Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chocolate Thunder!

On my ongoing quest for inspiration I'm still reading The Impossible Will Take a Little While, a collection of essays, stories etc. by some serious heavy hitters in social justice movements (Marian Wright Edelman, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela etc.), but its the very personal writing in this collection by the people I don't know as well that have affected me the most (e.g. Billy Wanye Sinclair refusing to bribe his way out of prison at a huge personal cost, Diane Ackerman wondering if her work at a suicide hotline makes any difference at all on the "pageant of humankind").

The story I have been reading most repeatedly has been Do Not Go Gentle by Sherman Alexie. He describes being in the hospital with his wife and his dying new-born baby. To clear his head he goes out shopping for baby toys but ends up in a sex-toy store. Suddenly, he is inspired to buy a vibrator and create a new ritual to save his baby. He rushes back to hospital inspired and a bit delusional. But what he describes is so moving, I felt his emotions, his hope, his despair but refusal to give up on the life of his son (the line breaks are mine, not his):
I ran into the fourth floor ICU, pulled Chocolate Thunder out of its box, held it up in the air like a magic wand, and switched it on.

It was sex that made our dying babies, and here was a huge old piece of buzzing sex I was trying to cast spells with. I waved it over our baby and ran around the room waving it over the other sick babies. I was laughing and hooting, and a few others didn't know what the hell to do. But pretty soon everybody was taking their turns casting spells with Chocolate Thunder. Maybe it was blasphemous, and maybe it was stupid and useless, but we all were sick and tired of waiting for our babies to die.

We wanted our babies to live, and we were ready to try anything to help them live.

Maybe some people can get by with quiet prayers, but I wanted to shout and scream and vibrate. So did plenty of other fathers and mothers in that sick room.

We humans are too simpleminded. We all like to think each person, place, or thing is only itself. A vibrator is a vibrator is a vibrator, right? Everything is stuffed with ideas and love and hope and magic and dreams. I brought Chocolate Thunder back to the hospital but it was my magical and faithful wife who truly believed it was going to bring our baby back to life.

Sherman Alexie from Do not Go Gentle from Ten Little Indians
A vibrator is a vibrator is a vibrator huh? I love it. Is it a pipe? I've been reading this story repeatedly, I'm not sure why. I'm not a parent, but Alexie makes me feel like what it must be to be one and I think it's that unconditional love and faith (irrational as both may be at times) that he expresses so beautifully that keeps calling me back.

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