Category: Culture


“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (common attribution – if someone has factual backup for a better one, I’d love to know)

Here’s the thing.  We’ve already stuck ourselves in a ghetto – look at how we all congregate to the kink-friendly, open sites, and many of us put a sharp delineation between kink life and real life.

Well, fuck that.

I am kinky, and queer, and a raging cunt, and probably one of the simultaneously funniest and most offensive/abrasive/irritating people you will ever meet.  I am myself, with no apologies for the content of my character, unless it’s something that I am trying to uphold and failing to achieve.

Remember, there is a difference between judging someone’s activities, and their person.  A first hand example, that will speak to many of you in the Florida area and other places:

I knew a girl.  She was a lovely girl, quite bright, and determined.  The thing holding her back was her addiction.  She got hooked on some very nasty shit, very early in life, and it became both a physical and psychological crutch.  There came a day when she needed to dose, badly.  She told me so, and asked me if I wanted to leave.  We were in a conversation, and sharing parts of ourselves that don’t see a lot of light.

What are you, crazy AND addicted? I asked.  (our relationship made this a joke, not an attack.)

No, she says, I just don’t know if you want to see me do this.  I don’t know what you’ll think of me afterward.

Let’s get this straight, says I.  You’re an addict, and you must have an external chemical dump in order to keep your brain in order.  Well, welcome to the club.  I’m a crazy motherfucker, and if I don’t keep my meds on schedule it can go bad in a hurry.  Just because you take your meds differently than I do, because you get them a different way, doesn’t make you less than me.  It doesn’t mean I don’t want to know you.  I already know you – seeing you going through your daily routine isn’t going to affect me any more than watching you brush your teeth.   It’s part of the ritual that gets you by.”

And as she got spoon and tab and needle ready, I told her the very short version of my own wrestle with that particular demon, which goes on to this day.

So I watched her shoot up, and she was afraid, even after, that I would think differently of her, or not want to be her friend/confidante.  “Listen,” I told her, putting all the sternness in my voice I could manage,” You were my friend before, and you’re my friend now.  If you tried to shoot me up, it’d be different, because you know I don’t want that.  But you’re a grownup, same as me, and I have no right to judge what you do with your own body, your own mind, your own life.  You know, rationally, that it’s not the best decision for you right now.  But it’s not my decision.

“All I can do is give you the best, most unbiased information I have, and hope that next time, maybe the consequences will be enough to help you make a healthier decision.  If and when you ask me for help, then I have right to try to convince you to do the right thing for yourself, and the people who still love you, unconditionally – those people you can ask to help, who see the junk and still can’t stop loving the girl underneath, even though they may have tried, time and again.  Until then, it flat fuckin behooves me to keep my nose here where it belongs, and my trap shut about things that are quite certainly not my damn business.  And anyone who wants to flap their gums about it learns the very first time not to do it around me.  End of story.”

And she laughed, and finished her process, and I watched over her while she cried with pain and relief,  vulnerable.  So agreeable, so malleable, so obedient while the drug coursed through her, carrying her on its broad white back to places I couldn’t and wouldn’t go with her, not anymore.

There are some things you just do for people you care about.  No cops, no hospitals, no sentencing them to incarceration in a system with too few staff, too many inmates, and no time to try and help, just to keep the arrest record looking right, and the comfortable people’s happiness level just above the place where she might be able to apply for a real job, with real hours and steady pay.  And, no need to look over her shoulder every time a car slowed on her block.  And I wrote her a letter.

“You may or may not read this, but I can hope.  Following is a list of little shit, baby steps that helped me try to climb a little way out of where you are.  You’re unhappy with where you are – the first thing, the only important thing to remember is that you, and the people you love, deserve the best of you.  The worst is inside that needle, and we both know how bad it is and how good it feels.  This is my contact info.  When you’re ready to try one of the other roads, let me know.  I will always be here for you.  I love you, little sister, and all I want is to show you what I’ve learned, without having to go through it all the hard way. I love BOTH the person you are, and the magnificent star you may become.  No matter what happens, you are loved.”

I do things that a lot of you find bewildering, unpredictable, or downright offensive.  I’m not sorry.  I don’t ask you to participate with me, where you are not comfortable.  I refuse to feel culpable for your emotional state anymore.  You do not have the privilege to shame me.

