Friday, October 16, 2009

My Abba, Aristotle

My daddy sounds like Aristotle. I talked on the phone with him yesterday. And I'm talking about my "birth" father who was not in the birthing room with my birth-mother when I was born. Both he and Aristotle had their own little-boy tragedies (so their stories go), which may have some to do with how they sound.  They are concerned with how they sound, or at least Aristotle was.

Aristotle lost his mother before he reached puberty. Later in life, he observed "the female" and concluded that the mother was responsible during procreation for this fe-male off-spring, this mal-formed male. Aristotle's logic convinced him of such nature. My daddy lost his daddy as a very young boy, and then watched men carry his mother away to an insane asylum for a mis-diagnosed condition. He never saw her again.  Later in life, he listened to Aristotle and believed that logic is as natural as, well, Nature. Never mind that Aristotle used logic to reach some incorrect conclusions about Nature -- as Alan Lightman observes when he says, "Scientists often wish powerfully for some theory to be true that is later proved wrong by the facts. Aristotle’s idea that the planets move in perfect circles was simple and elegant, but proved wrong by Brahe, Kepler, and Newton." As if "by the facts" is somehow equal to "by Brahe, Kepler, and Newton," who re-visit logic because they're people not machines.  My daddy also listened to Paul, who called on logic and who appealed to Nature and behaved around women, even the mother of his own children, as if men were above in nature, in role, and in domain. Some of us felt the pain of his behavior. She did, my mother.

I'm also telling you this personal stuff because some of you have read my blogging as if I've got some personal vendetta. And I don't. Some of you are hung up on feminisms, on "feminism," and (in one case for one of you) on my "brand" of feminism like I'm on a team or am its cheerleader or something. Look. You have your own daddys to think about. Maybe you are a daddy (I am) and you have sons and / or daughters with their mother(s); and you have to think about that too. I just have two more things to say in this post.

First, more and more it's the case that my daddy used to sound like Aristotle. For that, I'm grateful.  It's not that he's entirely abandoned logic these days - as if doing anything other than logic makes for fallacies or for the naturally illogical or for some necessary opposite of logic. (A funny side note here is that we both had the same logic professor in college though some decades apart obviously - and I think my daddy actually got the better grade.) It is that he treats my mommy differently now, that he's changed and is changing, and "used to" sound (as in "sounds now less and less like") how Aristotle sounds. When I came home from college the first time was the first time he ever (as I remember it) said "I am sorry" to my mommy. He is, I would say, recovering.  For that, I'm grateful.  His first words to me when we talked on the phone this week and when I confided in him about a problem I'm having with another person were these words: "I'm sorry, and I understand how this must hurt." Amazingly, he offered no advice and only sympathy. "My daddy used to sound like Aristotle," I'm starting to say more.

Second, I'm sorry to offend readers who take offense at feminism, who see it as some sort of hobby horse of mine. I'm rather intending to muse with others of you who find that experiences of men who shove down their painful experiences and who inflate their sense of patriarchy in the guise of unexamined "self" and unexamined logic cause many of us much often unexamined pain.  Call this The Apology, if you like.  Personal things get mixed together, don't they, in blogging a bit?  Patriarchy can yield some, don't we see?


Jane said...

thanks so much for getting personal and for going on blogging. Your post here - as so many other posts you write has given me much to think about. After another church conference I sort fo wonder whetehr women shouldn't just go on strike from church. If they did there would not be much of the church left- apart from the 95% men in the powerful positions ...

J. K. Gayle said...

Wonderful proposal, Jane! And gracious, thoughtful comments that encourage me too. Thanks!