I have a variety of things on my mind this morning, but not as much time to write. Still, I want to collect them. Maybe I'll expand them later, or maybe these nuggets will be enough. I'll put my thoughts inspired by reports about bombs and bombers at the end, in case people want to avoid those. I'll also use headings.
The Democracy of Running
I've been hearing a lot about the democracy of running in general, and marathons in particular. In many ways, it's true. I've met many a person who trained and completed a marathon from a starting point of zero. It costs very little to enter a marathon, especially compared to other events that are theoretically open to all, like the U.S. Open. Some marathons are so popular that you need a qualifying time from a different marathon, but it's democratic--if you can provide the results, you get to run.
The Democracy of Art
Are all art forms similarly democratic? Or is the price of admission too high for some of them? There are paints priced at bargain rates, and writers could do a lot with a ream of paper and a pen. But some art forms need a huge space in which to work--that could be prohibitive. Some equipment is out of the reach of some of us.
Being a Poet, Being a Marathoner
Is a poet the marathoner of the arts? We enter the field knowing that we're not likely to make our living from doing it, although poetry may open some doors to other opportunities. Likewise, unless we happen to be a speedy Kenyan, most of us will never make money from running marathons.
Like marathoners, poets must be committed for the long haul. Few will understand what motivates us. Just as marathoners must log lots of lonely miles, most poets, too, will work in solitary quarters for many years before anyone notices what they're doing--if anyone notices.
The Art of Police Investigations
I heard a police investigator say that the worst mistake one could make in an investigation is to assume you know what's happened before you really do. The evidence should point you in the way that you should go.
That's so different from my life as an academic, where I come up with a point I want to prove and then go out and look for literary examples to prove my point.
It has occurred to me that I might have been a more successful academic if I had approached my intellectual life the way the police investigator approaches a crime scene.
Segregation Then, Segregation Now
Thinking about King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" made me think of my own grandfather, who could have been one of those white clergymen that King addressed. During the 50's and 60's, my grandfather was the Lutheran pastor of a church in a small town in South Carolina. The white pastors talked about what they'd do if a black person ever came to church.
I need to talk to my mom who first told me the story. I'm fairly sure that she and her dad disagreed about what should be done. I'm pretty sure my grandfather would have counseled patience and not getting up in people's faces about social change.
Some of you may not be able to comprehend the idea that a black person worshipping with white people could upend the whole social order. Indeed many of us are part of churches that wrestle with how to be more inclusive.
Yet, I would argue that all efforts towards inclusivity would stop the minute a transgendered person showed up--especially a transgendered person who is still in transition. Most of us are still not comfortable with that.
Jesus would be. Jesus spent time with the outcast, after all. Once, I wrote these lines as I imagined Jesus in a modern church:
Jesus prefers to sit with the pre-op
transsexual, to talk about the difficulty
of finding attractive women’s clothes
in larger sizes.
Bomb Making as Do It Yourself Project
I've been listening to talk of bomb making and the online forums in which people trade directions and tips. I had a sudden strange vision of an Etsy site for bombmakers.
It's probably not that absurd.
The Anarchist's Cookbook
Before the Internet was widely accessible, there was The Anarchist's Cookbook, which gave information about incendiary devices.
In 1994, I last saw a copy of this book in a feminist bookstore that carried used books. I was tempted to buy it, just as a curiosity. I liked its DIY approach, even as I was somewhat horrified by the subject matter. Now all of that information is widely available.
Terrorism Then, Terrorism Now
It may feel like we're subject to more terrorist attacks these days, but we're really not. Go back to the late 60's and early 70's. During many weeks, there were several terrorist attacks a week. Of course, those bombings were often planned to be symbolic, with the intent that no humans be hurt. Clearly the Boston bomber(s) had different intentions.
For a great movie with insights into what makes ordinary people turn to terrorism, check out the documentary Weather Underground.
I've been hearing people talk about the bombmaker's signature. I'm enchanted by that term, but repulsed by what it means.
I've thought of other kinds of signatures: time signatures, how we sign our names. Is a poem brewing?
I've thought of our poems as our signatures. What do they say about us?