“We Are Making a New World” (1918) by Paul Nash
Last night at dinner, my daughter was telling me about the Proclamation of 1763 but the facts kept sliding off my face and onto the floor. Why can’t I stay inside these perimeters? Everyone agrees that wandering is dangerous. Everyone tells you that wanting less is more honorable than wanting more. Everyone expects you to cut off your appetites and then cauterize the wound to seal off your imagination. Every synonym for desire is also a sin.
So I’m being good, watching my seeds grow. They need some kind of fish and seaweed emulsion to thrive. Children are going hungry but I’m supposed to order droplets of ocean from far away, just for my baby plants. That’s how you stop speculating. That’s how you stop checking to see which way these rivers flow. That’s how you stop encountering every boundary as porous and temporary.
So I’m doing my fucking yoga. My body needs exotic motions imported from distant lands so my cells don’t whisper their needs in the middle of the night, so these dirty bombs don’t grow dirtier by the second. That’s how you shut down a dangerous engine that runs on thin air and indifference and doom. That’s how you stop making shit up. That’s how you stop talking to strangers, mingling with the natives, learning new languages your limbs already seem to know.
My cells never met a border wall they didn’t want to scale. My cells awaken on a high boil, already breaking into a sprint, already loading a musket, already dropping into the tall grass, already disappearing over the ridge. This isn’t about sex, stupid, it’s about everything. Goddamn, do you like to keep it simple.
Do we really rise above our desires, or do we sink beneath them? What’s so honorable about this deadening? Eat this poison to disarm these bombs. Burn these nerve endings until you’re less human, less attuned, less expansive, less restless.
The true aim of these pious soft-paws and lovable scarecrows is always the same: Callous hedonism under the cover of righteousness. Peel back their folksy principles and all you’ll find is sated pigs in the mud. Did you know that these seeds can drink one droplet and read the minds of fish swaying in a distant ocean? Did you know that your muscles can hear ravenous babies crying from deep inside your Vinyasa? You don’t let yourself feel it, though, do you? You breathe out bad instead. You let hunger itself slip out of your consciousness and into the carpet, into the soil, dust to dust. Bourgie enlightenment, the skinniest margarita.
This is what passes for honor as the vultures circle: Piety imported from five continents, transcendence sealed into a glorified bottle of bathtub gin, sent from a far-flung land, scrawled in gorgeous fonts, poured into blank faces rendered indistinct by their lack of any discernible stake or position. Let’s mumble about our children’s online learning habits until the ocean trickles under our doors at night and pulls us all out to sea.
I want to take a long walk past the Appalachians instead. I can listen more closely out there, among the wails of dying songbirds and lost children. I can steal my way in the dark over these stolen miles. I’m no longer an artist, I’m a messenger. You can’t prevent hostility when death is everywhere. I know you want to feel this soft power for yourself. Go ahead. Peel off those folksy principles, they’re not doing you any favors. This world is already scattered in seeds. This ocean already feeds her babies. We don’t require protection from our own hunger. We aren’t children anymore.