So I say this: Be not ashamed of who you are, who you want, who you love.  Be not ashamed of what you want or don’t want, what you don’t know yet whether or not that you want at all, or maybe sometime.  You get what I mean.

Do not give power to the people who would make you less than you are, you beautiful and complex human being.  Do not cut off your arms and legs so that you’ll fit neatly in their comfort boxes.  They aren’t worth it, because somewhere there is a person who wants all of you, intact, so that they can frolic within without about around between and inside the whole person who is you.
And I say this to you, the makers of boxes: please, I beg you.  Stop cutting off the arms and legs and heads and hearts of the people I love, or wish I knew well enough to extend the hand of human love to.  I ask nicely, because you are people like me worthy of civility, and of a chance to change. Be aware, though; I will be here, and I will be watching.

But there’s a plus side to that, too.  You, the makers of boxes, are not evil, any more than I and my loved ones are.  You don’t know any better, because no one has shown you how to love someone who doesn’t fit in a box.

Here’s a dirty little secret: none of us fit in boxes.  You are cutting just as much off yourself as anyone else when you try to regiment the inherently entropic human experience.

Hold out your hand to me, and to us.  We love you, no matter where on the path you start, or which path(s) you choose.  There will be someone to take your hand.  Even if it’s not who you expected to be, not someone you want to partner with, accept the hand.  It leads into a bigger, brighter, more diverse world than you ever imagined.

Come play with us.  We have a fierce joy that we only want to share – no strings attached.  We want you with us, happy and free and fierce and loving.  Come talk with us, play with us, teach us, learn from us.  We will find love in similarities and differences, and together we will create something new from the still-blazing embers and fires of the old.

You are loved.  Every piece of you.  Whether you are a box-maker, a box-dweller, or a box-smasher, you are loved for every fallible inch of yourself.  Do us the favor, the kindness, the lovely joy of showing us who you are, so we can love you more deeply for the complex and fascinating creature that you are – or want to be, or might be, or desperately want not to be, or wish you could be but “know” you can’t.

You are loved.  Deeply, and without hesitation.  Every part of you, every strange fractal vision and equation, becoming more complex the more deeply you explore – all of you is loved.

Welcome home,
– Motley

(Post script and polite request: Please feel free to take any piece or the whole of this and link/like/love/dry-hump/repost with attributing links.  If you’d rather repost outside the walled garden, please do! An almost verbatim copy of the text can be found at my regular blog. https://motleymayhem.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/take=-pride-in-your-complexity If you patronize FL.com, I will be happy to provide a direct link via email or fmail.  Please, if you choose to do any of these things, link back to either here or FL.  If you can, I implore you, tell me what you ignored, what you hate, what you wouldn’t mind seeing more of.  If I don’t get feedback, I have no idea whether I’m doing any good, or just ranting in the dark, alone.)

Get up.

There are some stories, O Best Beloved, from which even the moon turns her face.  So tonight, as we sit here huddled around a fire that gives no warmth and no comfort, she hides herself from us in the clouds, because she knows that I will tell you a story that she does not want to hear.  She will not stop me, though, O my Best Beloved.  Even the moon knows that all stories must be told in the end, because every story has a name, and all names are true in some turning.

But remember: all storytellers are liars at heart.  There are three lies in this story, and this is one of them.

This is a story that is not mine, but one that I was told by the one who lived it, who whispered it in my ear when no one else would hear it, when the moon was dark and all was quiet in her hiddenness.  I was told so that it would be told to you, when she was hidden again, so that you could sift the truth from the lies and learn from the sifting.

This is the story I heard:

“The concrete was cold and hard on my face, but warm against my hip, where I was bleeding on it.  I liked the places where it was warm, because I couldn’t remember the last time I had been warm all over.  I was so hungry, and so tired, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept more than a couple of hours.  I just wanted to sleep.  I wanted to be warm, and I wanted to sleep.  That was all.  I wanted it so so so badly.

“She was laughing at me, purring her laugh, like a great cat that’s just heard a good joke.  ‘Get up,’ she says to me, laughing.  ‘You’re fine.  Get up.’

