Waking up in Trickster time
Most of the travelers, liars, thieves, and shameless personalities of the twentieth century are not tricksters at all, then. Their disruptions are not subtle enough, or pitched at a high enough level. Trickster isn’t a run-of-the mill liar and thief. When he lies and steals, it isn’t so much to get away with something or get rich as to disturb the established categories of truth and property and, by so doing, open the road to possible new worlds.
-Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art
As soon as you lose connection to the sacred world, all you have is the con man...and that’s not trickster. Danny Deardorff
The storytellers say we’re living in trickster time. We’re even our own tricksters, taking selfies and curating our online lives based on a combination of ego and external forces telling us what we may or may not say. We live by design. By whose design do we live? Our own? Our governments’? Our gods’?
Everyday our screens try to win our attention with images and stories. We watch our politicians and our celebrities. But how do we know if they’re even real anymore? We’ve been outsourcing our memories for centuries, first storing our once oral stories on the page and now sending them off into the cloud, where faceless mega-corporations tell us they’ll be safe. We have faith in Them. We tithe with our credit cards and wait for the mysterious algorithm to choose the next “surprise” memory from our collection. We let the Them pick which of our days were the best, based on how many “views” it got. We approve the algorithm’s suggested edits to make our lives look even better.
What if one day a photo “memory” popped up that was unfamiliar? That you had no real memory of? Yet there you are, in the boat or at that party, with those other smiling people. Is the photo the “proof” of your life, or is your own mind? Who wins?
What if your whole online library was hacked, all your videos copied? What if someone started a whole new online life on your behalf without your knowledge? Which one would be real? What if “other you” became a youtube celebrity? What if other you was “filmed” committing a crime and that video “leaked” to the world? How would you prove it wasn’t you before the mob got to your house?
Human communities used to keep their stories in themselves. They passed them down one to another, like sacred chains. These days most of us have turned away from each other. Instead, we place our stories into the collective online receptacle of social media. We all worship at the same glimmering screen pool and hope that maybe someone will notice our small offerings and think us special, at least for the split second it takes them to double tap and “like” us. The Data Dealers shuffle us like cards.
Have you every been tricked into giving something away? Has a story ever hacked your mind? Repetitive words knock at our synapses... newnormal...experts...newnormal... experts...newnormal...Expert has become a venerated word in the new technocracy. Our Expert, hallowed be thy test results....
The true Trickster of the old stories doesn’t want to sell you shampoo or snake oil. He’s there to make things happen, to cause the necessary chaos that results in reawakening. He’s a shape-shifter, a mischief maker, a daring rogue, a wise fool, a dealer in edge medicine. You’re meant to invite him to the table, but also keep an eye on him. If he spots an opening to pull a prank, he’ll do it. It’s the fuel that powers him. If he weren’t for him, things might get stale. Things are never boring with Trickster around.
In the modern world, a trick is being played (and played and played) but few are waking up. We apply the snake oil and await our healing. We expose different parts of ourselves, toss our content into the data collection bowl and wait to see if we’ll be anointed with acceptance. We’re told the more accepted you are, the more you’re worth. And if you’re not accepted, Daddy Data could take away your store of magic numbers that lets you secure food and shelter for your family. So best to be accepted.
I see you, Loki
You’ve turned yourself into a fish again
But I see you
Your old friends are here
They hold the evidence of your deceit
They say your last game was more than mischief
They say you’ve gone too far this time
You know there will be consequences
Come out Loki
Here is the net
Wake up. This screen is not your life. Your heart is beating in your chest. You breathe. The screen can’t reflect your true aliveness. Ever. It can never be you, never know you, never display you in all your perfections and imperfections. Don’t let your beauty be crushed into a square, your life splayed between digital slides for strangers’ thumbs to scroll past. You are so much more exquisite than that.
Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.
Take a 24-hour screen fast at least once a week. See the blank stare of your television, your laptop, the dull eye of the camera lens. Feel the tug of your phone, all the red bell promises of New Data, New Notifications, New Updates. Every time you feel the tug, go out and touch nature. Stroke a leaf, smell a flower, crush your toes in the sand. Start to retrain your impulses.
If you can’t do this at least once a week, ask yourself why not. If you find you can’t stay away from your phone for more than a few hours, ask yourself why. Sit yourself down and have the hard chat about addiction. No excuses.
Okay then. Love you.