Written [5]

People Who Explain Jokes


There are two kinds of people in this world: those who do and those who don't. Or, wait, is it those who are and those who aren't? 

It doesn't much matter. However many people there are in the world, of whatever sort they are or aren't, people who explain jokes are, without exception, terrible people. 

We know it, too. And we're very self-satisfied.  

Written [4]

Someone's probably talked about how it feels like fire. A million different ways, then, and this way was mine. 

You've been walking a long, cold night, alone in the darkness. No gentler paths of interest but the gray, wide road underfoot and the shadows at its edges. It might be that you started walking the path with clothing: good, solid boots and long flannel and a hat to tug down around your ears when there's a chill. Or, if you hadn't begun the journey with them, maybe you'd fashioned your clothes along the way, and for a while they'd been enough. Then the seasons weathered them, and by pieces they fell away, and you still clutch some coverings about yourself, but they are not much against the chill, and you are cold and have forgotten what real warmth is, or perhaps you simply confuse the memory of it with the white iron that pinches your extremities, sometimes, until you shake out the offending limb and soldier on and the hotness of the deepest chill fades back to numbness, mostly. 

You've been walking like this a long time. You've grown tired of walking often, or else regarded the value of the task to be unequal to its required effort. Sometimes you stop and stand in place, swaying slightly, looking with unfocused eyes upon the trees at the path's edge. Once in a while a particular tree will loom, suddenly solid and inviting and, if not colorful, still a shade of earth that differs from the indistinct, twilit dirt road you're tired of watching. You aren't sure why you like climbing trees so much. That uncertainty, so far, has kept you off the branches, on the path. Your noticing the trees is not a pleasant marker of time, then, but it's one you have, and you don't have much else, and it's cold. 

Image result for flame

This is where the fire comes in. You, walking in the cold, in the dark, seeing little, you still see, and at some nearly meaningless moment you step and then before your foot touches the ground there's a light in the distance, small and yellow-orange, and it's something against the blackness and your eyes, used to straining in the dim lightless-ness, gain a little focus, and looking becomes easier. More steps toward the light, and as you approach it, it grows, pulling you toward it, taking up more of your vision, so that long before it becomes the only thing you see your mind has begun discounting the rest of your surroundings, you do not need them. Your feet walk along the path, the gray dust underfoot somehow sparkling now, so lightly, against the flickering, lengthening light ahead. It's still your same old path, it ties you to the world, but also it's new. Have you seen it like this before? You do not linger overlong to wonder. You only walk, and your eyes are on the light getting bigger, and now the shadows are no longer at your edges, but instead trailing behind you, and now there's an entirely new sensation coming on. Like the focus of your eyes, you do not notice it at first, so taken are you now with the light gaining electric blue flashes and ombre reds, still moving with the yellow and orange and still one color at once and no color, just flame. 

The other sense, though, it doesn't come like your eyes tightening, constricting, narrowing, it's something more languid and suffusing and rich, and it's coming on slower, and it's even more deeply intoxicating than the spot of white against the inky black of night, and it still comes on slow, but now you're walking faster. You recall trudging, not so long ago, you recall wet mud caked on your heels sucking you down into the path, but now the gray dust is shimmering with the colors of the approaching flame. You carry yourself more on your toes than your heels. You want to reach out to the fire and you extend your arm, yes, because now you're starting to take in more of the non-visual pull of the light. It feels like a new blanket and an old friend with the current of the shock of life running through it and you extend your arm out as you push yourself, not walking now, but a kind of slanted push against the ground with the arch of your foot propelling you forward, and the sensation you've been reaching for, it's warmth. You're getting warm. If your eyes leak with the longing of it, you hardly notice, you keep going, and the warmth, with the light, grows. 

Now you're feeling altogether different then you were before, though you're still not lending much thought to it. The prickles in your fingertips and toes have echoed away. Your whole frame is thermal, consistent, enervated. Your breath is steaming the air when you exhale. You don't feel cold nearly at all. Occasionally you shiver, but you're not thinking of the cold when you do, only the heat, and the warmth, and the flame bobbing and sparking in the distance, getting closer, that you're bringing yourself closer to, too. At some point you're running, and you know it, and you haven't gone this fast down the path before, but isn't it something! You laugh. What a sound! You don't think about warmth and cold anymore, you just see the light, and you're close to it now and it's almost upon you and you sprint, laughing, glorious, arms outstretched toward the blinding brightness and heat, and you leap, and then you're in the fire.