“I can’t, I tell her.  I’m so tired, and I’m so cold.  Please, can’t I just lay here for a minute and have a little sleep, and maybe a little something to eat?  I’ve tried to be so good for so long.  I’ve almost got it perfect.  Please, please, can’t I just go to sleep?  I promise I’ll do better when I wake up.

“She’s not laughing anymore.  She’s slapping that stupid stick against her boot, tapping it to make noise, looking at me, making her mad face.  ‘Get up,’ she says again.  ‘You’re not hurt.  You’re just lazy.  Get up.  If you want to rest, you have to work first.  So get up.  Now.’

“I can’t help it.  I start to cry.  Not out loud, because then she’ll be really mad, but the wet just wells up and leaks out of my eyes and onto the floor.  I try to push myself up on my strong arm, and it just shakes and drops me back down again.  I try pushing with my legs, and they just won’t work at all.  Nothing’s answering right anymore.  It’s so scary.  I’m trying so hard to be good, to do right, but it’s not working.  Nothing will work, and now she’s so mad.

“‘Well.  I see how it is then.’  She’s walking around me, tapping the stick on her boot some more, making that whap-whap-whap sound in the quiet.  ‘You told me you would do as I asked.  You told me you were worth the work.  I should have known you were lying.  I should have known you were just a girl all along.  We both know girls are too weak to be of any use.  When you can be bothered to get up, then get out.  I have no use for girls.’

“She put so much hate in that last word, so much contempt.  And she was wrong! I got so mad.  I’m not a girl.  I’m not weak.  I can do it.  I can do anything.  I. Am. NOT. A. Stupid. Weak. GIRL.

“It hurt, when the chain around my ankle tore into the skin, pulled on the bone.  I don’t remember getting up.  I don’t remember running at her, yelling.  But there I was, on my feet.  I am not a GIRL.  I am USEFUL.  I can WORK.  And I can GET UP, see? I am UP!

“Then she laughed again.  She was happy.  I was useful.  My blood was dripping down my leg from my hip, where she’d hit me before I’d fallen down, and it was going faster now, and I was out of breath.  But I got up.  That was what was important.  I had proved it.  I was not a girl.

“I got up.

“I got up.

“And so she loved me another day, and I got to stay another day, because I got up.

“That was a long time ago now.  I can’t change what happened.  There are a lot of days where I think it would have been better if I’d never met her.  A lot of days where I think it would have been better if I’d stayed down, or never been sent away.  But those days aren’t today.  And as long as those days aren’t today, I’m getting up for me, instead of her.  So that’s all right then, I guess.”

This is a story I wept to hear, and I weep to tell it to you, and the moon hides her face from us to hide her tears.  Put another log on the fire, O my Best Beloved.  All of us could use a little light, a little warmth, and a little comfort against the stories the moon hides her face from.

So join me in weeping, and help me lend a hand to those who would get up for themselves.  Even liars have hands, and every hand is useful.

Mythology of self

We tell ourselves stories all the time, every day.  You’ve heard me talk about this before, and it’s a theme I come back to a lot, primarily because I spend a fair portion of my time asking myself what story someone is telling themselves about a particular set of facts, events, circumstances, whatever.  There are lots of stories to tell about any particular event, and the story that you tell yourself will materially and significantly change the way you look at the event, how you feel about it, how you feel about yourself and other people in relation to it.  The facts form a very, very low percentage of the actual opinion and emotional resonance that a human forms around any important event: most of what goes on in our heads is the story we are telling ourselves about what happened, what is happening, what will happen, what might happen.

That becomes even more pertinent, even more common, even more influential when we think about people instead of facts.  People are mutable and interpretable in a way that facts are not.  Though we spend a lot of brain power excusing or ignoring internal motivations, on some level we (as humans) are basically incapable of ignoring the fact that other humans’ internal motivations DO exist, in a theoretical sense.  So, based on the fact that it can only ever be a theoretical sense, we create theories of who they are, what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they might or might not think or feel or do in regards to us and what we feel and think and do or do not do or think or feel.

