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Space B2: Occupy Irrelevance

Early in my graduate career, I attended an obligatory “get to know your fellow graduate students” mixer, and we were prompted to introduce ourselves by describing our career goals in academics. Some colleagues responded by discussing the impact that they wanted to have on students, often in glowing/idealistic visions of transforming student lives by revealing the wonders and powers of the written word. Others spoke in pompous terms about literary scholarship. Erstwhile answers all. They must have believed themselves and probably still do. And perhaps churned out a few starving writers or charming statespersons or literary afficianados or . . .

Yet, when it came time for me to speak, I had gotten quite fidgety and cynical about my colleagues. Having grown up in the world of higher education, I have never gotten past its bureaucratic nightmares, its star system of academics, its dogmatic territorialism, and its incorruptible acceptance of checks from Exxon to prove that offshore drilling is a good idea or that oil spills renew ocean environments. Together, these qualities of higher ed always seem inextricably entwined with whatever constitutes this week’s supposed forefront of incontrovertible human knowledge. Contrarian by nature, I responded, “My driving passion is to achieve complete irrelevance.”

I don’t know what I meant, if anything, at the time. The contrast amused me, so I said it. Over the years, though, the thought has taken on multiple resonances for me. I have thought of irrelevance sometimes almost as interchangeable with irreverence, the cognitive and logistic space to imagine the unimaginable, to say the unsayable. At other times, I’ve thought in terms of simply quarantining myself from whatever contaminant is currently passing itself as relevant (cf., discourses about jobs, free trade, decisive leadership, individual and personal security, and martial peacekeeping to preserve freedom). Even more prominently, I’ve thought of irrelevance as a space of playfulness, non-sense, non-sequitur: outlierdom. I treasure it. The dancing banana emoticon always make me laugh. It has absolutely no reason for being, but, inexplicably, there it is, in all its phallic glory banana. With Brian Spukowski on “The Sarah Silverman Show”: “I worry that farts will never not be funny.” By the simple measure of achieving irrelevance, most, if not all, observers would see my career as a smashing success.

Lately, though, when driving past the increasingly frequent evidence of fracking activity in central and northern PA, I feel a different, much less romantic sense of irrelevance, one that is more equivalent to obsolescence. I am the oxymoronic acolyte of a past that never was: the Luddite who has a blog, the conservationist who leaves the water running when washing dishes, the hermit who preaches community, the iconoclastic academic who teaches learning for learning’s sake but pushes assessment. The modern keeps invading my more fanciful notions of the good life. Mantras of efficiency, consumption, and technologically driven time-space compression leave me feeling out of sorts, yet still a willy-nilly participant. I like experiencing (not spending or consuming) time. I like the woods. I like to walk through a biodiverse garden that can feed me and delight my senses. I don’t like 24-hour access to the workplace and the expectations that come with it.

In response, my students get a heavy dose of human ecology disguised as pre-writing invention techniques. Human ecology’s central tenet—at least when passed through my imagination—is the revolutionary idea that human beings may not have a divine mandate to be custodians of nature. The discipline replaces such anthropocentrism with the understanding that we are merely one species in competition with all other species to maintain the optimum conditions of our mutual survival. It turns out that funny things (read: unintended death and destruction) happen when we try to eliminate “pests” by introducing non-indigenous predators into local environments. Or, when we attempt to bleach out pollutants in our groundwater. Correcting a wrong with another similar wrong and expecting a better outcome seems the height of arrogance.

Fully deanthropocentrized, we might begin to ask questions about our priorities and what constitutes our human rights and our intra and interspecies responsibilities. We might ask whether it’s a sustainable idea to privatize water, healthcare, social safety nets, education, internet access, basic utilities, DNA strands. We might question the value of spending entire, disembodied mornings on the internet. We might envision a social commons that is not demarcated by consumption, profit, and income. We might consider the nourishment of the body with such things as sex, the scent of flowers, the taste of the tomato, the lunacy of the squirrel. These might replace things like killing, imperialism, abstinence, and rationalism. But, then, we would be irretrievably irrelevant: beings in time rather than ahead of it, experiencing it rather than saving it. We’d be irrelevant in all its senses: irreverent, sensual but nonsensical, questioning, neologizing. In short, obsolete.

And farts will still be funny.

So will a blog on obsolescence with no posts after 2009.

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Nine of Bones: Keeping a Straight Spine

nine of bones

 

I woke up this morning having lost my voice.

SpAce B00 is playing on the subject “who can own what ain’t even known to be owned?”

question posited by petulant poet and alleged anti-semite Amiri Baraka.

