“This pressure you share is a misplaced hinge, a fantasy. . .” (Naomi Shihab Nye)

7993-07-child health careFrom the week I was born until May 30, 2010, my time was organized around Sunday mornings. My father was an American Baptist pastor. That Sunday morning was important goes without saying. By the time I was in junior high school I was a church organist. Except for four hiatuses of a few weeks between appointments, I held positions in churches for 50 years.

My father, who was conflicted about Social Security because it was a New Deal invention that he was not sure was Constitutional, insisted I open my account when I was in junior high school and was first paid by the church to play the organ. He had graduated from a Southern liberal arts college, highly-respected then and now, and his doubts about Social Security were academically well-founded questions, not 21st-century elitist Neo-Con “conservatism.” His father, however, was a Roosevelt Democrat, a union member, and a proponent of the New Deal in all of its manifestations.

Years later, when my parents retired, my father quietly jettisoned his doubts about Social Security—as, I’m sure, even the most die-hard so-called Libertarians do. I don’t know of anyone who refuses their check every month.

My time was organized around Sunday mornings. It was crucial.

The most important activities of the week were scheduled around preparations for Sunday mornings—choosing music for choirs and for myself, practicing the organ, meeting church bulletin printing deadlines, doing laundry for proper attire, making sure the car had enough gasoline to take me to the church, and all those other crucial details necessary for accomplishing my professional task. It’s amazing how much time and energy I spent on preparing for professional work.

For musicians the work itself is the tiniest part of a week’s activities.

And then on May 30, 2010, the church where I held my last position closed, and I discovered the truth.

No one perches dangerously on any cliff till you reply (Naomi Shihab Nye).

Almost nothing I’ve ever done was crucial for anyone’s well-being. No one has ever been perched dangerously on a cliff waiting for me to do something (to save them? help them? comfort them?). Hardly anyone would have noticed if I had worn the wrong shirt on Sunday morning, and absolutely no one would have cared.

Nothing I do could not be done by someone else. Except for thinking my thoughts and feeling my feelings. Someone else could probably be writing this. A joke used to circulate among English scholars (perhaps it still does) that if enough monkeys were seated at enough typewriters, eventually they would produce the works of Shakespeare.

My kitchen is not organized well enough for the Property Brothers (or anyone else on HGTV) to approve. It’s helter-skelter. Except for one area. I use one plate, one salad plate, one cereal bowl, one skillet, one baking dish . . . you get the point. Once in a while there are two of something. And when I finish with a dish or piece of flatware or cooking utensil, I wash it in one side of my double sink and put it in the dish drainer permanently housed in the other side. I don’t put one plate away so six hours later I have to get it out. It’s right there when I need it.

I never use the dishwasher. (An aside: if anyone says they’re worried about global warming or the California drought or oil companies using up all of our water for fracking, and I find out they use a dishwasher, I know all of their concern for the environment is a bunch of hot air.) For one plate, one salad plate, and one cereal bowl? Give me a break.

Well-meaning friends, relatives, and others (others?) come to my kitchen and try to be helpful. They wash dishes and put them away. And since there’s no obvious place to put my plastic 2-egg microwave egg poacher, they look around and find a cupboard with plastic refrigerator bowls and such and put it there.

Is it crucial to run the dishwasher?

Is it crucial to run the dishwasher?

The next morning after they’re gone and I’m fixing my breakfast, I have to open half the cupboard doors to find it.

This is obviously no BIG deal. It’s my silly example for today:

When they say “crucial”—well, maybe for them?

It seems to me that most often what we think is crucial is crucial for exactly—for exactly ourselves and no one else. It is not crucial that dishes be washed, dried, and put in cupboards—or that enormous amounts of water and energy be wasted on running dishwashers—especially for an old man living alone. It’s not crucial; it’s what most of us were taught from infancy the way things are done. Not crucial; inculcated.

Some things are crucial. Finding a way to feed the millions of food-insecure children in our nation. Providing health care to everyone. Educating teenagers so they understand making money is not the goal of education, but being able participate in critical thinking is the goal. To find a way to save our democracy (what’s left of it) from the oligarchy and theocracy that are destroying it. I think it’s crucial for LGBTQ people who want to be treated equally to start helping others (like those millions of food-insecure children) to find equality.

Hold your horses and your minutes and
your Hong Kong dollar coins in your pocket,
you are not a corner or a critical turning page.

The old man in me wants to say in my most irascible and crotchety voice, the one that will annoy you but that you will remember, “Fuck off!” unless you’re doing something that’s really crucial. Stop meddling and start helping.

