The Other

One thing has become clear with this site redesign: It’s more than just the online home of my professional endeavors; it’s also going to be the definitive repository, an archive of my life in writing. This site will be a digital analog (equivalent, or corollary) of the corporeal entity that is Benjamin Obler. It will outlive me as long as someone pays for some web hosting. A pretty cheap ticket to eternity if you ask me!

So with that in mind, here’s a piece from the scrap pile. In 2015 (as well as other years), I was co-host of the Literary SalO+n, part of the O+ Positive Festival, in Kingston, NY. The Salon was a two-day event, held in different spaces different years, from Outdated Cafe, to ArtBar Gallery, to Rough Draft Bar and Books.

In 2015, the festival-wide theme was THE OTHER, and these were my introductory words to the live audience.

The Other

Everyone reading tonight has written or selected writings on the festival theme of THE OTHER. It is incumbent on us, then, say a few words about the topic.

Webster’s dictionary defines a cliché as someone who opens a speech on a topic by stating the dictionary definition of the topic.

A wooden sign with hand-painted letters: Literary Salo+n, [arrow]. Poems, stories, minds blown, hearts opened
The sign from 2016’s Salon.

[Hold for laughter.]

Wrong notes.

No, seriously. The other.

That’s someone who is not me. Who doesn’t look like I do. Doesn’t think like I do. Doesn’t known what I know, feel what I feel.

This one?

No, not that. The other one.

To be OTHER is to be pushed aside. Unwanted. Background noise.

OTHER as restriction: “Well, you can’t have both. One or the other.”

The other can be the second choice, something lesser.

Then there’s the other as imposter, enemy. “The other woman….” (oooooohhhh!)

The other, more positively, is bright POSSIBILITY. “On the other hand…”

You can have a future with the other. All kinds of things unfold in pursuit of the other!

In my field, some people use LOREM IPSUM as dummy text when populating pages. Such as in a magazine or book. Lorem Ipsum is Latin and hard to comprehend. Me, I use English, and I use this, from Cicero: “On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue…”

And then, most interestingly, just when you thought you had THE OTHER pegged, we have OTHER as contrary. The other—previously the odd duck—can equal UNDIFFERENTIATED. How can that be? The same way to dust is to remove particles and add particles: dust the furniture, dust the crops. It’s true! OTHER, the quintessentially differentiated, becomes just anything, plain old “it doesn’t matter which” when we say: “The other day.”

The other day, I said to Rob, ‘Listen…’

Which day? Just the other. The one just like the rest. No different.

And so in conclusion, let’s begin our session of thinking of things OTHERWISE. In the end, we may start to feel OTHER WISE.