Pass Me the Purple Crayon
Carole E. Trainor
Issue #67, April 2004
It has nothing to do with making sound, solid sense. The garnering of social status or social acclaim has nothing to do with making sound, solid, intellectual sense. Does this bear repeating? I can't imagine that it should. We're all thinking grownups here.
Ought sense not be the point of our daunting, intellectual processes? In the parlors of our sites of formal knowledge, ought sense and consciousness not be among the objectives of our more "heady" pursuits? Bulbs of higher wattage light up dark rooms better than bulbs of lower wattage. This is bare bones, scientific logic. And I respect it. At the same time, I also accept it as something that is, in fact, true in my experience. That's why I like high wattage thought. The process of illuminating the mind is something of particular interest to me, as a thinker. Art is what can possibly be produced from it all.
I am not a vegetarian, even though I admire vegetarians. I am not a militant, even though I have tremendous admiration for the moral courage of the militant. I am a thinker. And in that sense, I am an artist, too, I suppose. I love sense. I love reason. I love colourful design. Every now and again, I love to give birth to a new thought that could, in time, assist to give birth to new, universal mind. It's all very big and heady — the world of abstract construction — but it's child's play, really.
The skies no longer rain down as they once rained here in my beloved city of Halifax. It is sad, but true. When it rains, (if it rains) it is manufactured rain. Where it ought to be fun and playful to toss around an abstraction or two for the love of it — for the love of one's intellectual Art, it has become burden — task— nothing more than the product of a dispassionate, economic driven, scholastic process. There are few thinkers left born to tickle toes. It is all nuts and bolts, here. All the loose, ill fitted pieces of disjointed thought have been sewn together with proper scientific method that is tight as coarse rope. It is this that holds the elbows of our manufactured bodies of thought together — coarse rope, loose string, and sometimes, copper wire. But we are, nevertheless, proud. We are proud to show you our handmade body of constructed academic knowledge, move it's plastic legs like a walking doll at Christmas. Paradigms come prebuilt for your convenience — and ours now — and we are sure to include instructions so that you (along with us) can follow proper scientific method and procedure.
Things that ought never to fall from the rafters of our loftier, more sensitive, intellectual constitutions fall here in this part of the world. We act like we are not alone in our thinking, so perhaps we are not. But look at us: We have misplaced our high minded genius. We don't know where we put it last. It is a lost mitten. Perhaps, it has run off with the child! I have not seen it, or heard it since the days I, myself, pumped my little feet into the air 'til the wooden swing that was part of my tiny bottom took me, like a rocket, to the moon. Magic has been swallowed by yesterday's news. And with it, childhood. Our children are saddened here. They have forgotten the point of elastics and stretch taffy, I think. We have better organized them. We have better provided for them by hanging the albatross of our scholarly notions to the dainty strings of their kites and their yo-yos. We feed them raw vegetables and organic oranges hoping we can avoid (forever) having to tell them there are poor people in Ethiopia.
Rigid, deceptive, anti-intellectual thinking, that is the very antithesis of thinking — the very antithesis of heightened consciousness — has claimed the minds of too many of our academic scholars. People are charged a lot of money to play school here, but it is not an evening at the ball. It is a kind of knowing product one is delivered by, and through, very subtle forms of deception and force. It is white knuckle knowledge, bought and paid for at the expense of vulnerable psychologies. We have forgotten, perhaps, that genius cannot be bought with fellowships or bribes. We have forgotten that genius has never appeared on anybody's doorsteps with three letters of academic reference. If anything, genius will spit her bubble gum to the ground — blow newer and bigger bubbles with the snot in her nose.
It is a sad result of our more formal, academic educational processes that human imagination has been arm-wrestled to the ground, and conquered by force, yet again. Like all illogical equations that attempt to link intellectual superiority to the force and imposition of human will, our notions around intelligence, itself, serve to deprive and diminish creative genius, and suffocate imaginative impulse and original thought. We feed our intellectual curiosities and hungers with answers that serve to close doors and blindfold the eyes of wonder. Our raw, genuine, childlike state is taped at the mouth and held fast — handcuffed to the urinals of our play schools. We no longer blow bubbles from our noses. We no longer stand to stare at our own feces. We are grossed out by ourselves because we have been educated to look down on the reality of who we are, and to embrace that which is artificial and smells better (not to mention, more profitable).
