Fear demands a certain reading of reality. It forces anything unfamiliar to be named as dangerous. To take a stranger and paint them. To take a culture and blame them. And isn’t this world thick with the dripping paint of our prejudice.
A paint by numbers. Number one is white and privilege. Two is orange. Three is black. Four is privilege. Five is immigrant. Six is homeless. Seven is Muslim. Eight is conservative right. Nine is progressive left. Ten is red.
I have never been great at staying between the lines. Neither is my daughter.
Ursula was neither. Ursula Le Guin. She died two days ago. Her book Earthsea was monumental. Her writing was monumental. She was monumental. She painted over the lines that separated literature from fantasy from science-fiction from social-critique.
In 2014 she was given the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards. She said this,
‘Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.’
Realists of a larger reality. Painters outside the margins. This is who we are. This is who I desire to be. May imagination set us free from the constraints of our bigotry and our bias. May we see things that are not yet and name them as reality. The deeper reality. Beneath the fear. Beneath the ice of winter, when all is thought lost, the seed still waits for the spring. Our imagination is our hope and our hope denies the current ordering. Imagination calls us to a new reading of reality. That I may look at our world with Kaleidoscope eyes, to see the things we have forgotten, to remember freedom. That I may look at people with these same eyes, to see that behind the face of each person is a nuanced and complicated and messy splash of rainbow.
No more paint by numbers.
I have never been great at staying between the lines.
Neither is my daughter.
Neither was Ursula.
My hope is that you too would struggle with the same.