"When sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look, but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Throughout the centuries men have explained the rainbow in various ways. Some have accepted it as a miracle without physical explanation. To the Hebrews it was a token that there would be no more universal floods. The Greeks used to imagine that it was a sign from the gods to foretell war or heavy rain. The Norse men consider the rainbow as a bridge over which the gods passed from earth to their home in the sky. Other men have tried to explain the phenomenon physically. Aristotle thought that the rainbow was caused by reflection of the sun’s rays by the rain. Since then physicists have found that it is not reflection, but refraction by the raindrops, which causes the rainbow. Many complicated ideas about the rainbow have been formed. The difference in the rainbow depends considerably on the size of the water drops, and the width of the colored band increases as the size of the drops increases the actual primary rainbow observed is said to be the effect of superposition of a number of bows. If the red of the second bow falls upon the green of the first, the result is to give a bow with an abnormally wide yellow band, since red and green lights when mixed form yellow. This is a very common type of bow, one showing mainly red and yellow, with little or no green or blue."
My close reading of the text “the Rainbow Passage.”
By Joy Brook Fairfield go back Brooke Burke Brooke Brooke Brooke Brooke Brooke Fairfield Fairfield enter the lack
What is the unconscious of the text? This is always the question for the interpreter of literature. While we like at times to believe that the possibility of text without the shadow of intent exists, we will find ourselves hard-pressed to find evidence for it. The words chosen from the narrow script of the waiter seem, perhaps, to have the kind of uniformity that one could imagine devoid of poetic or psychological content: “Can I get you something to drink with that?” But language is never in control of its own intent, the speaker never fully in charge of his language. Language exists in a constantly shifting flowing field of signification surrounding us full points we have no comprehension of and affects we don’t understand. This is its magic and its curse.
I have been given a computer program, a tool on loan from an institution invested in my process of learning and participating in a greater exchange of ideas. They have an entire fresh clean contemporarily furnished spacious and even hip building in which their office for accessible education exists. In this building I meet with a sweet educated white man who supplies me with codes to make my Dragon Voice Activated Software program legal and little telemarketer headset to make it more accurate. With an awareness of my time constraints, he gives me the information I need to begin experimenting on my own with the system. I am given a single sheet of text entitled "The Rainbow Passage"and told that I should read it thrice into this program: “Apparently this passage has almost all of the sounds in the English language.”
I have heard this claim before, in regards to “the quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog.” I have never personally taken a stab at tabulating the ratio of sounds in the English language represented in this phrase. Perhaps a linguistics major would know the answer. I imagine a table of linguists huddled over their IPA dictionaries crafting poetry within the strict confines of speech’s strange architecture. “Should we make the text scientific? Or more cultural, so that it can appeal to those in the Humanities?” “If we invoke cultural references, which should we include?” The author references the Hebrews the Greeks and the Norse, indicative of knowledge systems formed within contemporary Western academia or its colonial spaces. There is no reference to what the ancient Egyptians, for example thought about the phenomenon of the rainbow. Well, I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and in ancient Egypt the rainbow was associated with the goddess Nut. As the goddess of the sky, Nut was sometimes described as wearing a rainbow gown. Her laugh was thunder and her tears were rain. Every night she swallowed up her grandfather and every morning she gave birth to him again.
This passage forgot about Egypt. Or, perhaps more accurately, was never taught. Suddenly the title of this document reminds me of “The Middle Passage,” the journey of enslaved Africans to the Western Hemisphere under inhumane conditions. I look up the origin of this phrase on Wikipedia and learn that it was the terminology used by the European traders at the time for the second segment of the triangle trade. Perhaps everyone could switch over to using the term “Maafa,” the Kiswahili term for disaster.
I sure hope Wikipedia is accurate. I understand why the politics of the Internet are so significant given the way it becomes a funnel to what is known as “common knowledge.” I fear as the Internet grows in power within profit-focused, war–dependent economies, its revolutionary potential will be increasingly evacuated. Every tool is a hammer if you use it right. Or as Performance Studies scholar Angela Farr Schiller points out, “ The system that pounds the dough is the same fist that pounds the face.” (That was an example of the unconscious of this machine, the Dragon voice program I’m using. I said in fact, “the fist that pounds the dough is the same fist that pounds the face.” The replacement of the word “fist” with the term “system” is quite elegant).
The Rainbow Hostage, ahem Passage (hello again machinic unconscious!) invokes both physics and art, legends and logic. It performs a kind of scholarly inquisitiveness, a curiosity about the natural world. It appeals to me as a document that purports to report, transforming a miracle to a series of almost comprehensible particulate interactions.
Someone found this text appropriate for this context. This person was likely not a feminist, as the repeated male pronouns resound in my ears as unconscious exclusivity: “ Throughout the centuries men have explained the rainbow in various ways.” The uninterrogated prejudice of the Enlightenment era hangs over this passage like a rain cloud.
And yet I feel like this text was intended as a kind of gift. Rainbows, the clearest of natural phenomenon, I’m mean the theorist, queer rest, queries, queerest of natural phenomenon. Usually bode well. From the light cue of hope after the Old Testament’s flood to Lisa Frank stickers on your 8th grade notebook, rainbows are a pleasure to our eyes.
