The Poison

When I was still living in Providence my father and I went to play tennis one afternoon at my high school. There were two men playing on the court adjacent to ours, and as my father and I began warming up I witnessed the following: Both the men were serious tennis players and evenly matched. They played at full speed, and their serves and groundstrokes had the compact intensity that only comes from regular practice and regular competition. One of the men was a bit heavy, a detail I might not have taken any notice of were it not for a kind of exterior monologue that ran throughout his game.

“Come on now, you fat bastard!” he shouted as he prepared to receive a serve. “Hit it this time. Hit it! Oh! How could you have missed that? Is it because you’re a fat lazy bastard? All right! Now that’s how to hit it! McEnroe!” (This was his patron saint). “Come on, McEnroe. Oh, you fat, lazy, stupid, bastard. How could you have missed that?”

It was incredible. My father and I cut our game short.

It has been my observation that the people most likely to beat the drum of evolution – which is the drum of change, of the ceaseless, creative, expansive impulse within all of known life – are the very same people to sing the sad song of human wretchedness. No verse is sadder in this song than the one that cries humanity will never change. All of life evolves, apparently, except us.

Unless, of course, we all admit we are fat, ugly bastards. We must admit our wretchedness or risk remaining so forever – forever racist, forever at war, forever corrupt. Without this constant reminder, evolution will apparently not visit us. And yet it does despite this song. It visits us despite the inverted perception that by some magic we might swallow the poison of self-loathing and see it transformed within us to the nourishment of self-love.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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