The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories:
I'm afraid this is less about "the literature we're reading" than about a fascination that literature has aroused in a number of us...
I want to return--probably w/ much more attention/intensity than she wants (?)--to something Diane said last week: "We were drawn back to the topic of cannibalism, more specifically what it means to be Labeled a cannibal. Then without skipping a beat we moved on to the label 'lesbian.'"
Lauren thought she may have inititated that "too-easy jump" because of what she knew about Michel Foucault's theories on action-based identities: "Cannibalism and lesbianism are parallel in terms of "our tendency to label people by what they 'do' and not who they 'are.' "
My own memory of our "lovely tangential discussion" was that Nancy took the first leap, by mentioning her encounter w/ an '03 English thesis by Monica Hesse, "Queering the Cannibal: Race and the Eroticizing of Consumptive Narratives in American Literature." Given my own "consuming" appetite, I had to read that thesis over the weekend. What I found in it was a very interesting (and useful?) explanation of "why" we might have made the association we did. Here's a redaction of Monica's argument (for more, go to the English House Lounge and check out the thesis yourself...):
After a brief overview of how cannibalism functioned "as a metaphor for communion" in Greek legends and early Christocentric literature, Monica turns to an examination of modern representations, in which "the cannibal and his human dinner" are so often "an interracial, male-male couple." She centers her analysis (among other texts, but primarily) on Melville's first adventure novel, Typee, and Tommo's "increasingly paranoid" search for proof for his "flutuating suspicions regarding the eating habits of the Typee....formerly mutually exclusive terms of 'cannibal' and 'friendly' begin to blur..." It soon also becomes obvious that Tommo's cannibal fears/desires are stand-ins for sexual fantasies:
"The body is a convenient boundary for the definition of the self...there are only two physical activities in which...bodily differentiation ...becomes indeterminate: sexual activities in which the boundary of the body is violated by the penetration of the body...or cannibalistic activities where one body is literally taken into another. Like penetrative sex, cannibalism subverts the notions of inside/outside and self/others, as the boundaries between bodies are repeatedly ignored....
...in Typee, cannibalism is...'a way of engaging, appropriating, representing, and then consuming difference'....The sailor/native 'couples' in Typee...are allowed to desire each other, and to contemplate the consuming/consummation of/with each other because of their racial differences...
...in the 18th and 19th centuries, cannibalism was a permanent identity that distinguished groups of people. Inversely, homosexuality was invisible...sodomy was...just a... singular occurence...Cannibalism provided a space in which authors could discuss that which was not discussable and speak of that which was unspeakable.... [here's where Lauren's reference comes back into play]...we no longer conceive of people who eat people as a cultural category. Inversely we do conceive of homosexuality as an ...identity....Michel Foucault writes that...'the sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.'"
If you're still interested, there's lots more: for instance, Jeffrey Dahmer's victims were mostly homosexual, mostly black; he said that eating people "made them feel that they were a part of me, and it gave a sexual satisfaciton to do that." His words were of desire, not abhorrence. Shades of the recent German Cannibalism case we (so gruesomely) also discussed in my section, in which the judge ruled that the victim was "just fulfilling his fantasy of a bonding experience."
So, my final (wierd?) thought of the night: that in the course of Naslund's novel, Una ceases not only to be a "wife"; she also learns not to "be" a cannibal: she gives up both an identity grounded in a single act, and the more general desire to "consume" another. As she observes re: Maria Mitchell:
"Maria...seemed so preoccupied with the outer world...left inner feelings to take care of themselves....Maria seemed content merely to focus on what she herself wanted to do. Perhaps that was a good an answer as any to the question of the status of women." (465-466)
More on this outward-focusing tomorrow. Thanks for listening. Good night, all.
all semester ive been waiting to write an orah-length posting and here's my chance....gender!!
orah, i think what you experience at haverford is a direct result of a subconscious acknowledgment of the presence of men who do not respect you or see you as an intellectual equal (or any other kind of equal for that matter). i feel that im somewhat of an authority on male to female vs. male to male interactions, as i am one of a small subpopulation of gender chameleons. i can wake up in the morning and be a guy or be a woman (not that i actually consciously think about this). i use the mens room just as much as i use the womens room (and i can tell you that men NEVER wash their hands!!). when i am seen as i guy, men treat me with an unbelievably greater level of respect than when i am seen as a woman. if a man thinks im a guy, just like that, i am able to lift heavy things, understand sports, and be treated as an equal. just last night i stopped to help some people who had broken down in the middle of the road (surprise surprise im good with cars), but get this my stong feminist mawrters...when a cop came by to help, he told the women to stand out of the way while us guys (i.e., the cop and i) pushed the car off the road. so, i was strong enough to push a car when he thought i was a guy, but he didnt even consider that the other women (strong athletic women at that) could possibly be able to help.
so, here's my point: the men we interact with in acadamia are no different than the sexist cop, theyre just more subtle and sophisticated in their sexism. and orah, i think deep down (even if we dont want to admit it), women know this and their behaviors (in and out of the classroom) reflect this knowledge.
I was helping a friend edit her thesis and came across this quote and thought to myself, this HAS to go up on the forum. It's makes me ache, this quote and funnily enough it makes me more sad than mad...cause it's true. Wonder if we're all headed for one of those "institutions"!!
I was thinking about this in relation to AW and MB and how people felt it seemed to limit the meaning of MD. I don't think it does. I think, like Anne's Paul D quote, I think it takes seed in MD and then moves on to be something quite different. I think that move can be compared to something Una herself does in the novel- she starts as Ahab's Wife but ends up as the Star-Gazer. What I think of this text is very separate from MD. I on;y find msyelf reminded of MD when Naslund makes specific references to stuff that happened in MD and uses lines in different ways. Otherwise, I can keep them entirely separate in my mind.
As for which books have shaped me... I find that question fascinating. At this point, I think I would have to go back to the book that made me canibalistic about reading- Gone With The Wind... From then on I read MANY MANY books that were wonderful but the ones that really shaped me-
Fountainhead, We The Living, Midnights Children, God of Small Things. Cannot think of anymore- about why these books, that would be another loooong story.
The whole question of women's education segregated from men's--all the reasons pro-this, con-that are fascinating for someone who went to an all male school for the last three years of high school. I was the first and only (for two years) young woman at a college prep "science and technology" school in upstate New York. It was actually two schools on one property--one normal, the other not. We "techies" took our liberal arts classes at the "normal" school--that amounted to about half of them. Talk about culture-induced schizophrenia! First day, they accidentally enrolled me in boys' gym....I even got a locker assignment. Cool. Unfortunately, someone noticed.