“NEXT TIME ASK MORE QUESTIONS,” by NAOMI SHIHAB NYE (b. 1952)

Before jumping, remember
the span of time is long and gracious.

No one perches dangerously on any cliff
till you reply. Is there a pouch of rain

desperately thirsty people wait to drink from
when you say yes or no? I don’t think so.

Hold that thought. Hold everything.
When they say “crucial”—well, maybe for them?

Hold your horses and your minutes and
your Hong Kong dollar coins in your pocket,

you are not a corner or a critical turning page.
Wait. I’ll think about it.

This pressure you share is a misplaced hinge, a fantasy.
I am exactly where I wanted to be.

LGBTQ people: It's crucial to end child food-insecurity

LGBTQ people: It’s crucial to end child food-insecurity

“. . . the ordinary man as he always was. . .” (Fadwa Tuqan)

Nancy's Moulin Rouge

Nancy’s Moulin Rouge

When I get old like Nancy Birtwhistle, I want to do something like build/bake the most spectacular cake in the country.

[The 60-year-old grandmother] was branded the ‘queen of consistency’ by judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in The Great British Bake Off final last week.

The “last week” in the Daily Mail was October 12, 2014. But I’ll bet not ten Americans who were hooked on the BBC/PBS show spoiled the excitement by looking up the result of the contest online before this past Sunday evening when the grand finale played on PBS. Who’d want to ruin a bit of genuine fun and real-life mystery-drama?

I need some advice on how to be retired. Yesterday I arrived at the Athletic Development of Student Athletes center at 9 AM for my regular three hours of tutoring. Then a quick trip to the fitness center for a short workout and 50 minutes of walking in the therapy pool, then back to the ADSA for two more hours of tutoring. Stop by the grocery store. Then home.

Fadwa Tuqan

Fadwa Tuqan

In the evening I spent an hour reading the book one of the students I tutor is reading for his class, and then about two hours researching Palestinian poets. That’s not true. I became fascinated by the life and work of Fadwa Tuqan, 20th-century Palestinian poet, and spent a good deal of the evening researching in university library databases for references to her—and I ordered her autobiography translated by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Today my schedule is easier—9:30 appointment with therapist, 11:00 extra tutoring session for student who has a monstrous essay due, 12:15 workout at fitness center, 2:00 meeting of GED faculty at the Aberg Center for Literacy (six blocks from fitness center), 3:00 meet with dietician back at fitness center, 7:00 twelve-step meeting and weekly dinner after.

It’s pretty obvious why I want to get old like Nancy Birtwhistle and have nothing to do but build cakes that look like the Moulin Rouge. I need some time to myself. That’s because I’m an introvert. It has nothing to do with old age. I was ever thus.

No, really. I always have trouble convincing my friends that’s true. I’m so gabby and so at ease with people and so unafraid to perform, to teach a class, to lead a choir, to. . . – you name it.

About the only upside to being as busy as I was yesterday and will be today is that I wasn’t and won’t be sitting at home alone and lonely, and feeling sorry for myself. OK. Stop. That’s not what depression is. It’s not being lonely and feeling sorry for myself. It’s this nameless, formless Thing waiting to overtake me whenever I make myself physically comfortable on my sofa or stand at the kitchen sink doing dishes or drive to the fitness center or go to a party or participate in a meeting of the GED faculty at the Aberg Center for Literacy.

The good news is that the older I get, the kinder I am to myself for this schizoid life. (Note: I did not use “schizophrenic” or any other pathological word.

Schizo
word-forming element meaning “division; split, cleavage,” from Latinized form of Greek skhizo- comb. form of skhizein “to split, cleave, part, separate,” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

Division. Split. Cleavage. That’s what I have in my brain. There’s this guy who can go out and work with a university football player who—I think by most people’s standards—is physically pretty intimidating and have an easy-going but professional relationship with him. I can go to a meeting of a bunch of volunteer teachers and participate even though my throat gets dry and I have to hold onto the table every time I speak.

But submit myself to going to a party with a bunch of strangers (or even a bunch of people I know)? Not if I can help it. Carl Jung theorized that

The introvert’s attitude is an abstracting one; at bottom he is always intent on withdrawing libido from the object, as though he had to prevent the object from gaining power over him (quoted in Blandin, Kesstan. “Temperament And Typology.” Journal Of Analytical Psychology 58.1 (2013): 118-136).

