Tuesday, January 30, 2007

At the beginning of my country's invasion of Iraq when I was bummed out that it was happening and bummed out that it seemed to be popular in the US in general, I went to the library and noticed a woman about 70 teaching a man about 30 to read. They obviously met often.

From her look and feel, I also felt it was obvious that she had been to many demonstrations. Thousands demonstrated for peace, and she was there. Hundreds demonstrated for jobs and justice, and she was there. Five demonstrated outside a consulate about some horrible thing happening that most Americans hadn't heard of yet, and she was there. An adult wanted to learn to read, and she was there.

You do what you can.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The sky in the morning is moist and low. A newly painted doodad on an old Victorian house is shaped like a sylized sunrise or set without the sun--just the rays. The gold rays and fresh paint shine in the grey morning.light. That'll do.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Geoffrey Keynes was finishing up his training as a surgeon at St. Bart's, Saint Bartholomew's Hosipital in London.

He rented the top floor of a house quite close to St. Bart's. On the bottom floor lived Virginia Stephen, engaged to marry Leonard Woolf, one of her brothers and Duncan Grant. He didn't know them very well.

One day Keynes got home from work and found the neighbors' household in an uproar because Virginia Stephen had taken an overdose of a narcotic drug and was in bad shape. They were frantically trying to get in touch with the man she was doing talk therapy with.

Keynes thought it would be more to the point to pump her stomach and get out of it the drug that remained there. He ran to the hospital and came back with a stomach pump and a doctor.

They pumped her stomach, she lived, married Woolf, became Virginia Woolf both in name and fame. She hadn't written any published novels at the time of this, her first suicide attempt.

He later asked her and Leonard for a reward for saving her life and specifically for making it possible for the world to get her books. She gave him and essay inscribed to him called "On Being Ill."

About three decades later she committed suicide. But still, three decades is three decades.

Geoffrey Keynes also was very important in getting William Blake widely read. William Blake had been dead a good while when Keynes started promoting him, and he was a very special taste, people might say, if they liked him. Too weird to bother with, others might say.

William Blake, the poet and artist, is weird and wonderful. He had a whole complicated world view which you don't have to know to read some of his poems. His poems, some of them, are now widely anthologized and read voluntarily. His amazing paintings are well-reproduced in books and sometimes on posters and cards. People don't call him an outsider artist but he has that kind of very special excellence. If we didn't get what we get from him, there would be no place else to get anything like it.

Keynes was a early knower of the fact that with breast cancer you don't have to take out the whole breast to save the woman.

Keynes wrote that when he was working to save Virginia Stephen's life he was struck by how beautiful she was. I was struck by him saying that as I, from black and white photos, thought of her as more striking-looking.

Geoffrey Keynes saved life and beauty. He was not limited to one category of endeavor as he did that.

--information from "The Gates of Memory" by Geoffrey Keynes

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Two works by famous authors about dirty old men are "The Merry Wives of Windsor" by William Shakespeare and "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann.

The point of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is making Falstaff look bad, the play does the job.

The legend is that Queen Elizabeth I told Shakespeare that she wanted him to write a play about Falstaff in love. Falstaff is a lovable, sort of, character you like to watch on stage but wouldn't want to know personally in Shakespeare's plays "Henry IV, Part 1" and Henry IV Part 2"

The play shows a good way for an artist to comply with a specific request from a powerful person.

Falstaff is too self-centered to be in love. The play is about him seeing, correctly that two married women in the town of Windsor, have easy use of their husbands' comfortable amounts of money.

His plan is to make love to them both and somehow cleverly get his hands on that money.

One mistake is his thinking that they wouldn't see through his intentions. They do, immediately, and chat about him since they are friends.

His other mistake is assuming automatically that they would find him sexally attractive, the dirty old man error.

The other plays have established him as fat and not young. They think he is a repellant lard bucket and plan ways to humiliate him. Their plans work.

Shakespeare did not give his sovereign a play about Falstaff in love. He gave her a funny play about a guy who thinks he can easily dupe a couple of women just by deciding to. I wonder if Elizabeth the First ever had any contact with men who assumed a woman they were dealing with was an idiot who they could fool easily. Could be.

She wasn't in a position to foil such men with this tone of comeuppance. One of the wives invited Falstaff for sex, said her

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The book "The Language of the Law" ends its section on how law people use words pompously with an example of a law person not being pompous.