Differences? Oh yeah...in me and towards me. In the mixed classes, I acted in an odd (for me), demuring way (the word even sounds feminine). Men act ENTITLED. Women believe they have to EARN IT. In the all guy tech classes--physics, electronics, metalurgy, design--that sort of stuff--it was gloves off, get down, everybody in the soup.
So, I'm thinkin that maybe there's some psychological critical mass thing going on here...like, if there are only a few women in a class--or office--or wherever, then it's much easier for everyone there to ignore the "I'm entitled, You're not" acculturations, but if it tends towards more than some number of one or the other--1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2--some switch-over number, then our old scripts kicks in?
As an aside, dating never came up, never happened with any of the other students on the sci-tech side of the house. Whatever dates I had in high school were with guys who were in the "normal" program. So I guess I was seen as one of the guys by the guys--which parallels Cham's post--we're either defined as one of the gals ("other") or one of the guys ("like"), but in either case, GUYS OWN THE DICTIONARY. And we're back to words, words, words.
Many moons ago, I worked as a software engineer--work best done late at night for some reason, so I would often be at the computer lab with a handful of other geeks and no one else to bother us. Sometimes, when things got slow and I got curious, I'd go into the men's rooms to copy the latest graffitti, which I would then transfer to the ladies' rooms--my own contribution to the education of working women. The guys had some excellent stuff. Funny thing is that the cleaning crew would always scrubb the graffitti off the ladies' room stalls but never off the men's. No place is safe or sacred.
And yet I still find a way to incorporate Moby Dick into the conversation. After reading MD the word 'loomings' has acquired a more illustrative definition in my mind. There is always something that 'looms'. Something in the distance that exists in shadow waiting to take a more tangible form. Gender relations was the looming shadow on Thursday's discussion of cannibalism and I was not surprised to find that it materialized into a more concrete discussion on the course forum. It's not that a discussion of cannibalism will always have a looming association with gender relations, rather it is a looming association that we, as a collective group, create whenever we see the opportunity for it. If anything, it gives us the opportunity to understand ourselves a little bit better.
I don't have much else to contribute to the discussion. I went to a predominately male high school in Ramallah, but it wasn't a negative experience. I refused to be defined by my fellow classmates, by my teachers, or anyone else of authority and I suppose you can afford to do that in a society that is lacking definition on all sorts of different levels. I agree with what's been said...we exist in a socially-constructed society where we are defined by our gender (a socially-costructed pasteboard mask, perhaps? Ok, no more MD...) but if there is any theme in the class that deserves reiteration it is that meaning/definitions don't only exist outside the self but emanate from it. We, as women, are responsible for the definitions too.
Things aren't static though. Evolution has shown us that even organisms are capable of change. Definitions can change too...if you want them to.
I wanted to pick up on that tower built adjacent to mine last night (who was Adam? who was Eve?): Cham's description of herself as "one of a small subpopulation of gender chameleons" (great phrase, new to me, thanks for it)--and tell you all about about a workshop on being a transgender ally that I attended last Sunday afternoon; my report is on the diversity forum.
Ahab is mostly not there, yet "Ahab's Wife" is as much a love story about Una and Ahab as it is anything else we might label it. "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." What does that cliche mean? The more abstract and absent Ahab is, the more approachable he seems to me. He was far more available and concrete in Moby-Dick than in Ahab's Wife. And far less appealing. Is that ultimately true for us as we interact with each other?
Is fantasy a necessary balancer of reality as both relate to human interactions? If our physical and conscious realities evolve, why not our abilities to fantasize? Not just the fantasies and fictions themselves, but our "fantastic" mechanisms.
some biblical scholar once said that the secrets of the world are in the white space between the words. i like that.
didn't have the energy to explain this last night, but the reason i like that soft, comfoting place where the sky slips into the sea is because it's the one place that we're never going to get to. we're moving into the stars, and moving through the sea, but we're never going to discover THAT place. and that's what i've learned this semester: i don't really want to get THERE. because then it'd all be over. if elliot could have gotten to The Moment we wouldn't have his poetry...he be too busy basking in The Unarticulated Moment and we wouldn't need his poetry if we knew how to get to that Moment ((recently been flipping through a little Virgina Woolfe and she seems to talk about The Moment too ... so many things to read too little time)) i like evoluion i don't like perfection. i like the process to beauty not the beauty. i like the story telling, the poetry, the ... i like getting to know you, the striving toward understanding ... but secretly i never want to really understand you because what then would we have to talk about?
"the secrets of the world are in the white space between the words" reminds me of
Perhaps the same, but with a slightly different take? Notice that Durrell doesn't put the "secrets of the world" in the "white space"/"silence". Instead, it is on that space that "everything depend(s)" ... ie, that's where one finds not what has been or is but rather the wherewithal to create what will be?
It was something along these lines that was on my mind in creating the picture of evolution that includes both heavily branched, interacting regions and sparser regions of to some degree isolated trunks. There needs to be not only interaction but also silence/white space to keep the whole process going? Ishmael/Una both need some space to grow in order to generate a subsequent generative set of interactions?
There is, of course, a continuing male/female subtext (both enriched and challenged by Cham) in this conversation. Just ran onto
come on cham, give me something, thesis can yeild to genious: what is silence?
Alright, so I really am comfortable with how I look, and I did make a conscious choice to become the woman that I am, but I wanted to illustrate my point..
in a way your fuck you walk is a result of the male gaze. because of the gaddam gaze we've had to learn to walk a certian walk ... is it a defensive walk?let's say i don't walk to that beat ? really! what happens ? rape? what would society look like if we didn't have to speak defensively, PROVING each time we speak that we are intelligent, or walk defensivly ? what would YOU look like if you weren't always proving or protecting yourself ?
((three times in one day is over doing it .... please accept my apologies for hogging space ....)))
i'm not saying that toughness is an inherantly male trait. yet, they seem to think it is, don't they? well i've reclaimed it. i am attempting to take back an attitude that they think they've invented.
femininity is a powerful part of this. in short, femininity=power, over them, that is. so you're right, women own that "fuck you" walk. but i also think that the walk is something that has been socially constructed by men. they attend to it, it makes us feel badly about ourselved, and so we have have to reclaim it. generation after generation. and it is once again ours.
i confess, i'm angry at men, these recent postings are a direct reflection of my personal life. but i don't know many women who aren't, and i think that says something. my observations obviously don't hold true for every man (look at Paul, for g-d's sake!), but its a trend i've been noticing among many. and so i'm using rather extreme language/claims to make my point. i hope you all don't mind.
