Monday, January 14, 2019

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Leave My Mind Alone Part II

I drew this Ouroboros.  I thought a lot about it, read some Jung, and was going to try for a soul-searching and well-crafted post about Infinity.  Or duality of the soul.  Or Destruction/Regeneration. Or something.  Instead my mind went to a practical place, and an eternal struggle in which I engage: when do I hold forth, and when should I prudently shove something in my mouth and bite down hard, in order to keep my opinions to myself?

This comes up a lot, in Interspace.  It came up recently when I read someone angrily defending the Dog Festivals as legitimately of cultural and historical significance.  It came up when I read someone else lamenting the time wasted, and the boredom they experienced, watching 12 Years a Slave, followed up immediately by a recounting of a lovely day spent at the museum, and the inconvenience of having carpets shampooed.  It comes up when I read people defending nazis, insulting fat people.  It comes up when I see hypocrisies, micro-aggressions, sexism, racism, thinly veiled or outright anti-semitism, cruelty both general and ad hominem.

Some of the things that bother me are objective wrongs (though clearly my definition of "objective wrong" is sometimes different from other people, and vice versa, which leads us to a discussion of Absolute and Relative, and never mind).  Some of the things that bother me are things I think are wrong, but am willing to acknowledge (with some resentment) may legitimately not be everyone's idea of wrong, like political opinions.  Then there are the things that bother me that are so deeply buried in layers of outward okayness that to rail against them would require theses and footnotes and an audience willing to hear me out.  That way lies madness.

But in fact, when you get down to it, all ways lead to madness.  You would think that when people call a plus-size model a "disgusting beached whale," that would be a place someone could speak up.  And yet, when people do, it becomes an ever-increasing frustration of counter-attacks that devolve into meaningless ALL CAPS.  Because who among the righteous can let it go gracefully? I see it all the time.  I feel for them, but it's awful to watch.   The woman who said that "12 Years a Slave felt like 20," well she thought she was being funny.  Do I want to tangle with her and her image of herself as an avocational humor writer? She's not going to let that bit of self-definition go, probably not ever. The woman who defended eating live-boiled dogs as being historically meaningful to her culture of remote origin? Standing up for one's cultural heritage becomes a moral high ground, at least superficially, and no matter how ludicrous.

So when to speak up?

There are those who always do, on both sides of my definition of Right and Wrong.  Those people are, in our current time and place, the cyber equivalent of that old jokey character, the Consummate Letters-to-the-Editor Writer.  For the sake of my sanity, I have to avoid this ever-deepening & widening infinite regress of Holding Forth.  As it is, I come dangerously close to the edge of that abyss.  There are those who choose more carefully.  And there are those who don't speak up at all.  I admire those people.  I kind of love meeting someone whose opinions are so closely guarded that you really have no idea what they're thinking (though of course, that can backfire in the jump-scare of a sudden weighing-in, along the lines of, say, "not only do Jews have no right to their own country, they don't have a right even to exist!").

Good to get this off my chest.  I think when all is said and done, a wise rule of thumb for me is:

"Leah, stuff something in your mouth, bite down hard, and walk away fast."

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Lessons in Journal Writing

The little spiral-bound nature notebook has lived for decades in a corner of the long middle drawer in the tall hutch in the livingroom of the lake house.  I take it out once a year, to admire and remember.   I made this with ma, the summer I was four.  My first journal.  I remember drawing the salamander and dictating my observations.  Ma learned that really regular, clear classroom handwriting at Teachers College.

Ma taught me to read and write, and write things down in notebooks, things I saw and felt and thought about.  She taught me to save the notebooks so I could look at them later and remember the things I'd seen and felt.  She taught me tidy handwriting, so that other people could read it, and I could share what I'd written. She taught me to look closely at details of things and she taught me how to use adjectives.  She taught me to use a good #2 pencil with a good clean eraser so that mistakes could be fixed.  And she taught me how to hold the pencil.  Later she taught me that a writing pen should be a good pen, but a good pen didn't need to be an expensive pen, just a pen whose flow I liked.  She taught me that if I made a mistake when using a pen, to cross out my mistake with firm lines and keep going.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Leave My Mind Alone

In an almost unbelievably prescient scene from The Man Who Fell to Earth, the alien watches 12 tv screens at once, gorging willingly on the visual and aural input until he cannot stand it any longer, and shouts into the overwhelming din, "get out of my mind, all of you! Leave my mind alone!"

These words come to me all the time.   All the time. The bank of fat homely tube t.v.s, so different in their analog nostalgia from my smooth flat little phone, nevertheless deliver the same nightmarish onslaught of arbitrary information.  Other people's photos.  Other people's lives.  Their dinners their politics their purchases their angers hurts fears.  All of music ever.  All of art, science, human tragedy.  Recipes.  Memes.  Hatred.  Bigotry.  Funny dogs.  The dress I want, the shoes my girl wants, Anne Frank quotes, the answer to the question "what movie featured Donald O'Connor on roller skates?" Limitless stores of pettiness and profundity, all piling up in my fragile suggestible mind, edging out me.

The Alien had a reason for staring at the 12 t.v.s.  He was trying to learn about what it means to be human.  I don't know why I do it, is it empty compulsion, is it just like the Tetris bricks that fell in that inexorable way, ultimately even in my dreams? Or is it meaningful compulsion, a way to drown out the noise of personal terror with the noise of a thousand other voices not my own?

...what will happen if they leave my mind alone?