"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Monday, May 28, 2018

Don't Ruin My Birthday!

Birthday Cake ~ Accustomed, Ceremonious
A Chocolate Cheesecake for Ben ~ June 2, 2005

********************

Because my happiness was based on external measures —
on tasks being completed, plans running accordingly,
goals being met, hairs being in place —
I was continually disappointed
— upset — impatient — and stressed.
"
Rachel Macy Stafford
from her article
"The Day My Child Lost Her Joy —
And What I Did to Revive It
"

********************

Thanks to my friend Laura Thudium Zieglowsky for posting Rachel Macy Stafford's article, which is well worth reading no matter what the age of your loved ones. Whether or not you are surrounded by impressionable children, Stafford's points are well taken. I appreciate her observation that, yes, our moods and actions do indeed have an impact on others around us; and if we care about their feelings, we will modify our behavior accordingly. Easier said than done, however, when, rightly or wrongly, little things seem to matter so much: "I’m talking trivial, insignificant, minor inconveniences here, but that was the state of a distracted [or in my case at the time, pre-menopausal and strangely sad] woman who could no longer see the blessings, only the inconveniences, of her life."

Stafford's quest to revive her joy reminded me of my son Ben's 15th birthday (13 years ago!), when I went to pick the boys up from summer band and burst into tears because another mom had given me a mean scowl on the parking lot for being a bad driver. No one was hurt, no one's car was damaged, yet still I felt so shamed and stressed and worried that I could not stop crying to save my life (maybe because I took the scowl personally, and started hearing the tapes in my head: "you're so stupid, you don't belong here"). Why couldn't I just say, "Oh, well"?

I tried to proceed with my normal activities that afternoon, going home and making a cake, but crying all the while. Even an hour or so later, while Ben and Sam were in the study doing their homework and I was in the kitchen assembling Ben's favorite -- chocolate cheesecake -- I simply could not get a grip. Finally, Ben called in from the other room, "Mom, stop crying! You're ruining my birthday!" Now THAT was a wake-up call!

It was bad enough that Sam was constantly reminding me "to chill." But looking crazy in the eyes of my children or ruining their birthdays? That was the last thing I wanted. Quick! Send in the emergency perception checkers!

Around the same time, one of my most introspective friends wrote to say:
"Hope all is well with you. By which I guess I mean two things: I hope for pleasant circumstances to surround you, but also I hope you feel well deep within, where no circumstance can touch you. Lately I think of myself as a tree, and those two realms of life are the branches and the root system, respectively."

Similarly, Susan Jeffers, in The Little Book of Peace of Mind (which may sound trite but is not), draws a distinction between Higher Self (the source inner peace, peace of mind, etc.) and the Lower Self (who insists on struggling with circumstances). She says "that true joy comes not from something out there, but from something wondrous within our being . . . something . . . present and always accessible."
What a perfectly timed reminder that circumstances are merely superficial and not the barometer of happiness -- and most importantly, that they needn't touch me. Why give every little detail or misstep the power to determine my mood and the way I feel about and act toward others? Instead of being so reactive to all the inconsequential little bothers -- or even the larger hurtful ones -- I had only to shift my focus from circumstances to state of mind. It's partly a question of maturity and, perhaps, learning to live with our natures; and partly resisting the tendency to take every perceived slight personally -- even when there was no need at all -- particularly things over which we have little or no control.

Could I train myself to privilege to peace of mind over circumstances? As Kafka reminds us, we can be so good at intellectualizing these precepts yet so inept at applying them to our daily struggles and living them out, all the time, in all areas of life. Rachel Macy Stafford explains the "positive mantras" that she finds helpful:
"Only Love Today to silence my inner bully. Whenever a critical thought would come to my mind or my mouth, I’d cut it off with Only Love Today. I used See Flowers Not Weeds as a pathway to gratitude, to see what was good in situations and people."
I too have a few of these mantras. Whenever I start fighting the circumstances too hard, I rely on one of my long - time favorites from Margaret Atwood: "You have nothing to live against." Whenever I start feeling frustrated and critical, I take the advice that Hugh Prather shares in How To Live in the World and Still Be Happy: Try going through the day saying to yourself, "Today I will be gently amused by everything" or "Today I will not make any judgments."

