Saturday, August 30, 2008

Are We Ready, Really?

This has been a long campaign. and we've traveled this road with one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for President. In her 35 years of public service, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people. Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters and granddaughters will come of age.”

“I honor her today for the valiant and historic campaign she has run. She shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere, who now know that there are no limits to their dreams. And she inspired millions with her strength, courage and unyielding commitment to the cause of working Americans.”

“With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States. Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest – a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton…

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons…

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America

We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores. Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend. That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.”

--Barack Hussein Obama, African American man presidential candidate, to us Americans

To serve as vice president beside such a man would be the privilege of a lifetime. And it’s fitting that this trust has been given to me 88 years almost to the day after the women of America first gained the right to vote. I think — I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections. I can’t begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and of course Senator Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign. It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America but it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

So for my part, the mission is clear: The next 67 days I’m going to take our campaign to every part of our country and our message of reform to every voter of every background in every political party, or no party at all. If you want change in Washington, if you hope for a better America, then we’re asking for your vote on the 4th of November. My fellow Americans, come join our cause. Join our cause and help our country to elect a great man the next president of the United States.

--Sarah Louise Heath Palin, woman Euro American vice presidential candidate, to us Americans

Palin is the first candidate ever to credit me publicly.

-- Geraldine Anne Ferraro, woman Euro American vice presidential candidate, to a tv news man


-- Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, woman Euro American presidential candidate, to Palin in a phone conversation

Good luck, but not too much luck.

-- Obama to Palin

So really, Are we ready for a woman president?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mahalia Jackson's Dream Rhetoric

Forty-five years ago today, Mahalia Jackson sang at Martin Luther King Jr.'s request. To half a million people in front of the Lincoln Memorial, she sang "I Been 'Buked and I been Scorned."

Then she listened to Martin speak. Just as he was about to deliver a line containing the scripted phrase "the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Dissatisfaction," Mahalia shouts out to him:

"Tell them about the dream, Martin."

So, Taylor Branch tells us now, "King launched into a series of riffs. . . Among them were phrases like 'let freedom ring,' 'with this faith' — and 'I have a dream.'" Take a look at King's prepared sermon notes and halfway through, when Jackson shouts outs, "You can see exactly where it broke off." Roger Wilkins was there and adds, "If Mahalia, with that voice, told you to do something, you did it."

Jackson sang and shouted and prepared King, prompted him, to speak from the heart. It was the dream for change, the audacity of hope. Listen again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, 19th Amendment!

"Today is the 88th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote." Read more from Jessica at feministing who shares her first-time-voting story and gets others sharing theirs too.

Lydia Taft was the first woman voter in America, voting as "the widow Josiah Taft" on October 30, 1756 some 164 years before the 19th Amendment.

And "in 1776 [the] New Jersey State Constitution gave the vote to 'all inhabitants' who had a certain level of wealth. This included both women and blacks; although not married women, who could not own property. Both sides, in several elections, claimed that the other side had had unqualified women vote, and mocked them for use of 'petticoat electors' (entitled to vote or not); on the other hand, both parties passed Voting Rights Acts. In 1807, the legislature passed a bill interpreting the constitution to mean universal white male suffrage, excluding paupers."

Then a woman's right to vote came to "States and territories of the USA, progressively, starting with the Wyoming Territory in 1869 and Utah Territory in 1870. The latter was repealed by the U.S. Congress through the Edmunds-Tucker Act in 1887. Wyoming acquired statehood in 1890 (Utah in 1896) and thus 1892 was the first United States presidential election in which women cast legal votes. The USA as a whole acquired women's suffrage in 1920 through the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; voting qualifications in the U.S., even in federal elections, are set by the states, and this amendment prohibited states from discriminating on the basis of sex."

Here's the international timeline of women getting to vote.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just the Dissertation

Just to be clear, I'm writing the dissertation.

It's a particularly sexist genre, though not peculiarly sexist. Men in the academy in the western world for centuries have locked it down as a means of achieving the academic pinnacle and have often used it to lock women out.

