Does this picture make you uncomfortable? Itchy? Grossed out? Are you trippin’ on the fact that me and this fly are equally hirsute? Okay, fuck you, I’m hairier than a goddamn fly. It’s body is also a much prettier hue than mine. Fucker. This fly was dying. I find flies intensely irritating but I also have mad respect for how much more important they are to the planet than humans. That’s a true fact. Humans do nothing for the planet’s ecosystem while flies are a vital part of breaking down organic matter into nutritious soil-improving humus that helps plant life flourish. Ants and flies are vitally important, humans aren’t important at all.
All humans contribute to earth is their destructive hubris.
There was a time when at least dead humans fed maggots and ants and could be counted on as fertilizer for plants but then we, in our hubris, decided that we were too good to rot like other animals. We began to devise ways to avoid returning to the soil naturally and learned to turn our corpses into toxic land mines.
I DO kill flies sometimes when they get in my house and won’t stay out of my face or off of my food. But when I do so, I understand that I’m killing a better creature than myself. It’s not sometimes I celebrate. This dying dude and I shared some poetry together and I let him hang out on my arm as he pleased. I had beer, it was a moment. I later found him on my floor feet skyward.
I’ve gone mentally microscopic. My thoughts have become macro views of an almost invisible universe.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all the novels I have in my queue. My urge to work on fiction is strong but not strong enough right now. It’s all percolating. I’ve had the freeing thought that I don’t have to ever work on the stories I’ve semi-mapped out already if a newer more urgent one starts screaming through my mental discomfort.
I had awful nightmares last night. So much going on in them. It’s hard to quantify what made them so disturbing. What made them stressful. If I have one directive with my writing it’s to put the tension and strange terrain of my nightmares into stories, out of my head and into other people’s heads. You probably think I mean to write horror. I do not. I don’t like the horror genre. Incidentally, this might sting some of my writer friends, I have always disliked Lovecraft. I don’t care for monsters and mystical creatures as villains or gore for titillation. Humans are the villains of my nightmares. Humans and chaos and slowing time and the vile sludge of human filth.
Broken-down over-flowing stench-filled public bathrooms have long been a recurring horror in my nightmares.
Rape, torture, dismemberment are other horrors of my nightmares and of my mind. I’ve heard a lot of people on Twitter saying lately that they’re tired of rape being depicted in books, that there’s no need for that. I get not wanting to read rape scenes. I get that women are tired of the rape of women being common.* A lot of people are calling rape in fiction a “device”. I disagree wholeheartedly with this assessment. It’s true that some authors may use rape as a story device. But in a lot of stories, especially by women, this is a depiction of reality. Rape is an inexorably common occurrence, particularly against women, and to stop telling stories that have rape in them is to expunge an enormously life-shaping experience too many people have.
I think rape has been featured in stories so much and continues to be featured because it’s so common in reality. Dwelling on the scenes might be sensationalism at times but I’ve read at least a thousand books in my life and in most books rape is glossed over. So much so that when it’s treated to a dose of reality in books like “The Color Purple” it’s shocking and gutting. I believe this is a more important story for women to tell than the age old story of women being mothers, wanting to be mothers, worshiping motherhood. Good god, we never stop reading stories about women as mothers. The impact of having kids in every possible circumstance. Women as wives. Women as Femme Fatales.
But books that deal intelligently and honestly with women as the sexual objects of men and as the punching bags of bitter disappointed angry men – WRITTEN BY WOMEN – are still too thin on the ground.
I don’t actually want to read books that are just about women’s experiences of being raped. I want to see stories about women’s lives from a more complete view. I want to know about the violence women experience and how it shapes their lives and most importantly I want to know how they come through it, I want to know how women have become empowered after being crushed.
Life is full of violence. I don’t have any stories to tell that aren’t full of violence too. I don’t have any gentle stories to tell. There are no gentle corners in my head. There are no verdant green spaces full of fairies and flowers and flooded with only love and good and beauty. The brighter the beauty of a thing the darker its corners are in my experience.
Most of my stories don’t have rape in them specifically. One of them does and it’s important. It’s so important to me that I write it but it’s the one story that I’ve written so much for and remains hopelessly tangled and inarticulate. It’s the hardest story to tell of all the stories in my queue.
Until violence against women and abuse of women becomes a rare thing, stories that involve violence and abuse against women remain important. For every woman who remains silent about her experiences out of shame or fear, women writers need to open the way. We need to be telling their stories for them. We need to be exploring how to come away from those violent experiences stronger than we were before we went through them. We need to explore how to stop it from happening to others. We need to explore why it happens. We need to explore the dark tunnels that lead to light.
Not talking about bad things has never fixed a thing. Burying stories because they’re unpleasant gives the unpleasantness all the room it needs to flourish. Silence is never the way forward. Silence is never the way to healing.
I’m not interested in reading stories that use rape or violence as a “device”. But I dare you to find any great story that isn’t propelled forward by either an overt or an implied threat of violence. It’s pretty much the underpinning to all conflict. If not literal violence, then aggression that ruins people. There are no good stories devoid of either aggression or violence. Without one or the other (the one is just one end of a continuum that leads to the other) there can be no conflict. Without conflict there is no tension and no tension means no story to follow.
Sometimes you have to stop listening to the voices of strangers on social media, even of other writers, and trust yourself to write what you need to write and know that someone out there desperately needs you to write it. I write for myself and for that someone who hasn’t yet found their own voice and needs to borrow mine for courage.
Part of this journey of self care is to shut out all the approbation of others, the shoutings and the directives others are pasting all over their own walls and sharing publicly, to paint my own directives, to shout my own truths. To ignore the wider world so that I can listen to the macro world, the almost invisible world around me. I’m shutting out news and activism and babble and rabble – so that I can get to a deeper kind of spiritual activism.
*IT IS COMMON IN REAL LIFE.