“Libido,” as I understand it, is the unconscious part of the psyche that’s the source of instinctive satisfaction and pleasure. Of course, the most obvious instinct is sexual pleasure, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that part of a person’s unconscious that attaches itself to other people and situation—unless, of course, for some reason, a person doesn’t want anything or anyone to gain power over them.

Well, how’s that for psychobabble? All I mean is that I like people, I love people, I fall desperately in love with people, but I don’t want them to have any power over me. The best way to prevent that is simply to avoid them—and to be sure to have enough time alone to recover after a bunch of people sap my energy.

I used to think that if I lived to be 70 years old, I’d be over this or at least have figured how to live with myself in spite of introversion. I didn’t say I’m not happy. Those parts of me that don’t need Lamictal every day are pretty happy—go-lucky, in fact. I know how to have as much fun as Nancy Birtwhistle—but not on TV, not with the whole world watching.

I think most of us are introverts. Some of us have perfected the art to a high degree. But I think most of us are forever devoid of the kind of strength necessary to attach ourselves to others without fear (extraverts may just be crazy).

I can’t even imagine the kind of strength it must take to participate in the lives of others so completely as to be able to write a poem like this—or to have the strength of the person who is the subject of the poem. Even if Hamza is fictitious, he is drawn from the reality of people I have met in Palestine.

“Hamza,” by Fadwa Tuqan

Hamza was just an ordinary man
like others in my hometown
who work only with their hands for bread.

When I met him the other day,
this land was wearing a cloak of mourning
in windless silence. And I felt defeated.
But Hamza-the-ordinary said:
‘My sister, our land has a throbbing heart,
it doesn’t cease to beat, and it endures
the unendurable. It keeps the secrets
of hills and wombs. This land sprouting
with spikes and palms is also the land
that gives birth to a freedom-fighter.
This land, my sister, is a woman.’

Days rolled by. I saw Hamza nowhere.
Yet I felt the belly of the land
was heaving in pain.

Hamza — sixty-five — weighs
heavy like a rock on his own back.
‘Burn, burn his house,’
a command screamed,
‘and tie his son in a cell.’
The military ruler of our town later explained:
it was necessary for law and order,
that is, for love and peace!

Armed soldiers gherraoed his house:
the serpent’s coil came full circle.
The bang at the door was but an order —
‘evacuate, damn it!’
And generous as they were with time, they could say:
‘in an hour, yes!’

Hamza opened the window.
Face to face with the sun blazing outside,
he cried: ‘in this house my children
and I will live and die
for Palestine.’
Hamza’s voice echoed clean
across the bleeding silence of the town.

An hour later, impeccably,
the house came crumbling down,
the rooms were blown to pieces in the sky,
and the bricks and the stones all burst forth,
burying dreams and memories of a lifetime

of labor, tears, and some happy moments.

Yesterday I saw Hamza
walking down a street in our town —
Hamza the ordinary man as he always was:
always secure in his determination.

The Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan, who has died aged 86, forcefully expressed a nation’s sense of loss and defiance. Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general, likened reading one of Tuqan’s poems to facing 20 enemy commandos. (more. . .)‘in this house my children and I will live and die for Palestine". . . An hour later, impeccably, the house came crumbling down,

‘in this house my children and I will live and die for Palestine”. . . An hour later, impeccably, the house came crumbling down,

“Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere. . .” (Naomi Shihab Nye)

For only the few.

For only the few.

Cookies! COOKIES! COOKIES!

I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to cookies. Store-bought, purportedly home-made cookies, preferably from Kroger. Albertson’s will do in a pinch, but Kroger’s are better. I don’t know about fancy cookies. Some um tut sut bakery (how did that phrase pop into my brain?) probably sells fancy cookies I’d like, but I doubt it. Middle-class-not-very-good-for-you cookies are what cookies are all about.

I know what fancy over-the-top cupcakes are all about and where to get them. (Fluellen’s on Elm Street in downtown Dallas, if you must know.) But I don’t want any hoity-toity cookies. I want your basic fattening and addictive cookies.

Every day.

This is quite strange. Except for chocolate (the very best chocolate—Mast Brothers or Harbor Sweets or some such), I have never been much addicted to sweets—my extra 30 pounds are the direct result of too much cheese and too many salty crackers (nuts, chips—well, you know).

So one day awhile back, I was walking through Kroger, and a table of cookies got in my way and I had to take some. “Private Selection,” the nice little brown box said. How could I pass that up? I took one of the boxes (assuming that was all there were in the entire world—“private,” don’t you know?) feeling very smug that I was in on something almost no one else would get to share.