Trivia question:
When was the first dissertation written, and when was the first dissertation written by a woman?

Two different perspectives on the dissertation:
Do you see how the latter seeks to tell a story, her own story subjectively as a human being sexed female, and to open up what this genre can be if sexed more than male only?

The first is William Ewart Gladstone, from Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-78:

[N]o Oxford student has an adequate excuse for having failed to learn under the auspices of Aristotle. . . .
A speech of two hours is often heard with less wandering of mind, than a sermon of thirty minutes; and that by men whose hearts are interested in the subject of the sermon, to a degree infinitely exceeding their care for that of the speech. But the sermon is
a dissertation, and does violence to nature in the effort to be more like what Nature prompts. An essay may, indeed, be of such surpassing excellence, as to be heard with unbroken interest throughout; but the mass of the essays of a body of fifteen thousand men never can. We long for more than mere amendments in detail. Our need is for the introduction, or the general prevalence, of a new idea as the proper basis of preaching.

The second is Nancy Mairs, from Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer:

The binary mode of structuring the world is agonistic, to use the term employed by Walter J. Ong, who associates it with the adversarial nature of [Greek] male ceremonial combat and contrasts it with the irenic, or conciliatory, discourse characteristic of “women’s liberation movements, student demonstrations, pacifism, and the substitution of the existential noncontesting fugitive hero . . . in place of the agonistic hero . . ..” The discrepancy between these two modes of being in the world has manifold, often violent, consequences, of which one has affected me most deeply: agon (contest or conflict) in the academy. “Ludus,” notes Ong, “the Latin word for school, . . . means also war games.” One cannot go to school, it seems, without going to war, where women, Virginia Woolf and Julia Kristeva and Carol Gilligan and myriad other feminist writers tell us, do not wish to be. . . .
In order to earn a Ph.D., I was still required to submit a dissertation (which by definition takes apart that which has been joined together, though it is fortunately also defined as a discourse, a running back and forth: my dissertation . . . ran back and forth a lot). I still had to defend it (to ward off its attackers) even though I think that its indefensibility may have been its one great strength. I went along. Having been in the academy for more than thirty years, I am not innocent (neither unharmed nor harmless).

More Difference in Translating

There are many identifiable differences in translating by some of the traditional (masculinist) methods and by the marginalized (feminist rhetorical) methods. In the dissertation, I've had to list a slew of these differences because our scholarship and our culture in the Western academic world blindly favors the traditional (masculinist) methods.

With no illustration below, here's just one contrast:

traditional translation

The translator’s gender is unmarked. And yet because unmarked, the male gender is default especially because no woman has to date published a translation of Aristotle’s treatise on Rhetoric. More than that the translators’ methods have been exclusively and exclusionarily masculinist and Aristotelian, employing opposition, dichotomy, and cerebration.

marginalized translating
The translator may be female or male but employs (intentionally or otherwise) feminist, rhetorical critical methodologies for the translating. Preference [is] for relation over opposition, plurality over dichotomy, embodiment over cerebration: Montaigne’s begins to sound like a feminist project. Which is not to say that Montaigne was a feminist.” (Mairs 75)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Difference in Translations and Translators

Charles P Dog (aka Paul Larson) is asking more questions at BBB. Here are some:
So lets say we know the backgrounds of all the people [translating the Bible]… does it really make that much difference in the ultimate translation? Do they endup, overall saying something much different in the text? … [D]o I take the translators' backgrounds into consideration when I compare the various versions I have, or have I already made my decision relative to the gender issue based more on my world view and sex?
I think the questions are good, but I’m going to reply a bit with (A) some of my own struggles and (B) some of how feminist perspectives have opened up possibilities. I’ll talk of (C) some of what I know about one Bible translator and how she’s helped me some. But then (D) I’ll turn right around and say this: that openness to (other) possibilities can help more.

(A) SOME STRUGGLES. My two teenagers and I were looking at a Bible text (something in Proverbs) that has a father addressing a son about what kind of women he should avoid and what kind of woman he should have for himself to himself; my son began making applications to himself (and to me), but my daughter sat there on the sidelines.

