Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Knowledge and Responsibility

Last night's meditation class and the following discussion I had with dear Sara and Spring was soooooooo enlightening and has given me a lot to think about. Sister Ellie stated, "just because you know something, doesn't make you responsible for fixing it."

After meditation, Spring was telling us about the horrible things she has seen working as a substitute teacher (neglected kids, neglected school grounds, racism, apathy, strained resources, and so forth). Sara began brainstorming some great ideas on how we could all help out; as she said, "We are all complicit in this problem." Indeed, we are.

In the presence of these two women, two of my most inspirational friends, I was able to think about my relationship with knowledge and responsibility. S kind of mocked me the other day when I read some headlines about the Iraq war; "What can we do about it?" he wanted to know. This question has been repeated and repeated and repeated--it almost feels like the motto for our generation.

Well, how about this: how about we just know something and just try to do something about it? I'll blog about war casualties, I'll listen to friends share their heartbreaks. We'll call our congresspeople. We'll volunteer. We'll get burned out, and we'll start again. We'll gather knowledge. We'll end the illusion that we're alone and that we can't do anything. We'll stop acting and inacting out of anger. I'll meditate and you might meditate, too. I'll uphold my personal boundaries by paying attention to what I need; this will help you do the same thing, and in your doing, you will help me. I'll acknowledge that the world can't be saved because I'll realize that it is what it is--you can't save what just exists. But in that acknowledgment, I'll try my best to just dig in. I'll depend on my friends and neighbors for some direction. Sometimes I'll think big, lofty thoughts instead of just getting my hands dirty. But you'll guide me and we can dig in together. We will be knowledgeable problem-solvers without feeling responsible. And sometimes I might do nothing more than think about a problem, and I will let that be ok.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bombings in Iraq

This NYT article states that there have been at least 18 bombings in Iraq this month alone. Two of these bombings killed about 150 people last Friday alone.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Informal Survey III (or so)

Is it weird to a) lick someone else's eyeball or b) have someone else lick your own eyeball?

Yes, Yes, And, YES!: Clinton and Reproductive Rights

I just read this on Shakesville; it's a video of Secretary of State Clinton responding to a question on women's reproductive health. It's only about three minutes--you should watch!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Nephew: The Genius of Being Cute

By some amazing combination of blessed fortune and near-negligent parental decision-making, my nephew (Super G) is coming to visit me (alone) for a few days this summer! Hooray! During the planning phase I'm thinking: this is going to be great! Once I heard confirmation of the flight from my sister, I'm thinking: holy fuck. Do I need a car seat? How am I going to transport a kid? A real, live kid?

And that's just the transportation part. I honestly don't know how mothers raise kids; it's amazing. And, here, my two sisters are moms! (Vic was supposed to find out the sex of the babe today, but the kid wouldn't spread it's legs and show anyone the news. I guess kids really are the opposites of their parents. ;) )

In honor of my nephew's visit, and because this blog is in some dire need of cute (although The Boss tried to fill the cuteness gap), I need to relate the brief visit home I had two weeks ago. I had gone out to surprise my mom for her birthday; we spent the day chatting and playing games with the family (and eating delicious food). To my delight, Super G remembered Courtopolis! So the guy, in all of his dramatic glory, would fart and then look so dejected and yet feisty, with his eyes glancing up at us with his head bowed, and say, "I should have gone to Courtopolis!"

He's figuring out everyone's relationship to each other, but he doesn't quite understand that his grandma is his mom's mom. He did, however, understand that Vic and I are his mom's sisters. So he asks his mom if, after dinner, her sisters would want to play with him. We did, of course, and we made some more puppets.

He had a toy that he couldn't fix, but S (who was able to come with me) could; this made Super G's night, and he declared S "the genius of toy-fixing!"

The highlight to me, though, was when, part-way through a beer, Super G asks me if he can put his pretzel stick in its bottle. "Why?" I ask. "It might be good. It's an experiment," he replies. Beer and pretzels do go together and who am I to resist an experiment? Not one to waste beer, though, I finish most of it and he plops a thick chunk of pretzel in. Gross, but, apparently, not gross enough because soon he wants to add orange juice and water to it--in the name of experimentation!

So I ask him what he thinks will happen if we add orange juice and water. He says he thinks the pretzel will get smaller (dumbass ;) ); later he denies this claim. When we point out that the pretzel got bigger he says he thought that's what would happen. Later, though, Pop Rocks are added to the concoction (why not?) and we listen to them pop.

