I feel the soil of our planet growing thinner.
By that I mean it’s becoming more difficult to find space where we can send our roots down deep, where there’s strength and water and rest and life. Do you know what this feels like?
I felt it yesterday on my way home from work. Walking back to my car along ice-lined Minneapolis sidewalks, I was retracing a familiar path worn bare in my mind by now:
I should write more. Again. More. Whatever. I used to be a writer. I don’t write anymore. If I don’t write anymore, am I still a writer? What should I write about?
And then there was nothing.
At the threat of being committed to actual words on paper, every thought fled my brain except two: our President is a fascist asshole and half of my fellow citizens don’t see it and Minnesota is cold and grey and brown in February.
Realizing that I had already covered these two topics in detail several times over, I shrugged and accepted that perhaps I’m just not a writer anymore.
But I’ve learned that when I can’t write anymore, I’m one step away from not being able to feel anymore either. (Or maybe one step past … who knows which is the cause and which is the effect?) So in those moments of resignation, I always hear the whisper of urgency reminding me that when I lose my words (whether public or private it doesn’t matter) I’m at risk of letting my soul slide back into the big empty grey.
But the soil of our planet feels thin now, and I don’t know how to send my roots down past Facebook and fascism and winter depression anymore.
Am I the only one?
Yesterday Seth wrote a thing about how consumption chokes creativity. I consumed it between frantic Huffington Post hyperbole and BuzzFeed headlines insistent on telling me how to feel.
We’ll consume anything, won’t we? Everything.
I saw a picture this morning of some people holding Nordstrom’s shopping bags in front of the White House. It was a political statement, of course. A middle finger to the asshole on the other side of the black gate who thinks the due course of capitalism re: his daughter’s vapid made-in-China fashion line is an attack on his family, and also thinks that the existence of people who pray to god in a different language than we do is an attack on our great nation.
(Can you see how absurd this whole fucking thing is? Even as I type it, I feel like I’m just flushing words down a toilet of existential meaninglessness.)
But the Norstrom’s bags. Consumption as a middle finger to idiocracy.
An imaginary man in a fictional book once said: “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”
We buy things we don’t need to piss off people we don’t like, who don’t even know we exist, to impress other people we don’t know either.
But by lunchtime there’s a 50% chance that BuzzFeed will have picked it up and re-spread that image around the internet with a breathless headline about how “This Response to Donald Trumps’ Nordstrom Tweet Wins the Internet and People Love It.” I’ll click over there and read about it while shoveling microwaved rice into my face-hole, and nod along smugly.
Meanwhile the roots are dying.
Last night I consumed an Atlantic article about how to beat Donald Trump. It’s a good read written by a conservative politician, thought provoking and well worth your time. But in the end, it wasn’t his pragmatic critique of left-wing protest methods that stuck with me. It was this line:
“Above all: Be motivated by hope, not outrage.”
Now that’s a word I haven’t heard in a while. I know, it’s tattooed on my right arm… but it’s been long-sleeves-and-winter-coats here in Minnesota for so long that somewhere along the way I think it slipped my mind.
I thought of another thing Seth wrote this week: a Twitter poll about what we feel when we consume social media. I clicked “Rage”. So did a bunch of other people. The only thing they clicked more was “Sadness”.
“Hope, not outrage.”
But outrage is so much easier to come by. It’s one click away, in 75-point text across the top of the Huffington Post. Don’t feel like clicking? Just sit back and wait for it to come to you, on Facebook, on Instagram, in the cold February air.
God knows outrage is warranted in the face of impeding Fascism. Raise your fists and your protest signs and rage, rage against the dying of the light.
But if we’re not careful, outrage tends to seep into the roots, rot us from the inside out, consume us.
I don’t want that to happen.
I don’t want to lose my words.
I don’t want to lose hope.
I don’t want to lose myself in earth’s shallow soil.
I guess that’s all I really wanted to tell you.
published February 10, 2017
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