Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: Anne Lamott, family, mothers, mothers day
Guess which culture insisted a young or newly widowed woman be quickly married again: the turn of the century Roman state, or the contemporary fledgling group called Christian? And, of course, the corollary question Is implied: which left her alone? Today we automatically assume Christian because our own Christian groups are conservative and fetishize marriage and family. But the correct answer is the Roman state which put a much higher value on family for many reasons, I’m sure not the least of which was control. The early Christians, however, saw a single woman as being primarily related to God, and her other relationships as distantly secondary.
In her essay on Mother’s day quoted below, Anne Lamott describes elements of the blood ties fetish prevalent in conservative life. The qualities she describes are vicious: selfish, judging, alienating. The worst is the belief that people without children can’t love or know love; that they are somehow less human. And she doesn’t stop there. She describes parents who dehumanize their kids, like a remodeled room in the house, and how if you do this you destroy them.
So if children aren’t toys nor agents of personal fulfillment, what are they? What if parenting is principally about bringing children out the door and properly introducing them to the world? They aren’t schooled in the spare room or the basement; it’s not our knowledge only that will help them, but other, different knowledge too. They are fully ours and fully the world’s.
From the essay Why I Hate Mother’s Day:
Don’t get me wrong: There were times I could have literally died of love for my son, and I’ve felt stoned on his rich, desperate love for me. But I bristle at the whispered lie that you can know this level of love and self-sacrifice only if you are a parent. We talk about “loving one’s child” as if a child were a mystical unicorn. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly feel that if you have not had and raised a child, your capacity for love is somehow diminished. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly believe that non-parents cannot possibly know what it is to love unconditionally, to be selfless, to put yourself at risk for the gravest loss. But in my experience, it’s parents who are prone to exhibit terrible self-satisfaction and selfishness, who can raise children as adjuncts, like rooms added on in a remodel. Their children’s value and achievements in the world are reflected glory, necessary for these parents’ self-esteem, and sometimes, for the family’s survival. This is how children’s souls are destroyed.
A lovely film by Michael Pasquier, about a Jesuit priest in New Orleans who photographs the women of the red light district in his spare time. The New York Times did a show of them and called them “evocative, sensitive, playful, touching, human, haunting, loving. No one knows exactly why.”
filmmaker: Michael Pasquier
website: An Interest in Women, Killing the Buddha
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: bicycle diaries, cities, david byrne
Cities reflect all our ambitions and failures made plain for the world to see, says musician, artist, cyclist David Byrne. I just picked up his book Bicycle Diaries and then listened to his song Cities – find yourself a city to live in, he sings. So primal, and maybe essential, if you have the inclination and opportunity, to make your way around the world and find yourself a city to live in. I haven’t found one yet. Have you?
Right now I live, temporarily, in a city that’s not easy to get around in, unless you have a car. It’s hard to get my shopping done and to go to town to meet friends, it’s long waits for the bus, and, added up, hours of walking. It feels like a village, even though it is over 300 years old. Weekends are dead. People here live and die by their rowhouses; larger buildings and other ways of living are viewed with suspicion and maybe even a little hostility. This city is building manor houses and even some suburban houses with vinyl siding and lawns in the downtown, if you can believe it!
I think David Byrne is right, the city reflects deep belief. So what can I conclude about the city I am staying in now? What can we make of the fact that we like town living rather than city living, with individual houses instead of apartment buildings? And that we would rather drive our cars than share space in subways and buses, and need gas stations and a lot of street and garage parking? Perhaps that we are antisocial and want to keep as far from our neighbors as possible? That I’m not an American unless I own my little piece of grass and and a front door, an address that gives me identity and face? That the suburb is still the place to aspire to, with its verdancy and illusion of convenience?
I had lunch with a friend last month who for personal reasons deflected the opportunity for intimate conversation nudged our talk back to a passing comment I had made that I want to live in a liberal democracy. -What do you mean by that? she wanted to know. Street life, public life and discourse, good economy, basic freedoms. Enjoyment. I haven’t found a city yet that looks like this. Have you?
Here is David Byrne:
Cities, it occurred to me, are physical manifestation of our deepest beliefs and our often unconscious thoughts, not so much as individuals, but as the social animals we are. A cognitive scientist need only look at what we have made – the hives we have created – to know what we think and what we believe to be important, as well as how we structure those thoughts and beliefs. It’s all there, in plain view, right out in the open; you don’t need CAT scans and cultural anthropologists to show you what’s going on inside the human mind; its inner workings are manifested in three dimensions, all around us. Our values and hopes are sometimes awfully embarrassingly easy to read. They’re right there – in the storefronts, museums, temples, shops, and office buildings and in how these structures interrelate, or sometimes don’t. They say, in their unique visual language, “This is what we think matters, this is how we live and how we play.” Riding a bike through all this is like navigating the collective naural pathways of some vast global mind. It really is a trip inside the collective psyche of a compacted group of people. A Fantastic Voyage, but without the cheesy special effects. One can sense the collective brain – happy, cruel, deceitful, and generous – at work and at play. Endless variations on familiar themes repeat and recur: triumphant or melancholic, hopeful or resigned, the permutations keep unfolding and multiplying.
-David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries, p2.
author: David Byrne
book: Bicycle Diaries
Filed under: departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: cities, odessa, paris, rome
”Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and, in this, hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.”
– John Berger
aqualta by studio lindfors