The box had four cookies, four different kinds. The macadamia nut with white chocolate chunks were the best, followed closely by the chewy brownies with chocolate chips.

I know I would never have been tempted if I were not an old retired man living alone and never being invited to parties or movies and feeling sorry for myself. If I could get used to watching Netflix movies alone or binge-watching “Orange Is the New Black,” the time might pass faster in the evening without my having to eat cookies to make bedtime come sooner. Or be afraid.

There are some elegant cookies I’d like to have more of. A friend brought a plate of “sugar cookies” to my retirement party, but they were not Kroger quality. High-brow cookies these were, and he had had them inscribed with my retirement mantra, “Find your bliss.” I do know an elegant cookie when I taste one. (Of all the “pot luck” contributions at the party, only the cookies inspired questions about their source.)

More elegant than my usual fare.

More elegant than my usual fare.

My taste for cookies (and most foods) that are simple and common, not elegant or gourmet, is matched somewhat by my taste in music. But there is an enormous difference. The simple music I love is elegant, not common. For many people (most people?) it is music that exists in an atmosphere so rarefied that it has never caught on as “popular.” I realized many years ago that when I am singing a tune as if on a tape loop in my mind, it is quite often Gregorian Chant.

For about the last week, for example, I have had Victimae paschali laudes, the Roman Rite Sequence hymn for Easter in mind. I’ve sung it probably 1,000 times this week. It should come as no surprise that I know, without looking them up, the hymn’s numbers in the Hymnal 1940, The Hymnal 1982, and the Lutheran Book of Worship are 97, 187, and 137 respectively.

I wrote a few days ago to explain why I have had the incipit of the Gregorian Sequence hymn (Dies irae) for the burial office tattooed on my left arm. “Day of wrath, O day of warning! See fulfilled the prophets’ warning.” Grim. Or not.

Yesterday I had the letter “h” in a sort of Gothic style tattooed on my left shoulder. That will become (when it is healed and more can be added) not only my initial, but the beginning of the Gregorian Gradual hymn for Easter, Haec dies quam fecit Dominus (“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”).

I’ve given in to my new addiction to cookies. I hope I’m not also developing an addiction to tattoos. If I have, I hope I will be as careful in selecting them as I have been so far. Is it not (or am I simply thinking myself too clever) at least interesting to contemplate that, in my 70th year, I have had indelibly inscribed on my body Christian symbols for death and, conversely, for life? I’m somewhat puzzled by it because I cannot (would not) say I any longer believe in that theology.

But a loss of belief does not mean a loss of rooted meaning. Those two Latin phrases incorporating “day”—Dies irae, and Haec dies, wrath and rejoicing—have meaning for me that is so deep it almost feels part of my genetic makeup. Perhaps it is.

My conscious tension between the two gives the rest of my life possibility if not meaning. At least it helps me stay rooted—“always stay rooted to somewhere”—and not fear being a retired old man living alone—or any other possibility.

Naomi Shihab Nye, a Palestinian-American poet who lives in San Antonio, TX, embodied the tension between fear and rejoicing in her poem “Gate A-4.” Lucky for me—so I don’t have to try to explain any further—it’s also about cookies.

“Gate A-4,” by Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952)

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed for four hours, I heard an announcement:
“If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately.”

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. “Help,”
said the flight service person. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke to her haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to
her–Southwest. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up about two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—out of her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free beverages from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving us all apple juice and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend
—by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other
women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Strangely - "staying rooted to somewhere"

Strangely – “staying rooted to somewhere”

 

“Until you speak Arabic, you will not understand pain.”

Bedouin Mother, John Singer Sargent, 1905

Bedouin Mother, John Singer Sargent, 1905

Nearly every day I want to write about the greatest conscious mystery I’m aware of. Conscious=aware, I know. I know. That’s a sentence I would ask a student to rewrite. It’s circular reasoning with a vengeance. Of course one is “aware” of a mystery that’s “conscious.” If one were not aware, it would not be “conscious.”

However, nearly every day I want to write about this incongruity, this absolute illogical thinking, this conundrum that I cannot resolve in an attempt to make sense of it.

I often do write about it, but privately—that is, I don’t put the writing here because it is a mystery to me, a riddle I cannot solve. It is so mysterious that I can never come close even to describing my bewilderment, much less explaining it away. Other than the obvious mysteries all of us have to grapple with—why were we born; where did out “consciousness,” our “soul” come from; and what happens to our consciousness, our very being, when we die, those mysteries so few of us want to think about—it is the most inexplicable incongruity I know.