(B) SOME PERSPECTIVES. My daughter’s not content to sit on the sidelines, and immediately she (rightly) sees all three of us as outsiders: “wonder what that meant to Solomon and his boy? He was the polygamist with all those other live-in women, right? And his dad was just like him, had lots of his own women, except he’s the one who confessed to murder to cover his affair, right? Guess they really do know something about girls after all.” My son and I, then, are fairly content to sit right there on the sidelines with my daughter. We’re three outsiders to the text. We’re outsiders to the “wise advice” from one polygamist to his son based on observations and experiences with womanizing. Now, that doesn’t mean the text has no particular value to each one of us as readers. It’s just that the applications are appropriated. And the better we know the Hebrew, the better we can position ourselves in relation to the wise advice. We could insist on the text being breathed by a higher author. That makes us like the audience members at the Nobel Prize awards, when Toni Morrison gives her “thank you” for the prize by telling a story, a very difficult to understand story. Hers is an inspired story, but that hardly makes any one of the audience members an old blind griot, a wise one, or some mischievous children trying to trick her. (The listeners, and Morrison herself, may really want somehow to find themselves blind and wise or mischievous. That would be one way to lock down “translation.”)

(C) HOW ONE TRANSLATOR HELPS ME. Phyllis A. Bird says our translating is “to overhear an ancient conversation, rather than to hear [one]self addressed directly”; and Bird adds “I am not certain that the translator is even obliged to make the modern reader understand what is overheard.” (“Translating Sexist Language as a Theological and Cultural Problem” 91).

Bird is a woman, a Bible translator, and a scholar. She is one of the four women on the thirty-member team of the NRSV. Bird has researched much, has written and published much, some by her A.B. fromUniversity of California at Berkeley and by her B.D. from Union Theological Seminary, New York; and a bit more by her Th.D. from Harvard Divinity School and by her study at University of Heidelberg. She’s also shared what she’s learned by teaching as Associate Professor of Old Testament at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and as Professor at the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She does have some perspective on translation, and on the text of the Bible. Here’s an article in which she considers, in part, the beginning of Genesis.

What we can know about Bird is some of what we can know about her “bias” in translation. But I want to say that Phyllis A. Bird has helped me learn that there is always “overhearing” in translation. I am an outsider, but I stand somewhere listening. (A man, a trusted New Testament guy such as Richard B. Hays, can see what Bird means. I'm being a little silly here, as if Bird, a woman scholar, is somehow less scholarly than the man scholar Hays. I do think he learns from her! And I do think women and men stand differently today as outsiders to the text of the mostly-male-oriented Bible. But Hays can still say, perhaps he has to say, “When we read Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, we are literally reading somebody else's mail...”). I think Bird’s humble position, my daughter’s humble position, Hays’s humble position, the humble position of the audience of the grateful Toni Morrison, can be any translator’s position. Such humility opens up other possibilities in the text. And it opens up possibilities in me. It helps us get around that ostensibly-objective refusal by Mohamed and that coldly-elitist refusal by Aristotle to translate texts, their precious texts. It frees translators and readers of translations to embrace their subjective positions. Hermeneutics (or interpretations) are translations. Translation, as Tremper Longman III says, is interpretation.

(D) OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES, FROM WHERE WE STAND. Lest it’s not clear, then let me go on: Not all feminist interpretations are the same. But then again, not any one of us, woman or man, is the same. There are different, and necessarily different, stances we each have with respect to the Bible. But as we change, these can too. So let’s just look at some of these.

