Ideas are Dangerous

By Tiffany Antone

Last night there was a tomato growing in my body. I guess a missed nibble had fallen on my thigh and I had (apparently?) never removed it, so of course – because it’s almost always “of course” in Dreamland – it had lain there, ignored so long that it was able to take root in my flesh.

I tried to figure out how extensive the root system was:

“Can I just pull these little roots out by myself, or is this a medical emergency that I’m going to have to go to the doctor for, hatch new medical bills, try to explain (without sounding like a slob) how I DID NOT NOTICE a tomato taking root in my thigh…”

But when I plucked at a little leaf, it sent a twinge into my side, and so I knew it was serious.

“This is going to require medical intervention,” I thought. But then I wondered, could I go on a little weekend vacation first?

Fortunately I woke up at that point, but what the actual f*ck?

We’re moving in a few weeks. (New/bigger house in the same town) and so I’m in the thick of the purge. We moved into this house in a hot panicky leap from a terrible city/awful jobs – which means our last packing job was frantic AF. There were also only three of us at that point, and the third was just 2 years old. Now we are a family of four (plus four cats… does that make us eight?) and there is a lot more STUFF, and there are still boxes from the last move that need going through to see if there is anything useful inside.

There have been some delightful discoveries:

“Here are the refrigerator magnets! I KNEW we didn’t throw them away!”

“Now we have even more binder clips! More than we might ever actually use…”

“Look! Look! ALL of my old glasses! Let’s try them on and revel in the fashion trends of my youth!”

And then there are the floor to ceiling bookshelves bursting at the seams…

Packing books is a tedious job. It’s a little bit Nostalgia Lane meets Tetris. You meet your past selves in the process. “Look, here are the books that made me” (whilst also trying to ascertain if you’ll ever actually read them again) and then you study your box of beloved literary rectangles and try to fit them all together in a feat of spatial wizardry.

The books that made me… I guess ideas are dangerous.

I live in Iowa now, and there are a lot of things about this state that I love, but it is deep in the throes of a political reckoning that scares me. Remember the book banning scene in Field of Dreams? That’s still happening, but with less dramatic irony.

But here I am, looking at the books that stretched and shaped my perspective, and I understand their fear. If you want your children to have the exact same perspective as you, then books are the enemy. Because they are antidotes to ignorance and bigotry. They are a gateway drug to empathy. Books help you see the world through different eyes, and sometimes those eyes don’t see the world the same way once the book ends.

I like to think plays can do the same thing. If a Big Idea plays get produced that is. Sometimes it’s hard to see the Big Idea plays get realized because something-something-short-sighted-gatekeepers/risk-averse-money-men… It’s a mystery.

I dreamt about the tomato after boxing the bookshelf. There I was, seeing my collection of feminist sci-fi, J.R.R. Tolkien masterpieces, multiple philosophical escapades through a future space-time, sitting next to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and White Oleander and Jurassic Park and Female Chauvenist Pigs and The Night Watchman and The End of Mr. Y and Raw Shark Texts and The Mists of Avalon and We Play Ourselves and The Sentence and The Actual Star and…

And I knew I wanted to say something about the books that made me.

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