Podcast 99: a 20-year Retrospective of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, with Mike DeGagné


Podcast Season 5

Loss

You learn, sometimes too late, what is needed for the voyage, and what must be left behind

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 29, 2018 • Essay

W

E ARRIVE TO THE WORLD naked, with nothing but a connecting thread to those who, with any luck, will love and nourish us. Soon enough there will be clothing and bright light, crepundia, a crash of voices, perambulation, the blush of passing foliage, a human parade. Soon enough, a world of objects and subjects, of wordless wonders. All this, before there is a you and me, before the arrival of that indelible space that separates, all before the problematic ego, before the untidy business of living.

You learn, years later, that a hotel is not a place. You learn that you came into the world with all that you needed. You learn, but it is the forever too late. Somewhere in the distance is that place you call home, or once called home, where the woman who once loved you washes dishes, or stares into the distance, or does none of these. A hotel is not a place, but you are a man filling the requisite chair, a quadrate, among the absent unknowable others who are between an elsewhere yesterday and tomorrow. You learn, too late, what was needed for this voyage and what must be left behind.

Time passes. You learn the trick of putting names to things. You understand that evenings, when you are alone with yourself, are the most difficult. This is the time when unnamed things belabour themselves to the water’s surface, demanding to be named, needing to be sorted into a taxonomy of mourning. Grief has many hands. It overturns even the most hidden of stones, reconstituting origins and descent, questioning everything, anatomizing the fossils, naming.

You throw yourself into a world that does not see and does not care that everything has changed. Everywhere is a hotel. You begin to notice strange and inexplicable things, for instance that the sky is not the familiar sky. The cashier asks you how you are, and you pretend that this is an ordinary thing to say. You pretend to believe that words still mean to you what they once meant. You pretend that the ice beneath your feet is not slippery, but the moments arrive when a footing gives way and you are certain you will go down, down into the water. I am good, you tell the cashier, and she does not take your hand because she does not see the ice or the all-consuming sea. And in that moment, it occurs to you that the hand that once would have reached out to you will reach out no more.

We come into the world with only what we need, and in time we will lose everything. Some things we will leave behind, perhaps not knowing it for a time, and in other instances there will be a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, before someone disappears into the car that will never return. There will be arrivals and departures, the passing of place to place, a remembrance of love and bright light, from an unbridgeable shore. Gratitude and sorrow, the will to go on, the human parade, an ocean that forever empties into a sea.

The Old Familiar Madness

Everywhere you look there’s a strongman rising on the bitter tide of angry men

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 22, 2018 • Politics

C

HINA is returning to Mao and Russia is returning to Stalin and the President of the United States is jealous. Where is his Stalin, his Mao, the Father Figure he’ll restore to his glory, his Kim il-Don? Where is the Dear Great Leader, the Father to Keep America Great, Again. Everywhere you look there’s a strongman rising on the bitter tide of angry men. Yes, I mean men. You can walk a mile from here into the filth and chaos, the raw animal stench, of Chinatown, and buy virility enhancers made of the balls of endangered species. We men, with our fragile masculinity and our narcissism, had no problem killing off the last rhinoceros to drink and fuck with a little more stamina. Bodies are for buying and selling, life is cheap, we’ll blow up the world if it makes our dicks a little longer, and that’s all the truth you need to know.

There’s a mass-murderer in Syria, Bashar al-Assad, grinding a generation of children into dust, and he has the help of Putin and Erdogan and the Ayatollahs and all the others. The others, the men who dream of ultimate power. There isn’t a chance in hell Trump will stop them. He admires the murderers, wants to be a murderer, knows he’s the anointed, the man who can kill on Fifth Avenue and not lose voters. Evil has been set loose on the world, and for the foreseeable future we are all doomed, there isn’t a thing you can do about it now. The monster is loose, and we want it to be loose, and we want to see some goddamn explosions!

There is a great wave of violence coming, a real blood-letting, a gratification of our primal war-lust, the irrepressible desire of our species to kill with impunity, and to go on killing until the human will collapses. Don’t be fooled by the editorial pages and the other scoundrels, the other liars and cowards—we’re not doing politics anymore, we’re preparing for tribal warfare. We, the human species, every last one of us will be drawn into it, in the end. The old order won’t surrender, and the new won’t prevail without a fight. No one knows what the world will look like in one hundred years, but whatever it is, it’s going to require war.

It’s the old familiar madness, the deeply repressed barbarism that takes over, from time to time. Sure, we seem civilized, our orderly streets filled with shoppers, the calm commerce of a modern city. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, and no one, absolutely no one, is screaming for blood. The Filipino nannies go by, pushing strollers that bear the children of educated upper-middle white women. The children who will inherit the world, the children on whose behalf others will kill and die, the children who for now are innocent, not that it makes a goddamn difference.