Saturday, May 2, 2009

I Am Alarmed

This semester I decided to take a class called "Prejudice and Discrimination in Modern Society." It is a very good class. I highly recommend it. It is eye-opening and impassioning.

For the bulk of my college career, I have shirked such classes. I have shirked such classes because I was not sure that any productivity came from them. I'd envisioned long talks in anger and hatred and continued separation in an "us vs. them" kind of stream. I worried that no healing came from such classes and that they created greater and greater rifts between groups of people.

I also shirked such classes because all of my life I have felt guilty. I have felt guilty for not being "black enough," not white, for being a woman, for being bisexual, for being somewhat intelligent and motivated and for wanting a good life, even. I have received flack for all of these things to the point that I have felt (and have been told that I should feel this way) that I am not entitled to taking part in the conversation because I have become integrated and I do not have the right kind of experience to take part. I did not grow up in the right community. I embraced the "wrong" mentalities. I am not part of "the struggle" and further, I am in between things. Attending such classes for me meant that I would live again through that guilt, and that by simply being there, my presence would offend. I certainly did not want that. I am trying to learn to like myself, you see.

Now I am almost in tears. I have not quite yet processed what I have been learning about this nation and my culture (my training), but I can say this:

* I now understand the meaning and reasoning behind the Sankofa bird. The bird is not daft. Remembering history is of the utmost importance and walking forward in that truth--remembering does not mean that one is wallowing in the past. It means that one is well equipped.
* I now understand why I have felt silenced and unable to express in a manner that is both satisfying and contributive to my society.
* I now realize that there is great need to contribute to the conversation with my particular points of view.
* I now realize how most of us have been silenced in a world that touts "freedom of speech and expression."

I am almost in tears because I wonder how many of us actually realize that we are living in a depoliticized history. Our story is a myth. Further, we have been trained to be acritical (with the near inability or blatant inability to think critically), politically correct (with the near inability to say anything without offending someone unless our terms are so broadened that they mean almost nothing), non-argumentative (with the inability to step forward against those things we disagree with or with those things that do not seem right at all) and therefore quiet!

It's a silent war, and perhaps the most deadly because it is rendering us all inept or at least forgetful. Our world is becoming Disneyfied, watered down and rewritten right under our noses, and has been for hundreds of years. This is extremely alarming to me because most of us are not budging. Most of us are keeping to ourselves, saying nothing and letting the rewriting continue.

My whole entity screams "No!" to that. I just don't know yet what to do about it. Learning and harboring the information is one thing. Taking some sort of action is another. New knowledge always means new responsibility, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty

I already have a love for rustic bowls, plates and baskets. I also feel that lately there is too much "noise" in my apartment. Clutter abounds. I picked up the book initially because of my want to tame the clutter factor.

What I was not prepared for, and what made me very happy about this book, is the way wabi-sabi is a method of living and not just a home decorating slash de-cluttering motif. 

Wabi-Sabi is what I am already and more. It is an idea that I might have called granola or hippie-dippie in the past. A good friend of mine's old house was made of stone and decorated with branches, pine cones, fruits pricked by cloves in the winter time and dried desert blooms in hand turned vases in the summer. My friend spun wool from her mother's sheep, made knotty wool sweaters and scarves and hats for the cold. The kitchen was full of antique, non-mechanized (and lasting!) utensils. All of these things are quite wabi-sabi, according to the book.

I have an eye for more rustic and earthy things. There is a framed Bodhi leaf on the book shelf, a large half shell to catch the ashes of my incense. One of the quilts my great grandmother made is lying on the bed. Pens and post-its and other household materials are held in chipped earthenware and baskets. My antique desk is unpolished, scuffed, worn and well-used and it is bedecked by three crumbling pine cones I found in the forests of Idaho, a long time ago. 

The book is an inspiration to further this tendency to include the rustic and unpolished in my life. It also links itself to Zen Buddhism. (All things come from nothingness or are on their way to nothingness. All things are imperfect. Observation is a key, as is living the present moment). Because of its inherent ideas, wabi-sabi becomes a way of life in general, an enjoyment of the present, an appreciation of any thing, relationship or idea in whatever state it is in at any given time. The book prompts its readers to shirk the mindset of replacing what is deteriorating (though we do not keep in our houses those things that are dilapidated. Wabi-Sabi is not slobby or ruin) and to instead appreciate the chips, cracks, folds, and wrinkles of time.

crossposted on goodreads