Between the hours of 7 and 3, I chide my tweenage students for their incessant, thoughtless littering of classwork packets and lip gloss applicators and Dunkin Donuts detritus all over my classroom floor. Between the hours of 4 and 11, I inhabit a virtual Nintendo world in which Iam the slovenly tween: in Splatoon 2, I play a squid kid named Moopi, a tentacle-haired human-cephalopod hybrid, hellbent on covering every surface in sight with fluorescent ink. 10,000 years in the future, in the city of Inkopolis, squid kids like me collect pastel sneakers and ink-blasting weapons and live out lives of joy and peace thanks to the competitive outlet provided by sport: two teams of four squids apiece attempt to cover more turf with their color ink in tight three minute battles. There is muck, sure, but there is no oppression, no war.
Playing the game late into the night and burning herb between matches, I draw a connection between Inkopolis and the idyllic society of the Pacific Northwest presented by Ernest Callenbach in his 1975 Ecotopia. In an alternate 1999, the top left corner of the continental US has seceded and become reborn as the eponymous nation, where technology is green, sex and drugs flow freely, and incessant, thoughtless military conquest has been replaced by ritual war game.
Callenbach and Nintendo both looked at the world and perceived its grimness and its cruelty and created a fanciful alternative where readers and gamers might spend an hour or seven of pleasant diversion—or better yet, ideological field work. When I turn off the lights and rest my head and remember the classroom duties I am set to perform in the morning, I wonder: how might I, a nonfictional human teacher, instill an Ecotopian, Inkopolitan philosophy within my students?
Ecotopiawas the subject of my brief literary treatment in the Nassau Weekly’s 2012 “Telescoping Memories.” I stole the idea from an Atelier professor, and correctly predicted that the exercise would have more purchase among verbose and self-reflective (read: long-winded and narcissistic) Nass writers than the overtaxed upperclassmen who blew it off in our Pass/D/Fail theater seminar. Telescoping constrains the writer to one fundamental rule: “Each succeeding memory of a series is composed in exactly half the number of words of the previous.” My entry in “Telescoping Memories,” like this piece, followed a formula of 300-150-75, and Ecotopiawas relegated to the tersest final segment, but that brief write-up has stuck with me. “I uphold its values even now: journalism, herbalism, human dignity.” Ecotopiahas transformed from novel to ideological totem– I strive to be the person I described in the pages of the Nass seven years ago.
Three weeks after telescoping, I wrote an open letter to the dance troupe eXpressions that meditated on the meaning of Nassiness: “It means treating moments of significance (a catastrophe, an ecstasy, a profound sight or sound or silence) with critical analysis that is rigorous and intellectually honest, and at the same time, deeply personal and individual.” The Nass taught me to trivialize the serious, to take seriously the trivial. I uphold its values even now.