Last week, K and I went to this fundraiser for a local arts group that helps kids develop their poetry skills. One of the things that delights me about Nashville is that it has a somewhat vibrant poetry scene.
The kids were fantastic. Their poems were so beautiful and thoughtful. And they had them memorized! And here was the coolest part: when someone got nervous and forgot a bit or stumbled, everyone would snap for them, to fill the silence with supportive noise.
Is this the thing that beatniks were doing when they snapped? The thing that became a joke? Because it was beautiful. I loved it. And I felt sorry and mad that I had only encountered it as a joke that made fun of poetry audiences.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that everyone is good. But I do believe that most people’s badness is small and surmountable until life breaks them. And once you’re broken, it’s hard to know how people will put themselves back together. (I’m slowly making my way through the Dollop episodes on Trump and Jesus Christ…)
I want so much for these kids to get a chance to fulfill this potential and to not be crushed and broken.
I think another hard thing for me about all this stuff coming out now is that you see how the whole system–every system, our whole society–functions through crushing and breaking and discarding people. You are not supposed to be okay. This doesn’t work if you’re okay.
It’s disgusting. And yet, I don’t see how to disengage from it. You can pull back. A lot of people certainly have. But it’s a comforting fiction to believe you can get out of it. That you can be safe from it. That you’re not replicating it.