Carolyn Osiek is a Greek and New Testament scholar who’s written a review of “The Feminist and the Bible: Hermeneutical Alternatives.” Osiek identifies five different possibilities for Bible interpretation by feminists: “rejectionist, loyalist, revisionist, sublimationist, and liberationist” (97). That is: 1) “rejecting the Bible as not authoritative or useful. . . [or even] the whole religious tradition it represents” (97-98); 2) “the opposite of rejectionist” (99); 3) “the tradition is worth saving” (101); 4) “the search for and glorification of the eternal feminine in biblical symbolism” (102); and 5) “the central message of the Bible is human liberation” (103). But, of course, these are not exhaustive interpretive positions for many reasons. First, none of the five is always exactly mutually exclusive of any of the others. Second, we each one must find our own position with respect to the Bible. My daughter, my son, and me, we all have different ways we’re outsiders. Third, I think our experiences and our subjectivities change. This seems to be what some mean by metanoia [μετανοεῖτε] in Greek, and by metamorphosis [μεταμορφοῦσθε]. (That first word is translated from Aramaic by the disciples of Jesus as his imperative for them: “change your minds, or repent.” The second word is what Paul wrote to the Greek-Latin-Aramaic-and-Hebrew speakers in Rome, as per our 12th chapter of his letter to them: “be transformed by the renewing of your minds”). Notice how different from Mohamed and from Aristotle this is; and the interesting thing about the non-translator men is they put women down, below men. How do you overhear that? So Osiek can say this, in conclusion, to keep interpretations open, to keep us open too:
We have surveyed five alternative responses to the question of feminist biblical hermenuetics. They arise from five different sets of women’s experiences and assumptions about the Bible. I believe that they are truly alternatives, that is, within the limits imposed upon us by our experience and human conditioning, we really are free to choose our own hermenuetical direction. The category of conversion directed by liberationist feminists to perpetrators of androcentric patriarchy applies to feminists as well, especially to those who by race and class are caught in the double web of being both oppressed and oppressor. (104).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Women Count in Bible Translation

  • I've added links to personal websites of the women translators listed here.
  • Linda L. Belleville; Joyce Baldwin Caine; Marianne Meye Thompson; added to the list below (thanks to Suzanne McCarthy's directing us to Tremper Longman III's blogpost "Who cares who translated my Bible?" where he asks "So why does the NLT list the names of its ninety translators?" These translators are the 3 women woman of the team of 90).
  • Phyllis A. Bird; J. Cheryl Exum; Mary Lucetta Mowry; Katharine D. Sakenfeld all added (thanks to Paul Larson, commenting at BBB. These translators are the 4 women on the NRSV team of 30.)
  • And as any of you give recognition to other women translators of the Bible, I'll update further.

Just a quick post here for a few reasons:
1) Women who've translated the Bible are getting recognition by several bloggers;
2) Some men are saying that women "seriously" lessen the "merits" of their Bible translations when they identify themselves as women translators (or are identified by others as women);
3) The whole of Julia E. Smith's translation is freely available online for you to read and study.

