Every day, for at least a decade and a half, Jim sent to the group’s thousands of members a beautiful photo accompanied by one often-timely poem. No comments or commentary. Just a simple and nourishing way to start one’s day.
But around mid-September 2019, Yahoo decided to revamp its groups and somehow made an almost comically inept error that resulted in every member receiving every single message sent to anyone. What ensued was an unrelenting email tidal wave.
When the emails threatened to drown me in Thousand-Petal pandemonium, I entered delete mode. But I quickly realized the episode was a sociological study unfolding in real time: How long can a peace-loving group of poetry fans maintain their utopian bonds, especially given their utterly compromised privacy? What unfolded was a digital story that wrote itself. I came to anticipate the daily deluge as one follows a soap opera. I’ve tried to capture its essence here, but in truth these are merely the CliffsNotes.
Out of respect for whatever shred of our public anonymity remains, I’ve changed names, edited posts for brevity and lightly paraphrased some of the messages.
Louise began the thread: Something appears to be wrong. I don’t think I should be seeing all of these email exchanges.
John stepped in, talked to Yahoo and sent the first of several sensible, practical solutions that should have worked but didn’t.
By Dec. 20, Mike had tallied things up in bold type: Here are some astonishing facts. I have so far received 1,023 of these emails. Over 30 hours we averaged 13,500 subscribers so that makes Yahoo groups sending out 13.8 MILLION emails to the Thousand-Petal Lotus group so far. And the number keeps climbing and climbing.
On Dec. 25, several people appeared sufficiently agitated to abandon their eggnog to stuff digital coal in everyone’s online stockings. Nick: This is totally out of control and these people are oblivious. Merry Christmas!
To make it worse, Jim, the keeper of the poetry flame, was nowhere to be found. Because Jim is Jim and Thousand-Petal people are a rather tight-knit, loyal band of thousands, this created a round of familial concern. From Suzanne: Dear Jim, I have not received one of your beautiful photos and images for a while. I hope you are ok. Thank you for all the beauty you have given me over the years.
There suddenly emerged a subversive element started by a member named Ellen, who boldly proclaimed a mutiny. Since the yahoo pirates don’t speak our language, now it’s My house My Rules. She posted a poem she wrote about yeast because for the last decade I couldn’t find any venues I wanted to reach — and the venues I tried agreed.
An emergency peacekeeping effort arose to exchange ideas on how to untangle the increasingly existential mess.
Then someone started a splinter group named Thousand-Petal Dreams on Facebook, prompting protests from Jim-devotees that it wasn’t the same and shouldn’t bear his founding group name, and also NO TO ZUCKERBERG.
A third, more radicalized sect on another forum named Sun Salutations apparently loosened tradition even more by allowing anyone at all to post anything anytime.
Veering off into a random side trip, Liz posted the inevitable: Here’s a favorite for the dog lovers among us.
At last it was learned that someone had reached Jim, who had managed to escape to a far-flung secret location with no Internet access.
Julie posted: I am greatly relieved to hear that rumors of Jim’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Until he returns, here’s a found poem of mine from a cookbook.
Out of nowhere, an email defying all logic and human decency arrived in every one of our 13,500 inboxes with the subject line: Haven’t been getting daily posts. Unfathomably, this was followed by: Me, too. Would like to get them again. Which was quickly followed up by a post from Jeannine: YOU ARE LUCKY.
Norma chose that moment to post an 800-word partisan screed titled “My Thoughts on the Coming Decade.”
From there the tone of discourse took a decided turn, beginning with Lester’s Dump the twisted politics. Let’s stick to beautiful poetry and art, and Roger’s Dump all of it!!
Judith, perhaps reflecting on What Would Jim Do? posted: Why are so many people being so nasty? Where’s the joy, the giving and sharing?
There followed an exchange about the poems of William Stafford. Frank posted “A Ritual to Read to Each Other.” In two lines, Stafford speaks truth to Thousand-Petal Lotus lovers from his grave:
“I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty /
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.”
The latest news is Jim is not returning.
He’s just done, okay, people? Done.
Today I found in my spam folder what may be the last post I receive from Thousand-Petal, a response to the Stafford fans that perhaps most eloquently describes the last gasps of the group’s utopian ideal:
I thought this group was ending. WTF! Quit effin posting morons!
Somebody needs to send this guy a poem