Two emails arrived in my mailbox recently from high school seniors from Mount Rainer High School in Washington. Assigned to write a paper on magical realism for their World Literature class, Tiffany and Manuel chose my short story, “A Touchy Situation,” which they found at the consistently fine online journal, Café Irreal.
As a writer who spends much time moving the cursor around on her computer, I was delighted to meet a few readers. They had questions about my story and its cue that erupted into violence. What does it mean, they asked. What was my motivation for writing? In me they found a living interactive Cliffs Notes.
Their experience of the story is important, I pressed. I may be its author but a reader’s interpretation is as significant as mine. Still, their questions got me thinking.
The motivation question is an easy one. Years earlier, I learned contact improvisation and had not yet written my book, Contact Improvisation: an Introduction to a Vitalizing Dance Form. The power of the dance, as any practitioner knows, is profound physically, psychoemotionally, and spiritually. As a newcomer to the dance, I wondered what takes place when strangers step into the intimate space of another for artful improvisation. Most of us guard our skin and all it contains. The ego is on steady alert for transgressors of our body, our thoughts, and our land, especially when another’s conceits don’t correspond with our own. An unchecked ego reacts. Those who take time to reflect, to uncover the causes and conditions of one’s pride, are awarded with options.
Tiffany was glad to find my story. “Too many stories by men,” she wrote. Her impression is backed by the findings of VIDA, a female-centric organization with a mission that, according to its website, “addresses the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing in our current culture.” Poet Amy King’s statistics on the paltry number of women winning literary prizes is telling. A woman’s perspective is important, Tiffany said.
What about violence? Manuel concluded that “we can’t control everything” and that an urge for revenge may not be in our best interest. When is it appropriate to take up arms, when to peacefully demonstrate and when to use the transgression as a topic for writing? Tiffany admitted to living through “terrible things” and learning how to cope.
How? Delusions blind us. We remove one veil only to discover another. We cannot see what lives in our blind spots.
Breathe. Move. Write. Witness. Improvise. Consider.
Who owns my breath? What is the source of the feeling that arises in me when near you? How do we chose to live within the temple of being? Notice what transpires when the body of my writing or the body of my flesh brushes against yours? Essay, email, poem. Rock, scissors, paper.