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Excerpts

First and Then
Frankly, I just don't know where to begin to save the world.

Maybe if I could locate some small corner of it, some small problem, one that was manageable. But, if it was manageable then it wouldn't really be a problem and there's no point saving anything unless there is a problem, a substantial problem—one I could measure, one I could control. But if I could control it, would it be such a problem? I mean isn't the biggest problem the fact that things are out of control? How do you begin controlling things that are out of control? You've got to get some control of it before you get it under control. I need to find some small out of control part that I can control. You wouldn't blame me for wanting to control some small out of control part. I mean you wouldn't think I was a control freak or anything. I'm just trying to save the world.

And I've been trying to save it all along for as long as I can remember. First, as an infant actor, then as a child, then as a college dropout songwriter, as a comedienne, a playwright, then as a game show question writer, then as a monologist…it was all so overwhelming—

until I saved the world as a griever-retriever in the lost land of feelings.

But you can't grieve and retrieve in the lost land of feelings as an upstanding citizen in the world of good-riddance, unless you call yourself a poet, and you can't save the world as a poet unless you make a career out of it, but everyone told me poetry doesn't sell unless you're famous, and I'm famous for rhyming in obscurity with no interest in a career in the sublime.

I tried to make a career out of educating people about the lost land of feelings…but not as a teacher. I tried to make a career out of guiding people into the lost land of feelings, via the emotions…but not as a therapist. I tried to catalyze people into locating the lost land through art, but not as an art therapist.

So, I tried to make a career as a rhyming town crier but tears get bad press, poetry doesn't sell, and the lost land of feelings isn't on the map, so I'm just stumped on how to get people to think favorably about feelings.

Most people don't even think about feelings or think about how they think about feelings or whether or not they think favorably about feelings, so they probably just try to control them—

—but you can't have feelings and control feelings at the same time, and if you can't have feelings, I mean really have them, you can't think favorably about them. If you can't think favorably about them, you can't have them. And if you can't have them, you'd have to control them. If you thought favorably about them, you wouldn't try to control them…

…unless you're an actor.

I started acting at the age of six days old when my mother hemorrhaged after delivering me and was returned to the hospital. Everybody was pretty freaked out about it but I just acted like I didn't care.

I think I had pretty good acting instincts as a newborn and I knew if I acted that way someone would hold me, so I acted like I had nothing to cry about. I think it worked. I think people held me. I've seen pictures of people holding me.

So, acting proved to be a pretty good deal. Every time something got out of control, I acted like I was fine and because my mother prayed to the God of Funny, I acted fine and Funny from 1951 to 1991.

And then I realized I needed to cry.

So I stopped acting in 1991 and started crying—for six years. That's when I landed in the lost land of feelings. My migraine headaches disappeared and that's when I began to think I could save the world.


The Problem At Random
The problem with saving the world is you can't just do it at random and expect to make a living out of it. So I went to a career counselor and she told me if I wanted to save the world, I'd better get an agent and the agent said I'd better get a publishing deal, and the editor said it isn't commercial so I went to a Quaker and he suggested I start a revolution or a nonprofit organization or found a religion but I couldn't decide so I went back to the career counselor and she told me to go to a public relations firm and they told me to find a backer so I found a backer but she told me to help the children and I insisted we help the adults so they stop hurting the children so she went off on a ski trip and I went back to the career counselor and told her I still wanted to save the world so she told me to go to a therapist or take a nap or take out a loan…so I quit going to the career counselor.

Then I had an insight.

I realized I didn't want to save the world I just wanted to give it a piece of my mind. But what if the world didn't want that piece? What if the world didn't recognize that that was precisely the piece, the very piece it needed to be saved? What if, somehow, I could get the world to recognize that I had the piece it was after? And what if the world took that piece and wanted more? And what if it wanted more after that, after that and after that? What if I wanted to keep a piece for myself and the world thought me selfish and negligent of my debt? What if I gave the world my last piece and the world returned it, unopened?


I Wanted To But
I wanted to save the world today but I got too many phone calls.

I wanted to save the world today but I got a headache because I couldn't cry.

I wanted to save the world today but I had to make lunch first and that took up half the morning.

I wanted to save the world today but I think I had one too many frozen bananas this week.

I wanted to save the world today but my blood sugar is wreaking havoc.

I wanted to save the world today but I had an argument with this acquaintance of mine. I think it was something I said.

I wanted to save the world today but I'm beginning to wonder if the tendons in my knee are demineralizing. I think it was something I ate for 30 years.

I wanted to save the world today but I can't decide whether I should tell people I'm a woman who writes or a writer who acts or a person who cares or a Jewish girl who comes from the suburbs, or a comedian who wants to be taken seriously, or a playwright who writes books or a poet who writes monologues or a wife with no children or a daughter who's in exile or an emotion literacy advocate who invites people to invite tears.

I wanted to save the world today but I'm fed up with the Internet.

I wanted to save the world today but I'm tired of competing.

I wanted to save the world today but I'm missing a few degrees.

I wanted to save the world today but I've never gotten a Pulitzer.

I wanted to save the world today but my accountant moved to Slovakia.

I wanted to save the world today but I'm disorganized and I can't stop pulling my hair out.

I wanted to save the world today but I'm not on national news.

