Since my last post, I’ve been considering the responsibilities and possibilities and challenges of entering the conversations of public discourse. What are the forums and affordances of public “conversation”? What constitutes (conventional, alternative, productive) participation?
Today I read:
“Trickster discourse does ‘play tricks,’ but they aren’t malicious tricks, not the hurtful pranks of an angry child; instead, the tricks reveal the deep irony that is always present in whatever way we choose to construct reality. Trickster discourse is deflative; it exposes the lies we tell ourselves and, at the same time, exposes the necessity of those lies to our daily material existence. Trickster discourse asks ‘Isn’t the world a crock of shit?,’ but also answers with ‘Well, if we didn’t have this crock of shit, what would we do for a world?’ The trickster asks us to be fully conscious of the simple inconsistencies that inhabit our reality.”
— Malea Powell, “Blood and Scholarship: One Mixed-Blood’s Story” (1999)
…and breathed a sigh of relief and recognition at this reminder of the endless permutations of participation in “public” (however constituted) “conversation” (in the broadest sense).
A story of tricksters: In May, Tim and I went to Seattle for the “Rhetoric Society of America” conference, where we diligently balanced academic presentations with tourism with hipster Seattle-philia. One night as we wandered looking for a “real” bar off the tourist track, we found one with a small patio occupied by several punks (to use a convenient label — sorry), one of whom wore a Mexican wrestling mask and all of whom jumped and roared in wrestling-style voices. As we grabbed a drink and settled in for the show, the guys soon engaged us in their (‘shroom-enhanced) fun; within 10 minutes Tim was wearing the mask while I chatted with one about various definitions of rhetoric. By the end of the evening we were exchanging cheek-kisses and invitations to crash in our respective cities.
“The trickster asks us to be fully conscious of the simple inconsistencies that inhabit our reality.”
That evening, these guys messed with some versions of reality: mine for one, by revealing yet again the radical inconsistencies between most connotations of/associated with punk culture and my actual experiences of their open-minded, friendly invitations to join their trickster play.
But more “publically,” they conversed with everyone around them — those that dodged their sidewalk wrestling only to receive polite apologies, those that expected something entirely different from a zen-themed bar, those intrigued to hear academic conversations commingled with affection violence and tattoo show-and-tell — and all of those that just wanted to get their heads in that pink-and-gold mask… and, I think, become tricksters in turn. Now that’s influence…