Show Notes – Episode #2:

On Pretending – plus a bit more on Rebelling Against Death…

Pretending… any serious actor will agree that it’s a fine art. Yet hardly anyone but little children takes it seriously. For most of us, our imagination begins to atrophy from neglect after we pass the age of seven, and we never experience the power of pretending intentionally, with all our heart and soul.

That’s what this episode is about.

Before getting into that, however, I had to respond to a complaint from the first episode. One of our listeners reached out to explain they liked my poems and stories very much, but what exactly did I mean by “rebelling against death”?

That knocked me for a loop. After all, what I meant was perfectly clear to me! But once again I had to remember what I so often forget: that not everyone is just like me, and sees things the same way I do.

So in this, our second episode, I attempt to clarify what I meant. I talk about how in our culture death is taboo. But even though we don’t talk about it, and try not to think about it, the fear of it dogs our footsteps. We have a million ways to run away from it – but no matter what we do, how we distract ourselves, when we turn around, it’s still there: the mother of all fears, lurking just out of sight but never completely out of mind…

So most of us just keep running, trying to ignore it, until it’s on top of us. But there’s another option, something anyone with a little gumption can do: we can rebel against death.

By rebelling against death, I simply mean being fully alive, alive in every moment. This time I give a number of suggestions for how to do that, and tell the story of a good friend’s mother, my inspirational Death Rebel poster child, who lived happily to be over 100 and when asked her secret, said simply, “I always love what I do.”

We switch gears with a little song about an octopus in the closet, and then move on to the piece de resistance: the fine art of pretending.

Pretending is one of the most powerful tools in any death rebel’s tool chest. And like rebelling against death, it has both life-giving and life-dulling uses. We all know about the life-dulling uses – all the different forms of escape that the imagination can indulge in…

The life-giving uses, though less well-known, are just as available to all of us and just as doable. I talk about a few of the legion ways we can use pretending and the imagination to enliven us, to give us the strength and courage to battle even death itself. As testimony, I tell my own story of how pretending saved me from obsessive anxiety by putting me in touch with a deep inner peace.

Because it’s not true that we can only be happy in happy circumstances. With a little intentionality and heartfelt pretending, anyone can be happy even in a world like today’s, where violence erupts at the drop of a hat and fear and doubt loom everywhere…

We end this episode with a reading of my mid-pandemic epic poem: The Great 21st Century Poemic, and an invitation to drop in for one of our “play dates” in the Community of Silo’s Message…

The Great 21st Century Poemic

It struck one day

out of the blue,

cropping up all at once

in random spots

all across the planet

The first known cases

were a small boy

in Lincoln, Nebraska,

whom his mother found

one morning

reciting strange

and beautiful words

a small smile

on his small face

and

a grandmother

in Melbourne, Australia,

who was caught

that very same day

wandering the aisles

of a department store

reciting verses

from the Tang Dynasty

After that

the Poemic spread

lickety split

leaping like lightning

across whole continents

and oceans

In London

a mother of six woke up

spouting Tennyson

and in no time

her entire family was babbling

in iambic pentameter

In Buenos Aires a family

was stricken

with the odes of Pindar

in the original

ancient Greek

In Beijing

a whole neighborhood

was infested

with Billy Collins

And so it went.

How the Poemic was able

to spread itself

so far and wide

so fast

no one knew

At first

it was thought to be passed

simply through the spoken word

but soon

infectious particles

were discovered

hitching rides on sound waves,

in rays of sunlight

and even nestled

in random thoughts

Scientists also knew

that however it flew

it was always spewing out

more and more spores

that would land

take hold

and grow

anywhere

It was only

a matter of time

before the entire economy

of the world

had settled

into a deathly peaceful lull.

In the factories

no one stood on the assembly lines

In the banks

no one begged for loans

and no one doled them out

In the schools

no one taught the state curriculum

and no one was bored

Day after day

everyone

everywhere

simply dreamt the time away

to the murmured

declamation

of immortal poetry

both ancient

and new

Everyone assumed

that soon

the infection

would burn itself out

and things would go back

to normal

But instead

the Poemic only settled in

with a happy gurgle

sinking its teeth

deep into the tender underbelly

of the human genome

And so it went

for days

and weeks

and months

and years…

Suffice it to say

that to this day

no known victim

has ever recovered

This is perhaps

a loss for History

but all things considered

no one

seems to be

complaining

Because

after the first onslaught

things began to change

in quite unobjectionable ways

People began to go about their days

speaking in poetry

and fixing things

and before long

no one was going hungry

no one was left out in the cold

no one sick was left uncared for

no one old was forgotten

no one sad was ignored

and no one anywhere

was afraid

of dying lonely

and alone

Instead

people sang

while they made soup

and someone

was always baking cookies

Farmers smiled

at their cows

and hummed

while they fertilized their fields

Scientists

stopped scorning testimonies

of life after death

Physicians healed

by laying on of hands

Chemists formulated

harmless potions

that dissolved pain

Teachers

led children into the fields

to study bugs and flowers

and wade in streams

and catch pollywogs

Young people studied

what they loved

and got paid

in poems

That was how it happened

that people stopped hurting each other

and simply did

what needed to be done,

and when the time came for rest

they sat together on porches

and admired the way

the dust motes danced

in rays of the sun

And little by little

in every place

every last member

of the human race

began to wake up each day

with a smile on their face

for no rational reason

at all.

happy and peaceful

in every way

for no rational reason at all.

Music:

Intro and outro: “Follow Me” 

Octopus interlude: “Little struggles” 

Both tunes by IRCarus Ensemble, Portland, Oregon, 2021

The Day of the Winged Lioness Podcast – Episode #2 – Pretending: An Essential Death Rebel Skill

Trudi Lee Richards

Trudi Lee Richards, a poet-bard of Silo’s Message, is the author of "Confessions of Olivia"; "On Wings of Intent, a biography of Silo"; "Soft Brushes with Death"; and "Experiences on the Threshold." Exactly two of her poems have ever been published: "Fairies of the Forest," which appeared in the Palo Alto Times "Youth Said It" column in 1957, and "The Great 21st Century Poemic," which appeared in the April 2021 edition of Global Poemic (globalpoemic.wordpress.com). She also edited and published the independent San Francisco newspaper "Human Future" from 1989-1997, and before that co-founded "La Mamelle," a '70s San Francisco arts publication. A graduate of Stanford University, she helped raise several humans from infancy, and is now enjoying their friendship. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon.