Signs of Spring everywhere: buds fat on the forsythia, peonies pushing up, crocuses beginning to bloom, and although a glorious day of spring-like weather has yielded to a miserable, chill, and windy day with wet snow flurries predicted – yet, my mood turns to Spring, maybe. A ghostly fragment of a poem keeps coming to mind:
Something’s up, young Hank
Is beginning to push its way
through the crap and crud of reality…
My apologies to the author, who is, I think, Adela Rogers St John. This, a fragment typed onto a note on a fridge door a long time ago, echoes in my memory but perhaps imperfectly. There is a story there, for certain, but not today, and I write not of the weather today except metaphorically.
I have been deep in thought these past weeks, deep in reading learned treatises, deep in attempting to answer my burning question. The lack of being able to articulate that burning question precisely has no doubt hampered my quest for the answers, but I believe the essence of it is this: Why are humans so wary of those who are different? I am aware of those who posit this as an evolutionary advantage, a necessity of tribal life: this person is the tribe, that person is not and distinguishing the difference between the two might well have marked the difference between life and death. So perhaps this question is not really more central to our times than those more savage past times. Do we have more freedom, or less, in the sense of our social structures as compared to, say, a feudal society? Not a question that can answered definitively. Many historians assert, for example, that a feudal peasant would have worked less hours than the average Canadian or American of today – this is in contrast to the popularly held view, of course.
In any event, I can only ask the question from my perspective of my time on earth, and it seems to me that the parameters of social behaviour have become much narrower, more tight-fitting, and for me, they begin to chafe. Not just for me though: in my local paper last week a woman wrote in to say how much she had enjoyed a night out dancing, which was however marred by the sheer number of strangers who had to come and tell her that it was great to see her dancing “at her age.” I do not know the woman, or what her age is, but I can feel for her. Sometimes I would like to jump and skip and express my delight and exuberance but I find it provokes reaction. Speaking directly provokes reaction. Having a third drink provokes reaction. Asking for seconds provokes reaction. Anyway, my imaginary friend, it’s not so much that I don’t understand these little rules of social decorum as that I don’t care to be characterized or guided by them. How sad that joy and exuberance and pleasure in being alive should place one beyond the pale, so to speak. Or at any rate, out of the ordinary.
This cookie-cutter life, this idea that we ought be pleased by the same things, enjoy the same entertainment (but not too exuberantly), share the same goals in life (marriage, children, and accumulation), and talk only of the ordinary and the superficial; why, perhaps it was unleashed upon us by mass marketing and advertising, but it remains with us because we simply cannot face our fears. That may or may not be true for us as individuals, but it is most certainly true of our socially-constructed worlds. I see no choice but to resist the fear. Dance a jig. Say shit very loudly when warranted, and when you mean shit, not manure. Live your joy when you feel it. Maybe the crap and crud of reality shall become the garden’s compost.