The nature of the mystery, the resolution of the logical fallacy, eludes me. I have searched for the etymology of the word mystery itself, but have found only “from Greek mysterion (usually in plural mysteria) “secret rite or doctrine,” from mystes “one who has been initiated” (The Online Etymology Dictionary). Mystery is a religious or theological idea. I cannot find a meaning that does justice to my frustration over the idea I want to think through for myself—if not explain to anyone else.

Before the US invasion of Iraq (“Shock and Awe”), I wrote somewhere—not on a blog because I wrote my first blog in about 2004, after “shock and awe”—about a photo I saw on the Internet way back before our lives were controlled by our thumbs. The photo’s caption was (is)

 Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

Rumsfeld was in Baghdad signing an agreement to provide Saddam Hussein with all the munitions he needed to fight his war against the dirty rotten Iranian Islamic fundamentalist regime. I knew about the picture from some pointy-headed, no doubt basically-unAmerican liberal organization that was asking the question (which has never been answered to my knowledge), why were we getting ready to invade Iraq because of its Weapons of Mass Destruction which, if they existed, we sold to Saddam Hussein in the first place—the agent of our sale being the same man who was then leading the push for the invasion?

I also remember being roundly criticized for writing about the “Project for the New American Century” before the invasion of Iraq—being told that I was a conspiracy theorist. That such a project, if it existed, was on the fringe and could not possibly be taken seriously. We Americans (and most of the rest of the world) still live in the monstrous shadow of that project.

Some years ago I wrote about these guys from Kansas (I had read about them on some crackpot liberal website I really should stop looking at) who seemed to be spreading their money around to the most allegedly Conservative groups in the country in order to help elect ultra-reactionaries to state legislatures and Congress. I remember being told I was an alarmist, even Chicken Little, that no one could have that kind of influence over American politics. That was, of course, before Citizens United and the flooding of the coffers of the most oligarchical “conservative” groups by the Koch Brothers of Kansas.

I’m not claiming any special position as seer or Johnny-come-early. I simply pay attention to some (popularly-thought-of-as) radical left-wing (that is to say, realistic) material when everything anyone thinks about is available at the click of a mouse on the internet. One might try clicking on James Petras instead of Molly Cyrus or Justin Bieber or Ted Cruz to learn something about left-wing conspiracy theories–so many of which have actually turned out to be true, unlike idiocy brought to us by the “swift-boaters” and the “birthers” and the “Benghazi-ists.”

The insolvable mystery about which I cannot write is a very simple question. How can Americans who are so fanatically dedicated to “rights,” to “freedom,” to “democracy,” who give constant lip-service to “the right of self-determination,” continue, after 60 years, to assume that the displaced and subjugated people of Palestine are totally at fault in the violence that continues in the land they once called their own?

Bethlehem, John Singer Sargent, 1905

Bethlehem, John Singer Sargent, 1905

THIS IS NOT A RHETORICAL QUESTION! Yes, I am shouting. I want to know the answer to this question. I do not want political posturing. I do not want palaver. I do not want parroting of ideas given the prestige of “U.S. Policy.” I want to know how this can go on and on when clearly the Palestinians are a people who have been deprived of their homeland and treated with as much brutality as any other conquered people in the family of nations today. How can it be?

Naomi Shihab Nye was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her BA in English and world religions from Trinity University. She has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship for her several books of poetry and non-fiction. She lives in Austin, Texas.

“Arabic,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

The man with laughing eyes stopped smiling
to say, “Until you speak Arabic,
you will not understand pain.”

Something to do with the back of the head,
an Arab carries sorrow in the back of the head,
that only language cracks, the thrum of stones

weeping, grating hinge on an old metal gate.
“Once you know,” he whispered, “you can
enter the room
whenever you need to. Music you heard
from a distance,

the slapped drum of a stranger’s wedding,
well up inside your skin, inside rain, a thousand
pulsing tongues. You are changed.”

Outside, the snow has finally stopped.
In a land where snow rarely falls,
we had felt our days grow white and still.

I thought pain had no tongue. Or every tongue
at once, supreme translator, sieve. I admit my
shame. To live on the brink of Arabic, tugging

its rich threads without understanding
how to weave the rug…I have no gift.
The sound, but not the sense.

I kept looking over his shoulder for someone else
to talk to, recalling my dying friend
who only scrawled
I can’t write. What good would any grammar
have been

to her then? I touched his arm, held it hard,
which sometimes you don’t do in the Middle East

and said, I’ll work on it, feeling sad

for his good strict heart, but later in the slick street
hailed a taxi by shouting Pain! and it stopped
in every language and opened its doors.