Ben displayed some "gentle amusement" (again this was years ago) when we were stuck up on campus at a boring meeting, and afterward I told him about my new Hugh Prather approach. He said, "Good luck with that, Mom. As for me, I judged the meeting to be boring and was not amused." Well, regardless of his assessment, clearly he retained his sense of humor; always a plus!

Another funny talk with Ben from those days occurred one night when we burned a batch of cookies. Rather than my usual fretting or blaming, I said, "Well, you know what the doctor says . . . ." Ben looked at me quizzically, and I told him that the best medical advice I'd received lately was to say, "Oh, well!" Furthermore, do whatever it might take (positive mantras, talk therapy, SSRIs, emotional tools) to keep your "Oh, well!" function in good working order, never forgetting the connection between emotional outlook and physical well-being. Whenever you might be otherwise tempted to "cry over spilled milk" -- or whatever it is that I might have just spilled or burned or broken or lost -- instead, just say "Oh, well!" or another useful variation: "That happens sometimes!"

So far, this post has not been very literary, but I am happy to share these lyrics, at times mysterious, about the lifelong quest for peace of mind:
One of These Days

Well I won't have to chop no wood
I can be bad or I can be good
I can be any way that I feel
One of these days

Might be a woman that's dressed in black
Be a hobo by the railroad track
I'll be gone like the wayward wind
one of these days

One of these days it will soon
be all over cut and dry
And I won't have this urge
to go all bottled up inside
One of these days I'll look back
and I'll say I left in time
'Cause somewhere for me
I know there's peace of mind

I might someday walk across this land
Carrying the Lord's book in my hand
Goin' cross the country singin' loud as I can
One of these days

But I won't have trouble on my back
Cuttin' like the devil with a choppin' axe,
Got to shake it off my back
one of these days

One of these days it will soon
be all over cut and dry
And I won't have this urge
to go all bottled up inside
One of these days I'll look back
and I'll say I left in time
'Cause somewhere for me
I know there's peace of mind
There's gonna be peace of mind for me
one of these days


Music & lyrics by Earl Montgomery / Sung by Emmylou Harris

On a slightly lighter note, but still introspectively,
the narrator of this little song urges the lovelorn to say,
"Oh, well!"

Why So Pale and Wan?

Why so pale and wan fond lover?
Prithee why so pale?
Will, when looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale?

Why so dull and mute young sinner?
Prithee why so mute?
Will, when speaking well can’t win her,
Saying nothing do’t?
Prithee why so mute?

Quit, quit for shame, this will not move,
This cannot take her;
If of herself she will not love,
Nothing can make her;
The devil take her.


By Cavalier Poet, Sir John Suckling (1609 - 1641)

Interesting to note that both of these songs include a reference to the devil (as in "Get thee behind me Satan!") -- there's a connection for you! And here's a coincidence: just this morning, I ran across this inspiring short sermon about the devil by cutting edge priest Nadia Bolz-Weber:

The Devil = Your Inner Critic = The Accuser

Maybe you've seen her work before. I only discovered her website this week, and every video I've watched so far has been great:

Forgive Assholes / Longer Version

How Much BS Can You Call on Yourself?

More About Nadia

Being a Lutheran Pastor

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, June 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mr. and Mrs. Blue Sky

BLUE DANCERS, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Floraison
by Ferdinand Hodler (1853 - 1918)

These beautiful blue dancers seem appropriate to two events
that we celebrated over the weekend:

Happy Mother's Day
to all manner of moms out there

&

Happy Graduation Day
to my son William Benedict McCartney, Ph.D.
who completed his graduate degree from Duke University
Go Blue Devils!

