Year 5, Piece Twenty-Three: 16. Yellow Orange

The internet is dirt. You are a farmer.

D came home from day camp with a yellow cootie catcher. If you don’t know or don’t remember, a cootie catcher is basically a paper fortune teller. It’s an origami shape that you can write messages all over and then manipulate with your hands, and then play a game where you have someone else choose their fortune. 

Let me take you through the sequence:

  1. First, pick a color: Yellow, Blue, Green, or Pink. Okay, Yellow: Y-E-L-L-O-W. I moved the paper back and forth, once for each letter, for a total of six times. 

  2. Great, now on the inside there are numbers, so pick a number, 2 or 11. Okay, 11: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11. 

  3. Now in a different spot inside there are two more numbers, so pick a number, 3 or 10. Okay,  let’s lift the flap under 3! 

  4. Here’s your fortune! You get: Dirt! 

When you get Dirt, D squeals with delight. Why? Because it’s the worst one, of course! See, the possible fortunes in this cootie catcher are Cake, Pie, Ice Cream, and Dirt. According to D, Cake is the best, and Dirt is the worst. And you got the worst one. 

“But Dirt is actually great because without dirt you wouldn’t have any food!” our neighbors shouted back to her when she told them their fortunes out the window. I had just told her the same thing. I also told her that since I’m not really big on sweets that I’d probably prefer dirt anyway, or certainly ice cream over cake, personally. And why is she fetishizing sugar? Anyway, D doesn’t want to hear it, of course. 

Each time she pulled out the cootie catcher it turned into a lesson in subjectivity. That even if each person can’t choose their fortune, they can certainly have their own attitude about it. But for D, like for so many kids or even adults, this game is about control. About Power. It seems that the thrill of the cootie catcher is not simply in relaying information, but about determining fate. So maybe this was a teaching moment, or maybe I was just getting in the way of her play. Shaming her even?

Yellow Orange: Power and Creation, Power and Creativity, the Power of Creativity. Crafting a paper fortune teller is certainly an exercise in power and creation. But what holds the Power of Creation if not Dirt itself? The very substance from which we spring and sustain ourselves and stand on, and to which we will all return? 

Oh, there is so much more that I was thinking about this week around the Power of Creation. Some weeks I write and write and write, and other weeks I read and read and read, perhaps procrastinating, telling myself I am amassing research until I am full of too many references and too little time to do anything with them. But this project is about the practice, the making, the process. Right? It is not about the final product or even you, the audience, even if I accidentally moved the project away from Instagram onto an email newsletter and Email Newsletters Are a New Literary Genre.

There it is again, the power of creativity in a world where we are all creators. Everyone on the internet broadcasting themselves and their preferences, their real actual selves. Sure there is a spectrum, from those doing it only passively through their surfing habits, to those just dabbling in social media, to some creators at the creative genius level. Like artist and internet master Lil Nas X

Among the delightful things I learned from that article by Jazmine Hughes is that Lil Nas X is into Numerology. When he first started getting famous he saw the number 66 everywhere. Now Lil Nas X’s new number is 79. He cites the meaning as: “continue listening to your spiritual practice and/or career path and your Divine life purpose.” 

We started off Yellow Orange with a number game, right? The cootie catcher. Well, both 66 and 79 are out of the realm of this 49-piece grid, but if we want to link it back to Yellow Orange, we can use more numerology. 79 → 7+9=16. Yellow Orange. And then 1+6=7, the building block of this whole system.

In other numerological news I also discovered this week on July 7th, 7/7, that the name of this project is 7x7. Writing about D’s cootie catcher inspired me to make a tiny Rainbow Squared cootie catcher (I told you, deep procrastination happening over here) and as I was counting letters I realized that “Rainbow” and “Squared” are both seven letters long. How did it take me five years to notice that? 

Do you want to hear more about what I was thinking about this week? Is that what this is about? Well, I was worrying about UTIs (pee! Yellow!) and IUDs (copper! Orange!) and whether they are linked, which sprung me back to how fucked it is for almost all birth control interventions to disrupt female instead of male biology. Talk about the power of creation: I’m just sitting here cycling, it’s the sperm we should be trying to stop. I also reread this article from 2017 by Claire Dederer asking What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men? It takes a wonderful left turn at the end about motherhood and “art monsters:”

“If I were more selfish, would my work be better? Should I aspire to greater selfishness?

Every writer-mother I know has asked herself this question. I mean, none of them says it out loud. But I can hear them thinking it; it’s almost deafening. Does one identity fatally interrupt the other? Is your work making you a less-good mom? That’s the question you ask yourself all the time. But also: Is your motherhood making you a less good writer? That question is a little more uncomfortable.”

But in the end, everything I spend so much time wishing I had more time to make will also return to Dirt. 

Maybe even the internet is Dirt. And it is made of us. If we are all content creators (which we are), then we generate the very material the internet is made of. We churn the compost. Yes, we are all content farmers, nurturing algorithms and peddling identities through our very viewing habits, let alone what we post and publish. Maybe the dirt is the internet, or maybe the dirt is our own lives, the crops are the content, and the internet is the farm? 

I don’t know. But I do know that the internet is also ultimately filled with younger and younger people making cool shit I don’t understand that I probably shouldn’t preach to them about. 

Just like the cootie catcher.