Thursday, March 29, 2012

other people listening

So sad.  He talks
even when no one's listening and when
it's pretty obvious no one wants

to hear him.  Thank goodness there are
other people who listen and respond, so I
don't have to.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

to know his story

He came onto the bus late at night
in a torn hoodie and saggy jeans
clutching a dog-eared copy
of a Catherine Coulter romance. 
He sat down and started to read. 

I wanted to know his story.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

People are like books

People are like books in that you should get to know them individually, personally, without arbitrarily grouping them into categories and making sweeping judgements of those categories and dismissing individual books without even bothering to really know them at all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

the luxury/responsibility of artists

So I read this interview with a musician named Derek Webb.  I like his art.  These quotes about art and artists made me think.
"Part of the luxury of being an artist is that you not only can but kind of have a responsibility to think long and hard about things on behalf of those who might listen to your music. You can give them a jumping off point for subject matter that might be too tangled for most people in the busyness of their daily lives. I think there are a lot of smart people out there who honestly just don't have the time to think through some of these issues, and it becomes easier to watch CNN, to watch Fox News, to read some random blog and just get your answers and talking points from those kinds of places."
"Sometimes all people need is a little shove, and I feel like artists can play a really unique role by taking advantage of the luxury of being able to think through these issues of culture and life and then distill those thoughts down into just a couple minutes, put a little melody with it -- something to help the medicine go down -- and give people something to react to, [so] that they might begin to form their own opinions."
Does this jive with your view of artists, art, and such?  Do artists have this responsibility, or do you think this is an opportunity, something optional that they can do if they choose?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

good tragedy

I love a good (fictional) tragedy.  I've even been accused of liking them too much.  But I've realized something recently about my insistence on following a tragedy through to the bitter end: the reason I love tragedy is because I love redemption.

Unless you spoil the book for yourself, if it's well-written, you don't necessarily know whether it's going to end in tragedy or whether there will be some sort of successful attempt at redemption.  Many times, there's a crappy and unsatisfying happy ending that has nothing to do with redemption.  Sometimes I don't care because I want the happy ending. 

Other times, I feel cheated.  Why did I emotionally invest in this story and its characters if their ending was fake and unearned? 

Sometimes if it's just the ending that fails at redemption, I still like the story because the ending is not everything in a story, but I usually need some time to recover from the let-down of the ending before I can again think happy thoughts about the journey to the ending.

I can't tell you how much I love a solid ending that feels real and true, where the redemption is earned by blood, sweat, and tears.  Some call these endings bittersweet, and I like that idea.  The bitterness of the tragedy doesn't just go away, but all the sweetness in life is not lost.  Of course, technically it's not a tragedy if there's any sweetness to the ending (at least not classically speaking), but I have to say I would rather read The Sparrow than Hamlet or Oedipus Rex

I wonder if this is enough to get me kicked out of the Unofficial Society of People Who Have Studied Literary Fiction.

That said, I do love a good tragedy, too.  The sweetness of redemption might be sweeter if it's known that the tragedy of failure was a real possibility and a definite reality for other characters in other stories.  Maybe grace is amazing not only because of redemption but because not everyone experiences it.

Any thoughts?

our precious things

". . .And all our precious things have become a ruin." - Isaiah 64:11d NASB
I had a watch.  It was the latest of the late eighties or possibly early enough in the 90s that there was no functional difference in fashion.  The watch was a dark metalic purple, and it had what I can only describe as a wristband made of tightly coiled Slinky, also colored metallic purple.  It was uncomfortable to wear because the coils would pinch hair and even skin sometimes, but did I mention it was shiny? 

It was a gift from my mother despite her better judgment, I think.  She was afraid I would break it or lose it because, as a tomboy, I was not particularly nice to my clothes, and as a dreamer, I was not good at keeping track of my possessions.  No matter how hard I tried, my things always seemed to get lost, torn, or broken. 

I don't know if she bought it because I actually showed interest in something that might have been considered a fashion accessory (in the 80s).  I suspect this was the case.  I liked it a lot for some reason.  I took it with me to camp, and I vowed to keep careful track of it.  I would not lose this thing.

