In the last days of last year, I was in a car with my cousin Eliana and her husband Andrew, driving home to Luskville, where they were visiting my family. We were talking about activism. Andrew was saying he preferred to put his energy towards his local community rather than have anything to do with the internet; I said I found that interesting, because to me, moving around as much as I do and frequently being in quite isolated places, my local community is the internet, to a certain extent.

I began telling him of how much good is in my life because of the people I've met online, because of projects I've begun online; I began telling him about Goblin Fruit and The Honey Month , and how those things would not have been possible without the internet, without social networking, without the people I am fortunate enough to have in my life as a result.

"Ah," he said, eyes on the road, "you've tapped the Long Tale."

I went very still.

Minutes are passing as I try to explain what happened in that moment. In that stillness, a profound clarity was growing faster than I could apprehend it; there was this gold-brown path of a word, TALE, that was a root growing from my heart through my solar plexus and shivering my skin. Tapping the Long Tale. It was a winding, snaking path, that Tale, and it was full of warm sunshine and earth and it was inside me and I was walking it and I think I forgot, for a few seconds, to breathe.

"What does that mean," I asked, even as I knew, intimately, completely, what it meant. It meant that we have, each of us, a story that is uniquely ours -- a narrative arc that we can walk with purpose once we figure out what it is. It's the opposite to living our lives episodically, where each day is only tangentially connected to the next, where we are ourselves the only constants linking yesterday to tomorrow. There is nothing wrong with that, and I don't want to imply that there is by saying how much this shocked me -- just that it felt so suddenly, painfully right to think that I have tapped into my Long Tale, that I have set my feet on the path I want to walk the rest of my life, and that it is a path of stories and writing and that no matter how many oceans I cross or how transient I feel in any given place, I am still on my Tale's Road, because having tapped it, having found it, the following is inevitable. Not easy -- it will probably be hard, and may be steep and thorny or wet and muddy or beset by badgers, but to not follow it is inconceivable because it is mine.

I knew all this, and could not believe that my cousin's husband, a hardcore pragmatic materialist who doesn't even like the internet, could know this too.

"You know, Tapping the Long Tail," he said. "Long Tail economics?"

I blinked.

"So you know how in a regular distribution you get a bell curve? And towards the end of it you have this long tail, and retailers like Amazon have tapped into it to sell less of more, and..."

And I was trying to listen, I really was, but I also wanted to laugh and clutch at that feeling of everything locking into brilliant, shining place.

I tried to explain what I'd misunderstood, and through it what I had understood, what a gift he'd given me -- but I don't think I did a very good job. I'm not entirely sure I've done much better here. But still, every time I think of that phrase, something shimmers behind my eyes, and I want everyone I love to have this moment, even as I struggle to hold on to it and be worthy of it and not take it for granted. I want them to know that moment of feeling that everything they've done, no matter how disparate an aggregation of things it may seem, has brought them to a point where they are clear-eyed and self-knowing and full of purpose, making their way towards their best selves.
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Published on January 13, 2011 14:51 • 399 views

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