How, then, do we reinterpret and recreate ourselves?  We are, from an internal perspective, a complex mix of both fact and perception, of concrete certainties and guesses.  When you ask someone why they did a very important, very emotionally loaded thing, they will often have a logical, rational, prepared explanation.  They have a story.  They will tell you their story about why they acted the way they did, what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and why all of that makes sense in the context of what was going on.

The problem with that (or at least, this is my theory today – ask me again tomorrow, it’ll probably be different) is that it’s bullshit.  It’s a story they’ve devised to explain to themselves why what they did was right, or why it made sense, or just why it was okay to do at the time.  It’s a construct, a fabrication, a creation designed to uphold their certainty that they do have reasons for doing things, and that they understand why they do things.  People, in general, devise their sense of self and identity from identifying common characteristics in the stories they tell themselves and other people about themselves, and then basing their future stories and behaviors on those characteristics.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of identity reinforcement.

Here’s the chink in that armor: ask someone why they engaged in an action that has no real resonance, that wasn’t important, that didn’t have any real meaning to them at the time.  Preferably, ask them about it both right after they do it, and then again some time later (best if you ask after they have forgotten the first conversation about the action).  At first, usually they will not know why they did that thing.  It was a small action, an unimportant thing, that didn’t need a story.  But when questioned, they will create a story, no matter how small, no matter how poorly constructed, to uphold their self-identity.  They will seek a story that holds a reason that somehow jells with the way they see themselves, through the lens of years or decades of stories repeating the same themes.

After they have forgotten the first conversation, ask again.  The story will probably have changed, although in many cases not by much.  It will hold together better, and small details will be altered to make it flow more freely and coherently.  It will be more according to the standards they expect of themselves, positive and negative, and it will be a better brick in the wall of self-identity.  The story gains stability the further away from the action the person is – because memory is a strange and mutable thing, and we color it in with details that make it easier for us to make sense of it in context of our world.

So, the thing I am going round and round trying to get at is this: we create our own set of stories, our own mythology of self.  My mythology of self is complex and at times incoherent, and interacts with others’ mythology of me in interesting and sometimes very surprising ways.  Everyone I know has a mythology of self – a series of stories that they have told to themselves and others that is part truth, part fiction, told and retold, honed and refined so that it supports and reinforces the person that they have convinced themselves they are.

The mythology of self is a critical part of human experience, I think.  It is utterly inseparable from the way people self-identify in a more scientific and psychological sense, and it is crucial to creating a bridge between separate people, so that they (like fractious deities in totally unrelated pantheons, forced to overlap and interact) can mingle their mythologies to help form a society that we can all thrive and find wonder in.

There is something in this idea, I think, that I will find really useful for exploring the concept of deity as self, and self as deity.  I will have to chase it down one day soon.  For now, I am having great fun poking holes in my own mythology, squinting skeptically at what ego and mis-memory created to convince me that I am me, and there is no other way to be.  We are humans and gods, children and crones who have a fascination with the other and the self, and we are inherently mutable and adaptable.  The mythology of self may well be one of the most powerful tools we have in reinventing our selves and our worlds to be people and places that we are invested in, joyful about, and in love with.

Storytime!

 

Once upon a time (because all the best stories begin with “once upon a time,” O Best Beloved), there was a tradition.  It was present in any number of carnivals and fairs.  Without doing significant research (so I am thoroughly willing to have my information corrected, if I am wrong), I would be so bold as to say that it was present in almost every traveling carnival, fair, sideshow, or other entertainment that featured a carousel or calliope.  That tradition involved a brass ring.  Theoretically, any rider could see the ring, and risk anything from minor embarrassment to actual injury in order to reach up at the appropriate moment and grab it, thus winning some kind of prize.  The prize would range anywhere from a free ride ticket to an evening’s hospitality by the carnival in question to actual cash to any number of other, less predictable, more unique offerings.

 

I liked that tradition, and I am sorry to see it falling out of use.  It is to the point now that carousels are very often permanent installations in permanent buildings – and I have never seen a brass ring on any of those installations.  Even traveling fairs often feature it only as a decoration, if at all.  Some of them have gone so far as to permanently attach the ring to the ride – even if one were to grab it, one would end up holding on to it, dangling in the air, no one understanding that it was meant to come off.