A BIBLIOGRPHY FOR BEGINNING UNDERSTANDING.

Bedouins, John Singer Sargent, 1905

Bedouins, John Singer Sargent, 1905

(I can provide a copy of any of the scholarly articles. If you would like one, simply let me know.)

Israeli killing of Palestinian children
Clear analysis from Rosemary Sayigh on the Nakba’s
Exclusion from the extensive writing on “Trauma Genre”
Latest killing of Palestinians
Rev. Naim Ateek’s Statement on Israeli law separating Muslim and Christian Arabs
Gaza Blockade
Olive trees
Hebron settler violence
Bin Laden’s father owned a home in Jerusalem
Right of Return

Manna, Adel. “The Palestinian Nakba and Its Continuous Repercussions.” Israel Studies 18.2 (2013): 86-99.
The article discusses the impact of the 1948 Nakba, or defeat, of the Palestinian Arabs on the collective memory and experiences of the Palestinian people. The author emphasizes that the term Nakba is used to describe the continuous experiences of Palestinians from the mid-20th century into 21st century and is viewed as a contemporary reality rather than a historical event. It is suggested that the Israeli state has rebuffed offers by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to divide Palestine into two independent states. Other topics include Palestinian nationalism, Zionism, and the social and economic conditions of Palestinian refugees.

Masalha, Nur. “Remembering the Palestinian Nakba: Commemoration, Oral History and Narratives of Memory.” Holy Land Studies: A Multidisciplinary Journal (Edinburgh University Press) 7.2 (2008): 123-156.
This year Palestinians commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba – the most traumatic catastrophe that ever befell them. The rupture of 1948 and the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Nakba are central to both the Palestinian society of today and Palestinian social history and collective identity. This article explores ways of remembering and commemorating the Nakba. It deals with the issue within the context of Palestinian oral history, ‘social history from below’, narratives of memory and the formation of collective identity. With the history, rights and needs of the Palestinian refugees being excluded from recent Middle East peacemaking efforts and with the failure of both the Israeli state and the international community to acknowledge the Nakba, ‘1948’ as an ‘ethnic cleansing’ continues to underpin the Palestine-Israel conflict. This article argues that to write more truthfully about the Nakba is not just to practice a professional historiography; it is also a moral imperative of acknowledgement and redemption. The struggles of the refugees to publicize the truth about the Nakba is a vital way of protecting the refugees’ rights and keeping the hope for peace with justice alive.

Bedouin Camp, John Singer Sargent, 1905

Bedouin Camp, John Singer Sargent, 1905

Nasrallah, Ibrahim. “Palestinian Culture before the Nakba.” Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics & Culture 15.1/2 (2008): 206-209.
The article focuses on the works of author Walid Khalidi in Palestine. The photographs of Khalidi’s book “Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians, 1876-1948” depict a vital society active in all areas of life on farms, factories, and construction sites. Moreover, many renowned artists and writers of the Arab world visited or performed in pre-1948 Palestine, testament to the existence of a well-established society to a rare dynamism, in spite of the historical context and the looming disasters. The pioneering figure in Khalidi’s book was Jamil al-Bahri, a Palestinian dramatist who died in 1930 and has 12 plays in his name.

Nets-Zehngut, Rafi, and Daniel Bar-Tal. “Transformation of the Official Memory of Conflict: A Tentative Model and the Israeli Memory of the 1948 Palestinian Exodus.” International Journal of Politics, Culture & Society 27.1 (2014): 67-91.
Collective memory of an intractable conflict is an important determinant of the psychological and the behavioral dynamics of the parties involved. Typically biased, it de-legitimizes the rival and glorifies the in-group, thereby inhibiting peaceful resolution of the conflict and reconciliation of the parties. Therefore, the transformation of this memory into a less biased one is of great importance in advancing peace and reconciliation. This article introduces for the first time a tentative model of that transformation, describing the seven phases of the transformation process and the five categories of factors that influence it. Methodologically, this is done using a case study approach, based on the empirical findings regarding the Israeli official memory from 1949 to 2004 surrounding the causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus. This memory is represented by all of the publications produced during the 56-year research period of the Israeli army (IDF), the National Information Center, and the Ministry of Education. While until 1999 this inclusive memory was largely Zionist (i.e., all the Palestinian refugees left willingly in 1948), since 2000, it has become partially critical because the Ministry of Education has begun adopting the critical narrative (i.e., some left willingly while others were expelled)