We are "queer" for loving the taste of cherry popsicle when it's no longer on a stick, but instead, on the tongue of our best friend who has happens to have two holes in the same place between her legs where we have two holes. This won't do. It's nuts and bolts, here. It's blue collar goodness gone bad. The queers are occupying too much space in our country's bathrooms, and we are disgusted. It smells up the air, and it plunges us into new territory. We resent this. We want scholarship that is palatable and cooperative. We don't want conflict, queer ideas, or toilet talk at the dinner table. (I am telling you straight out: If you come to my city and identify as a "queer," you may win some funding to think about a strange thought, now and again. But I am telling you straight out: My city will not pay you a nickel for a brand new thought. That's what makes it a dangerous place for a thinking queer.)
Thoughts and images spring from the mind of the creative genius — the "thinking" queer. These kinds of thoughts, like notes extracted from a complicated symphony of sound, we know little to nothing about. Thoughts that get pulled up, and yanked outside the skin of the mind like tiny little veins getting pulled from inside the body of a surgical subject, are hard for us to grab onto. How hard it becomes then, to believe they are really there, inside of us. How hard to believe these tiny highways and intersections of human vein are imperative to our very own, fundamental, biological existence. We didn't know this about ourselves.
"Poor Boston! Need we look to you, again, in search of bold, defiant intellectual breath? May we employ you, yet again? Oh ye city of intellectual Art, dig up the ground and find us the bones of Emerson! Make certain they have been emptied of all flesh. We need more mind!...Bring us yet another Thoreau. Fill her mind full of natural light Let us feed! We will watch her chase her notions to the sky in hope of bringing us sonnets from the moon! We want the clouds to be tangled up in her hair the next time we see her! We want her to terrify us with the notion that genius has no need for proper schooling! Have her chase us, Boston! — chase us through the dimly lit streets of your city at night without all the pomp and circumstance we've grown used to. We want to see this little genius child in rags and new skin. We want to know she was left in the bush somewhere on the side of a dirt road to find her own way in the world with her wild, uncontrolled passions and her intellectual frenzy and with her vision, queer as all that. We want eyes that uncover the common. Eyes that see! And with all our might, we shall test her. With all our might, we shall probe! With all our might, we shall pull the little veins from the inside of her skin out to the outside of her little body so we can know more — and yes, we shall determine the vast parameters of this genius little mind with our bonafide scientific procedures that can assess for us the scientific reliability and validity of her as we stand this genius little child against the wall and measure her back bone just to see how far she has come since uttering her first (and most magnificent!) original thought! (And just so you know: She will need three letters of academic reference if she is to be considered for any kind of merit based fellowship award.)
We turn to you in our time of need, Oh Boston — asking only that which we as Canadians appear unable to produce here in our more northern climate. We come bearing apples and tomatoes in return for mind. In the Autumn, we bear husks of corn. But we need mind to fall on our ears like a foreign sonnet. Let the cows in the farmers fields here be what they are. Let them squirt ketchup into their awful steel buckets for a day. We are gone in search of genius mind. We need scenery. New thought — queer thought — queer as two shoes on the wrong feet. We need concept — queer concept — queer as an upside down marble cake made of just chocolate. Give us your paint brushes, Boston! Give us your city's mind. How we long to run back and forth across the shiny bridges built of your red and green lego. We need to understand: "What does it all mean?...Our poor have left the country, and however much we seek them in Ethiopia, they are nowhere to be found."
Nova Scotia is a fine place to live out one's ordinary existence. But it's a hard place to be queer, and it's an even harder place to get a high minded education. I have thought it most delightful to wake up in the wee hours of an Autumn morning to the sight of a humble fisherman sitting in his small fishing vessel on the water here while the sun pours itself across the surface of the sea. Intellectual Art is in this kind of thing for me. Queer as it sounds.
The artists have eyes that can see the queer. The queer have the eyes for Art. Funny how these things go. Its not in the postcards. It's not in the classrooms. That's how the poor are sometimes able to pop up and surprise us. Educators make money by hiring people to scribble yellow crayon on yellow walls here. The artists and the queers have a different notion of how you make good Art good. Like children, we like cherry popsicles and we tend to prefer purple.
Carole E Trainor is the editor of the Canadian feminist compilation, And I Will Paint the Sky. Her works have appeared in various newspapers, magazines, and journals throughout Canada. She has begun to receive recognition in the US and the UK thanks to independent feminist and GLBT magazines and zines. She lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Credit: Lollipop graphic from www.picturequest.com.