“I don’t purport to speak for every single person, but ‘living non-binary’, for me, will always feel more authentic than ‘identifying as non-binary’.” Adolfo Aranjuez, “Quest and Queerness”, Meanjin Quarterly, Autumn 2019.
“Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 8:7.17.
‘Civilization!’ was God’s inevitable reply to ‘Death!’. Abliq.
The first sign of the Northern Hemisphere Zodiac is like a tree in a wood you can only pick out from the air. It definitely has an identity, but what does that mean to the hiker who can only see the wood? The Northward Equinox, known to navigators as the First Point of Aries, is this year a shrinking 8.1° E along the Ecliptic from the westerly IAU boundary of Pisces, and today’s syzygy occurs 44.2° from the Equinox (roughly 44 days), and therefore 14.2° into the Northern Tropical Sign of Taurus, but obviously not the Bull we see, which was still visible last night on the western horizon an hour after sunset. So in the North you have a brace of fish smelling like a ram, followed by a restive ram chewing his cud. In the South, on the assumption Northern seasons can be simply turned upside-down, we have a haggling over the fish on the scales, followed by a ram trying to temper his assertiveness to mask a scorpion’s aggression.
Whether you use identity to attack or defend, or like Southern Hemisphere Astrology mystify it to undermine it at every turn, we must all deal with it, because no matter how desirable adaptability to change and equanimity in ambiguity may seem, definition and discrimination are here to stay. Most people couldn’t produce a line drawing to save themselves, but everybody can colour in. Walls, as for example in Zodiac divisions, are what humans are made of. Look at the great tide of humanity spilling over historical borders across the planet: what does it encounter, and what does it bring in the flood? Exclusion! Identity! Do the Southern Signs of an English night portend integration, in the way Northern Signs purported to in colonial times?
Every decision we make, every unconscious choice, every like on social media, is recorded in the folk story of our lives. Whether we like it or not, the author of that story is not us, and gravitating towards the most flattering opinion is not a journey. It’s just another wall, and every brick is delivered by a truck from Opportunism Quarry. (Yes, ‘quarry’ does mean prey.) Has your life been a journey, in some other sense? When did you begin it, may I ask, and what will you do when you reach your destination? Become a star, a string of code, a ‘desert’ island?
On the other hand, take as a given that something which has happened once is much more likely to happen again. Doesn’t this mean an eventual capitulation to plot, a reduction of creativity to fame for stuff done before by the forgotten, and a disincentive to push off from the oasis where all the acts eventually appear? Where are you going to find the impetus for a new chapter in your story about waiting here? How can life be a journey which doesn’t begin, a join-the-dots and colour-in boredom exercise bequeathed to us as four-year-olds?
Perhaps the destination is all there is, and every chapter we insert is an opportune postponement? Perhaps we are hurtling in the direction of Vega clutching a Book written backwards, and there is a nice, Home Counties explanation for the existence of a community of expatriate Chagossians in the south of England. A tree roots itself in the earth but grows out of the air, just like the Underworld. It ceases to defend itself with poison, thorn and madness when it discovers its nurture in the purpose of its material enemy to eat, sleep and be happy. Yes, the birds nesting in the tree and gobbling the nectar of its flowers are quite right to say, this is mine, as we are, warming our hands over the blaze of its timber. Meaning is opportune.
Opportunism is your colonial guarantee of being valued for what others can get out of you. Yes, ‘dependent arising‘ applies to identity, too, and to the human rights of the inhabitants sent packing when the British and American invasion of the Southern Hemisphere was cosily negotiated. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” (Article 9), indeed. It also applies to any likelihood of a United Nations recognition of the rights to self-determination of the Papuan indigenous people of Irian Jaya, but the opportunism of goldminers and their lawyers, skilled in the rights enshrined in Indonesian law, is another story. You get that in the Southern Hemisphere when the Moon is eclipsed by the Sun in the Constellation Aries!
What is the truth? Walls or holes? Where does the future come from? Does its logic determine or emerge? Will minorities forever fight to reduce each other’s figure to ground, or will socialism succeed where it has hitherto failed, to stamp humanity with a common weal? Will believers with arms uplifted in benediction forever bare their pockets to petty theft? Where on Earth does terrorism fit in? In what inhabitation of meaningless identity is the slaughter of children opportune? In what abdication of meaning does reified identity cringe behind, ‘The Christians have it coming’? If you leave your Hell in a worse state than you found it in, you may find your virgins wearing a similar disguise to your god, and Heaven may prove to be your absence.
There was once a boy named Jack, who changed the course of human history by throwing some beans out of a window. In those days, everyone knew that Heaven was the real world, and every dream and every calling, like every tree and birdsong, was rooted up there somewhere, in the Creator’s inscrutable purpose. Jack chopped the beanstalk down before the gardener in his hobnail boots could discover Jack in his Underworld, where roots of Heaven can be climbed to a marriage of Gaia and Uranus. Death in Heaven is a fairytale, promulgated by the opportunistic pedlars of a social history of fallen Neanderthals.