In keeping with the theme, a couple of old favorites,
both by ELO turned up on the playlist yesterday:


Mister Blue Sky

Sun is shinin' in the sky
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped rainin' everybody's in a play
And don't you know
It's a beautiful new day, hey hey

Runnin' down the avenue
See how the sun shines brightly in the city
On the streets where once was pity
Mister blue sky is living here today, hey hey

Mister blue sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Mister blue sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey you with the pretty face
Welcome to the human race
A celebration, mister blue sky's up there waitin'
And today is the day we've waited for

Oh mister blue sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey there mister blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

Hey there mister blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

Mister blue sky, mister blue sky
Mister blue sky

Mister blue, you did it right
But soon comes mister night creepin' over
Now his hand is on your shoulder
Never mind I'll remember you this
I'll remember you this way

Mister blue sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey there mister blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you
Mister blue sky


and

Turn to Stone (My Blue World)

. . . A sound that flows into my mind
(The echoes of the daylight)
Of everything that is alive
(In my blue world)

. . . Through all I sit here and I wait
(I turn to stone, I turn to stone)
You will return again some day
To my blue world . . .


Lyrics by Jeff Lynne

***********************

In addition to being treated, unexpectedly, to the various blue tunes from ELO, I've been recently puzzling over a comment from Muriel Spark's novel A Far Cry From Kensington. When Mrs. Hawkins notices a resemblance between one of her neighbors and the Mona Lisa she "decided that the intellectual practice of associating ideas overlays and obliterates our spontaneous gifts of recognition" (159).

I adore Sparks witticisms and insights; yet I would have concluded quite the reverse. For example, when Jeff Lynne's blue lyrics bring to mind Ferdinand Hodler's blue women, it seems that the association is spontaneous, and that once again, connection and coincidence have pulled the universe into sharper focus.

Here are a couple more examples of
Hodler's Blue World

View Into Infinity

Emotion

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, May 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Geese Girls

ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
May is National Bike Month
Motocycles Comiot, 1899
Theophile Steinlen, 1859 - 1923

Many years ago, a friend gave me a
small copy of the above poster because:
"Last Spring, I saw you one day riding your bike and you reminded me of an image that I could not place at that time. I found out the other night that I had this poster in mind when I came upon it going through my things. I hope you like it."
A year or so later, another friend wrote:

"I bought this card for you because
the ducks reminded me of that print you've got."

No Ugly Duckling, 1894
Alfred Augustus Glendening, 1861 - 1907

And a third installment:
The Goosegirl, 1900
Arthur Rackham, 1867 - 1939
Illustration for
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
[Read more about ~ the fairy tale]

`````````````````````````````

Related Poetry

1.
What the Goose-Girl Said About the Dean

Turn again, turn again,
Goose Clothilda, Goosie Jane.

Bright wooden waves of people creak
From houses built with coloured straws
Of heat; Dean Pasppus’ long nose snores
Harsh as a hautbois, marshy-weak.

The wooden waves of people creak
Through the fields all water-sleek.

And in among the straws of light
Those bumpkin hautbois-sounds take flight.

Whence he lies snoring like the moon
Clownish-white all afternoon.

Beneath the trees’ arsenical
Sharp woodwind tunes; heretical—

Blown like the wind’s mane
(Creaking woodenly again).

His wandering thoughts escape like geese
Till he, their gooseherd, sets up chase,
And clouds of wool join the bright race
For scattered old simplicities.


by Edith Sitwell, 1887 - 1964

2.
The Goose-Girl

Spring rides no horses down the hill,
But comes on foot, a goose-girl still.
And all the loveliest things there be
Come simply, so, it seems to me.
If ever I said, in grief or pride,
I tired of honest things, I lied:
And should be cursed forevermore
With Love in laces, like a whore,
And neighbours cold, and friends unsteady,
And Spring on horseback, like a lady!


by Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 - 1950

3.
The Goose-Girl

I wandered lonely by the sea,
As is my daily use,
I saw her drive across the lea
The gander and the goose.
The gander and the gray, gray goose,
She drove them all together;
Her cheeks were rose, her gold hair loose,
All in the wild gray weather.

'O dainty maid who drive the geese
Across the common wide,
Turn, turn your pretty back on these
And come and be my bride.

I am a poet from the town,
And, 'mid the ladies there,
There is not one would wear a crown
With half your charming air!'

She laughed, she shook her pretty head.
'I want no poet's hand;
Go read your fairy-books,' she said,
'For this is fairy-land.
My Prince comes riding o'er the leas;
He fitly comes to woo,
For I'm a Princess, and my geese
Were poets, once, like you!'


by Edith Nesbit, 1858 - 1924

4.
"Curdken and the Goosegirl"
by Helene Mullins
New Yorker, September 1, 1928

5.
"Heroine's Journey: The Goose Girl"

6.
"So Many More Geese Girls"

