Encoded in familiar footfalls on familiar freeways, the outlines of feet stretch ahead as far as you can see, silently insisting that your soles be slotted in their obvious outlines.
Maybe you didn’t know, as you grew, as you strode and strived, maybe you didn’t know, as you pursued the imprints of those who preceded you, as your eyes were trained to seek the gleaming outlines, maybe you didn’t know that you could step off that road. Maybe you didn’t realize the dark woods beyond the guardrail contained an ever-unfurling infinitude of paths, the ferns ceding way, the tree limbs pining for you to climb them. Maybe nobody told you that there were paths underwater, over air, myriads of peregrinations in place, paths diving into wormholes, pathless paths.
And then, you knew.
You knew as surely as you knew you would die, that peculiarly human knowledge sweeping us into vortices of dread or ecstasy. You knew that there were stories woven through your neurons, born of fear and domination, that were vying to control your motion through the macrocosm. You knew how powerful and seductive those whispered words were, promises of safety, satisfaction, success, if only you would surrender your vision and your voice. The stories had dropped their subtlety; you could no longer block out the screaming, the grotesquery of their demands. You knew they were lies of the worst sort, lies that masquerade as all that is worthy: Follow this prescribed path, and you will be loved. Follow, and you will receive approval, your needs will be met, your ego thrust skyward, food in your belly, a fine domicile to live in. You will have friends, and admirers, and status; your ambitions will be achieved, your cherished ideals will be enacted, your children will thrive and the world will make sense. Follow, and you create the world you wish to see.
And you became I, and I became you.
I knew. I had to un-numb myself to the lashes of false safety, strain against their tethers, in order to step over the guardrail, into the night, carrying nothing. I knew that every step would be a walking meditation, a reckoning ricocheting off every mote suspended in air. I would rewrite the narrative. I would. I would not wait for my ephemeral book of existence to be written for me, epitaphs devised, meanings assigned, interpretations invented.
These are some of the stories that will not be written in my book:
Mothers should only focus on their children’s growth and voices, to the exclusion of their own.
It is safer and more sensible to stay in one place than to travel to terra incognita.
Place others’ opinions of your worth above your own.
Accept the boilerplate model of “community.” Refuse to seize upon that word as suspiciously vague; refuse to align it with the messier concepts of intimacy and interdependence; refuse to let it dissolve boundaries between Self and Other.
Cultural nomads, renegade gardeners, love outlaws and soulful anarchists are dangerous and should be marginalized.
Believe that you have little of importance to say, or possess no great eloquence. Deny yourself the title of Artist.
Rewrite the narrative. Jump the guardrail. I’ve already begun. You can join me.
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