In describing the difference between different kinds of damage, Oliver Wendall Holmes said, ". . .even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked."

When I was in a kind of grad school much milder than law school, I noticed that when people wrote in a way that was scholarly and hard to understand, they often did not know themselves the meaning of what they had written.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's like the streets are gilded by the morning, low-angle sun. The parts of the streets that are painted are gilded more. The words painted on the street by the curb, "Bus Stop" shine like a treasure and are, busses being things that help people have a reasonably moving-around life whether they have treasure or not.
If beautiful women could let their beauty flow free in the air like a flag, fly free in the air like a bird, instead of living inside an earth-bound fence of cat-calls and compliments, life would be different.

We interrupt each other just when we're getting someplace different.

We all need someplace different but we are all programmed to stop someplace different from happening. Peasants in Europe farmed the same way for hundreds of years and it worked, they thought. It barely worked. Sometimes people starved to death, sometimes whole villagers.

But the fear was change would be worse. And since what usually happened barely worked, something that worked worse was a scary idea.

A person really relaxed in this world might think of some better ways for this world to be. Ways better because truly different.

There are many ways people communicate' "You're gorgeous, and I have a plan." And what an unimaginative plan it often is. What if the person is looking gorgeous because they are relaxed and creating something new and about make a first tiny piece of a better world.

"You're gorgeous, and I have a plan," can be another interruption in the long series

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Exploring the yes which is bigger than I expected.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

God and most of his prophets in the Bible are single, male and cranky. Fly off the handle easily. Don't seem to have anyone around to say, "There, there," or "Calm down."

I hadn't thought of it that way until I read the book "The Feminist Companion to Mythology."
I never talked to the neighbor. I could sort of hear what he was up to thanks to thin walls.

In one part of my brain I knew he was from Scotland. In another part, I knew that New Year's Eve is a huge holiday in Scotland, called Hogemanny.

I could hear on New Year's Eve he stayed home. He had a few friends over. They quietly talked all night. Quiet, friendly, dusk to dawn and beyond.

I would think to observe New Year's Eve, you stay awake til midnight and some after. He knew that you stay awake all night through morning. Present for the whole change.
"Love knows no bounds," the sidewalk says, and I bound down the sidewalk, agreeing.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Walking up the hill in partial light, I said, barely aloud, "All my theories are wrong." I felt everything moving closer to me."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"If our minds are ready, everything is ready."

--The king before the battle in William Shakespeare's "King Henry V"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The famous psychiatrist in "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" by Hannah Green was modelled on the famous psychiatrist who treated Joanne Greenburg, who wrote under the pen name Hannah Green.

Joanna Greenburg's husband was a mental health professional who, naturally, was friends with other mental health professionals. They believed that severe schizophrenia could not be cured by talk therapy.

She had had severe schizophrenia cured by talk therapy with the famous shrink, so for that, among other reasons, it took her a while to sign her book with her real name. By the time she signed it with her real name, it had sold a lot of copies.

When the psychiatrist is decided whether or not to take on the case of the young woman in the mentally hospital who was way out there, she thought of the lectures she couldn't give and the teaching she couldn't do if she took the years of frequent meetings it would take to have a chance of making a difference.

She decided that sometimes you have to work like God, and take on people one at a time.

The young woman's inner world was intense and beautiful and also horrible. It got more horrible with time. The beauty was still there. The pain living in that world cause her increased with time.

In the conversation in the book the title comes from, the young woman points out that the world the psychiastrist is trying to bring her back to is awful in many ways.

The doctor says, "I never promised you a rose garden. I never promised you a world of perfect justice."

Justice is not the only issue. It's this vivid inner world designed for herself by herself versus the dull institution she actually lived in.
Love makes things softer and more pointful.
The kid was dead, but Elisha was there. Elisha laid his whole self against the kid, and the kid got over being dead. His color came back. He sneezed seven times.

Shift modes of existence twice in a short time, and sneeze. That feels familiar though I've never been around for it. Although coming back from death doesn't seem like something that would happen in my world, sneezing to readjust to a changing situation feels just like real life.

Sneezing at such a time is practical in that it helps with the ambiguity, too. In a situation where people have a tough telling if someone is dead, sneezes are clear.

