Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"I'ma Send You to TIMBUKTU!" and Other Stories ... (or) ... on Literature Itself

When I was a kid, there were a few mythical experiences in life that never, somehow, lived up to their hype. Snipe hunts amounted to a load of pointless wandering and taunting, often with a group of kids who didn't even like each other (see: taunting). Opposite days - where every word was an argument against itself. Pediatric exercises in negation and frustration, that was all the "magic" I ever understood.

Then there was Timbuktu. I don't know how prevalent this was outside my little slice of the world, but there was a magic by which my brother used to "send me to Timbuktu" - and I think other kids would say or do this to each other, too. To be sent to Timbuktu meant some hand gesture, perhaps, or a magic word - spoken by some hapless exilee, or by the ones wanting to send them away - and an instantaneous disappearance the victim never could perceive.

When my brother sent me to Timbuktu, he evinced the most astonishing inability to see or hear me anymore. Indeed, one might even say his imperception of me was overacted, almost. Now and then, other people might be present and play along as well.

Again: the ultimate in frustration. "I'm RIGHT HERE!" is perhaps the most pointless piece of dialogue between kids or in science fiction, in recorded (or invisible/inaudible) history.

So Timbuktu, to us, was no real place, it was just a neato sounding word some kid had appropriated to be mean, and its geography was simply the delineation of disempowerment of some poor other kid. Usually not for too long.

They lectured the townspeople on the evils of their cult of protector-saints, then began to smash the intricate carvings with pickaxes and metal crowbars.

It's a joy, then, to read a little history/politics/culture/reality/hope ... about Timbuktu, today.

Timbuktu is a rich skein in the cultural history of the world, and its treasures have been imperiled. But there are people who save our shared human legacy.

Imagine the Library of Alexandria, with allies covertly preventing its obliteration. Imagine an alternate ending to The Name of the Rose.

Imagine your TBR pile growing by just one more volume of narrative nonfiction.

Conserving, and protecting, the material evidence of human innovation, ingenuity - art.

We are worth saving. We are worth studying. We are worth questioning, and maybe sometimes revering. Humanity is like a field of corn, constantly shifting and perhaps too-rich with vermin or smut, or maybe too try to grow - but as a whole, absolutely hypnotizing to view, as the wind lifts some eddy and draws undulating patterns. As we contemplate what grows before us.

And ...

Let's not forget that we also lecture and smash and destroy the artifacts of culture when it hits our prejudices.

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