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Another Golden Globe Rant and Ramble

These are such confusing times.Our grandchildren growing up must feel themselves on trembling ground. I cannot get the image out of my head of my own grandson going to bed the night of the U.S. presidential election, excited at the prospect of the first woman president only to awaken to his dismayed father who had to break the news: that the abusive host of the tv show, The Apprentice, the loudmouth insensitive lout, the one his brother cutely dubbed Donald Trunk had won. Incredulous, C.J. wondered why.

Similarly persons one has learned to trust, those granted authority and power are now brought to their knees for their abuse of power and people. Not just trusted doctors or CEOs, but the gods of movies who have inspired and defined what is altruistic, good and human on screen have been revealed as willing to subvert and ignore the values they have espoused in the best of drama and media. That talk of the casting couch was not a hidden secret or that factory foremen took advantage of their immigrant workers was just accepted and acknowledged as part of the work world: people seemed to know, but perhaps believed it a small part of the dirty gossip that was perpetuated to entice an audience in show biz , but even should it be likely true in other industries and institutions, it was the price of a job, the ticket to success or security. We always knew of bosses who took advantage, who spoke down and worse from their own tenuously elevated vantage points, but most of us workaday mortals in our ordinary places, even should we criticize, felt embarrassed to speak out, challenge and confront, except to one another, shaking our heads in mortification and helplessness. And do not forget, those scorned who were sufficiently brave to speak out, the Hester Prynnes ridiculed, ostracized, branded liars or paid off.

Yet truly there has always been right and wrong behaviours. We tell our children, don’t hit, don’t hurt, don’t bully, care and support your sister, your brother. Only when miscreants are called out into the public domaine, do they protest, grabbing at some excuse or absurd rationalization to excuse odious actions. As long as they could maintain their behaviour unaccosted, they persisted, even bragging at the outrages committed. And some even as lately as Jian Ghomeshi or Albert Schultz protest at the unfairness, at being misinterpreted or misunderstood, that their partners were willing, complicit, actively participating in the deeds.

But lately there has been a barrage of perpetrators whose accusers have bravely come forward. And been heard! And even taken seriously. Yet, in many’s disbelief, the head of state, Trump, has been shown with his own words to describe his own unconscionable immoral behaviour. Strange incomprehensible times for those growing up seeking role models, and learning what is acceptable or appropriate in society when such activities go unpunished.

Discussing the Metoo campaign, Howard and I wondered why now, how had the tipping point occurred so that women were no longer silenced, willing to grin and bear it. In deed at a New Year’s Eve party here in San Diego, one older man queried without any sympathy or empathy, why did they( those women) wait so long , some seventeen years to come forward; other men in the group shaking their bald heads in agreement. Brie Simpson, editor of The Jewish Journal dismissed those weak unfeeling comments in her December editorial. In fact, she wrote, every woman she knows has had a confrontation . I absolutely agree. If you were a woman, you were free game, a moving target under someone’s telescope, especially if you were cute, sexy, smiling, attractive or not, naïve…

We talked more about women in positions of power willing to speak out now, exposing more regular everyday relationships in which they were unwilling to accept disparagement or worse –and in spite of Margaret Wente’s column in which she differentiated diverse treatments by salacious men, as if a wink, a squeeze, a grope, a pinch, a hug, a kiss, could be tallied more or less against forceable sex, ignoring any unwanted touch is an invasion.

We considered our present day society where a person might be willing to walk away from a job, go hungry and just hang out, rather than tie themselves to indignities. In the old world, you worked, you worked hard, no matter what. You had responsibilities that had to be seen to, children to feed and because you believed yourself lesser than the boss, you just took it.Often you were an immigrant person, relieved to have escaped the perils of your country; congruently, if you were a woman, you had been schooled on being subservient, knowing your place, being sweetly accommodating accepting the crumbs off a man’s plate, not causing a scene. Today there is pushback, equality between men and women, races, genders, etc. so people reflect,” I have choices”( even if you do not). There is a feeling that you deserve more.As truthfully, we all are due respect. And no one should be put in that position, between a rock and a hard place in order to survive any relationship, in or out of the work place. As well, the understanding that the personal, the “I” is as worthy a voice as the omniscient “one, “or the impersonal “they.”And stories do possess truth, often conveying more than objective facts, speaking to a truer reality, one lived by an individual whose voice quakes, cries, shouts, and wants to impart authenticity.

