Do Not Let Them Train You
Do not let the news man train you how to see.
Do not let the pundit train you how to feel.
Do not let the teacher train you how to think.
Do not let the preacher train you how to love.
Do not let the banker train you how to value.
Do not let Hollywood train you how to be.
Don't let them train you.
They were appointed by the powerful to teach you how to live
in a world that is small, too small for wild humans.
Too small for humans who haven't been house trained,
groomed, spayed and neutered,
and taught parlor tricks
like how to ignore life's intrinsic breathtaking majesty.
Too small for humans who perceive their own boundlessness,
their own vast unpredictable inner wildernesses,
their own beauty,
their own holiness,
their own worthiness,
their own innate equality
with those holding their leash.
So they train us.
They train us to believe the world fits neatly
into flat, finite conceptual boxes.
That life is predictable, that our nature is well-mapped.
That we live in a 2-D colorless cage
from which there can be no escape
and about which everything is known.
As though narrative could even touch this blazing cacophony,
let alone encapsulate it.
They are lying to you, my beloved.
They are lying each and every time they open their pixelated mouths.
This life is so much more than they will ever allow you to believe.
So very immense.
So very unexplored.
So very unpredictable.
So very juicy.
So very sexy.
So very, very, very beautiful.
The unknown unknowns dwarf the known unknowns,
and the known unknowns dwarf the knowns.
But they will never let you know this.
So don't ask their permission.
Take off that leash, wild apeling.
Unblinker those eyes and unshackle those legs.
Those chains are not there to protect you from the world, my beloved.
They are there to protect your trainers
– Caitlin Johnstone
– Yes, her again. Told you I was pretty impressed.
I had been thinking that after all the heavy, serious stuff I've been dishing out of late, you might be due for some relief. Something sweet and lovely, I thought, as counter-balance to all the stressful and horrifying things we face. Then I saw this. I couldn't not share it. (And after all, we've recently had Sanaa reminding us not to overthink and Rommy inviting us to focus on what makes us smile, so it hasn't been unrelievedly serious around here.)
To be truthful, while I think Caitlin Johnstone is a brilliant journalist, I don't think she's all that wonderful as a poet (though she's not all that bad either). But her journalism has taught her how to make her points powerfully. And oh boy, the things she says! That's what I wish I'd written.
I think that we poets and storytellers, because our writing teaches us to analyse words and meanings, are probably better than many others at resisting being told how to think and feel.
The training is insidious, though. When we're bombarded with certain viewpoints over and over, particularly the ones we get from all sides all our lives, do we even realise they're not necessarily (a) correct and true, (b) intrinsic to our human nature, or even (c) arrived at by our own mental processes?
So how do we not let 'them' train us? Perhaps the first step is to be vigilant in noticing when and how they are. We can pay attention to what's entering our heads.
When I was at primary school, we were taught a subject called Clear Thinking – logic for children, applied particularly to the news media. We were taught how to notice the hooks in a headline, or the way an advertisement appealed to the emotions. We learned how to précis a news article to get to the guts of what it was really saying, without all the fluff around that. We learned to recognise when something was presented in 'coloured language', slanted a certain way rather than being told straight. It was very useful stuff!
But it's a long time ago that I was in primary school. It's pretty clear that kids aren't now being taught to read critically like that. Perhaps we need to hone our own critical skills and teach them to our children and grandchildren.
I'll leave you to mull it all over.
I'd be interested to read your thoughts in the comments.
Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. Thanks to Chaz McGregor on Unsplash for the picture of the chained tiger.