 

Why does this matter?  In the larger scheme of things, losing the brass ring is a small thing, nothing worth worrying about.  Take it as an example of a larger trend, however, it becomes something that is not just worth worrying about – it’s also something that is worth fighting for and over, because it means everything.  If I look at the symbol instead of the object, it makes me very, very angry.

 

Give me back my brass ring.  I want there to be something to strive for, even in a passing entertainment.  Give me back the opportunity to go above and beyond, and have there be something worth the effort at the end of it.  Give me back the idea that everyone is expected to want to go further, because there’s always something waiting for people who do.

 

Go even further out into the land of the conceptual, and it becomes both more disturbing and more banal.  “Grabbing the brass ring” is still a figure of speech in our language.  It’s less common now than it once was, but it still exists.  How many people know what it means anymore – that once upon a time there was a real, tangible, achievable brass ring that was worth the effort to seize?  How many people will know that 10 or 20 or 50 years from now?

 

Obviously, language changes.  Traditions change – some fall out of favor, new ones arise, and our language changes accordingly.  Slang, vernacular, and figures of speech are some of the most mutable parts of language, because they are strongly rooted in the popular culture and understanding of their time.  They change almost from season to season in some cases, and that is not a bad thing overall.  But what do we have that replaces the brass ring?  That is a genuine question, because I don’t know.  I’m sure there is something, and I’m sure it’s much more relevant to modern post-industrial culture than the brass ring is.  At the same time, I mourn the loss of that particular turn of phrase, because I don’t think that anything that replaces it will please me as much.  (Yeah, yeah, things were better in the old days, in the snow uphill both ways, get off my lawn.)

 

I wonder if, by losing the brass ring, we are showing that we are losing something more important, more critical, more crucial to the cultural perspective that has made modern Americans what they are.  (I do not speak to the cultures of other countries, because I am not familiar enough with the subject to speak intelligently.)  Are we losing the idea that in every moment, no matter how otherwise passive, there is an opportunity that we can seize?  Are we losing the view that opportunities are worth seizing, even unexpectedly and at some (lesser or greater) risk?  Are we losing the brass ring in our minds, as we are losing the brass ring in our world?

 

Questions, questions, questions – how does language reflect reality reflecting language?  This is what I’m thinking about today: the changes in our thoughts leaking into our words, and how much we can see about ourselves by remembering the things we don’t use anymore.  Give me back my brass ring – I’d rather leap and seize and risk than be left hanging out in the middle of empty space, clinging to a false promise, a lost ideal.

Engage as equals.

This could be a diatribe filled with profanity.  It could be a gripping personal memoir of everything I have seen and done and been in the last year, providing every sordid moment in glistening, horrific 3-dimensional detail.  It could be a long, woeful ramble about what a horrible person I am, how much I regret being myself, and how I should never be trusted to make choices about anything of note, ever, because I am also an idiot.  It could be a lot of things, but really it’s just one thing: I have distilled everything I have learned from all that into three words, easily understood.

Engage as equals.

Easy to understand the concept, but hard to understand how it applies in so many walks of life, and why it is the first tenet I have added to my own personal code in a very, very long time.  I will give you some examples of why I think engaging as equals is critical, is necessary, is indispensable in being a functional adult.

DON’T BANK ON WHO YOU ARE:  If you make your living with your brain, but you are not willing to take your statements, opinions, and arguments into a forum where no one knows who you are, you are refusing to engage as equals.  That is demanding a handicap of reputation, and in many cases, a handicap of perceived superiority over the individuals who may disagree with you.  Your professional reputation was (I hope) based on your ability to state your case well, to research well, to debate intelligently and to prove your points or convince others that you had.  Refusing to engage when the other party is seen as your equal (in intelligence, in reputation, in ability, in whatever) is cowardice, and I will not abide it.