My own uncle by marriage a Holocaust survivor- he hid from the Nazis in a ditch, covered in straw, when he was a young child.  I will state firmly that I have no love for anti-semites however this poet throws light on subjects worth investigating.

One of my interests is tarot, a good subject for another day.

But my card for the day- nine of pentacles. Or, in my particular deck, given to me by a very dear friend, in the Collective Tarot, the nine of bones. A stack of well-aligned vertebrae.

My Uncle might not have been plagued with the same sense of western orphan-ism that we have here in America, pandemically.  He was both anecdotally and in my memories, a kind, exceptionally good-natured man.   Having had to fight for his own survival gave him a sense of perspective.  He wasn’t prejudiced, and he didn’t sweat the small stuff.

As a ‘Merican, being gifted with supermarket shelves full of (questionably…) nutritious food and more-or-less frequent access to them I can’t complain.  But mostly can’t say as I’d previously had any burning desire to remain on this planet- or rather that my desire had never previously been tested.

And, the situations facing Americans now don’t pulsate with the urgency of Nazi Germany.  But we must remain vigilant in order that these systems of hatred do not repeat themselves; as they say, “never forget.”

But we do forget.  Our parents and grandparents fought to give us comfortable lives, and- as Space B pointed out to me- in this comfort might have been a trade-off.

Which is largely why the common person does not often question the systems in place.

But take a look around- every system in this country is broken or eroding.

Losing my voice is an allegory for the disempowerment we all fight against daily.  Some aren’t even aware enough to know that they’re fighting, some don’t fight hard enough.  But, every time you live your own truth the forces of darkness lose a little battle.

I struggle to form words around the heartbreak that’s festering internally.  My lips close against an alien Fran Drescher voice, or a near-dead whisper.

My political candidates never win.

So, in a system where copyright laws protect citizens from free information, media conglomerates own not only our sources of information and dictated “cool”, and they have our political candidates in their pockets, what voice can I find? With corporate  pirates naming a free internet as “piracy”- and trying to stifle us with bills such as SOPA and PIPA, with wages falling as corporate profits rise-

The only option in this type of situation is to keep trying.  Gulp some lozenges and a mug of hot tea, and keep trying.

Because nobody can own me.  The bankers that are making money on my college debt can’t own me.  The major political parties can’t co-opt my opinions if I have access to information and a free mind.  The gas companies, the pharmaceutical giants, the factory farms can pollute my water and my air, they can give me cancer and kill me, but they can’t erode my basic humanity.

Unless I let them.

“A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent”-said beloved nonviolent activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The most important thing is what does belong to us- primarily- what we are at least long-term renters on-

our bodies, our minds, our voices.  If we don’t use them, we have nothing.

I will start this first series of blogs on the body.

Skin, bones, teeth, brains, the parts that add to the gestalt.

And I write with my back erect (giggles).

-Gypsy

Metaphorically Speaking

Introduction #2–Space Boo.

This blog is the product of two voices who reside in the in-betweenesses of codified, dogmatic, self-consciously tangible realities.  Blah, blah, blah. Still awake?

In Harry Potter world, the impossible outlier exists in the train station within the train station, the building within the building. It is a place of magic as well as that which would attempt to eliminate it (cue: South Park-Imagination Land theme song). It is, indeed, a nerdy, dreamy place. In it, we might hear the echoes of Eudora Welty: “My continuing passion is to part a curtain, that invisible veil of indifference that falls between us and that blinds us to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight.”

We might not.

If effective, we (my partner, Gypsy Roo, author of the first post, and I, Space Boo–hear? the names rhyme; poetry at the core-similar and resonant but different) will begin to follow Toni Morrison’s dictum for all language use “to reach for the ineffable” rather than consign itself to the illusion of the inevitable. Drifting between dogmas, we will be at turns blasphemous, iconoclastic, questioning/questing, laughing, screaming, and in my case at least, almost entirely incomprehensible, even pretentious, if I actually had a point to make or an outcome to achieve.

As partnering voices and fellow travellers, Gypsy Roo and I will wander the world of “is not” as a means to liberate the latent possibilities, the surgically, genocidally, genetically, and militarily disappeared surpluses from the land of “is,” not as a replacement reality but as a different something that doesn’t trap us in the belief that we can only survive if the rich get impossibly richer or that a system of justice and equality can emerge out of empowering the already empowered to impose policies of justice and equality and austerity and resource depletion on the disempowered.  Free trade, my ass. Jobs for all, my ass. Witness the inherent false premise and scapegoating in the preceding “jobs for all” South Park link. Progress, my ass. (And, for the record, my ass is quite small.)  Language will resonate differently.  Reality will discover the intangible; fact and fiction will recognize their kinship, science, certainly preferable to dogmatic monotheism, will nonetheless lose some of its empirical (witness the visually resonant root of “empire”) arrogance to discover mystery and encounter a more whimsical “Space Boo Science.” If nothing else, we can be thankful that whatever happens here, none of us will be confined to the severe limits and scarcity of my ass.