"women own that "fuck you" walk. but i also think that the walk is something that has been socially constructed by men. they attend to it, it makes us feel badly about ourselves, and so we have had to reclaim it. generation after generation. and it is once again ours."
can our goal be to create a world in which we don't need to own that walk any more ? won't need to use that defensive tone i use at 'ford ?
So, as Orah challenges Cham and challenges Cham (and Cham tries to write her thesis...) I thought I'd answer a challenge I got in Tuesday's class, which I deflected (=tried to get you guys to answer) then, because I thought I didn't know the answer, but which *I think I do/I think I did* all along, and so (of course) want to try to give now.
At the end of my talk on "reviewing our journey together," in which I called attention to the generative process among us as being "less simple, far less binary, far more interactive and unpredictable" than what I saw as the insularity and lack of interaction in Ishmael-Paul's images of twin towers and trunked trees, Paul said, "but you still haven't explained the squeezing." It's true that, in my strong need to point out the limits of what Ro, in a later refinement, called "distillation"/what Elizabeth D. called "focusing on one thing that leaves out other things," I ended up omitting altogether that portion of the process of the-evolution-of-stories; and I want to try, here, to re-insert it.
I can emphasize, as I said in my April Fool's talk on Emergent Literature,
I've got more to say about the interaction of distilling and expanding (both w/in individual brains and between them), as a kind of marriage of two minds (both within and among)....
Upcoming soon. Will quit right now for breath (mine, yours).
Okay, deep breath. I'm going on....
I've been working this year w/ a group of graduate students who have wanted to engage in a course on Explorations of Teaching. Tomorrow we are bringing to campus two of the very well known authors of Women's Ways of Knowing (1986), Blythe Clinchy and Mary Belenky. One of the texts they've asked us to read for our workshop Friday morning is Clinchy's essay on "Connected and Separate Knowing: Toward a Marriage of Two Minds," Knowledge, Difference and Power (1996). Of course Clinchy's title caught my attention: it reminded me, pleasurably, of the ceremony we enacted in class during hell week. Clinchy does two interesting things w/ the notion of "two minds, married" that *expand* on (or is it distill from?) our ceremony in ways that seem quite congruent w/ discussion we have had since.
Assume, for starters, that her "separate knowing" is our "isolated/squeezing/contracting/distilling" process, and that her "connected knowing" is our "social expansion." Then listen to her description of how we engage in the backing-and-forthing between those two processes within each of our individual minds:
"It means to treat your mind as if it were a friend"....take an active stance towards one's thoughts and feelings, rather than simply letting them run on a sort of "unconscious monologue" in the background of one's mind....play the Monetessori teacher to your thought, leave it free to follow its own law of growth, your function being to observe its activities, provide suitable material to enchanel them, but never to coerce it into docility.
After some meditation on whether this sort of self-knowing must proceed knowing another, Clinchy goes on to consider the paradox of separateness within connection: seeing the self as BOTH distinct and autonomous AND merged and embedded. And here she draws on the very good work of Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, a philosopher/psychanalyst who has written wonderful books about (among other topics) Anna Freud and Hannah Arendt, and whom I knew/learned a lot from when she taught at Haverford a few years ago:
emphathizing involved...becoming another person's habitat, without digesting the person. [Sorry--canNOT seem to get away from cannibalism!] You are mentally pregnant...with a person with her history....But this depends upon your ability to tell the difference between the subject and yourself, to appreciate the role that she plays in your psychic life.
Then Peter Elbow, the writing guru, weighs in, to say that in good learning both parties must be maximally transformed--in a sense deformed. There is violence in learning. We cannot learn something without eating it, yet we cannot really learn it either without being chewed up. [Yes, YES: "Who is not a cannibal?" Moby-Dick, Ch. 65]
Clinchy's final move: I now bring to my teaching a polygamous epistemology, and I find that far from disrupting the first marriage [to separated knowing], the second [to connected learning] has stabilized it: the two are complementary. My students and I are amenable to argument, if we know that people are really listening. We are willing to dilly-dally in one another's embryonic notions, aware that with careful cultivation, these notions might blossom into powerful ideas--possibly even testable hypotheses to be subject to the rigors of the doubting game. And, where once I hoped only that my students might achieve competence in the skills of separate knowing, now I wish for them what has meant so much to me-- a marriage of two minds.
You may now shake hands.
ten minutes, thats all i can give...
orah you ask me what is silence huh? not exactly my type of question but here goes...(and believe me i had to hold myself back from a whole bunch of potentially entertaining answers...)
silence isnt anything that can be or is even meant to be defined, but i can offer (really quickly as i have 7 minutes left) just one possibility...
for one thing, silence is a refusal to speak or act when expected. could this also mean that silence is a refusal to speak or act in a way that is expected? to tie this in with our gender discussion- this would mean that silence is ro's refusal to conform to the gender boundaries of her time (dont mean to make you sound archaic or anything). silence is that split second when i make a decision regarding which bathroom to use (whoever posted that they wished they could be like me might want to seriously reconsider)... silence is the fact that women walk defensively...perhaps more importantly, it is the fact that we talk about the fact that we walk defensively.
and lastly, silence is the voice inside of me that tells me to correct someone when they call me he/him/mr/sir, as well as that same voice that tells me to keep it down and roll with the punches. it is the ever present space that is our struggle over whose articulations we should refuse and whose expectations we should deny. unfortunately, my time is up and i have to post this nonsense in order that i might meet orahs challenge and protect my pride.
silence is the timeless possibility right before the eruption of something wonderful, whether it be a rebellion, a decision, or an orgasm. (yeah, i said it).
Which made me think that the book that has lasted longest in our history is not the bible, but the combination of cave art and oral dreamland or dreamtime of the Australian aborigines. This set of "books" is at least as inscrutable as the testaments--so I am told and would agree from having tried to learn about them during my times down under.
This may be the thing that's been tugging at me for quite a while--been saying that Melville may have just stumbled onto a literary combination of styles and the lack thereof all in one book--and that is a big factor in it having been dubbed "great literature"...back to our being intrigued with patterns, optical illusions and the like. We, I think, like to form our own boundaries when we can and seem to resist those imposed by others.
Which sounds a lot, feels a lot like a Quaker meeting---the silence of it, the communing in silence. And maybe also something to think about--the profound difference between peoples of the east and west regarding silence. Westerners abhor silence. Easterners embrace it.
Una is most expansive when she is alone, silent. So is Ahab. But not Ishmael. He fills silence with narrative. Funny, Una is also narrator, but I sense the fruit of her silences more than I do those of Ishmael. Ishmael seems like the ultimate voyeur. Una tells us her story...Ishmael is tells us everybody's story BUT his own.
