Farid Matuk
To Claim Great Things for Such a Practice, or, Getting Over

Red Oak, Texas marks the southern edges of the green zone known as Dallas. I use this metaphor from our war map version of Baghdad to note places where a sense of efficient exchange and civil stability remain preserved, green zones, at the edges of which the brutality and immediacy of current capital exchange networks are more pronounced. There’s a gas station and a chicken place there in Red Oak with very bright halogen or xenon lamps that set expectations in the parking lots where they shine. Beyond that there’s chain link fences, small homes, and backyards, some with a goat or some chickens, some with burning trash. On one property there’s a small collective, an extended family of folks with ties to the Lakota nation and to other Native American tribes. Kenny is there when he’s not on Lakota land or facilitating prayer meetings for other communities. Kenny is a Road Man, one of the few who opens the peyote prayer meetings he shepherds to non-Native peoples. To get to the teepee ground in the back you walk over soppy floor mats laid over where the sewage seeps. When I was there a new puppy was growing at the end of a rope and people were coming up from the Rio Grande valley, up from Austin, and down from Oklahoma. I was there as a tourist, the guest of my friend Warren, a white, who has studied under Kenny for some years and is deeply committed to the families that make up the core of this community. There’s a lot I want to say about what I saw and did that night, a lot that spins around this curiosity I have about faith and language and ritual, how the three overlay to make operative realities, or versions of the Symbolic in Lacan’s terms, modes that are, honestly, more interesting to me than the Real that lies, presumably, beyond such layering of human techne. But for now, I’ll tell you about the next morning. It was Kawa’s birthday and so the prayer meeting that had gone through the night closed in a potluck birthday meal complete with cake and punch. Inside the house, we sat around the food laid out in the center of the plywood floor. Somebody asked for a volunteer to describe the cake and a woman came forward. She told us how the cake sitting before us was long and flat and rectangular, how it had white icing and its trim was gold and green and pink. She said there were letters written in icing as we read the letters written in icing, she said there were sprinkles and told us each of their colors as we saw each of their colors. Another volunteer came forward and told us about the cartoon on the birthday card and read each message written there to Kawa and told us about the colors of the inks. She did this as we passed the card around and saw the cartoon and read the messages and looked at the colors in which they were written. I don’t know how this practice is understood or theorized by its practitioners, I can only say it reminded me that language serves to simultaneously wound and heal the membrane where we experience the world, that we are doubled and estranged from ourselves in the address even while such address makes us available to a shared history. Moreover, that being in the world is an active process of negotiating or creating a reality from one moment to the next.

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