To this day, I firmly believe I didn't lose it.  I know I put it with my shirt and shorts and shoes before I went to swim in the pool, and when I came back, it was gone.  At first I thought it just fell out of my shorts pocket, but I searched every inch of that grass by the pool all the way out to the fences, and it was not there. 

I searched way past a reasonable amount, determined that for once I would not lose something my mother had given me.  I searched because I knew that if I came back without it, even if it was stolen, she would look at me with that sad, "How can you be my daughter?" look.  I searched with tears of frustration and rage because someone stole something from me when I was actually keeping track of it and not losing it, and my mom was going to sigh and dismiss me and remind me once again that I was not her favored child, this time because some bad girl stole this thing I was trying to prove myself with. 

When I tried, I still failed in this arena.

After that, I never asked for anything perishable or expensive because what's the point if it can be stolen even if you're being careful.  The world is that kind of place sometimes.  Best not to get too attached to anything valuable if you are only going to ruin it or lose it or have it taken from you.  Really, it's better this way.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thinking about grandmothers

Dear B, I thought about you yesterday.  Somehow or other, I must have ended up thinking about grandmothers, and I remembered the relationships you had with both of yours.  I remembered that practice prom dress your grandmother was making from ugly floral cloth and the way you wore it to school when she died before she could finish the real one.  I remember you kept getting demerits because the skirt was too short, and I remember defending you to the history teacher when he started to get on your case about it.  (Did that happen?)  You kept wearing it to school and getting in trouble, and I just wanted to cry every time.  It made me glad that I merely loved my grandparents with the same grim duty with which they loved me.  I was sure that when they died, I would be nowhere near as devastated, and I wouldn't have to suffer the way you did.  I was glad.

I was glad that when my grandma did die, you were no longer close.  I would have been more of a wreck if you had been around.  I would have probably felt guilty, remembering that day the ensemble went caroling in the hospital where your grandmother was dying.  We went into her room and sang.  (I don't remember what we sang.  Do you?)  You couldn't sing, and you just stood behind me crying on my coat, and I tried to sing loud enough for both of us, but it was hard for me to sing around that lump in my throat caused by your affection for your grandmother.

At my grandma's funeral, I had a lump in my throat so big I couldn't even talk, but that's not why I didn't say the Hail Mary's with the family as my mother had requested.  Why would I mouth empty religious phrases I didn't believe in?  Who would it possibly comfort?  Not my mom, who didn't believe in it either, even though she was raised in it.  Not my grandma, who was dead.  Not my grandpa who was mostly blind and partly deaf and couldn't see or hear anything I did or did not do.  No one was comforted.  I just cried. 

Probably people thought I was crying because I was overcome by sadness at losing my beloved grandmother.  Unless they knew her, they might have thought that.  For some reason, that thought made me angry, and my tears seemed hotter with added degrees of rage and guilt.  That poor bitter woman; may I never be like her.  Oh, please, dear God, never.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Being Pleasantly Baffled

Recently I was reading a doctor's report, something I've become somewhat proficient at after 9+ years of dealing with the Federal Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.  This report was for a health problem caused by my inability to use my left arm correctly (the OWCP injury) but not actually submitted as a claim because I am not dumb and one uphill battle is really enough, thank you.  Anyway, this report made me giggle because the doctor used the word "pleasant" to describe me.  More than once.  What do you suppose they put when the patient is unpleasant?

I just found it funny and started to think about the words doctors use and how those words tell a story.  In my experience, it's usually got a lot of mistakes in it, but nonfiction is hard to get right.  Half my lifetime ago, there was this orthopedic doc who described me as slender.  I came across this years later when I had to request my medical records from his office for the cursed OWCP thing, and they just sent everything.  I never really thought of myself as slender.  Ever.  Then I realized it must be a medical descriptor, not an aesthetic judgement.

So many words mean different things to doctors (and lawyers and government offices), and sometimes I forget that context matters.  I do love hilarious quotes out of context.  But pleasant?  What does that have to do with a hand injury?  Really, I wonder...