Image result for dark path

Did you know you were going to leap into the fire? You certainly did not hesitate to head toward the flame, even in the distance, even when it was just a speck. You did not know, though, that you could leap until today. Now that you have leapt, you are not walking. Did you know that? There's so much kinetic energy in the fire, so much exultation, so much joyous chaos that you maybe did not realize your movements were in a circle. You and the flame, darting in and out amongst the poles of a merry-go-round, thinking them camouflaged trees of a new, engaging wood. You take turns riding the steeds. You will recall, later, how the flame against the glassy eye of your painted mount seemed lifeless and empty, once, when the light of the fire glanced off it just right. You'll remember how your heart skipped a beat for a minute, how something icy crackled outward, swiftly, like a sudden frost. At the time, you'll dismiss the thought, uncertainly. You'll blame yourself, and the path you used to walk, and call yourself foolish. 

You are well and truly in the fire when you see, finally, that you have not been walking for some time. You have been standing, rapt, draped in fire, eyes closed and dreaming and soaking in the fire's warmth. For you it has been hearthstone embers. For you it has carried on a gentle crackle. Your eyes start awake one day, still encased in the flame's wake, to find it has moved itself some feet from you. You still soak in its aura, but you are not at its center. You chide the fire sweetly, stepping back into it, settling back down, until one day you awake and feel quite cold indeed. The fire is not there. It flitted off to feed on twigs, to grow, it said, for feeding you with warmth has taken the flame quite some energy. You smile again in the flame's center. The corners of your lips do not extend as high as before, but you do smile, you're certain of it. You feel it. 

Image result for eyes black and white

Some days, now, the fire is not warm, but hot. It becomes hotter than you can stand. You jump back and forth, foot to foot, landing briefly against cool ground before your soles are, again, consumed by fire. Strange, you think, how different the hottest heat feels. It reminds you, somewhere at the back of your mind, of cold. You have not seen a solid tree, too, in quite some time. Now you wonder if the hottest flames would still lick at and burn up the wide-set trunks, cut off the gnarled roots. In your mind's eye, you see the blue flames eat at the rough bark, bright but insubstantial, and the tree looms on. 

What do you think, now, of the fire? What do you think of the darkness of before? The flames are bright in your eyes, and you cannot think, but in the cold you did not want to think and now you do. Your thoughts fill you, and sometimes they cool you down, and sometimes they feed the fire. You walk in place sometimes. You look off into the night. You look out and for the first time, the red flame surrounding you is transparent, both there and not. The flame has lost its viscosity. The night is there, still dark, a road you have not walked in a long time. You stand in the fire and watch the road for a long time. 

Written [3]

In this post I want only to note a significant line from today's research:

"During the Harlem Renaissance, African Americans used art to prove their humanity and demand for equality."

This quote, unattributed in wikipedia, begs the question: is art the most effective means of proving humanity, personhood, consciousness, soul? What does art show and what more is there to be said about its proving power?

Thought of the day. 'Til next time ~

p.s. A sobering quote from the end of the article. 

...and the Harlem Renaissance ended abruptly because of naive assumptions about the centrality of culture, unrelated to economic and social realities.

Fiction [2]

How do you know when it's the end of the world?

For me, it was that damn bell tolling off in the distance. It started one Sunday, late morning. I was in my living room, ostensibly watching a rerun in the background, but actually zoning out in "la la land," as a childhood acquaintance had so dubbed it long ago, and contemplating the beauty of the cultivated plants in my apartment, perfectly at ease and content. This was my heaven, this spot I'd built for myself. Smack in the middle and yet far away from the world: my oasis.

Image result for balcony

The bell started just before eleven, I think. In the aftermath, the early details get a little fuzzy, a little uncertain. I'm under the strong impression that feelings trump memory, because I can't stick a pin in the details, but what I am sure of is the certain difference between how I felt before the bells and after. Before I was swimming in a state of calm. I was blissful. I had the uneven tempo of an afternoon errand rippling at my outer reaches and beside and around that, me, in all my glory and freedom. 

Maybe you don't know what it's like to be homeless. Hell, I guess I don't either, really. Not the real homeless for nasty, tethering weeks and months and years on end with not a single roof to shelter me. I'd talked with people about that, people who knew nothing of it and people who knew more and more of it, and I have always been lucky not to count myself among the most unfortunate. Still, I knew what it was to be without a home. Spiritually, metaphorically and literally, too. If you've never been without a home, maybe it's hard to imagine the overwhelming relief that having a space of one's own brings. Knowing that security. Decorating the space with your personality in small and overarching ways. Burrowing yourself down into the space and nestling, well and truly, knowing you won't have to oust yourself, that someone else won't oust you, come what may. Anyway, I was enjoying that, all of it, the whole feeling to the back of my brain and down into my elbows and lungs. It took a while to realize that the bell had been tolling for a while. 

