Gool: What Is It, Where Is It, How to Create It

Sometimes a subject for an essay is a found gem discovered in a friend’s Facebook post. Thank you Mark, friend and fellow writer, for posing this question, Gool: What Is It, Where Is It, How to Create It. Here’s Mark’s (minimally-edited) Facebook post:

 “Remember when we were kids in elementary school at recess time playing tag? We had gool…that one place we could go to where we couldn’t be touched and made “It.” You remember that too? Here’s my question…now that we’re adults, where the *#%@ is gool? Because the last few months, I feel like I’ve been in a game of tag and I’m running…trying not to be made “It.” And I’m out of breath…could someone point me in the right direction, please?”

Gool: What Is It?

From my imaginary Intergenerational Dictionary: 

Baby Boomers Definition: From the playground game, Tag, that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to “tag” or touch them, usually with their hands. When a person is tagged, the tagger says, “Tag, you’re it.” Gool is a safe zone, probably a corruption of “goal.” The term “gool” was first recorded in print in Massachusetts in the 1870s, and is common in the northern states of the US. Variants include gould, goul, and ghoul, and alternatives include base and home. (Source: Wikipedia)

Generation X & Millennial’s Definition: A combination of gay and cool. Somebody who is cool but at the same time has a hint of gay to them. (Source: Urban Dictionary)

For purposes of this essay, I’m referring to the former definition, though the latter made me smile. Metaphorically speaking, gool is that place we retreat to when we want to be safe, untouched, and not made “it,” when it can be identified as “the other,” an outsider, victim, loser, or the butt of the joke, and/or a scapegoat or target of harassment.

Credit: EJ Fox ("pseudoplacebo") from Circleville, United States - Playing snatch the fish

Credit: EJ Fox (“pseudoplacebo”) from Circleville, United States – Playing snatch the fish

For many of us, particularly those of us who are members of some kind of affiliation or minority — whether a racial or ethnic group, due to age, for our religious affiliation (or lack of one), being LGBTQ-identified, or a member of other oppressed classes — being made it is often an uninvited intrusion in our daily lives. Finding gool then becomes even more necessary as we seek a safe place to retreat, to find respite, and be restored.


Gool: Where Is It?

Humans, by our very nature and will to live, are resilient and resourceful. We create gool wherever and whenever we are able. Our ancestors retreated to caves to sleep unharmed. We built fires to ward off predators and protect ourselves from the elements. We fashioned weapons and tools to kill prey, feed our tribe and build shelters. Gool was the place where the hunter/gatherers retreated at the end of the day to nurture their young, to share rituals, procreate, recreate, and rest.

safe-placeHopefully, in a perfect world, gool is in our relationships, homes, schools, our workplace, where we worship, and in public places. We create protective and social services to ensure our public safety and respond to crisis. Unfortunately for some, there is no safety in their relationships, homes, and public sphere. Vulnerable children, women, the elderly, and mentally ill can be victimized by those entrusted to protect and serve them, whether a parent, spouse, priest, teacher, or police officer. Now to be fair, members of these same groups provide gool.

Gool can be sanctuary found in our churches, a shelter for domestic abuse victims, a foster care family, or a facility or caregivers to help us until we are able to protect ourselves. Gool is found in the arms of family and friends, from mentors, support groups, therapists and sponsors committed to assist us in our journey.

Gool: How to Create It?

Finding respite and a safe place to retreat has become even more important as social networks have created greater public exposure and vulnerability. It seems we have fewer protective boundaries, both in our private and public lives. Our employers, government agencies, advertisers and data-miners can track our activity using the very technology we’ve been convinced will serve us by making our lives easier to access information, enable commerce, and connect to services and communities. In return, we are profiled, pigeon-holed, and our personal information sold and traded capriciously.

In this current political climate, religious zealots, hate groups, special interests, lobbyists and corporate contributors, and the very candidates and elected officials empowered to serve us, demonize groups of people and individuals who do not share their views. Finding gool in today’s world is as important as fending off predators was to our early ancestors.

We create gool in our trusted relationships, in our affiliation and peer groups, and in our families of choice. We create gool by defining and protecting our personal and public boundaries, and by communicating to others when they’ve encroached upon them. We teach others how to treat us and in turn are willing to do the same for them.

We continue to find our voice and not fear using it. We support and stand up for others and protect the vulnerable from predators. We do our best not to make others “it.” We take personal responsibility and seek to serve the public good. When given the choice, we take the high road, or the road less traveled, even if it requires us to travel alone until we find others of a like mind. We find gool in our spiritual beliefs and in our higher calling. We model gool in our lives and help others create it in theirs.

Mark, thank you for the topic of Gool: What is it, where is it, and how to create it. Let me know, as your friend and fellow human being, how to help you get there. I want to stand with you.


Prayer for My Voice

I will not be silenced by fear,
or dark shadows cast by shame
upon the parts of my essence
or experiences I’ve disowned.
I will learn to embrace my shadow,
love the secrets unshared, then
speak the unspeakable in my loudest voice,
trusting that revelation will in the end protect me,
not locks and chains, nor closets.
I will not fear exposure, by making visibility my armor,
silence hides in darkness and corners.
I will stand in the light and with others.
And, on those days I stand alone, I pray that
I will stand tall like a flag or beacon,
so others may see and join me. I pray that I may sing
an anthem of courage, mining words,
deep from my belly and heart, warbling in my throat
before putting pen to paper, in ink, not blood, nor tears.
I pray that I may find the clarity of essential truth
that will ring like bells in a cathedral and return to me
in echoes of pure notes, that my words
will join a chorus of voices. I pray I will not fear
judgment or censure, be outcast, made the other.
When I cannot find strength or conviction,
I will be gentle and patient,
knowing the silence will be broken;
I pray for my voice and the courage to speak.


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5 thoughts on “Gool: What Is It, Where Is It, How to Create It

  1. Gail Hirn says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful post, as usual. I have used the protective powers of gool more on the interpersonal level than on the external. There always seemed more to fear on the inside. The outside world has a lot of bad shit going on but it did and does not scare me nearly as much. My voice is louder and clearer when directed at something outside of me.

  2. Lewis Bosworth says:

    As always, Linda has discovered with sensitivity a person whom she can help, and has done so. The poem is of gospel quality, and tomorrow in the faith-based writers’ workshop I am giving at church, I will use it as an example. Some who find their voices are nurtured by faith; others by having lived in the shadows of bigotry and survived. If I were “grading” those at the pearly gates, I would give a servant’s welcome and a Pulitzer prize for poetry to LLL! Hugs, dear friend!

  3. Never heard of “gool” but that doesn’t mean we didn’t need it, back in central Indiana. I’m intrigued no end by regional language differences (are you surprised?) –thanks for hopping me to this one.

    To your post–well worded commentary. You write blend of memoir and op-Ed so well!

    • Linda Lenzke says:

      Sarah, as always your feedback is very important to me and appreciated. Language is fascinating. I had forgotten about “gool” until my friend Mark referenced it in his post, and the memory of the word and what it meant to me as a child flooded back.

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