Antinous for Everybody

I worship a dead gay teenager and you can too

A war on the imagination

I’m forty-eight, and my joints frequently hurt. I hate crowds, and I am pretty much useless if I get fewer than eight hours of sleep. And I feel vaguely guilty, in a useless sort of way, that for those and other reasons I will not be on the streets by night, protesting the police brutality, the routine and indeed almost systematic destruction of black lives by white cops.

It disturbs me that no one around me is talking about Ferguson. My co-workers, whether black or white, are not talking about it. Baltimore’s population is a little over sixty percent black, thirty percent white, with ten percent Asian and others. I’ve never not lived, worked, gone to school, taken the bus with black people. And Baltimore’s cops, forty-percent of them black, are as trigger-happy as any police force nowadays, even though you don’t have the Ferguson situation of a mostly white, highly militarized police department vs. a mostly black populace.

My co-workers aren’t talking about it. I sensed that my family wasn’t talking about it, on Thanksgiving Day, mostly because it’s unpleasant, and we were all very pleasant and having a good time. People on Facebook aren’t talking about it, except for my pagan and polytheist friends. My folks on Tumblr *are* talking about it, linking to Twitter and news articles and blog essays in between posts on magic and the occult, or Chris Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch, or birds, butterflies, mushrooms.

A lot of pagans aren’t talking about it. There may be a perfunctory mention, like the old public service announcements on broadcast tv (I hope at least some of my readers remember those), and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled self-promotion. A lot of pagan blogging right now seems to me like just advertising a blogger’s product, no more no less. It’s reminiscent of the really early days of live television where one program had a single sponsor and every commercial break, performed live, featured General Electric or Proctor and Gamble.

I am a writer, and my words are my product. My words are what I have to offer. Specifically, I am a poet and a storyteller; I have always seen my writing as a form of service to the Divine, whatever my current understanding of divinity, and my job as imagining how things could be different. I write poetry, blog essays, and erotica with a science fiction or fantasy bent, sometimes fanfic, sometimes original (insofar as any fiction is “original”). I look at people like Ursula K. LeGuin, who recently won the National Book Award, to remind myself why the kind of writing I do is important. I look at Cecilia Tan, who also writes and publishes erotic speculative fiction, as an example of the writing I want to do; I look at Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, as examples of the influence that science fiction stories can have. Every time I write a story in which two men, perhaps characters who are presumed to be heterosexual, have loving and emotionally meaningful sex, I am striking a blow against sexism, against homophobia, against narratives that privilege violence. Every time I write a story that helps someone feel sexual pleasure, I am striking a blow against capitalism, the Protestant work ethic, the condemnation of the body and its pleasures.

I don’t know much of the work of poet Diane Di Prima, but I do know this poem, which I first came across many years ago:

 

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

 

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

ALL OTHER WARS ARE SUBSUMED IN IT

 

There is no way out of a spiritual battle

There is no way you can avoid taking sides

There is no way you can not have a poetics

no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher

 

you do it in the consciousness of making

or not making yr world

you have a poetics: you step into the world

like a suit of readymade clothes

 

or you etch in light

your firmament spills into the shape of your room

the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves

In the war against the imagination, I am on the side of life, peace, equality, eros, friendship, creativity. I am on the side of the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and their fellow protesters in other cities. I am on the side of socialists and anarchists like Rhyd Wildermuth, people who smash gender binaries like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, people who embrace all of life’s buried chaos like Sannion. And before I give you my hand, much less buy what you’re trying to sell me, I want to know which side of the war you’re on.

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2 thoughts on “A war on the imagination

  1. Thanks for sharing that poem! Erynn Rowan Laurie quite likes DiPrima, but I did not read much of her when I lived in Erynn’s library. đŸ˜¦

    I am going to have to make another post after Faunalia today about some of this stuff, and taking something I said in my post yesterday out and making it “bigger,” so to speak.

    Like

    • I don’t really know Di Prima’s work, as I said, but I’m thinking I want to get acquainted with it. I confess that I was reminded of it by mishearing Sting lyrics, looking them up, and then pursuing it further.

      Like

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