As always I return to the postmodern death of the paternal , the concept of nation, the rise of the individual, the interest in self versus the group and/ or the country. I do not say the post modern is a bad thing, and in deed instead of blindly following, questioning the rule or reign of dictatorships and monarchies it is a very good thing to think independently. But here is the rub: we talk of co- operation, but how often are our colleagues too busy to help us out. We talk of multiple intelligences, but give standardized tests or underfund programs or access for the disabled.We do put ourselves first, thinking we are special. So the women’s night at the Golden Globes was a spectacular moment for women to stand together.

And as always, it is not an either- or split, us or them. The solution is a balance of consideration of personal needs along side the needs of our community, for we do not live in this world by ourselves. Metoo. What we propose for our family, should be the same values we espouse for our neighbours. Far from joining arms and swaying to Kumbaya, I am suggesting that tired old Golden Rule of do unto others ,choosing respect and responsibility over pride, money and the sweet surge of power should not guide our behaviour, and should have been the mantras of the men, men who definitely knew better, but wanted to take advantage of vulnerable, tentative situations, in order to satisfy a base need or desire. But as in all things, what is clearest and simplest morphs into something twisted and complicated as we listen to the cries of the accused, refusing to accept the indictments of those they have victimized.

The Golden Globes was, I hope , a line in the sand, Howard noting how radiant the women were, shining in their stunning black dresses, a true feeling of solidarity in speeches and close clasping, with even women leaders of agriculture and unions accompanying the stars. And Oprah was the star, incredibly beautiful in presence and her speech washing away all others, including Elizabeth Moss’s reading Margaret Atwood’s words by Offred, no longer willing to be in the margins of pages. Oprah was a show stopper, the focused moment befitting her work, her image, her story, her journey.

However, Oprah, readying a campaign for the presidency and all ready supported by her fellow Americans is an entertainer- unlike but as unqualified as the man in power now. Unlike Ronald Reagan, also a media personality, she has not been a governor, and her work – in Africa, with the poor, in many causes does not sanction her as a viable candidate. Does anyone recall her call out to the base instincts of “ a car for you..” or providing Jenny Mc Carthy a platform for her incredibly unscientific views on medical issues I too was awed by Oprah, her brilliant delivery and presence , but The Rock also is contemplating being on the ticket. Neither, of course ,has cut their teeth in political circles. And I say this with respect that glittering Oprah in her grass roots ways has improved the lives of thousands, but I want someone who has been educated and knows the halls of power intimately. But I am a Canadian, with our own showy prime minister, dawdling over our physical assisted dying law, doing photo ops with the rich and newly released from captivity, so although in comparison Trudeau appears to shine, he, unlike his father, has not moved the country forward .

As Gary Mason in the The Globe wrote in The Globe, along with a string of others, Where does governmental experience, actual participation in the realm, the know how of politics occur? Why do we go to college if not to prepare for our future professionals.Where is the role of experience, preparation, research, investigation , etc.? And yet in this confusing world of fake news, such a man as unqualified was elected – no question, Oprah might have been a wiser choice. In this new world, should we not at least, some of us laud the age old values: attempting to build a renewed world that melds some from column A , some from Column B. Where is the wisdom that comes from living, honouring and acknowledging the mistakes of the past: to avoid redoing them in the future?

And we cannot forget or dismiss those like Governor Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania who has stood with women to vote against ridiculous repressive abortion laws, or Governor Jerry Brown of California who openly decries the building the Mexican wall and environmental destruction and Elizabeth Warren…There are , I have to believe good people who have dedicated their lives to working in politics, fighting the good fight, upholding the values I want my grandchildren to emulate.

It is perplexing even for oldsters such as myself, but what of future generations of children, what will they say of these times? Stranger and stranger “, quipped Alice.

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Styling

Like many people I thought it was Maya Angelou who wrote “ When I am old I will wear purple…” or some words to that effect; however, in checking on the cite, I see it was Jenny Joseph.

