It’s funny what sticks in one’s mind. There’s so much information around us that I find some of it isn’t quite what one thought after it’s been fact-checked. Memory glitches, brain farts, stupidity, or perhaps, serendipity.
Recently I workshopped a short story about a farmer who was peeing to mark his territory against coyotes, and someone in the critique group mentioned Farley Mowat had done that, hadn’t he? The bit of information seemed familiar, a sticky bit, and I wondered if I was referencing Mowat in the story. I searched the library and came away with a totally different book, Call of the Wild by Jack London.
Not the right book, not all. Major brain fart. But what harm could come from reading a children’s classic? Through Buck, the dog, London develops a thesis of power and leadership that is cunning and Machiavellian, claiming it is “natural.” What had inspired my story was a totally different way of being in the wild. I made notes, mentally, about the way Buck went after power among his fellow dogs, how he became a leader. I think I’ve used, and been on the receiving end, of some of the techniques.
Call of the Wild was not the book I wanted to read. It’s a violent, Lord of the Flies classic where the wild is savage. Yet it reminds me that there are narratives all around us about using violence to cripple others, to seize power. In some areas of the world, the violence is physical. Closer to home, the violence is more through withholding resources and information, character assassination, isolation.
This makes politics difficult, when it’s about power rather issues. I can’t remember where I read this, but someone said that a campaign for justice is on the right track when the attacks become personal, when the isolating begins. That it’s part of the cycle of change and it’s bloody. But it’s a mark of being on the right path. I think of Maude Barlow as being an example of this.
Another version of the wild is still stuck in my head. It’ll be interesting to see if Never Cry Wolf is the story where the man marks his territory in the wild with his pee, and not with firearms. I’ll be tracking the book down, circling the text, isolating the words when I find them–not to savage anything but to understand.