I thought Enron might be on the boring side, but it really had me on the edge of my plush seat, leaning beyond the cup holders. What a medieval morality play! There were villains aplenty and not so many heroes. Is it really that easy to sell image and confidence over substance? Is it really only money that motivates people? I’d like to think it’s not true, but the sad thing is our society seems so spiritually bankrupt.
Joel Meyerowitz’s exhibit Aftermath: Images from Ground Zero is in Toronto. We saw it yesterday afternoon. As I studied the wreckage, a heavy numbness pressed on me, but the pictures of firemen and construction workers were comfortingly understandable. The grief in their eyes shows the way to feeling, even though it only hints at the trauma they experienced. When 9/11 exploded, I was living in Scotland. I felt so helpless and cut off, with the air space closed, phone lines overwhelmed. Seeing this exhibit made me feel more connected. I don’t always feel proud to be an American, but looking at the NYC emergency workers did make me feel proud.
The shredded buildings, smoky dusty hole in the ground also made me think about anger, how the feelings and beliefs of 19 men translated rage into action against twin symbols of power. I have heard that anger is like a shark, destroying the image of that which it hates. Burning testimony to the hellish power of fundamentalism of any kind — why do we persist in our illusions of heavenly reward?
I recently finished Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden Lives of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks. Parts of it seemed overly smug, like when Brooks talked about how gentle and tolerant her home country of Australia is. (Granted, she wrote it before asylum seekers sewed their mouths shut in an Australian detention camp, protesting their treatment.) But I learned more about the Prophet’s wives and how veiling wasn’t orginally meant to apply to all women.
Stewart and I saw Bride and Prejudice for the second time last Sunday. Loved it. My favorite part is when the gospel singers serenade the lovers on the beach.
For many years, boxes of my old books and papers have been waiting for me in the garage-studio next to my mom’s house. Since Stewart and I recently drove down to Missouri, the no-room-in-my-suitcase excuse no longer flew. One night during the visit I went through a folder of essays from my freshman composition course at Westminster. I found some truly purple responses to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Here is my all time favorite: “In line twelve, the puissance of assonance thrills the reader with the sound of ‘even to the edge of doom.'” In case the word doom isn’t puissant enough, I helpfully explain that “the edge of doom is an eternal abyss, one which a spiritual union can conquer.” I did tone it down in the final draft, but where’s the fun in that?
I would like to announce that I have a new pair of cotton tights from Grassroots. This is mighty important information. Grassroots is where my inner hippie rejoices — lots of candles, hemp bags, and notebooks made from recycled tires.
Stewart and I have declared today a Buy Nothing Day. Hooray! So far, so good. No impulse buys. No debits or dexits. I like it because the day feels more meaningful; it just hangs together better when I put my consumer self on hold for awhile. And since I’m broke right now, the break from spending can only be beneficial.
Last night we were musing about urban, industrial life, how its not so subtle subtext is SPEND, SPEND, SPEND! It made me think about my great-grandparents Fred and Lizzie who had a farm and raised mules in Missouri. For them, most days were Buy Nothing Days and needed no remark, but Buy Something Days would have been much more novel. I remember Gran saying they rode out the Depression fine because they grew their own food.
On a Thursday night a few months back, I saw a conscientious objector from South Dakota at the University of Toronto. Before I saw him in person, I had heard Jeremy Hinzman’s name in Quaker circles and then on a CBC radio program which narrated stories of Vietnam and Iraqi war resisters in Canada. Hinzman’s quietly humorous voice had impressed me, especially when recounting his “reason for visit” to immigration officials at the Canadian border: “We’re going to visit Friends.” Luckily the border staff didn’t detect the implied F, but if they had noticed it might have spelled trouble for the visitor and his family, for these kind of Friends welcome fugitive soldiers, even shelter them in their homes, just as they did for Underground Railroad refugees more than a century ago.
As an American who immigrated to Canada via Britain, I sympathize with Hinzman’s plight and agree with his position on the war. That’s why I was so keen to hear the views of a former US military insider. I have also shared some aspects of Jeremy’s situation, such as sheltering at the Society of Friends’ Meeting House when I first came to Toronto almost three years ago. Although I was fleeing isolation from my family instead of a command to fight in Iraq, I think displacement is universally disorienting. Moreover, as a peaceful American and daughter of a Navy man, I wanted to learn more about Hinzman’s experience.
Continue reading “Country Love”
The west side of my LINC classroom is basically two enormous windows. They’re great for watching the alley traffic near Coffee Time. While I was sitting at a table happily filling in the attendance after class, an incoming student (for the next class) pulled up a nearby chair to face the window. We shared a quiet existential moment watching the snow fall.
Yesterday I was reading The History of God in a coffeeshop when a elderly man asked if he could sit in the opposite armchair. Pretty soon we struck up a conversation and I learned that he’s 83, a Midwesterner like me, and a WWII veteran. We talked about Maimonides and Israeli politics. I enjoyed his stories.