Tuesday, January 1, 2008

a (personal) progress report

Oy vey!

I have to tell you all this:

Should you not turn around to become children

you should not enter into the royal palace of the sky.

As you lower yourself to the level of this child here,

you are the greatest one in the royal palace there.

--Joshua, a Bethlehem baby and child of Egypt

just as we as society have begun to raise our daughters more like sons

–more like whole people–

we must begin to raise our sons more like our daughters

–that is, to value empathy as well as hierarchy;

to measure success by other people’s welfare as well as their own.

--Gloria Steinem, a whole person and feminist

Our family enjoyed the holiday celebrations together. But I did bring up presidential politics and religion and sex to the adults. And someone did ask me about the dissertation.

One of the relatives after a very short while declared that she may agree to disagree with me (on the candidates, on the church, and on the crises of sexism) but was most certain that neither of us would change the other’s mind.

Another asked in mocking disbelief: “how? why would you, a man, be a feminist? isn’t it kinda dishonest for you to translate anything of Aristotle as if you were his daughter?”

Now you might be asking me the obvious: “Why bring up taboo topics of conversation with family members during the holidays?”

So now I’m just asking these questions:

Whether we can dialog through Aspasia’s (aka Socrates’s) dialectic? Why do we have to think we have to change each others’ minds, when what I’m after really is my own very profound need to change? What if I refuse to turn around? Who will that help? And why your limited question focused on my gender, on my feminism? Where are the questions about my American barbarianism (not Aristotle’s Hellenism), my twenty-first-century academic learning (not his neo-Platonic teaching), my translated English (not his original Greek), my position of being a child (not his patriarchy), my repentance (not his rhetoric)?

And I'm still wondering about the antidotes to envy. What was Jesus after in talking to the men following him, those males each one wanting to be the top dog in the kingdom of heaven (as recorded in that epigraph above)? What was Gloria Steinem after (as in that other epigram, from “Supremacy Crimes”) when remembering it’s mostly those less-whole humans with penises who are the most violent, the most hierarchical? Doesn’t each one of us have a role to play, our own role to play out, in envy moderation? When will I know that I myself value empathy of others, and measure success by any other person’s welfare as well as my own?

Thanks to Molly and Suzanne for helping us ask the questions of envy, and of empathy, and of personal change.

My personal progress report on the dissertation is this: I've finished the interlinear Greek-to-English translation of the whole of the Rhetoric. Now, I've just about finished reworking John H. Freese's 1926 version. Each English word is being chosen for its ambiguity, for its relation to the body (mine mostly, but Pythias's empathetically), for its absolute refusal to sit as a static abstract transliteration of the Greek (no elite academic-rhetoric-ese here), for its transformative power (as if a conception, a pregnancy of sorts), for its regard for woman's discourse (as Nancy Mairs relates it), for its feminist binarying that values empathy as well as hierarchy. Some day or another in 2008, I'll post up some of this.

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