--from the Bible, Second Kings

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Comfort and joy are excellent, as is resting merry.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Evelyn the typesetter asked that we be careful how we used the word typo, we editors and writers. We tended to call any error in letter a typo. She pointed out that some of them had originated with the writers, were spelled right, but were "thinkos."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Angels from the realms of glory are a cautious bunch because things are so different here. Angels are frequently present here and frequently subtle.

Friday, January 05, 2007

William Shakespeare's sonnets are love poems to two different people: the beautiful man and the dark lady.

"Dark lady" is a phrase he uses in various senses, in the sense of dark hair and in the sense of she didn't do what he wanted. She dumped him for another man. He didn't like it. The poems about her are about that.

The majority of the sonnets, the ones at the beginning of the collection are to the beautiful man. Shakespeare does use the phrase "dark lady." He never says in his sonnets "beautiful man," just like that. He goes on about how beautiful is the person he's writing the poem to and it's clear that it's a man. It was take a great deal of hard work and determination to avoid the obvious to not get that it is a man that is being spoken to. At some times in the history of these poems, that strong will to deny the obvious has been there, but no more.

It's difficult to get a feeling for what the dark lady was like because he's so angry at her. It is very high quality enraged at being dropped writing.

The beautiful man it's a little easier to get a feel for. He's beautiful. I think he's an idiot and so rich and good-looking that it doesn't matter.

The feeling of the guy who gets all this gorgeously written praise is such that I find it hard to believe that he would read all these dozens of poems written to him. I'm not sure he'd get through one. He feels like he's not much of a reader.

Plus, in Shakespeare's opening sonnets to the man he repeatedly says words to this effect: "You are beautiful. As you age, you will lose your beauty. Therefore, you should get married soon so you can pass on your great beauty to children."

Huh? It's abject, all things considered. And it's telling a beautiful guy who maybe that is all he has going for him that he'll lose his beauty.

It doesn't seem like the way to the man's heart.

And for us, it doesn't matter. The man's beauty helped Shakespeare love him, and loving him helped him write. He could take sentiments important and not unusual like this:

Just know you're alive makes me feel better.

Even when by many scorecards things are tough, knowing you exist makes everything seem great.

and he could write them better than most of us, as in Sonnet 29, which starts"When in disgrace with fortune and mens' eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state. . ." and goes on beweeping it for a while and then thinks the loved and

". . .thy sweet remembered such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

Sonnets, poems of fourteen lines, were invented by the beauty people, the Italians, as part of the whole Renaissance of waking up and doing art more about people and people and not just people and God.

Sonnets the way Shakespeare did them have a certain content pattern where six transforms eight and the last two lines shimmer and glow.

In a Shakespeare sonnet, the first eight lines of the fourteen set up the situation. This is the way it is, well-observed. In the last six lines, the way it is is transformed--the sun comes out, or rain falls. A common life moment where everything that seemed so very the way it was changes, just like that. The last two lines of the last six lines, the last two lines of the poem, ideally should be a strong "I get it" moment. Getting it good, or getting it bad, the last two lines should bring great focus to the new transformed way it is.

"When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings."
--William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29

People who are dealt the great talent card and have the space and persistence to play it can do transformation across time. They can say, write, paint the eight--that's the way it is-- and change with the six and the two--that's the way it has become, and that noticing and change can travel across time.

Anyone can do that kind of noticing and change locally now and then. The advantage any given person has is being the only one in exactly that time and place. So if you notice well how very eight it is and feel how six it might become and make that real with the good timing that crowns the change with a focussed two, you're greater than the greatest artist who is not present in that moment, because you are there.

Sonnet professionals call the first eight lines the octet. They call the last six lines the sestet. The last two lines of the sestet and of the whole sonnet they call the couplet.

It's a good trick, a sonnet, to do a set-up for, as per the rules, eight lines, to shift, by rule, for six lines and to have the last two lines be somehow even more different. All this content stuff happening while following the other rules. Each line must go "ba-BOOM" five times. Not accented syllable followed by accented syllable is called an iamb. Each line of an English, or Shakespearean sonnet must be iambic pentameter.

And the ends of the lines have to rhyme in a certain pattern, which every sonnet of this kind has.