The inevitable happens, and Super G takes a drink of the beer-pretzel-oj-water-pop rock mix; "It tastes like tea!" he exclaims. He begs us to try it; he paces the living room chanting "It tastes like tea and nobody believes me!" S, to his (un)credit, tries the science experiment and declares that Super G is right--it does taste like tea. "See!" Super G wails, "Try it!"

Uh, no thanks. But, geez, that frustration about being misunderstood was so manifest and present! What a character--I can't wait to hang out with him and see what happens while he's here! Just some scenarios I'm imagining:

-Walking around the park and when we stop to watch the ducks and turtles, kids start coming out of the woodwork to talk to us (I saw this in action the other day--kids attract other kids; it's so foreign to me). I, near-instantaneously, become some kind of earth mother and end up telling the kids stories about birds and we all have a picnic together.

-We go to the zoo with friends and their kids (biological or babysitted) and we all learn the difference (once and for all) between the types of giraffes. Super G will get hot and itchy and cranky, and I'll say, "Are you getting hot? Here, let's take a break and put some lotion on." He'll get angry and protest, "No!" And I'll go all logical on his ass in a straight-forward tone, "Remember the deal we made? I think this will help you." And he'll reluctantly obey me and then I'll be, at least in my head, the genius of crankiness aversion.

-We go to the library and read books and listen to stories.

-Hell, we even find a way to embark on some meditation for children.

How can anything go wrong?! I'm sure whatever happens, he'll be gentle with the cats and I won't get even a little anxious when he makes a mess or disobeys. And I certainly won't be overwhelmed by all of his five-year-old energy and need to nap every day. (What fun to fantasize, but, really, I'm working on losing expectations for the trip. I'm just excited that my family is coming out here!)

Torture

I'm just now kinda digging into the latest information on the torture memos that have been released (I'm just reading from the NYT). I think the what-if mindset is so damaging:
If they shunned interrogation methods some thought might work, and an undetected bomb or bioweapon cost thousands of lives, where would the moral compass point today? It is a question that still haunts some officials. Others say that if they had known the full history of the interrogation methods or been able to anticipate how the issue would explode, they would have advised against using them.


(From this article.)

For whatever reason(s) I'm just not as indignant and outraged about this as I have been in the past. I'm still as incredulous, though, and I don't know what to say. That no one in the Bush administration knew waterboarding was a crime for which America had prosecuted its own soldiers . . . ridiculous.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Donnie Darko

Just wanted to report that I finally watched Donnie Darko. And I love it, immensely.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's up with students and their feminist beliefs?

So, I've been evaluating essays for TU's freshman essay contest. A couple of the essays that I liked the best are anti-feminist, which is nothing new amongst the undergrad essay-writing cohort. I just want to ask those people that I went to school with and those that I teach: why so hostile? That is, I no longer believe (I don't think) that patriarchy is so ingrained that it encounters any threat it receives in a hostile manner. I believe, I think, patriarchy and societal beliefs are much more clunky and misinformed. Less angry and more ignorant. Less calculating and more lump-like and unmoving (or slow-moving). I'm just trying to think of ways that I can present progressive values in the classroom without being apologetic or angry.

Sister Ellie, in her meditation course, teaches that those interested in social change are often motivated by a sense of anger (anger that the world is how it is) and thus they want create change. In this regard, it makes sense that anger-motivated philosophies would incite angry reactions. So, how to keep change, but lose the anger?

I guess by accepting things the way they are and by paying attention to the way things really are. I don't think acceptance means resignation, by any means, though.

What's up with me and my feminist beliefs?

Today I had a comprehensive (yet nearly unrelatable (I don't care if that shows up as a non-word)) idea on how women might be closer to enlightenment (a la Eckhart Tolle's viewpoint), and we might have created feminism as a (codependent) way of keeping us from enlightenment.

"Uh, what?" I ask myself, in disbelief. "Are you, Courtney, saying that feminism is made-up? Irrelevant? Unnecessary?"
"Um, no." I say back to myself, with my eyebrows raised, suggesting that maybe I do think feminism is (now) irrelevant or unnecessary--but only because I get it, you know (my eyebrows are doing all the talking here). "It's necessary and relevant for everyone, but, perhaps, just maybe I'm, well, uh, well, over it." Courtney looks shamefully to the ground.
"You can't be over something that has lifted you up."
"I know that. I'm not ungrateful. I just sense something else is going on. Like spirituality."
Courtney does a dramatic eye roll. "Spirituality?" She pauses, "Like ecofeminist spirituality?"
"Yes! Exactly like that." Courtney knows that she already knows there is no one ecofeminist spirituality.
"So you just had this conversation with yourself to remind yourself that you're an ecofeminist?"
"Um, yes, apparently."
"Awesome. That so didn't waste anyone's time here."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sadness and Gratitude: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

I just read on The Nation's blog that Eve Sedgwick passed away last night. (Strangely, I was just thinking about her on Sunday as I drove past Sedgwick, Kansas.)