DON’T PITY FUCK:  If you have any interpersonal relationships that involve any level of intimacy, it behooves you to engage as an equal inside them.  Even if you have a negotiated unequal power dynamic, that power dynamic does not change the equality of the partners as people.  And, in a more mainstream sense, it is all too common for one partner to assume that they are more intelligent, more resourceful, more qualified, more attractive, or more *something* than the other.  The catch is this: that usually cuts both ways.  If you are both in a relationship where you feel like you are doing the other one a favor, on some unspecified level, that seems to be to be a great big giant red flag.  You must engage each other as equals – persons of equal value, of equal worth, who may have different things to contribute to the relationship, but whose contributions as people are essentially impossible to measure on a quantitative scale.  If your relationship devolves into measuring who has done more for whom, get out.  Refusing to leave just because you’re used to where you are, or you feel that your partner deserves your treatment of them, or you deserve their treatment of you, is laziness and cowardice.  Again, I will not abide it.

MAKE FRIENDS YOU LIKE:  This is a corollary to the previous point.  If you are in a friendship or acquaintanceship, and you feel like you are doing the other person a favor, get out.  It will drain you and make them feel small.  The same logic applies for friends who feel they are doing you favors – it will drain them, and make you feel small.  Neither situation is one in which friendship can flourish.  The only people who can last as friends, honest and open with each other, are people who engage as equals.  If they do not believe that the other person is bringing as much value to the table as they are, then there will (of necessity) be some sort of commodification of the friendship.  Doing people favors is only kind if you are not waiting to call them in, and not waiting to capitalize on being “that guy” who does people favors.  If you do it expecting a return, that is not friendship, and cannot effectively be masked as such.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS: There are people in the world who are less intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are less adept than you.  There are people in the world who are less attractive, less motivated, less everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have bad news for you, chum – those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours.  Those criteria have no bearing on their actual validity as human beings.  Those people are your equals, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.

KNOW THEIR LIMITS:  Corollary.  There are people in the world who are more intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are more adept than you.  There are people in the world who are more attractive, more motivated, more everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have good news, this time.  Those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours. Those criteria have no bearing on your actual validity as a human being.  You are the equal to those people, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.  And, corollary again, they have to treat you as such if they want to get anything out of those same interactions.

REMEMBER, CAESAR: Thou art mortal.  Even when you are in the height of your field, at the top of your game, in your best element, and absolutely top-flight of where you will ever be… There is still someone who knows more about it than you do, for a correctly phrased definition of “it.”  That is not a reason to despair – it is a reason to make sure that “someone” has to be so narrowly defined that it takes serious research to find anyone who *does* know more, or is better, in your chosen field.  “Thou art mortal” – praise and damnation all neatly wrapped up in one package.  Thou art mortal, and so is everybody else.  You are, at the basest level, and from a fundamental human perspective, their equal.

Engage as equals.  Give your friends and your opponents the respect they are due as human beings.  Anything less is ego, hypocrisy, cowardice, or outright denial of fact.

I have always had a soft spot in my spirituality for the All-Father, Odin One-Eye.  He of Thought and Memory, who made a sacrifice of himself to himself, to find the wisdom writ on the things he had made or the things he knew nothing of, depending on which legends or stories or truths you believe.  There is a warm place in my mind for him, because he had the right of the spirit of sacrifice, you see.

 

Once upon a time (because all the best stories begin with once upon a time, O Best Beloved) there was a man who was a god who was also a man.  There are many stories about him, true and untrue and half-true and never-true and should-be-true and will-be-true.  One of the ones that should-be-true is that he made a sacrifice of himself to himself, to find wisdom that no other man had, so that the might of his mind and spirit could not be gainsaid by any other creature, in this world or any other.  He stayed in his place of pain for nine days (three times three, because three is a number of power, and three threes is the most powerful of all) and when the time was done, he was a new thing, a different man, a changed being.  He had wisdom, to match his thoughts and his memories, and a new seeing to replace the eye he had lost before.  Some say the eye had nothing to do with the tree, and some say they were intertwined so intimately that the tree grew from the eye in the depths of the world below.  Some say he gained a new magic, a new rune, for each day he spent on the tree – some say one for each night – some say three for every day, or every night, some say one magic for every three days or nights, and some say that he gained only one magic in all that time, the magic of knowing and speaking.