1) Here are women translators of the Bible and where bloggers are discussing them:
  • Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Suzanne McCarthy has offered comments on or excerpts from Sidney here, here, and here. (And I've mentioned Sidney here, here, and here.)
  • Jane Aitken. McCarthy notes here that Aitken "is not a woman bible translator but" facilitates Bible translation as "[o]ne of the first American female printers. . . [and] also a bookseller, bookbinder, businesswoman, and employer during the early nineteenth century, a time when the independence of women was actively discouraged."
  • Julia Evelina Smith. McCarthy's post is here. (My notes on Smith are here).
  • Helen Spurrell. Rick Mansfield at ElShaddai Edward's blog inspires McCarthy's post here.
  • Helen Barrett Montgomery. Mansfield mentions Montgomery, and McCarthy add this post here.
  • Annie Cressman. McCarthy writes here, here, and here.
  • Frances Siewert. Edwards posts here.
  • Ann Nyland. Edwards offers a bit of a round up of some of the posts I'm mentioning here, and he points to a couple of posts on Nyland's translation. McCarthy posts here and here, comments here, and refers to an article by Nyland here. Wayne Leman posts here, and he offers an interview with Nyland here. Peter Kirk posts here. (I say a few things here, and give an excerpt of Nyland's translation here.)
  • Karen H. Jobes. Leman posts here and here. John F. Hobbins here and here; Kirk here; and James Getz here. (I've remarked here.)
  • Beth Shepperd. (I've linked here to the site listing Shepperd, the only woman on a translation team of men).
  • Linda Belleville. Some time back, Michael Kruse republished here four paragraphs from Belleville's “Teaching and Usurping Authority” an essay in Discovering Biblical Equality. Andreas J. Köstenberger critiques Belleville's work here. TC Robinson compares Belleville's views with certain mens' here. McCarthy posts here.
  • Joyce Baldwin Caine. Valerie Griffith writes on the late Baldwin Caine.
  • Marianne Meye Thompson. Chris Tilling posts here. Wes Kendall says she and her husband "helped guide me through my final years of seminary and helped prepare me for pastoral ministry." Nijay K. Gupta says that Marianne Meye Thompson is most qualified to contribute to Greg Beale’s and D.A. Carson’s (eds) Commentary on the NT Use of the Old Testament; Gupta also wishes Karen Jobes and Linda Belleville were in the book but notes "no women" are in the work.
  • Phyllis Bird. Mindawati Peranginganging posts some here (in English). Shawna R. B. Attenbury posts here sentences from Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities (Overtures to Biblical Theology).
  • J. Cheryl Exum. Ivoy mentions one of her theories here. Steve R. McEnvoy finds her doing something wonderful here. Karl Möller highlights Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)Versions of Biblical Narratives here.
  • Lucetta Mowry. Will no one blog on Mowry and her Poetry in the Synoptic Gospels and Revelation: A Study of Methods and Materials and her The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Early Church?
  • Katharine D. Sakenfeld. Larry Corbett took sermon notes from Sakenfeld, but is no one blogging about her works these days?
  • Joann Haugarud.  Here, I quote Louise Von Flowtow-Evans, who mentions and quotes Haugarud's The Word for Us: The Gospels of John and Mark, Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, Restated in Inclusive Language.
2) In the conversation after Edward's post on Siewart, there is the suggestion that a Bible translation is diminished when the translator is shown to be a woman.

Kirk says, "I think Ann would be unhappy to have The Source [i.e., her translation] listed as a translation by a woman because she wants it to be taken seriously on its own merits."

Edwards replies, "I agree that we shouldn’t qualify any translation work as by 'a woman', though I find it ironic that many translation committees seem to be under pressure from some quarters to include a wide sample of minority voices, including women and non-white ethnicities. It’s hugely ironic to me that on one hand we want a meritocracy that recognizes superior work as such, regardless of who did it, while on the other we want to give equal weighting to work from a diversity of backgrounds, regardless of quality."

Makes us wonder whether these two men have read (and believe) what Nyland writes in her More Than Meets The Eye: THE CAMPAIGN TO CONTROL GENDER TRANSLATION BIBLES.

Makes us listen more closely to how Julia E. Smith begins the Preface to her translation of the Bible:

"It may seem presumptious for an ordinary woman with no particular advantages of education to translate and publish alone, the most wonderful book that has ever appeared in the world, and thought to be the most difficult to translate. . . . Over twenty years ago, when I had four sisters, a friend met with us weekly, to search the Scriptures, we being desirous to learn . . . . We saw by the margin that the text [of the King James's forty-seven translators] had not been . . . . I had studied Latin and Greek at school, and began by translating the Greek New Testament, and the Septuagint. . . . I soon gave my attention to the Hebrew, and studied it thoroughly. . . "

Makes us wonder a little more at why Francis Ellen Burr and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women in The Women’s Bible make such a big deal out of being women, translators.

3) The whole of Julia E. Smith's translation is freely available online for you to read and study. Here it is!

The Most Glorious, Ecstatic, Generous, Kind Thing with a Glass of Wine, Together

Yesterday, campus was buzzing again. And (as the semester gets going) I was back, playing my little part in the large privilege of orienting new students from around the world to this place of living and learning for their next several months, semesters, and years.

