Determining Who You Are

This is a post in response to Catherynne Valente’s post title, “I Am The Walrus”. In it, she mentions that students from a school she did a reading at would sit at the library and pull out a random book from the animal section and declare that their friend was that animal. A cute idea about what makes us unique, and how to define us leaving it entirely up to the universe. She writes:

And it’s more than metaphors–it’s divination. It’s folklore. If I close my eyes and reach out into this collection of randomly-ordered images, whatever my fingers find will say something essential about me, or my friend who wears glasses, or the lady with black hair and the red book who came to talk to our class today. It will not say what they’re like, it will say what they are, deep down inside.SoIf I choose a worm for myself, I will be sad, because it means I am a worm and I have this whole set of ideas about what worms are. If I choose a tiger, I will be happy, because I also have ideas about what tigers are and in the world I live in it’s better to be a tiger than a worm. What animal I am tells a story about what kind of person I am, and what my life will be like when I grow up.

It’s this incredibly basic thing, somewhere between magic and storytelling, and you can see exactly where fairy tales come from in these boys grabbing blue books like Tarot cards, like runes. Where totems come from, and fetishes, and half the shamanic toolbox–oh, no Miss Cat, we’ll draw for you. If you draw your own it doesn’t count. Those are the rules.

No one taught them to do it. No one taught them those rules–though certainly there are cultural narratives at play in their reactions to drawing The Rhinoceros versus The Kitten. Though I found it wonderful that with the exception of the flamingo, all of my animals were the sort usually masculinized–big and strong and somewhat dangerous–and they didn’t question it at all. The draw has spoken. Nor did they express particular dismay at being butterflies or swans. It wasn’t about what kind of animals they liked. It was a deeper magic, as a certain lion would say.

Today, I was using an app that I found from The Poetry Foundation where you open it and click “Spin” and it will present you with a poem. I was taken immediately back to Valente’s post. I think it’s a great idea, as it not only lets you explore new poets but it also seems to say something about the reader. I mean, today I’m superiorly grouchy, and it came up with Grief and Celebrations. Irony? Definitely. Just thought I’d share with everyone, as I think Valente hits a great point. We rely on the universe to tell us facts about ourselves, that usually end up having great meaning. If you wanted to be a tarot reader, it’d be easy, or a fortune teller, because there’s always some way to make the answers seem vague enough to have some sort of truth. It makes it seem as though there’s *something* out there that knows things, you know? Like a collective unconscious or an energy that connects us all. I don’t know, I’m getting too theological here. Just some thoughts.


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