`````````````````````````````

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, May 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Trees, Trains, and Idiots

BONES, TREES, HOUSES ~ ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"Bones...trees.....houses"
Cartoon by Michael Lipsey
Prequel: A few weeks ago, when writing about the Guayacan Tree (and shortly thereafter on the Vernal Equinox) there was one quotation that kept eluding me, something I read somewhere about trees and houses made of bones. After an hour of fruitless searching for the lost thought, I gave up locating the passage and posted the essay without it, even though it would have made such a perfect connection. I lamented the failed memory recall, filing away the almost but not quite remembered line under "maybe one day I'll relocate it."
Yesterday was the day!
Early in the morning I came across this comment:

" . . . [at] no time in American history have so many idiots
been exposed to other idiots Thanks Facebook . . ."

reminding me of the old / new, negative / positive [take your pick] adage that "the internet has given everyone a megaphone."

Only the day before, I had encountered these wise words from George Washington, describing the 18th Century version of "megaphone syndrome." I.e, you're going to have to listen to a lot of idiots:

"In a free and republican government,
you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude.
Every man will speak as he thinks, or, more properly,
without thinking, and consequently will judge at effects
without attending to their causes."

Stepping back in time, American historian Sarah Vowell explains: "Washington was reminding Lafayette that even though the establishment of a free and republican government comes with half - baked tomfoolery and half - cocked bile, every now and then someone who has something to say gets to say it" (203, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States). I.e, you're going to have to listen to a lot of idiots, but eventually you might hear something worthwhile.

But, getting back to yesterday, later in the afternoon, while re-reading high - lighted passages from my new favorite novel, I came across these lines:
"Gustave [Flaubert, 1821 – 1880] belonged to the first railway generation in France; and he hated the invention. . . . he hated the way it flattered people with the illusion of progress. What was the point of scientific advance without moral advance? The railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid together" (108, emphasis added).
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes

Wow! Flaubert's 19th Century concern matches right up with the 21st Century image of the megaphone and the internet: "so many idiots . . . exposed to other idiots." Synchronicity! Except for one slight problem: where did I read that about the idiots? Somewhere on facebook. Only a few hours ago. Was it on my nephew's page? He had recently been expressing annoyance with facebook users who refuse to accept accountability for their own participation in the great communicative enterprise. I skimmed his page and reread his important, imperative advice: "STOP blaming people and be accountable for your own self"! But I didn't see anything specifically about "idiots."

On to my next lead, the page of facebook friend, artist and writer Michael Lipsey, who had also expressed misgivings about various issues of privacy and profit. I clicked on his page just in case but saw nothing about "idiots." However, you may have already guessed what was there, patiently awaiting my rediscovery: one of Lispsey's classic cartoons: "Bones...trees.....houses" -- as seen above! After congratulating myself on this fortuitous, serendipitous (No, I'm not going to choose! Yes, I'm going to use both words!) rediscovery, I was also able to retrace my steps to the subject of my original search -- the observation about exposure to idiots -- in a conversation between my brother and one of his facebook friends.

Just as a bonus, facebook decided to show me another glimpse of brilliance from Michael Lipsey before I turned off my laptop for the evening. Thanks Michael for your initial share (one of the good things about facebook!) and for allowing me to reshare here on my blog! Thanks Flaubert for predicting the 21st Century internet in your description of the 19th Century trains. And thanks facebook for the synchronicity!

Further thanks to Jean - Paul Sartre for referring to Flaubert himself as The Family Idiot (reviewed by Frederick Jameson; and to Hazel Barnes for her study of Sartre and Flaubert (reviewed by Julian Barnes).

As the song says, is it coincidence or connection? Or both.

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, April 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ Coffee With Flaubert ~ Imposter Syndrome
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Who's Afraid? Fear Not!

A WRITER, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONOUS
"Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully
in what is commonly thought big than
in what is commonly thought small. . . .
Down, down into the midst of ordinary things."