Bells are meant to call attention. Sometimes they're soft, especially the regular ones, so the forced-to-frequency-listeners are never tempted to at last burn down the bell's tower and with it that plaguing noise of the community. Even the soft ones, however, know that purpose of calling to arms. Of alerting a people to take notice, or gather, or pray. The bell may have been tolling across the distance for eight minutes, or three. It was an unusual sound to hear on a Sunday morning, and perhaps it went on sounding for ten minutes or more before I first heard it, well and truly, but I would be surprised to learn that that's the case. Despite emotions being what they are, even, I'd be surprised.

When I tuned in to the bell, I muted the television. It collapsed and reformed into rotating scenes of scenic places, the Apple background to life, but I paid it no mind. My attention was now half lost in my own mental musings, half distantly focused on a bell that had been repeating, I thought, for some time. It rang clearer with the T.V. off, with only the further rumblings of the freeway to compete. It sounded hollow and full both. It was beautiful, I thought, in its unusual arrival. How lovely to have a bell in the distance on a summer's morning. I wondered if there was a wedding, or a fair, or a parade, even, of such monumental score that the rights of an oft-unused and historic bell had been roped into the occasion. I thought it quaint and lovely that such a thing should happen here, in this city of glitz and steel and new dreams. It felt rounding to have a bit of the old world reminder.

It kept tolling. At about 11:02 it stopped for about twenty seconds, maybe only ten, and I recall the light floating pleasure I'd felt at the morning's event. I thought I'd reflect on the sound it had made for a moment, and had done so, being just at the point of turning back on the rerun and becoming once again dizzily, happily lost in my thoughts, when the bell picked up again. That same measured, unhurried pace of before. My finger hovered over the remote and, as the bell continued to toll, I withdrew my arm and then the rest of me back into the couch, and I listened. I looked through the gauzy curtain at the gray light outside. The bell sounded. The initial muffled ringing and then the beats of reverberation and thickening silence. One and two and three and four and two and three and four and five and six and seven and eight and three and four and five and six and four and five and six and I counted out and tried to wrap my mind, solidifying now from its cloudy, dreamy state, around why a bell would be tolling so long and, now, jaggedly in our millennium city on a Sunday morning. 

I didn't have traditional television, I couldn't just "switch on the news," but when the bell kept tolling for a full seven additional minutes I opened up my laptop and browsed the news sources I trusted. I didn't see any big events. I checked the local news, same business. I kept on listening to the bell. I slipped on my flats and went out, still pajama-clad, to the balcony and looked off into the distance for a fire or a crowd or anything amiss, but there was just the tolling, the sound echoing out from the distance. My neighbors weren't home, I didn't think. In any case, no one else came out to their balcony. 

[to be continued]

Written [2]

Twice today I heard a quote from the bible. It's an odd fact that sometimes we hear a thing and, swearing we've never heard it before, find that we suddenly hear it popping up everywhere. But since it happens, and since I'm ruminating on mine for today, let me share it with the whole class.

It comes from Proverbs 31:10. There are many translations, the bible being a rather old book, but generally it goes:

"Who can find a worthy woman? For her price is far above rubies."

Image result for picture of rubies


The first time I heard this proverb today was from Velma Jean Learns to Drive, a story about a North Carolina girl in the 1930's-40's. The second time was in the newest episode of The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu's spin on Margaret Atwood's classic tale, a dystopian rape fantasy set in the near future.  

Oh, not super happy with the term rape fantasy? Well, Atwood herself wrote a story describing the precise use of the term, so here, catch knowledge. 

Anyway, I thought about how this phrase was offered with (arguably) good intent in both cases. The one a word of comfort and guidance to a teen about to wed. The other a means of indicating how worthy a man finds his wife. In both, I get hung up on the word "price" and its antecedent, the rubies. And the longer I thought, the more I thought about the instances when I've heard a "price" refer to a man:

  1. if he's a slave
  2. if he's a wanted man (criminal, or slave, or both)

Image result for picture of slave and criminal

In the second case, it's usually a "price on the man's head," which locationally speaking, isn't quite the same thing as the 1:1 ratio in our earlier examples.

Then I remember that in the time of the Bible, women were men's property pretty much everywhere all over the world.

This is a really, really depressing fact, people.

Image result for princewait, no, nix the "n."

I mean, on the one hand, it's great that I have the ability to be offended at the direct object comparison and to express my discontent freely to 'the public.' On the other, everything else about the situation. 

In both the cases where I heard proverbs 31:10 today, the proverb was offered with positivity. Yet I could sniff a hint of something stale, brittle, or moldering under the sentiment each time. 

I'd guess more than many women aren't too happy at the women = tradable good correlation either. 

Maybe one step is to normalize the language more. Create more scenarios where men are praised as worthy objects.

Or, if not, maybe media could just lay off the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon for a while--

I mean, Proverbs 31:10--

or at least upgrade to meteorites.