RAM, URI. “Ways of Forgetting: Israel and the Obliterated Memory of the Palestinian Nakba.” Journal of Historical Sociology 22.3 (2009): 366-395.
Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-6443.2009.01354.x/abstract
This study analyses national ways of forgetting. Following the eminent British Anthropologists Mary Douglas, I relate here to “forgetting” as “selective remembering, misremembering and disremembering” (Douglas 2007: 13). The case study offered here is that of the Israeli-Jewish forgetting of the uprooting of the Palestinians in the war of 1948. This paper discusses three facets of the collective forgetting: In I analyze the foundations of the Israeli regime of forgetting and discern three mechanisms of removing from memory of selected events: narrative forgetting: the formation and dissemination of an historical narrative; physical forgetting: the destruction of physical remains; and symbolic forgetting: the creation of a new symbolic geography of new places and street names. I look at the tenacious ambiguity that lies in the regime of forgetting, as it does not completely erase all the traces of the past. And finally, I discuss the growth of subversive memory and counter-memory that at least indicates the option of a future revision of the Israeli regime of forgetting.

“. . . now limp, now divided, or its traditionally honorable career. . . “

Talking with the HR Benefits Specialist about the the decisions one has to make at the time of retirement. The face to face with the truth I’ve dreaded for months. Even if the specialist is a good friend and has been my main connection with university reality for the past ten years or thereabouts.

Egyptian Onions, now limp, now divided

Egyptian Onions, now limp, now divided

It’s telling that I refer to it as “work” rather than “my position,” or some other term that indicates pride, joy, fulfillment.

I wonder if I was ever suited for professoring, for trying to help young people who are interested in studying and learning in a university setting. Did I fall into college teaching because that was, for reasons I never fully examined, what I had always “expected” to do. “Expected” of myself, and/or “expected” by others.

Age 69 is no time to be wondering about that sort of thing.

Every day I get in my email a couple of “meditation” thingies. Most days, I think they’re just silly. To wit:

I will look at a situation in its highest light today. I will turn it and turn it in the kaleidoscope of my mind, seeing it slightly anew each time, finding a way to view it that allows me to see it in a light that leaves room for acceptance, growth, and movement, while still remaining connected to my authentic self.

I’ve spent most of my life in the presence of positive ideas and of people who espouse them, so I ought to be one of the 1% by now. I kid you not. What could be more positive than the constant teaching of love, repentance, and eternal life of the Baptists—both preached and lived out by my father? What could be more positive than twelve-step programs? What could be more positive than a professional academic faculty urging one on, cajoling, and challenging one to finish a PhD? And so on.

Why do daily doses of advice that I should find “a way to view [any situation] that allows me to see it in a light that leaves room for acceptance, growth, and movement” make me cringe? Why have I not absorbed all of that positive energy over my life to blossom at some point into one of those Coveyites with seven highly effective habits?

My late partner bought me one of those Covey “planners” to get me organized. I could not master the first requirement—learn to keep the damned thing with me. The only usefulness it ever had was the address book, which I’ve used for at least 15 years. But about six months ago in a fit of cleaning and organizing I put it in some logical safe place which I have forgotten, and every time I need the zip code for my brother’s address I have to look it on the USPS website up again. A friend, one of the few people in the blogosphere I know in person—have known since before blogging—was also one of the few friends who understood my dilemma of carrying the planner in order to plan. Most of my friends thought it was funny—funny “peculiar,” not funny “ha-ha,” as we used to say.

Most of my close friends accept the funny “peculiar’ in me (the lion’s share) as part of me (part that they apparently, for which I am grateful, seem to love).

But there’s this thing that happens in my mind whenever I read something like, “The good news is no one can be me as well as me. Being me builds on who I already am. It uses and optimizes my own human and cultural capital. It’s exercise for my personality and my spirit” from today’s meditation thingy. Exercise for my personality and my spirit?

Covey, through and through—although he’d say, of course, that I should develop seven habits that would, besides helping me be me, make me highly successful.

LA Traffic in Dallas: as real as it gets?

LA Traffic in Dallas: as real as it gets?

So it’s really no secret why I am not highly successful. I’ve never developed those seven habits. I couldn’t even, when presented with the possibility of development, remember to carry the book.

So do you want to know what I think? I think there’s something about me that knows that all of that positive thinking (remember Norman Vincent Peale?—he died, by the way, in spite of The Power of Positive Thinking) isn’t really what being human is all about. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I know it’s what gets us into the alpha male and now alpha female race to have billions of dollars and be able to own the politics of a (our) country. You know David Koch and Alice Walton.