1902 & 1927
George Charles Beresford - Virginia Woolf in 1902 - RestorationVirginia Woolf 1927

Rest in Peace Virginia Woolf:
25 January 1882 ~ 28 March 1941
"I am now galloping over Mrs. Dalloway. . . . The reviewers will say that it is disjointed because of the mad scenes not connecting with the Dalloway scenes. And I suppose there is some superficial glittery writing. But is it 'unreal'? Is it mere accomplishment? I think not. . . . it seems to leave me plunged deep in the richest strata of my mind. I can write and write and write now: the happiest feeling in the world." ~ Virginia Woolf, December 13, 1924

**********************

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,

Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renown├Ęd be thy grave!


Shakespeare
from Cymbeline (Act IV, Scene 2, 2656 - 2689)

The opening lines of this Shakespearean song are quoted
several times by Clarissa Dalloway in Woolf's novel:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages.
(13)

"Fear no more," said Clarissa.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun.
(44)
. . . the world seems to be saying "that is all" more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, says the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking.” (59)
. . . she repeated and the words came to her,
Fear no more the heat of the sun.
She must go back to them. But what an extraordinary night.
(283)

Google Doodle on Woolf's 136th Birthday

**********************

Sometimes the connections are all about connections.

Armin van Buuren:
"Everyone’s connected but no one is connecting."
from the song: "Alone"

Joan Didion:
"In this light, all narrative was sentimental. In this light
all connections were equally meaningful and equally senseless.
"
from the essay: The White Album

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
"If there's the slightest connection,
it's worth thinking about.
"
from the novel Player Piano

Donna Tartt:
"What held me fast . . . was the element of chance:
random disasters . . . converging on the same unseen point . . .
You could study the connections for years and never work it out
-- it was all about things coming together, things falling apart,
time warp . . . a way of seeing things twice, or more than twice.
. . . a field awareness of unseen patterns. . .
" (305)
from the novel The Goldfinch

Annie Barrows
"In books . . . things were connected; people did something
and then something else happened because of that.
I could understand them. But outside, here in the real world,
things seemed to happen for no reason that I could see.
Maybe there was no reason.
" (374)

"Did most girls my age feel the way I did, as if the people
I thought I knew had turned out to have a thousand little tunnels*
leading away from the face they showed the world? . . .
The buried parts, now, they were fascinating but ominous, too.
" (128)
from the novel The Truth According to Us

Virginia Woolf:
"I should say a good deal about The Hours [later entitled Mrs. Dalloway]
and my discovery: how I dig out beautiful caves* behind my characters:
I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humor, depth.
The idea is that the caves shall connect
and each come to daylight at the present moment.
"
from A Writer's Diary
~ Thursday, August 30, 1923 ~

*I'm also seeing a connection here between Woolf's "beautiful caves"
and Barrows' "thousand little tunnels . . . fascinating but ominous"!

**********************

The previous year, Woolf had written:

"Mrs. Dalloway has branched into a book;
and I adumbrate here a study of insanity and suicide;
the world seen by the sane and the insane side by side
-- something like that. Septimus Smith? is that a good name?"

~ Saturday, October 14, 1922 ~

And in 1998, film critic Jack Kroll wrote:
Mrs.Dalloway's day is climaxed by her party, Smith's by his suicide. But these contrasting events are two parts of a symbolic whole, Virginia Woolf herself. Mrs. Dalloway is a Woolf without the genius, while Smith's fate prefulres the troubled Woolf's own suicide in 1941 [on March 28th]. In her notebook Woolf wrote, 'Mrs. D seeing the truth. SS seeing the insane truth.'"

from "Down in the Upper Crust:
Virginia Woolf's Landmark Novel Dazzles on Screen"
in Newsweek, March 2, 1998

**********************
In conclusion, only last month I was dismayed to find this trivializing assessment (an opinion I suppose shared by many) of Clarissa Dalloway's immersion into the details of one perhaps ordinary yet fateful day. In a book about teaching that I otherwise liked very much, Heather Kirn Lanier writes:
"In college, I'd spent my years studying the narrative stances of Virginia Woolf, appreciating the relative plotlessness of Mrs. Dalloway a book in which, let's face it, not much happens."
Au contraire! For Woolf's characters, it is a day filled with grief, intropsection, tension; and enlarged understanding. Oh dear. One does not throw a party -- nor encounter death in the midst of that party -- everyday. Still, though, I was touched to read that Kirn Lanier's students mistook her black and white postcard of Virginia Woolf to be "some great - grandmother of mine" (47, 77).

