The first thing I tell every apprentice that works with me is that 'there are ways to do things, and then there are better ways to do things', and we must never stop pursuing the latter. The difference between these two ideas is foundational; the ease of accepting the status quo versus the hard road of innovation. Back in the sixties it was hip not to conform, and growing up in the nineties we were inundated with how we needed to 'be ourselves'. Even though shadows of those sentiments linger on today, they are nothing but empty shells, and the same people who spout such shallow byproducts demand that you 'be yourself' up until the point where it bothers them, and once they are bothered, you better conform. I’ve experienced people like this in all walks of life: a neighbor hell-bent on stopping me from expanding my single-car garage, a resident trying to thwart us from building trails in an overgrown, abandoned, city-owned woodland, even fellow mountain bikers squabbling over petty rule just because our vision had never been done (locally) before. What is it that drives these people? Is it control: they Must control what they Can control because so much is Out of their control? Is it fear of the unknown, or of change itself? Could it be pride: admitting they’ve been living some sort of falsehood or lie is simply too much, so they dig in their heels and do everything they can to avoid such pain? The answers to the above questions have haunted me for years, until recently when I stumbled across a song. What I thought was another podcast from psychologist Jordan Peterson turned out to be a lecture strangely spliced and auto-tuned (yet surprising enjoyable), titled Make it Beautiful. In it, Jordan says (sings?) this: “People are absolutely terrified of beauty because beauty highlights what’s ugly. It shows you that you aren’t what you should be. Beauty has depth and keeps you in touch with the transcendent. You’re gonna show yourself and make mistakes along the way when you try to make an aesthetic decision, but what you’re stumbling towards is...is the kingdom of God. “And people will resist it.”
A note on all issues prior to 2023
In 2023, we switched email sending services. Converting entire issues into our new sender and their formatting is a lot of work, and with our limited time and resources, we've decided to expedite the work by focusing on converting only the story and intro. Perhaps some day we'll get around to the rest of it, but for now, enjoy the story.
Where I'm From
If I sit still for a long time and think in just the right way, I can see the numbers and colored letters hiding behind my name. The grandfathers are sure we can’t do this but we can. Sometimes late at night, when I might really be asleep, I think of a ride in a truck. It’s sunny and there are rows of us, all wearing the same white gowns, and I hear the little whirly noise of a gate sliding into place behind us…
I don’t think of the truck when I’m in school teaching their fourth graders. Or the numbers. I follow the well-worn groove of times tables and spelling, now and then reading stories or listening to oral reports. Last week there were two knife fights, but that too is a well-worn groove. I stopped them both and got yelled at by some of the mothers and their boyfriends. They saw the blood soaking through the bandage on my arm, but it made no difference. They are just like their children; if they weren’t different sizes, I could never tell them apart.
Bruno says he can tell them apart but he lies about so many things I never know what to believe. His lying makes me tired so I don’t talk to him much. I have my radio and he has his TV. His shows are stupid and so is he. When I’m in the living room with him, he pretends to know who the people are and what they’re doing but late at night, before he comes to bed, I peek and see him shaking his head, mumbling as he clicks from channel to channel.
A good thing about Bruno is that I never have to look up to him and he never has to look down at me. People look down at us all the time, without exception. It’s what we’re for. Of course, I hear pieces of discussions on the radio, usually when the music is boring and I turn the dial. Some are “for” us and some “against,” but I can’t tell their ideas apart any more than I can tell them apart. They’re like empty spaces, white silhouettes moving through the dimly colored background of the world, or fiery beings stretching blazing hands to conduct us like a lackluster symphony written by a mediocre composer. It’s because of the numbers behind my name. I think they control me, and the ones for recognizing people are missing.
The grandfathers are sure we don’t understand about the numbers, but we do. When I go to the regional office for routine check-ups, they always test to see if I know about the numbers, but they’re so sure I don’t, they never pay attention. The grandfathers are different from other people, more defined and identifiable. I trust them, but I don’t know why. Maybe some of the numbers make me trust them.
One Saturday morning it was raining when I woke up. Bruno was snoring as usual and the side of his face was covered with a big bandage. I was confused but then I remembered. Last night he wanted sex. I told him no. This was odd because I really did feel like that, but I didn’t like him deciding all the time. I thought it should be my turn to decide and I decided no.
He didn’t like that. He followed me around, getting in the way while I did the dishes and the ironing. Sometimes he was loud and scary; mostly he was whiny and pitiful. He was really on my nerves!
Finally, I made another decision. I told him, “No!” one last time and hit him with the hot iron as hard as I could. He crashed to the floor and didn’t move.
I got ready for bed as he lay there moaning. When I got out of the shower, he was sitting up, whimpering and trying not to touch his swollen face. His left eye had disappeared.
A few minutes later, he staggered to his feet. He went to the clinic and I went to sleep.
I remembered all that as I sat listening to the rain and smelling the fresh air seeping into the drafty old apartment. It was such a peaceful feeling, like the rain was making its own clean, cool world just for me. In a way it was like the quiet truck ride in my dream, with no numbers, no knife fights, nobody “for” and “against.”
It was like music that had to come from some place greater than the messy, tangled world. Could there be such a place?
I think that’s when I decided to go to the Soul Man…
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