Her Kind

Sometimes I get such a monumental headache from being lectured and obeying all the rules which I have heard all my life while now trying to build a different one. At 62 I realize I do not have a lot of time to build it.

The other day I went to a documentary about New York City. I liked looking at the movie, but I found it very labored. Part of it seemed to want to shock, but shock has become banal.  I read somewhere that the emphasis on violence and pornography in western culture is because of the disconnection with the visceral.

In the discussion period after the film (movie was part of a film festival) an academic type said we have so many freedoms people in other parts of the world do not have. These are cultural beliefs, that we possess what is lacking for others and unlimited freedom is a social good. In some senses these are true but other cultures encompass histories, cultural richness, community and a sense of spiritual meaning that we increasingly lack.

In American culture, it is thought we are free, and yet I wonder. We are privileged, we are wealthy, but we are conformist. We are lonely, we worship the psychological, we study our ills, we medicate ourselves. We know little of history, of the world we live in. We hold the banner of the latest psychological diagnoses while ignoring the real pain of of many around the world. We do not know their value. We are increasingly aggressive and we are taught that busyness, consumerism and obeying the rules of work make a life. And now we are addicted to machines in a sheep-like fashion, though of course I count myself as one of the flock. Although, after reading about AI the other day, I may resign from technology. I’m increasingly uninterested in the utilitarian; I am interested in beauty and the spirit. I also have little interest in the designs of 25 year old geeks who have not lived in a  real life. I note their prognostications about robots, for example, taking care of old people.

Old people need love, the touch of the real, and we have abandoned them.  There is a tremendous sentimentality in thinking machines will solve out problems, or protect us from our despair. We need truth and the human.

If there is one thing I am grateful for, it is growing up with older people who had a nineteenth century sensibility about the world. They were not sentimental. They worked too hard and had little time for distraction even had it existed. Their world was infused with harshness as well as a profound sense of the sacred and all that was imparted to me. They had profound dignity–another quality that seems to have gone by the boards.

To rebel, you must have an object against which to rebel, not the sea of banality we have created for ourselves.

For rebellion I turn to the past, Anne Sexton, a magnificent poet and incredibly brave person.

By Anne Sexton, 1928 – 1974

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.