I think I find some cohesion when thinking about silence as the moment of possibility (which I'll tie in if you bear with me). I would say the most important 'lesson' (if that terminology applies) we can take out of here is that we CHOOSE which stories we want to listen to and what stories we want to tell. I have been having problems all along with the idea that we give something up (be it our minds, our own stories, or even our time) when we listen to someone else's story. I felt reading a story was a frustratingly passive experience, since the story was not going to change no matter how many times I read the book. Now, with the silence talk thrown in there, I see the space of listening as a time to create something new simulatneously. Im still thinking about this, but I'll post more later.
While I agree that Moby Dick is a lot more expansive than Ahab's Wife, I can't see why Ahab's Wife wouldn't have the potential to generate new stories. I know if I was a writer I would be interested in Kit and his travels with the Indians. Charlotte and her unending love/journey for Kit. Even Maria Mitchell and her fascination with the sky. These can all be expanded to 666 pg. novels. Why not?
So what does this say about expansion vs. contraction? Ahab's Wife took a line from Moby Dick and created an entire life for a character we knew little about. Suddenly this girl-bride had an identity, thanks to Naslund, and an entire life that was independent of Ahab and the whiteness of the whale. She contracted a piece from Moby Dick and expanded it into a life. It's a process...like the evolutionary process. Una exists on her own branch and what's to say that this branch won't diverge and give rise to new species/books? According to evolution it is only natural that it will lead to something...or it will lead to nothing because it has gone extinct. If you are not extinct, then you are contributing to something, a greater something, even if you can't pinpoint what that something is.
I don't know if I agree with Anne about Moby Dick giving rise to more stories than Ahab's Wife in a hundred years time. When Moby Dick was published it flopped and was only rediscovered in the twentieth century – when people were ready to appreciate it. Ahab's Wife didn't flop the way Moby Dick did, but maybe there will come a time when it will be more appreciated and the center for commentary and new stories. Or maybe not. It's hard to tell.
BUT, if I was writer I would probably use Moby Dick as my jumping board. (That pretty much defeats the purpose of everything I just said...well not really. It's no surprise that I like MD more than A'sW). However unlike Naslund, I would steer clear of developing main characters in Moby Dick. I, too, love it when we're reunited with Ahab, Bildad, Peleg, Ishmael, etc... in Ahab's Wife...familiar faces. What I don't love, what I absolutely hate, are the character developments. I feel robbed of my most beloved Moby Dick characters. How does she know Ishmael and Ahab so intimately? I would never have thought Ahab was a good, loving husband. It's just her reading of MD, which everyone is entitled to have, but not when you're dealing with such sacred characters. It feels like plagiarism.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
Honesty, promises, "the right thing" are what structure my father's world. I didn't used to like that because it felt so limiting. His profession depends upon a fixed set of rules and making decisions based on these rules and it always used to drive me crazy. "How do you make decisions, dad," I'd say to him. "You just have to do the right thing," he'd respond. And I asked him how he knew the right thing and couldn't there be many right things? He said that it was his job to make a decision, it was his job to find the right thing. I would always say that I could never do his job which is still EXTREMELY true... i'd be really bad at it but I'm wondering if I'm really so different from him after all.
I think in making up stories...however exapansive or contracted, the impulse is to grasp the world a little more clearly. So by reading and writing I'm looking for clarity just as my father looks for clarity? By doing something which I percieve to be entirely expansive, I'm also engaged in distilling/contracting things?
There are all sorts of fun cliche's pertaining to the future and the past... one that I particularly like is "the wake of the boat does not drive the boat..." But this does not mean that we shouldn't look back at the wakes... because they were important in the process. They still exist as what allowed the boat to go forward. I suppose that I too have Lot's Wife tendencies... and I think it's okay.
So I guess I just want to articulate that I believe in promises like I believe in stories as a way of bridging the past with the future (not enslaving it)... and as a way of both embracing the infinite and trying to make better sense of it by making the infinite smaller. It's good to have things that one can rely on... even if we create them ourselves. So I believe in promises, like I believe in stories. And I like to keep promises too, as best I can. It's an important value for me which feels somewhat strange because another important value that I'm pretty sure I have is being like Una, open to being changed.... I'll try and hold both values in my head at the same time, even though they seem to be different :-)
anne asks about the contraction. i think the contraction is in the self definition that seems so imperative in the wrestle.
here's the contraction of my story:
today i told paul and stef that i'm taking too many classes that are messing with my mind ... i don't get any rest time. and then i post things like what i just posted ... really distressed. yes, i am deeply distressed. maybe hopeless ? not yet, but as close as i get. that's the expanded me. caring so deeply about The Matrix, This world, Us women, Us human beings ... i really do loose sleep over humanity.
but then my body's survival reflex kicks in and i comfort myself by saying, "there are people in this world that i love. there are people in this world that i love." and when i think of those people The Matrix doesn't matter, Israel/Palestein doesn't matter, the sweat shops don't matter. i know it sounds awful, but it's true. i love so deeply that the desperate state of humanity takes a backseat to the loves in MY life. was really upset after class, as you can read. ((sry about the whole "telling you not to think what you were thinking part....really, i'm sorry ... it was just a shabby, desperate mechanism to get you to move)) it just felt like all three of my classes today were telling me that there was no way OUT ... but, then my bro called me and i don't care any more about The Matrix and i don't care about the GAP and recoding language. that's me contracted. maybe some of you feel that deep contraction of love ? maybe some of you with kids ? with beloved siblings ? a sigfig ? the apocalypse might be here, but things are okay when you are with those you love. WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER.
What I want to respond to from our section today is the point (Ro's?) that there are so many things we don' know about Una. We know that she survives danger and loss many times, but what if her free-thinking and free-will were ever opposed? Everyone she meets finds her free-thinking sooo attractive. No one seems to be threatened by her, and men fall head over heels for her intellect and "independence." Her father is the only one who thinks she needs to be somehow tamed. How does she manage to find herself always in the company of people who affirm her alternativeness? And what does survivng mean if you are not threatened? She is a strong woman, but she's not breaching the barriers of any "box" no matter how hard Naslund wants you to think she is. I'm not saying that getting outside of the box is easy, however. I'm sure in it.
Well, not nearly as soul searching as the current trend in this forum, but perhaps another time.
Orah/Diane's talk of "the walk" has really struck a chord. There is a walk, I do it too... and that makes me think, is it a pseudo confidence I have? I'm thinking of all the male figures in my life so far. They've all been controlling, always had the power. My walk has seemed like sweet rebellion to them because they know it only has SO much power. I think they know that it only extends so deep, beyond which there is uncertainly and clinginess... and that makes me so sad...and angry- with myself, for not having that walk NATURALLY.