Jenny Joseph in Warning Poem writes,

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals…

Funny how we grow into purple, a colour I shook my head at when my younger daughter adored it – always. But now, passed age 60 I cannot get enough variation of it, from lilac to purple-gray to almost fuchsia, it draws me like a hummingbird. From plum eye shadow to lavender shoes, it tickles me. I find it rich and regal and delightful, funny and fantastic. No surprise then it was once considered a royal colour , a spiritual colour highlighted by ermine by monarchs, its value cherished due to its longevity, obtained from Mediterranean sea snails.

Most people will tell you that getting older sucks. My mother used to guffaw at the notion of The Golden Age. There are more deep wrinkles, more aches, slower moves, more forgetting names and a trend towards being a lesser-you—unless of course you have the body of a power athlete and the sharp brain of a scientist. Perhaps that is why we spend hours on bettering ourselves on games such as Luminosity every morning and twisting into the difficult El Doa poses at Pilates as we try to preserve what is vanishing like snow that once glistened on the roof.

However

what I do find enjoyable is how people of a certain age have begun to dress, carving out their individuality through their wearing apparel.

And it seems to matter less how I look on a daily basis so if I slip out to the store with a bright green fannypack slung low on my protruding tummy, I hardly care. Wearing makeup for a jaunt to the grocer’s seems downright silly too. I see others my age behaving similarly. Hair is less than coiffed, maybe with a baseball cap pulled low, pants comfy and relaxed, not the tight pinched jeans emblazoned with designer monikers once purchased to display curves. I see in these other passerbys that I do not approach a kinship, a community of women who would, like me, adore wearing purple. Instead of following the latest fashion fads, they have become relaxed about themselves, their outward appearances, forgoing trends for individual eccentricity. Many have forged their own unique style. . I like that.

A month ago I observed at the corner of Yonge and Roxborough a mature woman who had put herself together as Annie Hall might have, hat, upturned collar, slouchy pants and I gasped –in pleasure. Not a Halloween getup but I assumed an outward expression of her appreciation of a way of dressing. Inwardly I laughed but thought if this were California, no one would even looked twice but applauded her ingenuity- or perhaps it was her own style that merely reminded me of Woody’s paramour Annie. In any case I enjoyed her way of arranging herself that spoke out.

In contrast 65 year old Caitlin Jenner’s pinup pose left me cold. When I read Judith Timson in The Star’s Current affairs, on Jun 03 2015 , I realized that Jenner was calling on the “ beauty” of her generation, not the present day, to identify herself as a fully attractive woman, complete with bustier and boobs. So it seems that even when we strike out, society has brainwashed us with indefatigable images – such as even the iconic Annie Hall- as we are tied to uphold and exceed the ideals with which we first struggled. To explain ourselves as women, we call on the concepts we associate with our sense of what is /even once was considered desirable ,packaging ourselves as society has suggested we might be, even quirky versions.

But rather than veer into the psychological, I prefer to stay on the outside , the textural superficial that charms the eye . For that reason I I love to contemplate the aesthetics of clothes and when Comme des Garcons, many many years ago first put seams on the outside of garments I thought it brilliant to turn a fabric inside out to reveal the construction of a piece of clothing. We could simultaneously view process and product. Wearing the internal on the external, bringing both parts together? How post-modern is that?

I adore the texture, the structure above all, the cloth, the design of things: from doorknobs to fabrics. I have thought that fashion is merely wearable art in the hands of a gifted crew. Who cannot gasp at the clothes of the protagonist in Scandal as she emblazons in white, donning her modern gladiator togs suitable for a heroine in Washington battling Evil. Maybe it is the reverse of the old you can’t tell a book by its cover, but here, oh yes! You can as the avenging angel avenges-so stylishly.

I have friends who put down Vogue magazine, noses pinched tightly above the glitter of fashion, but for me it is a rich picture book, often with Grace Coddington weighing in by visual references to paintings in her thoughtful borrowing from famous art works, landscapes in her fashion shoots. The recent gory tantalizing Hannibal television show does the same, rearranging his corpses a la Botticelli and it is so terrifyingly beautiful, you cannot tear your eyes from the scene as you peruse the horror of the frozen images arranged for perpetuity.

Perhaps art is in fact that: life fixed forever in a framed canvas. So why not elegantly painted scenes in the ground stones of cobalt or the Madonna faces that look beyond into another dimension or even the flashes of billowing colour combinations that speak to tensions, and freedoms and the presence that exceeds reality?

