In our class, the poet Elizabeth Bishop would teach poetry by taking any two poems and placing them side by side to see how they “illuminated each other” by comparison and contrast.
It was an exercise in both observation and communication but it also offered that fresh perspective on what was set in stone and had been taken for granted.
The more extreme the comparison and contrast the more it reawakens: A ripe apple and a red sports car? What makes them red? What makes them different? What makes them go? DNA and water versus oil and a gas engine?
How about like “politics” and “scuba diving”?
Let’s try it.
Well first, in contrast, they encompass two different worlds. One above water and one below. However, people have learned to communicate in both worlds, particularly in life-threatening situations.
How is that communication the same and different, and how can it offer a fresh perspective?
Through communication in politics, Donald Trump raised a quarter of a billion dollars ($250,000,000.00) from small dollar contributions from his supporters to “stop the steal,” despite overwhelming evidence that nothing got stolen. Furthermore, he has convinced his supporters not to watch the January 6th Committee hearings where this was revealed and validated.
So you can’t use Twitter underwater.
But in scuba diving you have hand signals, which is a little more primitive but just as effective for short urgent messages.
All diving is done in at least pairs with each diver responsible for his or her buddy. If you go too deep and become a victim of nitrogen narcosis — which is the song of angels calling you to come deeper to your death. Your buddy should grab your fin and signal with a hand gesture indicating the cutting of one’s throat and then point to the surface. It’s life or death.
During one dive in the outer islands of the Caribbean, I was randomly paired with two Midwestern middle-aged men who already were friends.
We agreed to go down to about 90 feet and swim in formation, like airplanes, to cruise along the deep edge of a cliff overhang and be each other’s eyes and ears.
One of my new buddies, our wing man at the time, banged his knife on his tank to get our attention, made eye contact, and excitedly pointed straight down. He spread his arms way out wide, gave the finger to us, and then put his right hand on his head at a 90-degree angle as if it was splitting his head in half down the middle with an ax. The other two of us got it and looked down into the dark for a “Big Fucking Shark!”
Later that afternoon, sitting side by side with me at the bar, my two Midwestern buddies good-naturedly unloaded all the liberal Democrat jokes they had in rapid fire in my direction, and with mock astonishment I countered them with my defenses and went on the attack. Quite naturally we had come to trust each other with our lives underwater, using sign language which we made up as we went along. We were friends.
I would love to meet them again and learn from them again and laugh. I want to sit on that barstool, turn to look at them and, with a perfectly timed pause, stop deadpan and say: “TRUMP???” And then spread my arms out wide, give them the finger and put my right hand on my head at a right angle as if it was splitting my head down the middle with an ax. I’d love to have them laugh at that, for us to laugh together.
I want to laugh with my Republican friends again and have us trust each other again with our lives.
It beats drowning in an angel’s call.