I'm also bitter about the male population Diane, I hear you...
i made a promise 1369 days ago,
the day i left for college.
i promised them i would not
i promised them i would not
i promised them i would not...
1369 days later,
i have broken every single one.
Soon my thesis will be handed in,
I will walk in cap and gown.
They will smile at me proudly,
deaf to my inner sounds.
I have grown, I will scream...
Mourning the end of my loved dream.
Spring is gone,
The sunny tulip wilts.
"Off with her head," they shout,
My leaves crust with guilt.
Just maybe I will tell them what I now believe; I need to act fast:
"What," I would say, "What is a promise... but a way to enslave the future to the past?"
Am reining in my philosophical bent this morning to give you your assigned performance times next week. [Reminder: your assignment is to spontaneously form an emergent group, and in it to prepare presentations which reflect on some aspect of the course readings. Your presentations should encourage, in a provocative and entertaining way, further story development on the part of others in the class. You should plan for your performance to take 10-15 minutes (including discussion time, if you want it).]
On Tuesday, April 27:
Elizabeth C, Em M and Ro.
Becky, Su-Lyn, Reeve
Nancy, Fritz, Simran, Katherine P
Lauren, Kat, Diane, Cham
Emily S, Lindsay
On Thursday, April 29:
Heather, Bethany, Erin
Orah, Perrin, Meg, Stephanie
Daniela, Patty, Student Contributor
Julia, Rachel, Susan
Elizabeth D, Jen
Paul's and my lists didn't match exactly, so let me know if I've erred in recording your affiliations. If you are not listed, hook up w/ a group ASAP (Elizabeth and Jen are actively seeking companionship) and then let me know.
Very much looking forward to this-- Anne
shout-out to cham: here's to coming down the home stretch on your thesis.
Paul's presentation of Ishmael vs. Issac, Quran vs. Bible, Tuesday left me leaving the room feeling rather suspicious (sorry, Paul). I know you stated at the beginning of the lecture that you were not a theologian and so I know you did not have an agenda (or a religous agenda, anyway) when you presented the different stories. There was something about the 'tree of religion' that didn't make much sense and it was only until last night that it all became clear. I attended the joint JSU/MSA event last night where an Arab/Jewish band played Middle Eastern music and a Sufi Poet read some of his own, as well as some more traditional, poetry. He read a series of poems having to do with Abraham which I thought was so funny given our talk on Tuesday.
Anyway, just so my thoughts are clear. I don't understand why the tree had two seperate branches, one labeled Jesus (or was it Christ?) and the other Mohammed. It gives the impression that muslims don't believe in Jesus when in fact he is regarded as a much-loved prophet. It would have been more accurate to show the brancing off of Islam after the introduction of Jesus/Christ. Islam is not a different story...it's an extension. I like to think of it as the later chapters. (Of course these are just my thoughts...I can't speak for all muslims.) And just as a side note, not only do muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet but also in Issac. There is no distinction made between Issac and Ishmael except that each had different mothers. Of course, like Paul said, the Quran goes on to talk about Ishmael. It doesn't end with his banishment.
And then Abraham. In the Quran it does not say that Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Ishmael. There is no mention of a name. In fact, there are numerous commentaries that point to Issac as the son who was meant to be sacrificed. In the Quran it just says "son". Also someone mentioned goat. I'm not sure but I think the Quran explicitly says a ram was sacrificed in the son's place. I'll have to look that up.
I would argue that it is because of recent events in Israel/Palestine that people are reading the stories differently. Issac is thought to have fathered the Jews, Ishmael the Arabs. There is a political/religious agenda at play where different groups are trying to stake a claim for Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Frankly, I think it's disgusting. Stories were not invented to incite violence and senseless killing.
Anne you talked about promises holding the future hostage to the past. Maybe the God in these stories should have thought twice about the promise He supposedly made to one of Abraham's sons (or maybe both of his sons...who knows?)
Is God responsible for the promise He made? Did a situation arise when the promise was longer binding? Does it really matter???
Anyway, that's enough political/religious talk from me. The point was the Quran and Bible are essentially telling the same stories. I think that's even more interesting than if they were telling different ones.
this has been an intense week for me. it started on tues. when i saw this documentry in my anthro class about the WTO riots in eugene oregon. they were amazing. there were 50, 000 people there. it was HUGE. and you'd think, listening to these people, that This was going to be what changed the world. if anything was going to change the world these riots were IT. and you know what kills me ? i had never heard of the WTO riots in my life. never heard of them. we're allowed to be angry and we're allowed to scream about our anger, but there is a mechanism out there, call it the media, call it "those in power," call it the leviathan, call it moloch, call it God, but IT is what disallows change. we're screaming into a black hole, friends.
i guess people have taken me to be saying that Madness is the only way out, that getting to 1.1, getting to successful peace, means Madness. and THAT is where i loose hope. right there. that's it. when people think that i am suggesting craziness as a way to peace, as a way to 1.1. i don't think desperatly aching for peace is madness, i don't think that the demand for peace is madness ... i think ANGER is essential ... i think diane and simran's ANGER is essential if there is to be change. but i don't think that it's institutional craziness. it's revolutionary thinking. allen ginsberg was in an insane asylum because of his words. and i swear he's one of the sanest men out there. maybe it takes "madness" to make any change in this world.
md p.322, "man's insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncomprosmised, indifferent as his God."
i realize, that the leviathan, moloch, America, is just too big. okay. i'll try to digest that. if that's what you're telling me to do.
we've been talking about this stuff in my religion class and my prof. is very distressed about it. but he says that he still beleives in the power of the human spirit ... he deeply Beleives in the power of humanity ... i Hope in this power. maybe that is going to be the characteristic of our generation. we're not the Mad Beats who Beleived deeply in the beauty and power of humanity ... we're the Hopefuls ... a new brand of poets speaking to a new brand of Human.
and i'll tell you that if i fell in love with someone on land all the md's in this heartless world could never tear me off of firm ground.
i'm distressed. so i'll quote ya'all some music as a means of necessary contraction. this song actually brings tears to my eyes if you can believe that. music can soften steal in my experience. it reminds me of una.
"Oh, I'm sailin' away my own true love,
I'm sailin' away in the morning.
Is there something I can send you from across the sea,
From the place that I'll be landing?
No, there's nothin' you can send me, my own true love,
There's nothin' I wish to be ownin'.
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled,
From across that lonesome ocean.
Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden,
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona.
Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean,
I'd forsake them all for your sweet kiss,
For that's all I'm wishin' to be ownin'.