I wanted to save the world today but I'm afraid of flying, alcohol-based perfume and fabric softener.

I wanted to save the world today but I over-slept and now it's time for dinner.


These Children
Two years ago, I read some poetry to kids in detention. If I thought it was adding insult to injury, I wouldn't have done it. But at the time, I thought my poetry was key.

I had written a book that unlocked parts of myself I never knew existed. I was enthralled and unspooked. I had summoned my ghosts, danced with them ‘til dawn and when the dust settled, my insight measured 20/20.

Never before had my words brought me to such a place. I liked this place. I needed this place. I wanted to inhabit this place with the whole wide world. It changed my neurons, my way of relating and cracked the code of emotion literacy—

—to be in this place is to save the world.

Surely these boys in detention would see the light off these pages and be bathed by their glow. Surely these boys in detention would understand the power in tracking the source of original feeling. Surely they'd see the elegance of grieving and the strength of retrieving the ability to feel.

Surely they'd understand the gravity in holding their parents accountable.

One day a boy wrote about his undying loyalty to a brutal father. Another day, a boy cackled and gave me the slip every time I called on his heart. There was a boy in the back—a natural-born leader. His writing made myopia sound like the Sermon on the Mount. Parenthood was a sacred image to behold as long as he was holed up in a prison and feelings were as expendable as these children.

The semantics of imprisonment crashed head-on. I pulled my poetry from the wreck and poised my pen for prose.


More Approachable
I was going to save the world tonight but they wanted me to fill out a form first. In twenty words, they wanted me to say just exactly how I was going to do it. I have nothing against distillation but it's difficult to distill on command. And what if my essence isn't their essence? What if I spend eighteen hours trying to come up with CliffsNotes™, trying to come up with this form-fit abbreviation for saving the world and the form-readers end up using a different dictionary—a paltry twenty painstaking words defined this way instead of that and there'd be nothing in the world I could do about it.

I was going to save the world tonight, really, I was going to do it once and for all, but there was this form, this call for circumscription and I didn't want to answer that call. I didn't want to bear down on the complexity. I didn't want to skin it alive. I didn't want to skin it at all. Twenty words, my life-saving foot.

I'll save the world without this form, if it takes me all night to do it. I'll save the world—form-free. I'll save the world from forms. That's it!

I'll save the world from forms.

Could this be why it's taken me so long to save the world—because I was without a niche? It was all too big, overwhelming, insurmountable, wasn't it? How could I have ever tried to save the world without a niche, a manageable goal? That's why it's been so hard for me to save the world all along. I had to narrow the saving down, make it more approachable. Now I've got my approach. I will save the world from forms. Saving the world doesn't get any better than this. I have found the one thing that cannot be misinterpreted, ill-defined or co-opted, the one thing that will break through all barriers—simple, self-explanatory, terse. I will save the world by removing all forms. There! They can keep their measly twenty words—I did it in nine!

When People Say
After I save the world, there will be some confusion at first because I am going to alter the entire language, that is to say I will incite a gargantuan semantical overhaul.

When people say they make lots of profits, they'll really mean they make eye-to-eye contact with everybody they see on the bus, in the streets and on the freeway and upon making that contact, they understand the roots of each individual's personality, including their own, what makes them tick, how different each individual is one from the other and yet how much the same and they'll really mean they feel a primal connection to themselves and every man, woman, child creature that walks the earth, swims the waters and flies the air.

When people say they are successful, they'll really mean they understand how to see through to the heart of every matter, no matter what the matter, and their communication to the heart is from the heart, for the heart, by the heart taking all of the heart into full consideration, with the utmost of their conjunctive mind, first and before other more obvious matters.

When people say they won, they'll really mean they unfolded another layer of life within which they discovered a missing piece of themselves and that missing piece directly corresponded to the ones closest to them and how wonderful it is to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all life has a connective pattern that reveals itself at every turn and that everybody has their turn…at the same time.

When people say they are the best, they'll really mean they resist competing with anyone ever because they know that all competing is really a divisive act cooked up by none other than those two feuding hemispheres of the brain who never did get along and are, nonetheless, perpetually in search of one another.

When people say they love you, they'll really mean they understand the nature of reflection and they claim full responsibility for their initial perception of themselves, through you, after which time they will be fully prepared, willing and able to be the object of your reflection, in kind, while bearing witness to any perceptions offered up by post-reflections, and will do everything within the realm of human possibility to see to it that all past, present and future projections standing between themselves and the other will be acknowledged, clarified and held forth as hard core evidence of a static force perpetuating the undifferentiated ego mass, ensuing forthwith, but not for very much longer.

When people say they are bold, brave and beautiful, they'll really mean they recognized the subtle, insidious ways they were taught to ignore their most tenderest of feelings, will rally their forces and champion each and every one of those feelings just exactly as a super hero would in gallantly freeing all, each and every one, enslaved by hunger, war and poverty.

Of course, I might have to come up with a little instruction booklet because I wouldn't expect people to know or even automatically default to these meanings, without a little guidance. Naturally, all sense of time, commercial practices and energetic output would have to be measured accordingly which would shift our sense of values which would take some doing. But, we wouldn't want to do too much on the first day after I save the world.

If all goes as intended, patience will remain a virtue.

earth
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