Make a list, forget literature, and abandon the craft of the word-smith. After that, can there be justice for literature?
Make a list. Write your sentences short, keep them crisp, line them up, count them off.
Make sure you use a good number: 1, 3, 7, 10, 12, 100, 108
I wrote one once — The Sutra of Life: 108 Things I Learned While Living in an Ashram. Of course, that was pretty pretentious of me, but hey, I was going through a phase, ok? Anyway, 108 doesn’t make a good listicle. The shorter the better, make it easy for people
Long ago some control freak took eternity and broke it down into measurable components. “Good idea,” said the sheep. Infinity became years. Years became 365 days became 52 weeks became 12 months became 30 days became 24 hours became 60 seconds.
You get the idea. People don’t like to think too hard, we like simple, we like check-lists. Let’s face it, this universe is too big, life too complex these days, nature too unpredictable, and who the hell knows what’s going on with the Polar Vortex?
We like symmetry, we like order. There’s a Sunflower that catches the eye, bewitching us with yellow stardust, but alas, 1, 2, 3 , 5, 8 , 13,…
Fibonacci, who made more music with his numbers than he did with his name, if that’s even possible, figured out that even God has a numerical code, yes, geometry is sacred, which I wish I had known in the 9th grade when I was failing that stupid useless class. Numbers weren’t my friend back then either, a problem that continued until I learned how to bow to them.
But these lists, stripping language of its music, shaving every concept down to a shadow of itself, while Yeats and O Henry turn in their graves, Because lists, well, lists are nice, but they ain’t Literature. And we, the wordsmiths among us, we know this even as we pile one listicle on top of the other because, you know, you gotta feed the masses and this is what the masses eat:
1 Sign That You’re Going to Die of Liver Disease in the Next 6 Minutes
2 Tips to Fall In Love With Your Mother-in-Law
3 Ways to Trim your Belly in 6 weeks
4 Steps to get Rich
5 Things Women Secretly Think About Men in Bed
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
8 Ways to Manage Stress and Find Inner Peace
9 Things to do Before You Die or Else Your Life was a Waste
10 Ways to Become the Person You Already Are but Think You Need to Read this List to Figure it Out
OK. Interesting stuff, and you can bet I’m going to click that link, and maybe even skim it. Occasionally I find a really good piece of writing, something that tells me this is an intelligent person with mad skills, and this is how it has to be packaged now.
The Dumbing Down of Literature: say it in a list. I call an end to these lists, and a return to literature.
OK, that’s not going got happen, which in that case, I say we call everybody together in the middle of the Town Square, and beat our chests in a grief ritual over the death of word-smithing because, for those of us who write, words are precious living things, sugary little fireflies that glow in the dark floating in the night. Sparkles and pixie dust falling off their wings with each turn of the phrase.
And then there are words that stick their chests out like Mt. Kilimanjaro, daring you to climb up, and some spit fire like Dragon-Volcanos while others become oceans. For writers, every word is its own story, no, more than a story, more like a song that springs from a well of love, or hurt, or longing, from deep within this dark blue sea. Each word’s a song to the universe that says,
and when that word reaches your mind,
boogies down like a child on a water slide
right into the heart
This is what words do in the hands of a word-smith: they dance.
Dirty Dancing, Fred & Ginger, and sometimes Michael Jordan flying through the air. Go on, stick your tongue out, dance like it’s the last word you’ll ever spit from your soul. I dare you to take this fabulicious phrase and wrap a number around it. Enough of the Listicles. We’re not fooled. There’s no way to wrap a wire fence of numbers around all this beauty.
Let’s us come together in protest of this obvious manipulation the matrix has visited upon us, and turn these listicles into poems.
Let’s seduce these primary numbers with candy-coated verbiage.
Bat your eyes, let tears leap to their lives
Fling themselves from the cliff of your cheeks, and
drip maplesque and fabriesence all over your new white pants.
Feed the world all that sweetness
so that even the numbers themselves
fall in love
The End.Photo: List_84/Flickr(image altered)