When was the last time you took off your ten dollar Merona (produced by the Israeli alphas of the Middle East) clothes from Target, or you Billion Dollar clothes from LA Traffic (made by alphas from Los Angeles and sold to alphas in Dallas) and took a walk through a forest or lay on your back in a prairie grassland in Texas at night looking at the galaxies? Felt and saw the source of our “reality”?

Rhonda in HR has been “my main connection with university reality” since the beginning of my “working” at SMU. What does that have to do with, uh, reality? Nothing.

What does developing “acceptance, growth, and movement, while still remaining connected to my authentic self” have to do with reality? What does growing and moving in the system of alpha males and females have to do with reality?

Nothing, that I can see. I may be “funny peculiar.” And I may be stuck at about 15 years of age asking the sophomoric teenage questions of “What’s it all about” (you know, reading On Walden Pond and that stuff)?

But, really, when I ask these questions am I not simply raising issues we don’t wanna think about. You’re gonna die in spite of your LA Traffic clothes. And we should think about that all the time.

“The Traveling Onion,”by Naomi Shihab Nye  

“It is believed that the onion originally came from India. In Egypt it was an
object of worship —why I haven’t been able to find out. From Egypt the onion
entered Greece and on to Italy, thence into all of Europe.” — Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way the knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
disappear.

Naomi Shihab Nye. She has it about right.

Naomi Shihab Nye. She has it about right.

 

‘ . . . you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas. . . ‘ -or amaryllis-

archy and friend

archy and friend

when i was in high school, I read with great relish about the adventures of archy and mehitabel.

archy was a fictional cockroach, a free verse poet in a previous life, who took to writing stories and poems on an old typewriter at a newspaper office when everyone in the building had left. archy would climb up onto the typewriter and hurl himself at the keys, laboriously typing out stories of the daily travails of a cockroach. archy’s best friend was mehitabel, an alley cat. The two of them shared a series of day-to-day adventures that made satiric commentary on daily life in the city during the 1910s and 1920s. (1)

I loved archy because I’d never seen anyone in literature named ‘archy’ before I met him –even though he spelled his name wrong. The main reason I liked him was that he broke rules with impunity, not because he wanted to, but because he had to. Writing rules, that is, he never capitalized anything because he typed by hurling himself at the keys of the old royal typewriter and could not hold down the ‘shift key’ at the same time.

Mehitabel had paws instead of fingers and was of no use in typing.

I am reduced to typing like archy –archy, meet archie – one hand at a time. The only upper case letters you will see here for the next five weeks will be the ones Microsoft automatically inserts – and most of the time they are a pain in the guzica.

Here’s the story as I posted it on facebook:

The simple clean-out-the-mess in the shoulder arthroscopy and get back to normal in two days turned into let’s-repair-the-tendon-that’s-holding-on-by-5% and keep your arm immobilized in a sling for five weeks. The last five weeks of the semester. Sheesh! What a pain in the ass!

I said in my next post that I’d put on a shirt if I knew how.
???????????????????????????????

But I’m trying to be positive and at least be grateful that I was referred to Dr. Steven Thornton of Texas Orthopaedic Associates. He’s the best and kindest in the field. Cute, too, but I shouldn’t say that in  public. Someone might think I’m a lecherous old queen—I wouldn’t mind if alec baldwin called me that.

Someone give that guy a break. I suppose if I called a straight guy a ‘mother-f—-r’ because he was chasing my family down the street, that would make me heterophobic. some of my best friends are straight. I even let a couple of them give me a knock-out potion yesterday and go to work on my body.

So here I am typing with one hand and trying not to exacerbate the pain in my shoulder and to be grateful about all of this. I will be soon. ‘no pain, no gain,’ and all of that. So the gain will be that, soon enough I’ll be back to yoga and stronger than ever, thanks to dr. miracle worker –sorry I can’t do upper case. He deserves it.

And in the meantime I’ll try to remember to keep my kvetching to myself and remember that friends will go out of their way to help me. do things such as give an amaryllis to break into full bloom yesterday.

Ok, no more whining. –perhaps –I’ll try at any rate.

Oh, yes. The poem that’s the source of the title. by the way, i found this poem three days ago. naomi shihab nye’s interview on the pbs newshour was repeated last night. things do fall together, don’t they. . .

The Rider
by Naomi Shihab Nye

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.
???????????????????????????????

(1) “Archy and Mehitabel.” WIKIPEDIA (GOT THAT, RON PAUL?). 26 August 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.