Saturday, June 02, 2007
Stick of Gum?
There's a story I will never forget about Neal Cassady, the icon of the Beat Poets who later morphed into the driver of Ken Kesey's psychedelic Magic Bus. He was entering a bar in Oakland and saw what was about to be a bloody scene. Four Black men were about to pummel a White guy. Without weighing any time consuming pros and cons, Cassady jumped into the fray tapping each man on the shoulder and asking in a loud, friendly voice, with an outstretched hand: "Stick of gum?" Somehow his package of Juicy Fruit gum disarmed a tense moment and a sure beating was avoided.
Cassady's creative courage has always seemed a luminous lesson to me. One time I tried to put it into practice and failed in my delivery, but more on that mishap in a different entry someday.
Yesterday, I pulled a book of essays down from the shelf, during my sunrise insomnia session. I read about a poet named Robert Desnos who was taken by Nazis in a truck crammed with men to a gas chamber. As they stood in line awaiting their deaths, Desnos jumped about in a jocular, animated way and asked men to let him read their palms. To each one he exclaimed that he saw a long lifeline, many children, and abundant joy. As unbelievable as it seems, according to Susan Griffin's essay, the Nazi guards were amused and decided to let this group live.
Griffin goes on to say that "social movements are driven by imagination....every important social movement reconfigures the world in the imagination."
The scientist, Jacob Bronowski, who was deeply affected by what he witnessed in Hiroshima after it was leveled by The Bomb, wrote:
"Order does not display itself of itself; if it can be said to be there at all, it is not there for the mere looking. There is no way of pointing a finger or a camera at it; order must be discovered and in a deep sense it must be created. What we see as we see it is mere disorder." To me, it seems he is talking about the importance of using our imagination.
More than the power of any particular political theory to reorganize society for the common good, I put my faith in the acts of persons springing forward in courageous acts of imagination to right wrongs and act as though a precious life is in their hands to save.