Not only is Sedgwick's work intelligent, but she was also an intellectual who was very much connected to her practice--that is, an activist. A brilliant and self-identified fat, feminist, fag hag. Thank you for your work, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; we'll miss you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Change and patience

Yesterday Sister Ellie was giving me some good advice regarding change. She said that insight alone cannot make us change things, like dropping a bad habit, but that we also need to feel safe in making that change. She was talking about the way some people identify with what they do and/or the way the act and so in giving that thing up, people risk not knowing who they are. Often, though, these things we identify with have nothing, really, to do with who we are. For example, someone might say that he has a bad temper, and that's just who he is. Instead of taking measures to work on this bad temper (measures which would benefit him and those around him), this person clings to their habit as a way to feel safe; "Who am I," this person might think, "if not a person with a bad temper? At least I know myself." Well, since habits can change, we can also imagine that we are still ourselves when we pick up different habits. In order to do this, though, we need patience and a sense of safety.

Sister Ellie shared with me some great insight that a friend/mentor gave to her many years ago. When asking why she wasn't able to change her behavior, even though she knew what she was doing was bad for her, Sister Ellie's friend replied, "God won't let us change too quickly because then we wouldn't know who we are."

I'm pretty sure this isn't the view of God I myself subscribe too, but it's certainly wise advice regarding the slow nature of change. It also signals that we could be enjoying the process of change as a means to understand who we truly are. It would be horrifying if we suddenly were what we wanted to be--we'd be so disoriented and wouldn't have any of our familiar reference points, as Sister Ellie says. So, the nature of change, while at times frustrating, can be seen as self-protecting. I found this to be quite helpful and mind-blowing, really!

The Boss


As an early birthday present, S took me to see Bruce Springsteen the other night; it was fabulous in every way imaginable. The concert opened with one camera focused on his ass, and things only got better from there. There was dramatic, windmill strumming on the guitar and even a run and slide on the stage. There were crotch shots and mingling with the crowd. The best had to be when he pulled out a chair and appeared to be serenading two men to "I'm on Fire." Beautiful! I actually kinda love Springsteen (my five-year-old self can't get beyond the fact that we both have so much in common, being "Born in the U.S.A." and all), and so do many people who now sport grey and/or white hair. The show got me thinking more about passion and how he, and the rest of the band, which was amazing, was putting his whole body into his passion.

This is for S:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More about passion

Michael sent me this on Germaine Greer:

"Talk about activism and passion. She wasn't afraid to put it all out there. . . ":



Love her.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eradicating nuclear weapons

The Nation just had an article about Global Zero, an organization to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the world.

Some peace in troubled times (but only if you live in/near Tulsa. Lo siento.)

Sister Ellie is starting a new foundations in meditation course. If you have ever wanted to meditate and/or learn more about meditation, then I think this is a pretty grand place to start. The class meets for six Thursdays from 6-7:15, starting on April 23. You learn different meditation techniques (visualization, breathing, mantra, listening, walking, and more!) and have the opportunity to talk about how you feel with the different techniques. It's a chance to learn more about yourself--what horror and joy!

I write poem. I share poem.

Today's writing group was so fabulous! Sheila led us in a writing exercise where we had to imagine a different life we could be living. The goal was to try to use as many concrete details as possible. I'm not sayin' the following is a good poem (in fact, it's still a draft), but it's the best time I've had writing a poem in a long time. Well, it's been a couple of weeks, anyway.

I encourage everyone to just spend a few minutes and imagine and write an alternative life for yourself.

“This is How I Disarm You”

On Saint Patrick’s Day, 2006,
when I drove my beige compact car
under the dark mountain sky
and got stopped by the Estes Park officer,
I would have said,
“You aren’t doing me a favor
by not giving me a ticket.
You are stroking your own
authoritative dick.
I was speeding.
And I’m not drunk.
I was celebrating my parents’ 28th anniversary.
And I’m not driving with a man I’ll be married to for 28 years.”
I would have said,
“60 in a 45 is trouble.
I’m trouble.
And I don’t care if my
up-to-date proof of insurance is sitting on the dusty
desk my grandfather gave to me
(instead of sticking to its plastic holder in the Kia manual in the glove box).
You, man, patrol through fear and
favors.”
I would have been asked to
“Step out of the car, ma’am.”
Andy would have started to intervene, in his
friendly-flannel-plaid sort of way:
“Courtney, just listen.
She doesn’t mean any . . .”
“Andy,”
I would have snapped,
“I do mean this!”
Men keep fucking with me
and I let them.
In another life,
they’d see my fight.