 

I say that for me, they are all wrong.  Old One-Eye had the right of it, and had to learn it the hard way.  All of us who are stubborn hard-headed war-mongering trickster deities do.  We have to bleed to learn, because we are too stupid and convinced of our own cleverness to learn any other way.  We have to bind ourselves to our World Trees to learn the magic of sacrifice.  There is no sacrifice but yourself, because you cannot bind anyone else to the tree.  The nails slide out, the ropes fall off, because you cannot magic anyone but yourself with sacrifice.  No one can be forced to learn from your pain but you.  The magic of sacrifice is this: your blood sings to your blood, calls to your bones, thrums in your brain.  Yours.  Your flesh is yours to burn on your own altar, and no one else’s.  That is the beauty and the price of it.  Your pain will buy pleasure and magic and knowledge like no other: yours.  It is a coin good in no other realm, and a price good for no other treasure.  On any other altar, in any other world, it is ashes and smoke.  Good for nothing but signals and hope that someone else will find the way to a tree.

 

The magic of sacrifice is also this: in burning yourself on the altar of yourself, you can learn how to make men into gods who are also men.  Old One-Eye had the right of it.  A sacrifice of yourself to yourself, and the price you pay is worth the coin you receive in return.  Knowledge is power, and the only coin worth having is the one that can’t be stolen.

Stand up and kill.

If you’re going to cut somebody up, have the decency to do it face to face.  If you’re going to gut a person, it behooves you to be a human being about it and do it right up close, where you can see what it does to them, where you cannot escape the consequences of the actions you take, where you cannot deny the essential humanity of the person you are cutting.

 

I am thoroughly tired of watching maiming and murder by proxy.  I am not a nice person; anyone who has known me for any length of time is well aware of this.  I am eminently pragmatic, and this often leads to me thinking thoughts that are quite uncivilized and extremely antisocial.  My brain is, by and large, short, nasty and brutish.  (Pun definitely intended.)  That being said, I am completely fed up with watching people who do not have the balls to pick up a knife pick up pens or keyboards instead, and go on tirades and rampages about the denial of rights and humanity to their fellow human beings.

 

These are humans, you ignorant bureaucratic cowards.  They eat and sleep and love and live just as you do.  They have lives and dreams and aspirations and loves big and small, just as you do.  They are three-dimensional, complex, and fascinating, just as you are.  So if you are going to call for them to be made small, to be made to fit, to be denied rights or reasons or justifications or simple humanity and complexity, it fucking well behooves you to do it to their faces, to gut them in person.  Pick up your damned knife and watch them bleed, because you owe them that as people.

 

It is even more infuriating to watch it happen in small communities, rather than large and impersonal ones.  Watching relationships dissolve, and then the partners dehumanize and demonize each other, or uninvolved parties take sides, and only talk about or villainize the participants in their absence, is becoming actively and aggressively repulsive.  I have always tried to maintain a policy of being unwilling to say things about people that I will not say to them, and I am finding it more and more intolerable to see that other people do not hold the same.  People are not steak, to be bought cleanly dissected for your convenience and consumed at leisure.  They are messy and must be butchered in the first person if you want them to fit into neat packages.  Pick up your own knife.  Do your own dirty work.  Don’t murder by proxy.  Stand up and kill.  If it’s a crime worth killing for, do it yourself.  If the person they are or the behaviors they engage in are worth cutting or gutting for, get your hands dirty and keep your fucking gorge down, because it’s work that needs doing.  If you can’t make yourself do it in person, then question whether it needs doing at all.

 

If you can’t do it to a real human, standing in front of you, what gives you the fucking right to do it at a distance, where you don’t have to feel it?  Because they do.  I guaran-damn-tee you they do, because they’re people.  They are not steaks, or Guy Fawkes effigies stuffed with straw.  Just because you distance yourself from them in the confines of your own mind does not make their selves any less real.  You cannot unmake them for your convenience, and pretending you can is hubris of the most disgusting kind.  Murder by proxy is cowardice.  Stand up and kill, or sit down and shut your fucking mouth.

 

Pick up your own knife, or put down your weapons and deal with them like people who have rights.  There is no middle ground.  Not in my world.

 

(This rant has been brought to you by the Stop Feeding Me Coffee And Then Getting Me Started On Politics and Ranting Fund.)

“Don’t fight what you need or it will fight back. The more you deny the essential the more belligerent the essential becomes.” – DiViNCi, from the Solillaquists of Sound

(It may be a quote from one of their songs; I don’t know their work well enough to tell.  Found it on DiViNCi’s Twitter (@solilla) and it stuck in my head.)

