of Iceland was bizarre and other-worldly. So this time I came at it right and got it, or it got me. Whatever.
Central to its concept is that wave after wave of immigrants, refugees, slaves, deportee riffraff, all arrived with their native gods in their heart-pockets. But the other side of this is that this (the USA) is a bad place for gods. If you’ve arrived from Iceland, or Sicily, or Lithuania, you’ve come from a tight-knit tribal context and you know how to honor and nourish your gods. Now you’re mixed in with folks from other tribes, other traditions, and you may not find a way to achieve critical mass. Your gods may start to starve.
The gnarly heart of this is the idea that what purports to be a war between the Old Gods and the Upstarts (drugs, media, cars, etc) is not actually a battle between opposites, but a conflict best expressed not as “let’s have a fight between me and you” but “let’s have a fight between you and him.” What counts is not which side wins, but how much blood is spilled. This starts to have a lot of resonance with the contemporary political scene.
Tribalism is a fact here, and our current dilemma reflects that. Unfortunately, there is no dominant tribe that supports Gaia, and we are tweeting and farting our way to oblivion. There is no understanding that we are inevitably all connected, and that if the right side of the ship totally destroys the left side of the ship, we’re all gonna go down.
I am trying with every fiber of my being to believe that we can find, as a species, a way to see that there is an interconnection that links us all, whether we like it or not. I am not seeing a whole lot of evidence of this. Tomorrow is another day.
We need to stretch more. I don’t mean our boundaries or our credulity, I simply mean our musculature. Even if we continued being idiotic jerks, we’d be less frantic idiotic jerks. In an ancient comic book, Captain Marvel attained his super powers by saying, “Shazam!’ and intuitively that feels right to a ten-year-old kid reading the comic: the “am!” sound is a tightening, a closing that circles the wagon train of our fibers. Then lightning struck, which probably, I’d think, would make you tense up. But at a certain age, tense density doesn’t equal power. Captain Marvel is no longer with us, probably due to his blood pressure.
Before performing, I stretch: the long muscles of back & legs & arms, the inner team of uvula & tongue, the lips, the fingers & wrists & toes. Methodically I tense it, release it, stretch it gently—always very gently. Then I let myself go slack and let the energy flow through the open gates like maple syrup over waffles. It feels so good. If I feel I need to energize, I’ll start walking or dancing around, do wild hand gestures or double-time clowning with my monologs—but keeping the lightness and relaxation of the stretch.
I need to remember to do that other times. If I regarded doing the dishes or data entry or weeding the yard as a performance, a fluid ballet, I’d look a bit silly, perhaps, but I’d certainly engender less fatigue and less sitting-on-butt overcast.
If it became a national craze, we might all wind up an inch taller, but the infrastructure should be able to support it. Ceilings are generally tall enough. The only challenge might be to sleepovers or sex parties, where floor space is at a premium, but every reform will have unintended consequences. I think it’s worth a try.
It feels so good to let life trickle in.