I’m rereading Even Cowgirls Get the Blues this week. It was on the top of the book stack when I moved, and I don’t think I’ve re-read it since May, 2003, when I referenced it for my graduation speech. This was evident by the “SU MAY 20” stamp on the Vancouver bus transfer stuck between its pages (although why I was taking the bus, or to where, I can’t remember)
Every time I re-read a Tom Robbins book, I get a different perspective out of it. Rereading his books as an adult is very different than it was as a teenager, when I first read them. There’s the obvious changes in my own experience, but there’s also changes in that I have had some of the concepts and ideas enter my own life through experience.
Like the idea of being outside of society. Cowgirls, like most of Robbins’ books, is about being outside of society. I tend to view Western civilization as being inflexible, almost machine-like, in its gears and wheels of documentation, law, order, architecture and structure. America in the latter twentieth century, certainly, is inflexible, a country of literal structures as well as political, social and economic ones, all written down in printed words. America, over the last sixty years, has made it a point to discourage deviation, which is deterrent to a capitalist system. (if you’re outside the system, you certainly don’t need your credit cards)
The question which has come up this morning for me is: if one feels that one is outside society, is it an excuse to deviate, or a reason to exist? Should one make the effort, try to dovetail with all that structure, despite a tendency to live outside the norm? Is that tendency to exist outside the structure of North American civilization a challenge to be overcome, something that just requires trying a little harder to fit in?
Or is it something to be embraced? Is a deviation a raison d’etre in itself? Is it something that should envelope those lucky enough to be able to have it? Is the ability to see the world differently, to perceive reality from a different angle, something that should be ignored, or is it something that should be fully explored?
And, also – doesn’t society need those outside of it? Don’t we need our freak geniuses, our Magicians and High Priests, our Fools? Don’t we eventually exalt our outsiders for their perspective, and integrate it into the fabric of our own consciousness? If we encourage everyone who feels outside of society to try harder to fit in, who will see the miracles and magic that are outside the visible spectrum of the “normal”?
I am thinking about all this because I like being able to see what, for lack of a better expression, I refer to as “magic under the streets of Los Angeles.” To me, the Venice canals are something out of a fairy tale. The lunacy of the Venice boardwalk, rather than a tourist display, is a hole in reality that shows an alternate universe of the joyfully insane. But in rejoicing in the out of the ordinary, it gives me a distinct distaste for the ordinary, the structured, the average, the everyday – which, I suppose, is why I live within reasonable biking distance of the community of Venice, so I can go down there to visit whenever I like.
Should I be conditioning myself to accept the need for the more structured universe? Or should I be going further into my own abilities to love anarchy, chaos, words that have such negative connotations, but that I love seeing in practice?
Is it weakness to allow myself to believe in irrational visions, like a Los Angeles without cars?
Or is it a vision that I should be thankful for, and a vision that I need to share the basis of with the rest of the residents of my city?
In Cowgirls, Sissy Hankshaw Gitche is committed to a mental institution for her inability to transcend her disability – that is, her oversized thumbs, which make her vision and her perception and her life completely different than that of the characters who represent standard society in the book.
Do those of us with oversized deviances need to perceive those as something to overcome?
Is it self-indulgence and weakness to refuse to (completely) transcend our differences from the average?
Or is it necessary and lovable to be someone who sees the world differently due to being different and refusing to change that?
And, finally – do I need to share what vision I have with the world? Or should I accept the world, as Taoism dictates, for what it is, and allow it to go its own way, no matter how others reshape it out of their own need/greed? Should I keep trying to change the world, or should I simply change my own life and hope to lead by example?
It’s Saturday morning. It’s too early to ask these questions.