That I might be gone a long time
And it's only that I'm askin',
Is there something I can send you to remember me by,
To make your time more easy passin'.
Oh, how can, how can you ask me again,
It only brings me sorrow.
The same thing I want from you today,
I would want again tomorrow.
I got a letter on a lonesome day,
It was from her ship a-sailin',
Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again,
It depends on how I'm a-feelin'.
Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way,
I'm sure your mind is roamin'.
I'm sure your heart is not with me,
But with the country to where you're goin'.
So take heed, take heed of the western wind,
Take heed of the stormy weather.
And yes, there's something you can send back to me,
Spanish boots of Spanish leather."
so what do i do when i realize that we've dug ourselves too far in ...
there is no way out ...
i read T.S. Eliot .
"There are only hints and guesses, / Hints followed by guesses; and the rest / Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action."
what do 20 year olds do when they are just too tired to be distressed any more ? no, i'll speak for myself ... what do i do ? and what did Eliot do ?
to what ? i don't know. I pray as Rilke suggests: "Throw armfuls of emptiness / out to the spaces / that we breathe- / maybe the birds / will sense / the expanded air / flying more fervently."
i wonder how long their fervent flight will last?
when they will be left with only emptiness to hurl...
maybe i'll take the weekend off.
don't be so disheartened. i really believe that there's good out there. the small things don't make a big impact but a small one. i remember driving in bombay the first summer after i came back from college. i was apalled at the poverty, the difference in economic class. a group of children came begging upto my window and asked me in hindi if they could take a ride in the car because they never had. this plea would have been ignored by a turn of the head and not even a response by most. i like to think i never would have ignored the plea even before i came here. i opened the back door of the car and not 1,2,3 but 6 children piled into the backseat and 2 in front. i rolled down the windows, put on hindi film music and took them around for a little bit. and even though the next day they were still back there begging (they do go to an NGO street school though!) they greeted me by name this time and chatted with me and i hoped that they were just a bit happier with the memory of the day before. people have done things like that for me too and it makes me happy. dammit, someone letting me cross the street from english house to cc makes me happy. and i really take pleasure in drawing out those little happinesses. they give me faith. they remind me that this is not an idyll and won't ever be, but within the chaos, there is so much good.
i don't mean to minimize your experience, i'm just feeling positive right now. there are many days when i feel exactly like this:
"The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.
My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage -
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.
I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.
I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free -
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a communion tablet.
The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.
Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I hve no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.
Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.
The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health."
Orah: the secrets of the world are in the white space between the words.
Laurence Durrell: "Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?"
Paul: There needs to be not only interaction but also silence/white space to keep the whole process going?
Cham: silence is the timeless possibility right before the eruption of something wonderful
Ro.: ...sounds a lot, feels a lot like a Quaker meeting---the silence of it, the communing in silence.
Ro: Does silence eliminate boundaries Or does it reshape them...involuntarily pushing us back into our selves.
Orah: silence IS The Moment of possibility!! silence is that instant when the future is created by imagination.
Nancy: thinking about silence as the moment of possibility...I see the space of listening as a time to create something new simulatneously.
I'm a Quaker, and one of the things I most like about meeting is all the silence, in which the words--however feeble or inadequate--take on a weight, can sink in. In "The Aesthetics of Silence," Susan Sontag talks about this process in more secular terms; I leaned heavily in her, once, in a Chapter called "'Silence is so Windowful': Class as Antechamber" (in Teaching to Learn):
without the polarity of silence, the whole system of language would fail....speech closes off thought. Silence keeps things "open." Still another use for silence: ...aiding speech to attain its maximum integrity of seriousness...when punctuated by long silences, words weigh more. Silence undermines "bad speech"...words are too crude. And words are also too busy--inviting a hyperactivity of consciousness that ...actively deadens the mind and blunts the senses. Silence...is both the precondition of speech and the... aim of properly directed speech...the artist's activity is...creating silence around things...a full-scale attack on language itself...on behalf of the standard of silence.
we're covered in silence. silence is the air into which we move. we break it's consistency only slightly while we move through air. but then it wraps itself around us, and enters us through our nostrils and ears. we are the minute break in the silence. but then the silence rolls on over us, ignorant of what we've said, unchanged by our words. and then the silence collapses over us and rolls on through us and over us as it rolled five thousand years ago.
....i guess the first four lines are all you're going to get out of this unless you've read all four of the quartets ... this is the very end of them ... the key is ... well, i wish i could buy every one of you a copy of the four quartets as a farewell gift, but ... maybe these quotes will inspire you to read them ... but, maybe there are hints within the lines that you've read here to what we've been talking about ... the importance of the silence, the importance of the unattended, unpackaged, free moment ? the importance of the moment in which anything is possible. the moment outside the confines of 0 and 1. the moment in which we are most free.
maybe this is also relevant, from rilke:
Listen, my heart
as only the saints
for a gigantic call
to life them
right off the ground
but they go on kneeling
taking no notice
that's how completely
Not that you
could bear hearing
But listen to that soft
that endless report
that grows out of silence.
It rustles toeard you
from thsoe who died young."
and i find myself returned to my beginning. eliot:
"But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint"
finally, for anne, i remember you liked this quote:
"Beauty if only
the first touch of terror
we can still bear
and it awes us so much
because it so coolly
disdains to destroy us."
Nope, Simran, I'm NOT trying to tell you all to shut up--ESPECIALLY when you and your classmates are coming up w/ such generative observations (for example) about the presence of both Isaac and the shorn sheep in this novel in which Ishmael becomes Una's "last husband." I think, stepping off from Paul's description of the "branching" of Ishmael & Isaac and Student Contributor's re-writing of Islam as "not a different story...it's an extension" of Christianity, that there are some marvelous observations resonating here, well worth further exploration.
What I AM saying to you all is what I need to say to myself repeatedly @ this time of year (I talked about this at Hayley Thomas's service earlier this week, and again @ Meeting for Worship this morning): as time gets short, and the compulsion to say more/have the last word speeds up, we need to acknowledge that we are NOT going to "wrap it all up," are NOT going to write the final story...
we need both to allow ourselves and others to fall silent,
to admit to the end of what words can encompass...
out of which silence, later, more words and more stories will most surely arise:
that's where one finds...the wherewithal to create what will be.
I had told my section, last Thursday, about searching out a Melville OnLine site, and stumbling there upon a "pamplet" from his next-book-after M-D (a book far wilder than M-D): Pierre.