Too many people play Gandhi and Attila and Hannibal to their own needs.  They make their own lives into a constant battle of needs against wants, themselves versus the world, and they pit their own desires of flesh and spirit against those of everyone else, as though there could only be one winner, as though there had to be a loser in the game.  As though there was a game to begin with at all, as though the pie was only so big, and could be no bigger.  Fuck that.  Stop starving your needs, because needs are predators in their own right, and a starving predator will fight for its territory.

Belligerent essentials.  They will take back their ranges, and tear up your life in the doing, if you tear down the wild places that they need to survive.  Belligerent essentials will ravage the nice, neat little cubicles and boxes you build to keep them constrained and orderly, to compartmentalize and organize and satisfy the civilized outlook and the calm and sedate way of putting the civilization and its needs before your own.  Belligerent essentials will bully you, will berate you, will badger you and tree you and howl down your walls and crash through your windows and blow down your houses and eat your children and your creations alive in the dark forests of your mind, because you refused to give them enough room to grow and live in their own wild places.

If you don’t ruin the wild places with paving and portraits and politeness, the wild creatures have no reason to eat you.  Isn’t it nice when we all get along?  Don’t fight what you need, and your needs won’t eat you alive.  Belligerent essentials.

And by you, I mean me, of course.  I mean us.  No dodging, no assuming innocence.  We are all guilty until we shoulder our own work and fucking haul.  Belligerent essentials accept no less, and no one can excuse us from ourselves.

We live in the future.

No, seriously.  We live in the goddamn future.  I was driving down I-4 on Saturday: I saw a Cube (you guys know what a Cube is, right?) that had a vanity plate, saying “YAOI QBE.” I am not making this up.

What I did, in fact, make up, was a happy little story to myself about who was in that car, and why, and what they do both for a living and for fun.  I imagined a passle (yes, a passel, and I’m going to spell it two different ways because I like both of them and I’m channeling my inner Ben Franklin today) of giggling twenty-somethings in their treasured YAOI QBE, headed for the coast to spend a couple of days with their perfectly painted toenails wiggling in the sand, occasionally taking a dip in hurricane-season waves and yelling to pretty boys (always technically legal, of course) about just how pretty they were, and how much more fun life could be if they’d just be a little… adventurous.  Girls old enough to feel a little jaded and a little worldly, feeling much older than they really are, like sirens of vice and licentiousness, luring young men into a world of activities only brushing elbows with the acceptable norms of our society.

Why, you ask, would I write this whole little melodrama in my head about their intrigues with and against each other, their frames of reference, their sameness and alienness? Because YAOI QBE is more a future car even than my much-treasured, much-abused Jetsonmobile (a lowly little Honda Insight) – it carries people who, in the past, would have no knowledge of such casual parlance without having been to Japan, and certainly, if they did know its meaning, would not have advertised it so publicly, for fear of the repercussions and social censure that might bring.  They could not have driven a zippy, efficient little car down the highway at zippy, efficient little speeds – travelling tens or hundreds (or, conceivably, thousands) of miles to achieve their destination, using paper or plastic to exchange the dream of money for the goods they need on the way.  Now they have access to untold terabytes of information, from anywhere in the world (and places millions of miles beyond it, thanks to satellite data made publicly available), as they sit comfortably in their future car, zipping down the road towards some unknown place.  They can learn languages, adopt accents, internalize the local habits of peoples previously unknown to them – without ever having set foot in a place before.

And before you completely discount my moment of wonder, boggle with me: you knew what YAOI QBE meant when you read it, very probably.  And even if you didn’t, you had, somewhere in your mind, the absolute certainty that a few seconds’ search would tell you.  Boggle with me at that, and live with me in wonder at the future for just a moment.  It’s a good feeling, wonderment.  It gives you a moment to feel light and amazed and amused and… surprisingly free.

I am going to boggle, today.  That’s my plan.  I have spent too much time focused on the tedium of making things work, or mourning things and people and ideals that I knew better than to believe in in the first place.  It is time for a little wonderment, because we live in the future, and it’s not such a bad place to be.

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