Last night, apparently, the town council in our fair burg passed a “resolution recognizing the 9 rules of civility.” This was evidently the result of a “toxic environment for discourse,” which is one of the more interesting and simultaneously sickening memes I keep hearing repeated about the state of debate and disagreement in America. Now we have to make rules about how to discuss the rules. I don’t know how long this ruling on the discussion of rules was in a committee, which absolutely MUST be a part of that process, or if any amendments were submitted to the committee for discussion before the general session and public input, or even if the fair citizens were ALLOWED any public input on the resolution recognizing the rules, once it came out of committee, was studied thoroughly, voted on, and read into the public record. I really don’t know.
Some mornings I wake up, look at the world, and feel I have been transported to another planet altogether, as if whatever anchor binding me to the earth simply snapped and I floated away. I can only imagine this is true: I feel precisely like an aging, out of work, once famous, but now largely disregarded, hollywood actress who lives in a Malibu Canyon Santa Fe style home she won from a producer in her fourth divorce, takes bo-tox injections, has paid handsomely for a pair of bolt-ons that are sadly lopsided, has three cats that shit in her closet, and overdoses weekly at an oxygen bar in Ojai. I think I feel like that some mornings. Truly. I wake up, read the news, and there it is. It’s a strange phenomenon.
I would like to propose my own 9 Rules of Discourse. Of course I would.
- Don’t be a pussy.
- Know what it is you think you know.
- Have at least 3 alternative proposals
- Come prepared to be disagreed with
- Come prepared to lose the argument
- Come prepared to live with losing the argument gracefully
- Practice listening before speaking
- Know when to shut up
- Assume other people in the room are also intelligent, until they prove otherwise
That’s it. That’s the best I can do without diving off the cliff into a cataclysmic, blood pressure spiking rant, which really wants to come out, but I’m keeping it tamped down.
In other news, my friend Jim Cornelius and I recently made a raid into the Northern California outback to pick up a horse. It was a grand expedition down to the old home place, with just enough time for some guitar playing, some singing around a bonfire, and a brief interlude to the petroglyph palace at Willow Creek Canyon. We bombed down, and bombed back, hauling a new horse for the Figure 8, who as I write is happily ensconced in the barn, enjoying breakfast.
It’s hard to imagine the people who created this permanent art installation discussing 9 rules of civil discourse, but perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps that IS the meaning of this ancient tableau. Perhaps, properly deciphered, it says: “the rules for discourse have come out of the great spirit committee–here they are–also, there is a cougar in the canyon, mammoth steaks are awesome, and you, oxygen sucking hollywood actress, are a jackass. Just maybe it says that.
In the end, of course, we will probably never know what this graffiti means. Although I think I see a tomahawk in this one:
At least I want it to be a tomahawk. I want it to be a Paiute War-Axe, carved after the larger tableau, which was actually used on the barefoot and bark-trouser wearing committee that envisioned the 9 rules. Not cruelly. Not in the dismemberment sense. Maybe just a quick rapping on the skulls of those involved, a reminder to get back to work weaving baskets and collecting pine nuts. I want that to be true, and since it’s my desert, I can make it be that if I want too.
That’s all I’ve got. It snowed all day yesterday. This morning the sky is clear and brilliant blue and there is frost in the shadows. There are three horses in the barn and a puppy in the yard digging a hole out of the hole I just filled in and replanted. And when I think about it long enough, that sky and the warmth we are trying to create on our little rancho, against all of the other, my feet come lightly down to earth again. I’ll take that. Every time.