This is from a time when several of us were writing hard and high. There was a lot of hate flying around the world -- just like now.
Extreme writing is like cage-fighting on roller-skates. (Someone in the newspaper used that for a description of hockey and I like it as a metaphor.)
What I’m thinking about is yesterday when we were all impressed by the image of the giant invisible boy, which was legitimate and I hope released HIM from his cage. But then I was in the bone cage of my head rolling around on second thoughts. I was saying that it’s okay to hate. Is it? Every liberal would rise up to say, “Oh NO!” But why do we stigmatize emotional categories as though “hate” were all one thing. I said it was okay to hate me, okay for me to hate others, but what KIND of hate? I would argue hate demonstrates connection, maybe even love. Apathy kills.
Extreme writing is facing such questions. Some wiggle out of the cage by saying they are “hating” an act or a phenomenon but never a person. Uh-huh. Others label what they hate as “evil” and justify hating that way.
There’s got to be a “hate continuum.” Hating washing the dishes is not the same as hating a murdering tyrant. It’s different to “ cold hate” for dynamics unclaimed by anyone that nevertheless destroy. Numbers. Theories. Hating is different when it’s frustration than it is from pure contempt. I have NO contempt for anyone at Cinematheque.
Hatred can be a deal with the Devil, but sometimes the Devil is a better friend than God. Since both are cage-fighting on rollerskates in your head.
What makes writing extreme? Brutal honesty. Cutting accuracy. Devastating exposure. Can it be survived? Dunno. No limits on subject matter, even if it’s taboo. Push the limits of the little abacus of a brain, make it do what a computer does even if you don’t really KNOW what a computer does. Accept the loss of former friends (one left this week) and the acquisition of new friends (??) Profanity and incoherence are OUT. They just add bars.
The hardest part might be not the body blows of loss, but the ringing in one’s ears of ambiguity, the eye-cuts of doubt, the broken nose of I-myself-might-be-absolutely-wrong. Down for the count out of sheer unbearability. There is always the possibility of death, I mean the actual death of the writer in a hail of reciprocated severity. The only people who think writing is harmless are those who never read.
Beyond that there are the years of training, building muscle, trying to understand theory and methods, vocabulary beyond my experience or anyone else’s either because of being abstract, virtual, platonic -- irrelevant? Eleven thousand dollars a year, four years, roughly fifty thousand dollars worth of equipment, about thirty years ago, mostly paid for by other people through scholarships and subsidies. It amounted to an elegant can opener. What’s in the can? You gotta open it to find out.
A can of hate. Sort the worms: fear, grief, jealousy, thwarted love, helplessness. Kids scream, “I hate you! I’ll never speak to you again!” They DO mean it. The worst is being caged with someone you love and don’t want to hurt, but it’s the only way to stay alive, even as you realize they can kill you.
Waitaminute. You’re stuck on a metaphor. We’re supposed to be discussing hate -- that was the subject.
But hate IS about the cage. You want what you hate to be outside and yourself to be inside where it’s safe.
Waitaminute. There’s something wrong with this idea. What if I want to go somewhere. Let’s get hate into the cage and I’ll be outside.
Can’t be done. The hate is in you, not them. It’s easy to hate an “out-group”, esp. if they’re “way out,” (add contempt) but hate is in your gut, your gut IS the worm. The physiology of hate is that it eats on the lining of your tubing and bleeds your life right out of you. “Shit for brains” is just code for “brains shit out.” The vagus nerve goes straight from brain to stomach. The intestine is netted with nerves and juiced with brain chemicals. Hate is a physical phenomenon. So are fear and grief. They are braided in your gut. Extreme writing is about blood and guts. Not theirs -- your own.
I read a story the other day about people who are paid to sit and look at EVERY image posted to the Internet. If a photo is outside certain boundaries, it is zapped. They look at everything -- no filters. They throw up: there is a sink in the room. They develop post-traumatic stress syndrome. You cannot imagine what they see. That’s why they zap it. For them it’s no longer imagined. Of course, the same protocol can be used to zap things you WANT to see. I used to think I wanted to see everything. Now I’m not so sure. But extreme writing requires that. Anyway, who decides what is truly awful? What if one person throws up at what makes another lick his lips? How many days did the cream n’ sugar party last? Three, four? There’s a huge backlog from Afghanistan.
First you gotta name it
Then you will define it.
Never try to shame it.
Give us some examples,
Ones we recognize.
How much hate is really grief,
How much hate is fear.
All this shifter-shapin’ is kinda hard to bear.
Take the C away from Cage and it is Age.
Add a Place and there’s your Ace.
Mine is here.
Yours is there.
We are such a funny pair!
Where you goin’?
What you sowin’?
Wait for me!
Can’t you see
I’m in a cage?
For every bar there is a space.
Break up in tiny pieces
Then reassemble on the other side.
You could write on paper if you were old-fashioned.
Pass a note. Use a code.
Or XOXOXOXO your way out with pixels of your face.
I’ll give it more thought later.
I’m not going anyplace.
I’m too old for skateboards.
You go on ahead.
Then double back, if you see a hater.