Shakespeare by making up this variation of the rules on what the Italians invents gave people years later ways to take about life and what is and isn't expected. To shift expectations like life does only inside rules we the humans made up. Like in the Sonnet to Hope by Miss Helen Maria Williams, who hoped, or not, from 1780 to 1823.

"O ever skill'd to wear the form we love!
To bid the shapes of fear and grief depart;
Come, gentle Hope! with one gay smile remove
The lasting sadness of an aching heart.
Thy voice, benign enchantress! let me hear;
Say that for me some pleasures yet shall bloom,
That Fancy's radiance, Friendship's precious tear,
Shall soften, or shall chase, misfortun's gloom.

But come not glowing in the dazzling ray,
Which once with dear illusions charm'd the eye;
O! strew no more, sweet flatterer! on my way
The flowers I fondly thought too bright to die;

Visions less fair will soothe my pensive breast,
That asks not happiness, but longs for rest.

--Miss Helen Maria Williams, printed in the anthology "The Female Poets of Great Britain," edited by Frederic Bowton. First printed 1853, reprinted and introduced by Marilyn William and published by the Wayne State University Press in 1981.

Give me a break, and please make it be not too interesting.

That's the kind of break Harriet Vane often thought she wanted. A not too exiting life with well-structured, intellectually engrossing work. No intense personal relationships.

Harriet Vane is a fictional character who has much in common with her creator, Dorothy L. Sayers. They are both detective novelists, which is probably not the destiny they expected when they spent their young years immersed in Shakespeare, reading and declaiming Shakespeare so often that they automatically had yards of Shakespeare memorized and used many short Shakespeare references in what was, for them ordinary conversation.

When Harriet Vane is thinking about how she just wants to rest, she just naturally expresses that by writing the octet of a Shakespearean sonnet, that says, in iambic pentameter, that she wants a quiet still place to live in.

Then she gets stuck (writing the octet in Sayers' detective novel "Gaudy Night." She can't think of the transformation of the next six lines because she doesn't want them. She thinks she doesn't want transformation.

She's hanging out at her old college at Oxford partly to help them solve a mystery. Who is writing nasty, borderline obscene notes and letters to people in the college? Who is doing nasty pranks?

Evidence to day indicates it is a faculty member--very bad news. Sayers makes the reputation of higher education for women a very important thing in this novel written in the 1930's. If the news of the notes and pranks reaches the press, it will reinforce the idea that university education makes women unbalanced and nuts. That they should learn a few simple thing and take care of the husband and kids.

So Harriet Vane is partly trying to find out who is being weird to prevent public scandal. And she is partly thinking about living a purely academic life to retreat from the pain of personal relationships.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hit a home run. Invent a new game and hit the new kind of home run in it. Invent a newer game where ordinariness feels like a home run.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me
as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider's genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere--
even from a broken web."

--Adrienne Rich, from the poem "Integrity"
Speaking at the University of San Francisco about Jesuit administrative techniques, he started by talking about the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits.

The book the spiritual exercises is based on exists, and can be read by anyone, but this speaker said reading the book won't do it. You need to be led, as every Jesuit is, through the process by someone else who has been through the process.

One thing going through this intense process leads to is being able to do discernment. For Jesuits, that is really knowing their own souls, really noticing the situation there is, and really getting with God, discerning, what they should do in this situation.

The speaker noted that intense interest in right here, right now made Jesuits different from many other Catholic orders founded at roughly the same time. They weren't moving early to another better world. They were noticing and acting in this one right here, and still are.

As he moved through his speech on Jesuit manangement, he moved out of talking about the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius into how the Jesuits are governed today. The Pope, the Pope's office has approval/disapproval on everythint they do, but rarely uses it.

In Rome, the central organization of the Jesuits consists of about one hundred administrative types--Jesuits acting as administrators. Saying it's a hundred doesn't include support personnel, the people who fill out and office and file and answer phones, but just the administrators.

There are roughly 25.000 Jesuits world-wide. One hundred administrators in Rome. The more local administrators usually (or maybe always?) have other full time jobs. The speaker noted that a man with an important post in California Jesuit administration is basically the president of the University of San Francisco.

The 25,000 Jesuits are lightly administered. They are trained to discern and their organization trusts them to discern.

Walking the talk.

--Heard the talk on KUSF, the USF station, during the season when Christianity can seem content free.

Monday, January 01, 2007

copyright 2007 Anne Herbert All rights reserved.