This entry is already too long for digital-age patience with text and with non-sense, but since I’m trying to set atmospheres, speak metaphorically/analogically, and reach for the ineffable, I want to suggest two historical analogs/phenomena from the world of arts and letters.

1.  Coleridge and Wordsworth, “Lyrical Ballads.”  In 1795, disillusioned with the failure of the reason-based utopia promised by the French Revolution but yielding Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, Coleridge, addled by opium and Immanuel Kant, teamed with William Wordsworth to imagine what any Western-trained binary thinkers would, a replacement reality in which a reason-based utopia can be discarded in favor of a sensitivity-based utopia.  Coleridge would work with how metaphysical worlds impact our sensitivities and fellow feelings in physical worlds (hence, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Christabel“) and Wordsworth with how physical worlds inspire intimations of spiritual feelings (hence, “Tintern Abbey” or “Intimations of Immortality).  Meh.  Impossible Outliers probably don’t have any kinships with utopic visions, but in this blog, at least, Gypsy Roo and Space Boo are two writers, developing a concept connected to a way of seeing/being.

We don’t have (m)any answers but our quest requires us to consider perpetually evolving parameters for language use, packaging, and presentation. With Pikul in Cronenberg’s film eXistenZ, I would hope that this blog can leave us with the realization that “Everything used to be something else.”

2. Multi-generic/Multi-format presentation.  I’ve often been struck by the literary phenomena of multi-generic works emerging out of oppressive conditions at the emergence of resistant sensibilities.  Jean Toomer’s Cane, George Lamming’s Pleasures of Exile, and Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera spring to mind.  Each of these works combine myth-making with literary analysis with autobiography with poetry with dialogue with history with narrative to imagine the spaces between unpleasant and mostly unliveable realities. That’s probably what Gypsy Roo and I are attempting in an effort to resist this current age of blatant corporate control and the long military-industrial nightmare. We seek convergences, however temporary and in the moment, rather than divisions and separations.  It is, metaphorically speaking, our antidote to whatever gave rise to the idea that hydrofracturing is a good idea.

Enough pretentious preamble.  Next up for Space Boo:  Amiri Baraka’s Challenge: “Who own the things that nobody thought could be owned?”

Burnt Offerings

On the night of my conception, the stars were fixed/Conjure woman told my mother/she’s gonna run and twist”– Cassandra Wilson, Run the Voodoo Down.

I was listening to this song the night before I began the beautiful voyage of a romantic relationship with my other half, the outlier, the madly analogous Space Boo.  Cassandra Wilson has a ghostly voice, calling to my mind images of smoky juke joints, syncopated beats, a heart-longing for the soul- twin, longing for travel, longing for the ephemeral.

We are spiritual, cultural orphans.

I tell people I’m Wiccan.  This isn’t quite true. Like Dickensian orphans, we are left to forage and steal.  Squatting in the rubble of the dead western religions, corporate greed, bereft of meaning we scavenge- or are left to starve.

In a world that plots data points and projects a line of best fit it’s difficult to explain a pantheistic, chaotic magickal/spiritual slant that both accepts and rejects it’s own reality.   We’re supposed to pick and choose.  It’s easier to proclaim oneself a Presbyterian, a Buddhist or a patient Agnostic than to say simply “I feel like the color mango today.”

I can say some factual things here: I am a witch, I’m a white female, I do not eat animals, I am fond of long walks, I am probably addicted to shopping, I have a rather odd nose, and I am very much in love.  Some people find me a little intense.  I can share those things with the world at some discretion. But these facts are static, boring.  I am not the sum of these things.

In Voodoo, one must be initiated.  So it was with mild trepidation and what might be interpreted as the arrogance typical of an American that I approached Papa Legba (uninitiated) earlier this afternoon for a favor- to grace a friend with his presence, for a spell, for a gift.  To stand at the crossroads of my life, the lives of others I love.  He is a gatekeeper and his vision is vast.  I would like to believe that he read in my soul a heartfelt desire to reach the lives of others.  I would like to think he issued his blessing; accepting my offerings of chicken-scratch, the veve, the prayer.

I would like to begin this blog with my partner, Space Boo, to chronicle the journey of the spiritual ragpicker.  The trimmings and red string, shiny jewels we’ve stolen.  The unspoken thoughts.   I would like to shed light on what it means to exist in the spaces between points, the sounds between words, to live as impossible outliers.

Hidden in the lines of this blog is my veve.