“Rainbow rainbow red and blue
Rainbow rainbow I love you
Yellow orange green and white
You give off such perfect light”
This is a song my mother sang me when I was a child. I remember thinking it funny that she included “white” in the colors of the rainbow. I didn’t use a white pen when I drew rainbows on the brown paper in my kindergarten class. I think she mentioned something about physics, maybe something like what the Rainbow Passage says: “the rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors.”
I just searched these lyrics on Google and found nothing. It’s so nice to know there are some things that only one person has said. Of course, I have no idea if someone taught it to her.
The first hit I get provides me with this text:
I a m t h e R a i n b o w
On the days when it doesn't seem worth it. When you think that maybe they were right. That "queer" and "freak" and "abomination" seem to have your name on the list. When "outsider" and "other" or "faggot" or "dyke" want to claim your autograph, remember. We are the rainbow.
When never seems bigger than always, and always seems like a terrible place to be, remember. We are the rainbow.
It is a tacky site and the font is hard to read. A few clicks and I find that this site is maintained by a transgender activist named Deborah Davis. She worked as a high school Media specialist in Minnesota and has maintained this site for over a decade. I am grateful for her labor. She references of course the rainbow flag, adopted by the gay community in the 1970s. Wikipedia tells me it was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker. It initially included pink and turquoise too, but apparently fabric dyed in those colors was harder to find. Makes me sad, they seem like particularly queer colors.
The second hit is the Wikipedia page for rainbows, which reads a lot like “The Rainbow Passage.” I am grateful for my mother and her nursery song. Like Deborah Davis, her message was that the world was full of a kind of beauty called difference.
I remember now that the last line doesn’t say “You give off such perfect light,” but “you give off such pretty light.” I should try to remember that perfect and pretty are not the same thing.
I am in this hip and spacious office because I can no longer type, a problem when one is attempting to write a dissertation. I can’t type because I’ve broken my right wrist in a skateboarding accident only a month after my first day as a skateboarder. I was not very good but it was the pleasure of every day. My increasingly–impossible schedule has made every second precious, so cutting my cross-campus commute in half was practical at the same time as pleasurable. Dropped into the moment in a combination of glee and terror, it was keeping me sane. Now I have a cast, a disability counselor, and the friendly adaptive technology guy who handed me “The Rainbow Passage” and opened the door for me on the way out.
My exposure to and thus understanding of the knowledges formed by people with significantly different abilities has been limited. Only recently, thanks to the work of scholars like Petra Kuppers and dance companies like AXIS Dance, have I been introduced to the exciting aesthetic and philosophical possibilities engendered through the differences often known as disabilities. I’m particularly grateful for generosity of artist Isaak Tait, a performer with “A Different Light” of Christchurch, New Zealand. Our intimate correspondence has been meaningful, heartfelt and mind-blowingly creative. Our differences have aligned in a beautiful way, perhaps similarly to the ways that “[t]he actual primary rainbow observed is said to be the effect of superposition of a number of bows.” A scholar, I forgot who right now, described all of human culture as adaptive technology (or a prosthetic) for the mathematical mean of society. Left-handed people hurt themselves on devices created for right-handed people. Chairs in public spaces are uncomfortable for the significantly shorter or taller than average. When did “average” become so ideologically linked with “good”?
In his book Security, Territory, Population, Michel Foucault suggests that the current dominant mechanism of social control is no longer threat of punishment or simple brain-washing. Instead, order is maintained through the construction and measurement of norms. Those outside of norms are afforded less socially–legible power by those highly implicated in the maintenance of those norms. We can understand this in terms of representation in government, representation in media, and participation in economic markets. A population is an imaginary entity vulnerable to non-consentual marketing and management through its compliance with norms.
There is nothing wrong with the fantasy of average. Average is convenient. Average means you can always find the right bra or pair of shoes. Average can be quite beautiful. The only danger is in creating a hierarchy in which averages become tyrannical, in which the only thing better than average is above average, in which one’s performance is constantly being measured in comparison to radically different entities. The fantasy of the average creates failure, creates shame, and forgets, in its attempt to quantify, the unquantifiable thrills of the unknown unknowns.
The text of “The Rainbow Passage,” like my mother’s song, reassures me. As I repeat its exhaustive set of English syllables I remember that there are always more interpretations than I can imagine. Queerness and disability seem to me linked in the way that they gesture towards the beauty and potential intimacy possible in the vastness of difference.
My wrist will heal, and this headset is only mine on loan until the end of June. It’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself even when you have so much. Yesterday in the orthopedic trauma center, a septuagenarian sitting next to me said offhandedly that she’d broken both wrists: “When I broke the left one they just put in a titanium plate and sent me home, no cast or anything.” I am in awe of her toughness and her genuine concern for a stranger. How can I become stronger and more sensitive all at once? How can I stop thinking of these two as opposites?
After reading through the exhaustive syllables of The Rainbow Passage, I am to practice speaking into the headset so that it can learn my voice. I am to teach it the words it doesn’t know yet that I frequently use: performativity, queerness, radicality (not “rat ecology”), hierarchicalization (not “hierarchical as Asian”), intersectionality (not “intersection island”). “Maybe try writing some e-mails,” he says. I remember my long–dormant blog.
Later that day, I am told by one of my advisors that philosopher Henri Lefebvre dictated all of his critical theory texts: “You can really tell where he starts to wander.” I feel the pull of the wander. I must think of my breath as a valuable resource. I must think before I speak and seek out more precise and genuine ways to share my small but reverberating personal truths because we are all contributing to the knowledge that is known as "common."