(It’s my thirteen year of working here. It's working to assist others who are cultural outsiders often stigmatized or tokenized as each unique individual or someone else for her or him has decided personal development is needed in second-or-third-language proficiencies, in academics in America in English. These are deep changes for change-resistant adults).

The day before yesterday (all day, when I wasn't anybody's linguistics master or rhetoric novice), it was that canoe and kayak trip down the Brazos River. This segment of my summer vacation included three generations: my father, my two brothers and their seven children, and me and my son.

(The women opted out, because they could opt for work and other things. My daughters were in school, because theirs started earlier.)

Dad and I canoed together.
(He's the changing man I've written about before at this blog. My son doesn't know him as a changed man, because maybe much more needs transforming. More in my father, more in my son, more in me. "Why does he sound so old-fashioned?" my son asks me privately, gesturing purposefully and less discriminately something that Eugene Nida himself might accept as the dynamic equivalent of "old-fashioned," given the context. Who knows the context, really, when my son's grandfather doesn't understand ASL? Earlier, in the van ride over, we'd all been talking audibly, which sounds like arguing. It sounds like arguing, declamation and disputation about American politics; abortion; gay marriage; family; John Edwards' morality; Hilary Clinton's faithfulness; John McCain's inability to use the Internet; Barak Obama's Blackberry use; the legalization of pot smoking; the best age for the right to vote; and the best age for the right to drink if drinking were ever right; tattoos in general; my son's tattoo in particular; and how the legislation of anything by anyone for someone else is suspect. We also talked about China, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Georgia, Russia, and the Olympics. Short tempers seem to make the long ride shorter. Turns out my brother who lives in the UK doing social work among the poorest is exploring views our father takes exception to; my brother's son holds the views tightly, views he shares with his best friend in London, views they each take for granted. My other brother who lives in the US running his own business sounds like our father; his kids are silent. Our family polemics have shifted, so that the generation gaps have widened some places and narrowed others.

But I imagine I'm the only one who notices (if not the only one who feels) that Dad has explained -- but has not confessed -- that he "let" Mom opt out of canoeing though he's "not let her" do certain things during the day she's opted out. This is the profound practice of the patriarchy. It's reinforced by a certain Southern-Baptist-preacher practice and perspective of the Bible. And yet, the incredible thing about my father is that, later this fall, he's returning with my mother to South East Asia many years after their retirement to help a group start an orphanage in Ha Noi. Dad's an orphan himself, and they're going, going back actually, together with a group of orphans who he helped father for several years, in a war zone where life was torn from bodies, parents' lives from children. (My brothers and I became third-culture kids, literally sharing then the US passport with our mother but not necessarily American culture with her; not necessarily sharing Vietnamese culture with our friends though singing a common language with them.) So I do, actually and carefully, consider what the Christian-turned-atheist anthropologist professor tells the undergraduates about "missionaries"; but I was in the prof's class when he started in with his own ironic, hypocritical, missionary zeal. It was the semester when my missionary father's heart started breaking at home, and I believe Ruth Behar more when she cries for anthropology that breaks your heart, and mine. Deep change takes more than one van ride. Sometimes it takes paddling long distances in a canoe in beauty some where far away, together. And that morning, I think, I was maybe touched profoundly when Brennan Manning led me into this confession: "As I drained the cup of grief, a remarkable thing happened: In the distance I heard music and dancing. I was the prodigal son limping home, not a spectator but a participant." Manning seems to have visited our home, once upon a time: "Negative voices from our family of origin, 'You will never amount to anything,' moralizing from the church, and pressure to be successful transform expectant pilgrims en route to the heavenly Jerusalem into a dispirited traveling troupe of brooding Hamlets and frightened Rullers. Alcoholism, workaholism, mounting addictive behaviors, and the escalating suicide rate reflect the magnitude of the problem.")