This pamplet, entitled CHRONOMETRICALS AND HOROLOGICALS, reminded me of the Judge teasing Una (who said that her first and second marriages both took place in the same spot on the Pequod, when the Pequod had traveled 1,000 miles between ceremonies): "What is the nature of a spot, a place? Can it remain the same? Is it adequate to give a place only a local definition? Ought it not be global?" (Ahab's Wife, 449). In the pamphlet, Plotinus Plinlimmon likewise constructs a lecture comparing "chronometers (Greek, time-namers) adjusted to Greenwich time" with "mere local standards," and points out how ridiculous it would be, for instance, for folks in China to set their clocks, and live their lives, in accord w/ Greenwich time:
Bacon's brains were mere watch-maker's brains; but Christ was a chronometer; and the most exquisitely adjusted and exact one, and the least affected by all terrestrial jarrings, of any that have ever come to us. And the reason why his teachings seemed folly to the Jews, was because he carried that Heaven's time in Jerusalem, while the Jews carried Jerusalem time there. Did he not expressly say -- My wisdom (time) is not of this world? But whatever is really peculiar in the wisdom of Christ seems precisely the same folly to-day as it did 1850 years ago. Because, in all that interval his bequeathed chronometer has still preserved its original Heaven's time, and the general Jerusalem of this world has likewise carefully preserved its own.....
In short, this Chronometrical and Horological conceit...seems to teach...that in things terrestrial (horological) a man must not be governed by ideas celestial (chronometrical) ...he must by no means make a complete unconditional sacrifice of himself in behalf of any other being, or any cause, or any conceit....A virtuous expediency...seems the highest desirable or attainable earthly excellence for the mass of men...then there would be an end to that fatal despair of becoming all good, which has too often proved the vice-producing result in many minds of the undiluted chronometrical doctrines hitherto taught to mankind. ...I present consolation to the earnest man, who, among all his human frailties, is still agonizingly conscious of the beauty of chronometrical excellence.
Moreover: if --
But here the pamphlet was torn, and came to a most untidy termination.
Melville was such a jokester. But Nasland, playing a joke on him, gets the last laugh: she "corrects" Ahab's "other-wordly" (hence: unattainable. hence: monomanical) ideals of justice by re-setting them in accord w/ Una's pragmatic, attainable "this-worldly" ways of living the life before her.
1) I've spent the better part of this semester complainting about Ahab's Wife. Lately I've heard some of you express the desire to return to the text because our class/forum time has been overflowing with our own, sometimes unrelated stories. I'm amazed/thrilled that this text, seemingly moreso than the others we've read, has been able to initiate the telling of our own stories. I love it for doing this! It is because of this text that I'm getting to learn the most about how I think and about all of you. I needed this (dreaded) text to make the course meaningful for me. It is doing its job, although maybe in an unintended manner. I thank you Anne.
2) I'm procrastinating as I write this. This is my much deserved break from revising for my French exam (and I thought that writing all of you would be more productive than smoking another cigarette). So anyway, I'm in the process of memorizing different French modes. It is entirely more specific a language than English. Whereas we might say "I went to the store" the French language has different spellings to communicate whether you went to the store at a specific point in time, whether it was just at some point in the past, etc. And so, it seems to me that the French language had more meaning inbedded in it than English. Perhaps this prevents you from coming to your own interpertation about a French text, I don't know. But it does seem like a language that will be less likely to fail you when you are looking for a specific/exact/concise way to express yourself. I wonder what our stories would be like if we told them in a different language, it they'd take us different places..
Una aspires to independence. And yet she needs and, therefore, constantly seeks the company/help of others. How free is Una?
Overruling certain social conventions, she espouses the concept of free will (freedom) as her paramount ideal. To attain it, she channels all of her vital energy into this direction. So does Ahab; the difference is that his ideal is personified by a whale. So, how free is Una then?
Aspiring to freedom, Una voluntarily mires herself in various bondages, i.e her search for freedom leads to unfreedom. Does freedom really exist?
Well having revealed one of my flaws, here I go in a futile attempt at closure for Ahab's Wife, I thought I might recap a really interesting discussion that came up in class on Thursday. After batting around ideas about the western cannon of lit and whether or not Ahab's wife was good lit and/or a powerful story about feminism or not, we delved into a talk about Una's purpose and her character. we had a few anti-Una's in the class and some that had a change of heart towards her at the end of the book. I apologize if I don't quote people correctly... we had some strong believers that Una was nothing revolutionary or extraordinary, that she disappointed us in some of her thoughts and decisions (not seeming very admirable), that she wasn't a very good feminist, and that she moved from man to man and was entirely dependent on them for her own personal definition.... I had a hard time defending Una in my head after hearing some of these very valid points, but the one point that set things right in my head again came from Stephanie. Stephanie said she felt that perhaps the book wasn't about making some bold feminist statement at all but that Una was about small victories (a nice contrast to Ahab whose intense monomania made for a really big book). Una like the evolutionary process was about step by step changes for survival. I choose to believe that Una was a survivor, perhaps not revolutionary, and maybe that's the point, maybe its not, but I think she was admirable and not defined entirely by her husbands. And like always we can learn to accept that everyone reads the book and its meanings differently, one can see a lot or very little in their interpretation... but we can be content with not having a right and wrong answer in science and in lit.
I thought I was done with this forum, but Daniela's amazing post took care of that notion '-)
It's tricky, isn't it—this freedom thing. Zen. A balancing act. See it—Want it—Lose it (because you want it—too much? –not enough?) WHO'S RULES ARE THESE? 'Open palm,' 'open door,' 'letting go,' 'go with the flow,' 'give and take,' 'take what you need,' memes—these are fly paper for freedom. Not very sticky. Use that other stuff—over there.
So, not wanting is freedom? Goals lead to monomania—they set in, set up, set out to do us in. And the in-ness of it—the internalizing of those whips—were they ever outside? WHO'S FAULT IS IT? There is no whale. I mean, what does the whale know or care? (I sound like Starbuck but I mean to sound like me). Write the book from the whale's point of view. Think of Moby's alter ego, Una's black whale—more like a bull in a china shop—no concept of the price of china. He just needed a place to crash.
Do mirrors serve the purpose of showing us ourselves as we are, or ourselves by contrast? WHO IS THAT PERSON? The one looking looks not at all like the one being looked at—from the inside. Where my eyes are. Naslund has written Melville's mirror. I like the idea of writing a mirror. And then I think, when don't writers write mirrors—sometimes they look in from behind.
