Spoken Word Art
This piece was written for a recent Footsteps event, at which there was a doctor, several lawyers, an amateur statistician, a few seasoned rhetoricians, and lots of wannabe academics.
An old friend sent me an email a while ago:
Can you give me an OTD who as far as I can see isn’t depressed?
Can you give me an OTD who has found Success?
What is success? I asked.
Success, my friend said, is a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, an academic.
Well… Do we have any doctors? (In fact we do.)
But what we don’t have are those
doctors of souls. Those
men of wisdom who will
heal your mind. Blind
faith, they’ll say, will cure your heart, but apart
from retaining the wisdom of fools, staining
your brain’s temporal lobes, your cerebral cortexes
sucked into vortexes that will drown your thoughts in a morass of muck, fuck
with your mental equilibrium, render your logic distorted, contorted
in mental gymnastics neither flexible nor balanced,
you’ll still remain ill with disgust,
your mind in dogmatic delirium,
your sickly conscience disturbed,
for fear of failing to curb
Thank goodness, we don’t have one of those physicians.
Do we have any lawyers? (In fact, we have many.)
But oh, do we have lawyers, master rhetoricians who will cross
examine your ass so fast at the slightest hint
of superstition, petition your mind
for caution, demand suspicion
of those who declare themselves “devout”–if you shout,
they won’t stumble, they’ll knock you out
with frightfully reasonable doubt.
Yes, they’re advocates of reason,
freezing the poisonous voices of those
who accuse us of treason, those who excuse
the abuses of persons with toxic perversions.
Our advocates won’t please your populist notions of adhering to age old devotions
only to satisfy infantile emotions.
Our statisticians will prove the fraud of your Bible Codes:
equidistant lettering purportedly fettering the heretical sanity
by deluding the ignorant masses with an illusion
that passes for scientific reality.
We have no Aryeh Kaplans, no Gerald Schroeders, malodorous
proponents of onerous premises, recasting genesis
as the big bang, and yet, they call themselves physicists.
Sure, a lyricist might offer a song and a rhyme,
comparing universes to watches, with gears so finely aligned,
the watchmaker must be divine.
But our young probing minds decline to resign
to the blind assertions of intelligent design.
Academics, he says. Do we have academics.
One thing about this very loud crowd is that we put academics
to shame. Our polemics are so inflamed we make sophists look lame.
We’re badass nerds, roaring dorks, geeks kicking hard bookish butt.
Stick around a few years, watch and see
the ex-Satmar kid with the GED get his Ph.D.
and you too will wish you were OTD.
And yeah, we teach too. We’ll teach you to philosophize, to theorize
on how good your butt and thighs look in those jeans. Or, the means
with which to get friendly with a girl during your
advanced calculus class. Or lock eyes
with that cute guy in the lab.
We’ll teach you it’s ok to be you.
Man or woman. Gay, straight, queer–or are you unsure?
Dude, we’re just happy you’re here.
And when things get rough, we’ll teach you the best part of a shoulder to cry on.
And afterwards, we’ll teach you what it means to stand strong,
to take the pain the world throws your way, take it to a lab, and return a positive result.
We’ll teach you that family isn’t only defined by blood, and
like family, we might annoy you, tease you, disagree with you, sometimes we’ll even fight with you,
but when you need us, we’ll also laugh and cry with you.
Success, he asks.
Success, my friend, is escape from repression.
Successful is she whose abuses are only a distant memory.
A successful O-T-D, according to me, is one who left and kept his sanity.