In the quiet, Dad asks me if and how my dissertation has changed me. "Really?" I reply, showing him (I hope) in my intonation how good I think his question is, even how much better his asking it. We talk. And We talk more. It is nothing like what we're so used to. Nothing like what Bettany Hughes has observed some of us practicing so mindlessly for so long as if mimicking fathers so long ago. In Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore, Hughes recalls:
The Bronze Age elite would certainly have met together in fierce combat-sports to sort out the men from the boys: to determine among them which of the aristocrats really was the best (aristos in ancient Greek) and who therefore deserved control (kratos). On a variety of visual sources from the Bronze Age we find men slugging it out -- not in battle, but in complicated 'friendly' combats, engagements that were designed to perfect close-quarter combat skills. Submission fighting, submission wrestling, mock battles with pikes and shields and boxing are all represented. These contests were important preparation for war, but also served to identify the real 'heroes' within the citadels. Their ancient Greek name, agones, is the root of 'agony'; the etymology goes some way to convey the intensity of such contention. . . Dressed to impress, to strut in front of each other, and perhaps Helen, . . . (page 73).
How did I answer Dad? It was only a couple of days ago. Does it matter?

How does Maya Angelou answer Russell Harris when he asks her (before she became famous for her poetry) several years ago? Harris asks, "Do you feel that today it is best to combine education plus experience?"

Remember what Angelou says? She replies:
One needs both. I was very fortunate. I was curious and handicapped as a young person. And so I read everything I could get my hands on and I have a good memory. And I have a lot of energy. It's a blessing. So I continued to learn. I'm hungry for knowledge still. Not every young person is blessed or visited with that combination. So he or she desperately needs to go to a university and be introduced to some of the great ideas of humankind. One needs to worry over the question of "Why am I here, what am I doing here of all things in this place, this life?" One needs to know Aristotle and Plato. One needs it desperately. One must have Leopold and Pascal. Must! I mean desperately, if one is to be at ease anywhere. One should have read the African folk tale to see what the West African calls deep thinking. One must worry over ideas that if I come forward how far do we have to go before we meet? And when we meet will I go through you and you go through me and continue until we meet somewhere else? This is an African concept. Do we stay once we meet or do I actually go right through you and pass through you and continue on that road. Is that what life is? All this knowledge is available at universities and one is more likely to run into a great teacher at a university than one is at a pool hall. It just follows.

Out of thirty teachers a person has in a period of three years at a university, he or she might run into two who bring stimulation to that mental machine and then one is encouraged to go to the literature. . . go to it. The teacher doesn't teach, not really. The teacher offers stimulation and ways in which the person can educate himself or herself. At best the teacher wakes up, shakes up that person and makes a person hungry. That's when you really hit it -- when you make them hungry. There is nothing more exciting in teaching.

What I really teach is one thing; that is I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me. That's all I teach. There is nothing alien that you can think that I can't think. And the worst, the most vile thing you can think, I have the capability of thinking. And the most glorious, the most ecstatic, generous, kind thing any human being can think, I have the machinery to think it. What about a glass of wine now?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Last Time

Last time we were on this beach, we were riding our bicycles across the Florida panhandle. Redneck Riviera is what the locals call it. Much much different from the California coast we bicycled, where she grew up. And not at all like the beaches on the South China Sea where I grew up and the beaches of Java and Bali where we tried to surf. Tried because the waves are huge after a typhoon.

But this time the beach a good bit closer to Texas where we live and to the east coast where our good friends live. And we have kids now. The small dot on the right hand side of the pic here is our surfer boy who has not one wave but stays in the water all the time. Our beach girls are somewhere else, probably playing volleyball in the sand or some other loud game in the pool.

Just thought you might be interested in seeing what we do when we're not blogging or dissertating. Didn't think about Aristotle once. Good vacation.

Friday, August 1, 2008

School's Out

Summer's arriving for me.
The ocean and family and friends,
my favorite place with favorite people.
A bit of a break now from work.
(I'm leaving you a few lines from Ofelia Zepeda
and am still not blogging or reading your blogs,
not officially anyway).

Cloud Song

Greenly they emerge.
In colors of blue they emerge.
Whitely they emerge.
In colors of black they are coming.
Reddening, they are right here.