Phone book or the bible, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not familiar with the late, great Toots Hibbert, and you don’t have access to just about any recording of Toots and the Maytals’ performing their song Pressure Drop, this is, uncannily, about as good of an introduction as any. (You may have to click in to the tweet to be able to play the YouTube video.)
Consider the chickens. The brief essay of that name by Zito Madu zooms in on a story that would become synonymous with the drive, early-emerging greatness, and gentle nature of the late John Lewis. It’s the story of Lewis preaching to chickens in his backyard as a young boy, a story Lewis seems to have remembered fondly and told to others many times in his life. As I recall, it’s also illustrated beautifully in the first volume of March.
Zito Madu is interested in breaking this vignette out from its inevitable function as a myth-making story that represents the seeds of who Lewis would grow up to be and the ways he would engage with the world. He presents it in isolation, as its own self-contained moment that would be rich with meaning even if it didn’t connect up to what we know came after. I love where he goes with it. Here’s an excerpt:
“…What delights me about the story, why it’s remained a joy to think about after his death and during a time of so much suffering, is that I picture him as a boy, without a sense that he would become a great man one day, taking his duty with the chickens so seriously, believing that those small creatures – inconsequential in the grand scheme of things except to be food for his family – deserved to have their souls saved. He saw that they were worth caring for, body and spirit.
Never mind whether it was possible to truly save the animals’ souls; his caretaking was endearing because of the responsibility that he felt towards them. I give the story the same isolated gravity that the young Lewis gave to his task. It is important on its own. It must have been one of the most important duties to him at that time.
It also makes me happy to think of the older Lewis being so proud of his stewardship of those chickens that he continued to tell the story to people around him and in public speeches even in old age…”
Bees as essential workers:
“Future grief.” Following some of the foremost futurists has already bore some fruit for me. I recently came across a quick back and forth between Jamais Cascio and Joseph Voros about the need for a term that would describe the feeling of a newly foreclosed future outcome. Cascio says he’s looking for a phrase that means something like “Wisftul recollection of lost futures.” Voros chimes in with a link to a notion he had written about back before the new year and the Covid-19 pandemic:
Michelle Goldberg @michelleinbklynI’ve read about climate grief, the despair felt by climate scientists watching helplessly as something precious and irreplaceable is destroyed. Lately I think I’m experiencing democracy grief. https://t.co/LCcFxIwvZP
Future grief. Just saying those two words together makes my chest sink a little. I also think of the clever visual device Back To The Future employed where the people in a photograph dim as it becomes less likely that the events of that photograph will ever be able to take place.
Thankfully when I need my chest lifted back up, I can scroll back up one banana to the essay on John Lewis’ preaching to chickens, and it swells right on up again.
Another in the line of moments from our current world that will look really strange to future lookers looking back at it and trying to make sense of it.
A signoff that can replace your “regards” and “best”
A way to learn Robert’s Rules of Order through the game mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons
Those are the bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and it’ll go only to me. Thank you.