Archive | 10:47 pm

Rules for Revolutions

7 Dec

It used to be, back when I began bogey, I wrote birthday posts for my people. The final one was for myself, the year I turned 25; the year I moved to New York. Since then, I realized recently, I haven’t slept alone on my birthday. I did last night, and while I remain too acclimated to the habits of couple-hood to occupy my entire bed instinctively, last night I sprawled. It had been a beautiful day, better than I expected, far better than I had earned, and reluctant to let it end I lay there, awkwardly spread-eagled, and thought about New Orleans.

Several years ago, tipsy outside the Spotted Cat, my companion and I were accosted (during a fraught half-conversation) by a person who identified themselves as a “mystic.” I was drunk enough to leave with that magical bar with someone I barely knew (and wanted with that gutting desire that happens so rarely in life), but not (yet) quite drunk enough to cheat on my then-partner, and I have always been grateful to said mystic for intervening when she did and offering to tell our fortunes. He left, and she informed me that I was “gifted with people” while I gazed in dismay at his receding frame and the promises it carried. (oh, but what if I had gone; that would surely have been a different life.) At the time, broke as fuck, I muttered I would rather be gifted with money and then she got huffy and intoned “you will not be easily forgotten.” I rolled my eyes, walked to my hotel, felt vaguely guilty for a few days, forgot the whole episode. Last night, drunk on my people— who called, texted, and emailed from every continent on earth after months (if not years!) of shameful and sustained neglect— I thanked her for her blessing, so thoroughly undeserved.

This was a difficult year, a lonely year, a transitional year. It was the year in which New York finally became home, by which I mean it became a city I could fathom leaving. Not quite yet, perhaps not even soon, but eventually. Most of all it was a surprising year, with an uncanny knack for allowing me to have only what I didn’t know I needed and literally nothing else. I’m proud to have survived it, and for the first time in a very, very long time, I’m looking forward to being me again. That is a lot to have happened, all in one day, but it wasn’t even all that happened, because last night, trying to explain dialectics to Vajra (as one does) I began thinking about revolutions and then— wait for it— I wrote my first full paragraph in four months.

windspiral_bronwynberman.jpg

Windspiral, Bronwyn Berman, 2006.

So, right, revolutions. That’s what this post is actually about, cos this evening I read Supriya’s tweet about Shashi Deshpande’s keynote, the one about MeToo, in which she says that “the breaking of the silence is the beginning of revolution.” Yesterday morning I’d have said, oh fabulous but also what is a revolution, because for a while now I’ve been wondering whether revolutions are worth identifying at all, and whether the usefulness of the concept outweighs the violence involved in theorizing it. All abstraction is inherently violent, of course— to specify is to deny, dialectics 101— and I’m not arguing against, like, thinking. My point is only that concepts have to be useful to justify their own existence: establish a pattern, stake a claim, something that allows us to inflict our thoughts on the recalcitrant world, and for some time now it has seemed to me that “revolution” occludes more than it reveals and that the only patterns it allows one to trace are hackneyed ones.

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