After this arrest,
there’d be others.
I’d deface pro-life billboards
(sometimes by crossing out the heart in
“Abortion stops a beating . . .”
and sometimes by writing long, logical
treatises on choice and biology and trust)
and I’d set-off that firework
in the Hooters’ toilet.
I’d be a domestic terrorist.
I’d wear all organic clothes
and I’d shed some of this
extra weight
because I wouldn’t need to
pad myself against this world.
My stretch-marked hips
would already fit into my voice and
my brain;
an explosion of protest.
Michael would yell at me
(but Andrea Dworkin’s spirit would shine on me),
the way certain liberal,
but not radical,
feminists do: “That’s too much.”
“No,” I’d exclaim, my voice low and my hazel
eyes burning, “too much
is when I
lick the balls of a misinformed authority.
Too much is when they don’t
take account of me.”
Michael will sigh and take my
comments personally;
I’ll see the masked hurt in his face, in
the way he stiffens his jaw.
Later, he’ll make a joke and even
later a mix cd to patch-over our
disagreement.

In another life, we--
me, Michael, police, Hooters, Andy--
we won’t need patches.
We’ll have a quilt of understanding;
some pieces from your younger sister’s
baby blanket
and some pieces from
that one skirt you
tried to sew yourself.
That skirt turned out
ass-ugly.
This quilt is a hodge-podge of all our own
memories, of our past.
We remember our women.
We nod to Alice.
We walk with this quilt
all around us,
not as a cocoon, but as a
short-hand to show our connection.
Our paisley, pastel, striped, corduroyed,
felt, connection.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Passion?

Please, anyone, tell me what you're passionate about. And what is passion's role in your life? At home? On the job? In connection to romantic love? In connection to spirituality? And what is passion? Is it even necessary?

I'm feeling frustrated because I'm believing that there is a lack of passion at school in regards to what people are working on. As academics we have so much freedom--why does it seems as though academics couldn't care less about what they're studying? This isn't really what I believe. I'm just wondering where all the radicals are in the academy. I'm passionate about radicalism and I feel so alone in this passion!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Here's what I don't understand

From the NYT: Obama says of 9/11:
The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. So let me be clear: Al Qaeda and its allies--the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks--are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have a clear and focused goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

But we did choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. We could have chosen not to fight a war in Afghanistan by not fighting a war in Afghanistan.

I'm frustrated by using numbers in rhetoric for war. It is utterly tragic that so many people died during the 9/11 terrorist attack. Here's some numbers I'm gleaning on civilian deaths in Afghanistan since 9/11:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/09/07/afghanistan-civilian-deaths-airstrikes. This article says that, at minimum, there were 929 civilian deaths in 2006, 1,633 civilian deaths in 2007, and 540 civilian deaths in 2008 (through July only).

That's "nearly 3,000" (3,102) civilians in Afghanistan killed from Jan. 2006 through July 2008.

According to this site,http://www.unknownnews.net/casualties.html, there have been 7,373 Afghani civilian deaths since 9/11.

These numbers aren't even taking account of troops.

According to the NYT article, VP Biden has spent time trying to convince Obama to be clearer about his goals in Afghanistan. This NYT article relates a trip to Afghanistan that Biden took in January, which apparently helped demonstrate just how confused Afghanis are as to the US's mission in their country.

I wish Obama could just say that we are choosing war. We didn't choose for 9/11 to happen, but right now we are choosing war. To cite American casualties while ignoring other countries' is unfair and deceitful.

Current Events from the NYT

A NYT article on the war in Iraq. People are still dying.

A NYT article on a brief encounter between Richard Holbrook, the Obama administration's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh, Iran's deputy foreign minister. Also, Sec. of State Clinton said that a US official has handed an Iranian official a letter asking for the Iranian help in the case of two Americans being held hostage in Iran, and one person who is missing in Iran.

Here's an article saying Spain is considering bringing charges against US torturers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Personally, I am for holding all torturers accountable for their actions, and am glad to see other countries engaging with our political leaders.