However, as I once again ruminate, moving from style to society mores to art, I want to recatch my initial fascination with how women dress. And in spite of Dial soap’s ground breaking decision to use real women in their advertisements, none, I believe, was wearing purple! Ha.

A Ramble on a Pair of Ducks

A Ramble on a Pair of Ducks

“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back”, we used to shout as we sprang over cracks in the sidewalk en route to school. We carried furry and highly- coloured rabbit’s feet for luck or special talisman into exams, seriously pretending we possessed lucky tokens to change or improve our luck.

Even now, as grownups, we have those rituals that will protect us from evil or make our passages safer from downfall: a certain shirt; a necklace: a tiny action figure
saved from childhood. My sister carries my mother’s hairbrush in her purse. Yet, most of us know these are empty traditions that no longer satisfy our childish belief that we can affect and change our fates. Yet, we continue to want to believe fiercely that we can control our lives and that good boys and girls will be successful and Santa will in deed reward us with treats.

I should have known better when I hung a sock and received a lump of coal at Christmas time one year, obviously influenced by the saccharin stories on television and the goopy songs that promised twinkling toys. Perhaps it was my parents’ strange and ironic humour to teach: that a Jewish girl should not expect gifts from a mythic deity, even if he had human whiskers and merry chatty elves in pointy hats.

So it seems that my worldview has tottered between a lusty excitement of something magical and wonderful to downright despair that life kicks you in the butt even when your expectations are pure and you do really try. And even when you are bubbling with joy, a speck of dirt invades your contact lens and makes you cry tears of pain, and causes you to conclude that inevitably things will not turn out as you had passionately hoped.

The Existentialists supported a “sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world” ( See Robert C. Solomon, Existentialism (McGraw-Hill, 1974, pp. 1–2) and in the 70’s the popular view held that not to choose was also to choose: being stoic did not mean you had not acted. We were overfed Albert Camus’ dark tale of The Stranger in French and English, his aloofness of non-feeling, that his knowledge that he did not belong and his resultant coldness even in the face of his mother’s death culminated perhaps into a post-modern attitude of isolationism. In the face of absurdity and fear of falling, do we not clutch towards superstitions and ways to hold on?

At my first job teaching in the Jane Finch corridor, I recall a gathering in the cramped space of the English office and someone announcing, “It’s a pair of ducks”.

“What”, I queried, even before the need of hearing aids. “ A para-ah- dux, a paradox, a PARADOX”.

Uh-huh, my twenty-one year old mind surmised, sure.

But throughout my life, I have come to realize, that yes, in deed, everything is in deed, a paradox. In other words, there are two, or more likely, many sides to every story or event. Most, not even matching.

As a follower of Post-modernism, I can concur, that celebrating only your own tribe, group, personal religion or preferences may be a great thing for remaining insular and uninvolved in matters beyond your own particular realm; however, at the same time, the present mantra that is preached lauds collaboration, group work, diversity, getting together, empathy of others’ views. How can those two diametrically opposing views co-exist? Impossible? Even absurd?

Similarly in education, child-centred learning, Gardner’s multiple intelligences ( in spite of Sacherin Star’s mislabeling- See earlier blog), seem to sit rather uncomfortably with multiple choice testing that requires kiddies to select one right answer on the standardized tests administered like clockwork at precisely prescribed times of the year.

For me, just providing choice opens an exquisite realm of possibilities that twists and turns on its head that there is ONLY one way of answering a question. Some illogical conclusions might herald validity- at least in my world. I suppose that is the world where dogs can fly and people live happily ever after. I believe there is never only one answer. Even my eldest daughter’s best friend a PH.D in astrophysics who measured the distance between stars speculated on multiple propositions. I’m wondering if her decision to leave science and follow Swing Dancing was caused by the insistence of someone to provide a finite number of miles.

However, I don’t buy that school success and childhood brilliance reside in the camp of multiple choices where only one correct response sounds the bell of genius. I honestly believe in the expression of knowledge in a variety of ways, not pigeonholed by statistics that do disservice to what lifelong learning is and should be.

