How to Look at Life Until you Really see it

Can words deflect the propaganda of greed and champion hope?

An upside-down wheelbarrow with red wheels and a kayak the color of sickly human pose silently on a corrugated roof next to a skulls and crossbones flag. A golden yellow brick wall defies a sky of dust bunnies.

Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, they do not dance.

A freshly manured field turns into a sea breeze and back into fertilizer again, with alternating squawks, an electric saw solo, and a couple of Scottish builders providing the afternoon’s playlist. The coast I smell is a 20-minute bike ride away and I yet have to see it. Unloved and deprived of regular rides, a forlorn omafiets forgets the shape of my bottom. At some point, the back tire must have let out one final sigh.

My steely steed and I grounded each other. I no longer expect to grow in height; the saddle is unwilling to give an inch.

The solution is separation.

There are two capital As in the room.

In the background, a wispy white wire one holds fresh laundry aloft; a smaller, chunkier dark gray one with two short fins on the right side holds my attention. Until that moment, the understated gravitas of the improvised side table had eluded me.

Taking a picture with words makes it last longer, bringing all senses online at once. In a disposable culture, words are the immersive experience photography, video, or music no longer provide.

We know how to look but we’ve forgotten how to see, unable to piece together information. Unless it is laid out on a page with a description of what we’re looking, reading comprehension seems to have deserted us. We no longer have writing but blocks of text optimized for skimming, i.e. formatted into oblivion.

Wah-no, wah-no, wah-no.


Fully functional human brains are bugs in greed’s operating system rather than a feature in one emphasizing the common good, like European social democracies. Here, education doesn’t mean being in debt until you retire, health is a basic human right, and medical bankruptcy isn’t a thing.

Education and health care are legs and no one expects you to crawl.

How to mollify malleable minds with meaninglessness for optimal manipulation is a, mmm, marketing scam. In 2020, yummy Napoleon ‘Nap’ Hill has internet access, social media entrepreneurship to sell, and rad typing skills. The Nap model seeds and scales and spawns endless streams of clones, copycats, and clickbait colonizers with innumerable Musk mindsets but minus the mind or the assets.

Mindset isn’t a portmanteau word; greed isn’t the only hustle.

The new snake oil is manifesting money with words on the internet. Only now most of the internet is Mars, much too hot for intelligent life.

So you seethe and simmer and swear.

And then you soothe and stammer and sing anyway.

Greed doesn’t grow empathy, it eats it. Greed is also allergic to joy, allergic to art, and allergic to fear: Spiritual poverty has gone viral.

If thinking is contraband and suppressed by censors then meaning will have to be coded and secreted between the lines, behind the words, beyond the page. You can ponder how to infuse the impossible with visible, audible, and palpable cues crammed into negative space. Find your cultural edge, everyone one has at least one. If you need inspiration, Alissa Quart reports with poetry, for example.

Could poetry be the trump card that unfolds hope into a literal world and make life bearable and even enjoyable for a while?

Can poetry deliver messages no one wants to hear when we sing out of key?It’s very, very, very fun to write, reads like a treasure hunt, and starts conversations.

The payoff was always hiding in plain sight.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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