Virginia ~ Woolfpack

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, April 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading ~ "Makin' a list, checking' it twice . . ."
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Not to be Devoured

A WORLD WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"An Indian artist gives final touches
to a painting on street walls
on International Women's Day in Hyderabad, India,
Friday, March 8, 2013."


Read More About
International Women's Day & Women's History Month

This fortnightly post is a belated tribute to last week's International Women’s Day, observed around the world every year on March 8th ("Beyond #MeToo, With Pride, Protests and Pressure").

A few months ago, my brother Bruce sent out the following query:
I am presently working on a Congressional campaign, doing some writing for news releases, social media, etc. I've been tasked with drafting a statement on the MeToo sexual harassment / assault phenomenon.

As a sixty-year old, white man, I have never been sexually accosted in any manner. I am the father of two 20-something daughters, and I'm sure they've both dealt with this. But I have no firsthand experience.

I am reaching out to women who I know, and whose opinions I respect, to ask this question: What would you want your member of Congress to know, and what would you want them to say, about this issue.
My answer:
Since you are looking for general concepts rather than personal narrative, and for a direct response to the MeToo sexual harassment/assault phenomenon, I think what I want my member of Congress to know / take seriously is that to some extent all women live in fear.

Although I don't recall the source, I've never forgotten something I read a few years ago on the topic of racism -- that, no matter how irrational it was, in the United States the face of fear is Black. I remember thinking at the time, "No, not true." For women, the face of fear is Male. Men can so easily hurt women physically and so often do. This knowledge modifies a woman's existence at all times. It governs her emotional outlook, her comfort level, her behavior -- when home alone, getting in a car, going for a walk, entering a parking garage or a stairwell in a public building.

Yes, a certain amount of caution for all humans is always a good idea, but too many times for women it becomes a self - limiting factor, closing off options ranging from simple enjoyments to serious employment choices.

You know me, I have to include a literary example, this time from the Brazilian author Clarice Lispector's short story "The Smallest Woman in the World," about the pygmy Little Flower. Lispector describes Little Flower's primal fear of being devoured, and her relief at so far being spared this fate: " . . . the ineffable sensation of not having been eaten yet . . . Not to be devoured is the secret goal of a whole life." The towering explorer who comes to take notes and write an article about Little Flower and her people does not exactly understand this; but, as a reader, I got it right away.

For a woman "the secret goal of a whole life" is to not be assaulted, attacked, or violated. If you can make it through without that happening, then lucky for you. Maybe someone stalks you but never actually touches you. Whew! Maybe someone touches your privates against your will but never actually rapes you. Whew! See what I mean? The fear is always there. And to merely set the bar at the level of women being able to congratulate themselves and say, "Well I guess that wasn't so bad" or "it could have been worse" is too low.

What would I want members of Congress to say, about this issue? I want them to say that threatening women just because you can is wrong. I want them to say that our goal in this country is a cultural and social environment in which we all feel safe, regardless of how we are built.
My MeToo
For me, it was stalking stalking by a nasty old creepy chemistry professor at the University of Arkansas? Standing outside my classroom watching me teach, giving my students the heebie - jeebies; following me around the grocery store; stopping me on the sidewalk and staring at my chest; ringing my doorbell at 10:30 pm. He knew where I lived, and he seemed to have figured out what I was doing every hour of the day. It was a scary semester. My gut told me, Be afraid; be very afraid. And I was. There, I feel better for having said all that.

PS. No, he never touched me.

PPS. Perhaps a little off topic, but not entirely: there was also the time in high school when a few friends and I all received some obscene phone calls at our houses. It happened shortly after a group picture of us had been in the local paper, so we thought maybe some weirdo had seen it and somehow looked up the phone numbers of the girls in the photograph. Strangely enough, the upshot at our house was that I got in trouble from my mother for somehow "causing" the obscene weirdo to call our number! What???? I was way more traumatized by my mom's reaction than I was by the phone call.
SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, March 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com