I think of my early learning at West Prep and a grade one teacher ironically named Miss Young in her brown oxfords, metal-rimmed glasses who raked my curly head with her nails, showering such disapproval on me, that even the act of cutting out green leaves in a specific shape and size seized me with terror. To this day, I remember the name “Michael Cooper” who surreptiously came to my rescue. Years later when I strode into an American Express in Denmark and spied him, I raced over to thank him. He looked at me as if I were crazy but even as I write this 6o years later, I viscerally relive the terror of performing that incorrect act : of being wrong. Perhaps if I had kept a rabbit’s foot nearby, stroked it, murmured an occult saying, I would have calmed myself and been able to conquer the simple task required of the class of five year olds.

In contrast to that terror, I also recall a month that my younger daughter spent at Camp Interlochen in Michigan with a real science teacher and her joy. He must have been much like David Suzuki, albeit with whiskers and in khaki shorts for their science was one of discovery: building bird cages, gently separating thrush to come upon duck eggs, scooping handfuls of earth to dislodge worms and ants. Not a matter of rights and wrongs, yes or no, or not just one correct interpretation. A science of exploration and discovery and visible truths, opening up holes in the darkness of the pond.

At my child’s grandson’s daycare several weeks ago, I overhear the ECE respond to the child’s answer by asking “ What is your hypothesis?” and I wanted to say to Rob, “ Yes, yes, YES”. Continue to encourage him to observe, think for himself, come to his conclusions through asking, reflecting, measuring, commanding diverse tools…” I hope he could see my delight in his approach.

So having- as I often do- diverted from my discussion here in my blog, I now return to the plaguing topic of superstitions. And yet, a desire to believe beyond ourselves in something greater or magical sometimes does manage to get us through life’s trials. As we are only tiny specks in the massive cosmos, how can we say we know everything about everything. Which brings me to my hidden query:

With my mother passing away several months ago, the rabbi who attended her burial recommended a book entitled Does the Spirit Survive by Rabbi Eli Spitz. Spitz examines biblical sources, neardeath experiences (NDE), hypnoses, and his own incredible audience with a medium. Interestingly, Spitz relates that there are Jewish groups who did and do believe in reincarnation and he provides authorities who list the stages through which one passes, also demurring that many of the great religions accept reincarnation of the soul. What I appreciate about Spitz is his attitude towards his topic- which is skeptical- but ends in acknowledging that if such beliefs encourage “good deaths” or enable people to overcome fears or neuroses, he is supportive. I feel similarly.

Speak to your friends and inevitably someone you know will recount an event that fulfills such thinking. One friend recently recounted that as she and her neighbor sat talking about the neighbour’s deceased husband, a sudden gust of wind shook the nearby trees and they were blanketed in cloaks of flowers. Perhaps you sneer and mouth the words, “ Coincidence”. For the widow, there were important associations.

My daughter who has researched NDEs had a conversation with a medium who said that my father had contacted her. About 50% of the information was incredibly correct. The medium identified my father had a lower body ailment. She said, “It feels like the lower part of his back and legs were affected. Trouble walking. Dragging feet”. My father had contracted polio at age 28. The medium also stated, “ He is showing me his sternum area, something not right with… the upper part. Liver? “Almost 20 years ago, my father had fallen and torn his spleen, and was wrongly diagnosed, dying of lymphoma.

She said, ”The letter M was surrounding him…” His beloved mother was named Molly, his disliked sister Marion…

Music, I hear Music… Classical music”, she continued.

My father’s work was in perfecting sound and he analyzed classical music.

However, there were many incorrect insights as well, the medium suggesting that “he held a positive attitude, reassuring others about life and its obstacles and hardship.” Not so and from the time he contracted polio ( perhaps earlier, I don’t know), he was bleak, introverted, sarcastic, hard, no fan to gardens or flowers as he suffered from hayfever and asthma.

Still, the reading gives me some pause.

This weekend at Bryn Athyn College Dr. Eben Alexander, academic neurosurgeon for more than 25 years with work that includes Brigham; Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston will talk on his own NDE (Near Death Experiences) experiences and his awareness of an Afterlife. His book Proof of Heaven is riveting.

I hope my cynicism is proven wrong and there are things we cannot fathom or understand with our limited human minds: that angels do wrap their gossamer wings around us and every once in a while touch us, heal us and turn lumps of coal into glittering stars. Still the child scowling in disappointment but holding onto the possibilities that make life shine brighter.

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