So, this freedom thing—I went from an ordinary amount of power in the real world to an extraordinary amount of the stuff—before I left "corporate America." The social hierarchy on the Pequod is totally the same as a corporation's. And power is very cool, very cool. But it's not freedom. So, I left to come here, thinking, Whoa, this is where I will find everything I need to amuse myself in old age and in-between now and then—because being my age, I'd figured out that I would get old—it's not an "everybody else" condition. And the whole notion of going from what seemed free (I called the shots) to what does not (the pecking order here, being at the bottom) in order to be free was amusing—for a few semesters. Until I decided I want a masters degree, a particular masters degree. So, what was never about the rat race has become that. I broke my promise to myself—maybe making a promise was the first sign, the first crack, the first chink to fall. If you're going to make promises, make them to other people. No, wait. That's not how it works. A promise made is made to myself. The self as autobiographer. A promise made becomes part of my script. Foiled again.
Daniela, thanks. You helped me remember what I had learned once and forgotten... summing it up.... that I'd rather take a walk alongside a good horse than ride her any day. I'm the horse pulling this buggy. So no wonder it feels good to put the whips away.
I would like to say before reading the rest of the forum, that i think this weekend I found myself in a space between 1 and 0. This space was filled with energy and women (wemoon) and chanting and pink! and it was called the March for Women's Lives. Kudos to all who were there and felt the space between 1 and 0.
Accept your correction of the tree. Was primarily intrigued by the abandoment of Ishmael in the Judeo-Christain tradition.
Ro - "I'd rather take a walk alongside a good horse than ride her any day. I'm the horse pulling this buggy. So no wonder it feels good to put the whips away. "
"Westerners abhor silence. Easterners embrace it."
As a "Westerner" born and raised in Utah I am shocked at this generality. First of all I personally love the silence. Sometimes bryn mawr isn't silent enough for me. I need to get away from everyone, friends and classmates. Second of all, I have never found any place more quiet than the West and specifically the desert in the southwest- which I love more than life itself. To me the west is full of wide empty spaces which are appreciated by the people who live there. It is the easterners, in my opinion, who are noisy and scared of silence. They have the huge cities that extend without break from Boston to DC. I have been camping in both the west and the east, and I can tell you from experience that easterners don't know when to shut up. Does playing Bob Marley from you car radio at midnight in a camping ground sound like embracing silence to you? If it does I think that you should take a trip to Zion, or Arches, or the Grand Canyon. That is where you can find silence and people who know how to keep it.
By "Westerner," I meant those of us in western cultures well beyond the USA...and "Easterner" was meant to mean like Japan, China, .... And, yes, it was a gross sweep, two gross sweeps, but there is some validity to it, I think...and this I say having travelled and worked in many cultures. I visited a haiku poet in Japan. We sat so still, and I felt nothing of the fidgeting that happens, for example, in a U.S. classroom when a question has been asked and no one responds. I spent weeks on end negotiating contracts in Tokyo and Hong Kong--negotiations that would have taken only few days here--but we used silence to learn about each other, and that took time. These are a few of many instances that caused me to make that observation. I hope this explanation makes you feel a bit better that I was not maligning your southwest. That thought never crossed my mind.
silence scares me. it puts too much weight on each word i say. maybe as i become wiser i will learn to trust my words. i never feel that i am getting myself just right: right enough that i can rest. there are teases, times when i lay down for a nap, thinking that i've gotten a little peice just right. that's enough for me. just a little sliver of rightness. but, in that space between waking life and sleeping life, that place that una speaks of so sweetly, that place of sliding between sky and sea, that is the place that keeps we awake, and i know that i have not seized a thing. not a thing. silence puts emphasise on these words that are not accurate enough for me. and i cannot live thinking that i am not out there. that there are misinterpratations of me walking around in other people's minds. i can't take that.
there is a difference between noise and poetry, i think.
and all i want is poetry.
that's all i want.
i could live a life of utter silence; filled with poetry.
sometimes i think that i am living that life.
i wish i could paste these words in a cave ... for no one to see. but for them merely to exist. forever. but nothing can last unless read. the mind is the only enduring cave, i think. so i am forced to invade your mind. violence. there is nothing i can do. i am sorry.
Odd, how there have been so many misunderstandings and moments of clarification within this forum, or is that only my carelessness?
I like thinking of silence as non-threatening. It needs and wants no words and no filler- it exists, thrives, blooms in beauty all on it's own. If I held my silence when I saw something like Ro's posting about "westerners" and "easterners" would I/she/we be better off? Are new stories a form of misunderstanding and breaking silence? Maybe some people still (if they ever truely did) feel that Ahab's Wife should not have broken the silence of Moby Dick.
i think one of the reasons i have a hard time with silence is because i think that important words might escape us. THIS, what kathrine just wrote, i think is so important ... the question of whether naslund soiled the pure silence after md ... or if she made the silence greater? gave it a wider footprint ? crushing into the cave minds of a larger population.
also, to diane:
i don't think i would be able to be in silence in that situation ... and i know that silence would be the strongest thing to do ... but .... a story :
when i was in 11th grade my brother was in 9th ... i remember riding the bus one day and hearing one of his friends call him stupid because he failed some test. i know that the strongest thing in that situation would have been to sit in silence.... i know it .... and i regret flipping out at the kid to this day. i don't have the strength to defend, in silence what i know to be right ... maybe that's something one learns with age ? and experience ... i think i'm learning that sometimes screaming is not as audible as whispers.
words are a raid on the inarticulate ... silence is a conquering of the inarticulate? a standoff - a peering down - refusing to leave your treetop - refusing the immersion into noise - refusing the drowning quality of voices.
too fast do i jump to the ground for the mud tussle of words.
I think the ultimate reason we are forever "getting it less wrong" (as opposed to nailing it, getting it "right") is language. We use what we've got, and it ain't perfect. So, somebody invented the notion of dialog, or maybe it just happened in some cave around the fire—a domestic disagreement, or maybe the latest cave art aroused such intense reactions that the cave dwellers blurted out first this <*!&?>, then that ?___.> Who knows. But that's what I suspect. '-)
"If I held my silence when I saw something like Ro's posting about "westerners" and "easterners" would I/she/we be better off?"
Personally, I say no, NO! It is so much better (although it takes courage—at least it does for me to do it) to engage when something like that happens. I feel better off having an understanding—even when I don't understand.
Updated Performance Schedule
On Tuesday, April 27:
Elizabeth C, Em M and Ro.
Becky, Su-Lyn, Reeve
Nancy, Fritz, Simran
Lauren, Kat, Diane, Cham, Roz
Emily S, Lindsay
On Thursday, April 29:
Heather, Bethany, Erin
Orah, Perrin, Meg, Stephanie
Daniela, Patty, Aia, Mary
Julia, Rachel, Susan, Katherine P
Elizabeth D, Jen
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