I wrote this in response to a prompt that was very particular and might not make sense outside a certain context. But the jist is that we were asked to see around us, something that had the characteristics of a fuse. There is a four part protocol of attention deployed here: encounter, attending, negating (see a filament, not a fuse, let it burn), and realizing. It’s a pretty extraordinary protocol for being present, and I like what my beach looked like when seen through its lens.
Protocol of Re-fusal
Encounter: Identify a fuse. What does it protect?
I am on the beach, casting about for something that connects, protects, defuses – maybe the dune? The jetty? These are human-built protectors, they defuse the ocean’s power and protect the beach and the town. They imitate nature and they repeat. The lifeguard stands, too. But no, this feels forced.
I am thinking aloud; my friend says, “the beach is the fuse.” (after my explaining attentional traps, she said, right, like the Duchamp peephole at the Art Museum, remember how you couldn’t look through until you grew tall enough? so its very construction made you desire to do its will, because it knew you wanted so much to look? YES EXACTLY!) And yes, the beach is the thing worth protecting.
It protects dolphins, cormorants, seagulls, crabs, terns, royal and ruddy, skimmers, foxes, flounders, minnows, rabbits, fisherpeeps, pelicans, toddlers, sanderlings, old people, husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. It protects the humans among these creatures from burning out; this summer it protects them, too, from the weird and isolating world we all left and to which we, at the end of this strange but, impossibly, still beautiful summer, have to return.
Here, we are all protected from the bad news. Everything seems ok. Except you don’t hug your friends, or your father, even though he is dying. Or because he is dying. Also sometimes boats go by with Trump flags that say “TRUMP 2020 NO MORE BULLSHIT” and they make you feel both vulnerable and ready to blow.
Attending: Is the fuse blown?
If the fuse is blown, people hardly know it. There are hints: sometimes we forget our masks when we head into town. We have to turn around and prepare to cover our faces. There is plastic in the ocean and fascism in the air; you can’t see it but you can feel it, sort of. Something has blown. Or is about to blow? Not knowing which is maybe the weirdest part.
But also, no. Somehow, inexplicably, the beach continues to defuse, to re-fuse, to refuse. In its incessant change, of color, of sky, of breeze, of dolphins and gulls playing, saying, look at us, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU GUYS it never stops being perfect, perfectly itself, and it brings peace, it defuses you, it calms you, it breaks your overheated circuits.
It receives our stories and our footprints and all our hopes for the next wave to wash the pressure away, like a breath, in, out, the pressure that builds up can be washed away. But we all know that at some point, the ocean will be full of our refuse, the point will be flooded from the warmth of the air and the pressure of the rains. So it hasn’t blown yet, I guess. Then again, we did have a storm last week and the power was out for two days. That was very unusual; everyone said, yeah, 2020.
Negation. It is not a fuse, it is a filament. As it burns, enjoy its light.
As it burns, feel its light.
This one is easy. This is the good part. If feeling the light is the negation, then the beach is the negation. Yes. Of isolation, of alienation, of worry, of shoes. The light is orange, and you can bathe in it. You can breathe it in. You can swim in it. It negates all the blocks. It burns, it nourishes, and it is fucking magnificent.
Realization: What needs to be refused? What needs to be re-fused?
What needs to be refused is everything that keeps us from this place, where we are fused with the world and with one another. We need to refuse the way in which this moment is considered marginal and the other is “real life.” The marginalization of play, of our natural selves, of natural time, this has to be refused. It’s a matter of life and death at this point. Under the logic of production not for need but for profit, every living system on earth is in a state of decline. I refuse this. I reject it. I want to light a fuse and blow it up. No more bullshit.
All I have ever wanted is to infuse refusal with this, the beach. I am not the first person to have had this thought.
What needs to be re-fused? The sand and the sole of the foot. The water and the flesh. The generations. The tribe. The skin of the mother and her babies. The water and the land. The human and the nonhuman. The homo and the ludens. People and the energy that makes waves. Also the oceanic and the intellectual.
It is scary to think of leaving this place; it seems to be absorbing, holding off the disaster.