(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.
Monday, January 30, 2012
"Poetry is the kind of thing you have to see from the corner of your eye," said the poet William Stafford. "You can be too well prepared for poetry. A conscientious interest in it is worse than no interest at all... It's like a very faint star. If you look straight at it you can't see it, but if you look a little to one side it is there."
I came across part of this quote on the Free Will Astrology blog. It reminded me of a practice I learned about this summer called Owl Eyes. It's an awareness game from the Wilderness Awareness School that builds on the experiences of naturalists and indigenous peoples from the world over. Using Owl Eyes means expanding your vision, utilizing your peripherals broadening your view rather than having a sharp focus. It's contrasted with Eagle Eyes or predatory vision.
You know that tingling feeling when you know someone is watching you? That's the Eagle Eyes. Owl Eyes are a softer kind of vision. Rather than needle-like focus on any one object, you're absorbing the bigger picture.
I'm drawing this analogy from Stafford's quote because in many respects poetry is like that. If you get too caught up in details you can miss the meaning. At the same time, I challenge this quote. As a literary critic, to not take a conscientious look at a text and truly interact with it is tantamount to ignoring it.
Let me return for a moment to the outdoors. Another game I've learned through students of the WAS is the art of Fox Walking. To Fox Walk is to move silently. Instead of each step sliding over the ground (imagine one of those scenes from a Charlie Brown Christmas Special where everyone is dancing), each movement is precisely up and down. Each step is controlled and balanced so that you can stop at any time. You place your foot with care, ghosting into crinkly leaves and crackly twigs without a sound. You center your weight over each foot before moving the next.
Now imagine trying to practice this Fox Walking while looking at the world with Owl Eyes. It's hard to do. If you're focused on broadening your vision, you can't pay as close attention to where you're stepping. And you focus on each step you take, it's difficult to keep a broader awareness of what you're seeing around you. It takes a lot of practice to do these at the same time, so lacking that, what is a budding naturalist to do?
Divide, conquer and imitate the animals.
Every few steps stop, just for a second, and look around. Open your ears and listen. Smell and taste the air. Feel your entire physical being with all your senses.
The same goes with poetry. If all you do is look slant at the words on the page, you miss the stories that aren't hiding. If you only take things at face value, you miss the nuance of metaphor. Feel the poem. What kind of visceral, gut reaction does it invoke?
Learning to look at something out of the corner of your eye is learning to pay a new kind of attention. To direct your focus without actually having to focus directly.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
That said, this video is predicated on a Christeo-normative assumption that disallows for any other kind of successful marriage. The only way is through a foundation in Jesus Christ. And for those of you reading this who believe in the Christian god, great. Awesome, even. I hope you take home the fundamental message that there is sanctity in marriage. If we as a society are going to argue over other people's right to that expression of love and happiness we need to look in our own homes first.
But this video makes me uncomfortable. Because I'm not Christian. I don't ever see myself being Christian. I don't particularly want to be Christian. This may change and I reserve the right to make that change if I feel so called. And I'm sure I could find plenty of people (religious and not) who would say the same.
Given the viral nature of this video, then, I think it's worth calling out that Christeo-normativity that makes me uncomfortable. I'm naming it as something to note. Assuming anyone listening to you is Christian (the definition of Christeo-normativity if you didn't catch that) is wrong because if there's one thing I've learned about people, it's that not all of them are Christian. I recognize that when it comes to belief and religion, the conversation is fundamentally at odds with the postmodern plurality I'm working with.
Most religions by definition are mutually exclusive. You're supposed to spread the word and accept others into the practice that will save you. Only through this god will you make it to heaven [or whatever afterlife they teach]. You can't really be more than one at the same time. In a Christian context, this is commonly referred to as evangelism.
This is counter to the idea of plurality, that each religion is the result of a specific cultural and social causality and each has its own merits and reason for existence. They all have a right to exist and be treated equally. I can't tell you to follow my religion any more than you can tell me to follow yours unless we both mutually agree that we want to change our minds.
I think part of what differentiates between these two ideologies is faith. Or maybe Faith.
I struggle because I want to balance my foundation in plurality, in the knowledge and acceptance that there are many options, with the Faith that so many people have. If I were to make an essentialist statement about my identity, it would be that I thrive in liminality. I'm a human of in-betweens and I chafe under most dominant paradigms that enforce or too strongly advocate a way of thinking or doing things.
So the question that this post poses then is what is the goal of this video? Are we meant to turn to Christ? Are we meant to fix marriage?
"My hope in this poem is to highlight the most frequent and problematic issues marriages face today while also pointing to Jesus as the ultimate healer, redeemer, and restorer of every marriage. Whether single or married, my intention would be that this poem would allow you to look more deeply to Jesus to either better your current marriage, or prepare for your future marriage." -bball1989The video description (and video itself) seems to imply both.
I'm left at a loss, and it seems the only judgement I can make is something akin to:
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Great leadership to me means constant gratitude. For the path you've taken, for those who helped us get there. For anyone and anything that does something for this world. For a leader is never alone.
There's an idiom that says never to ask someone to do something you yourself wouldn't do.
The gratitude of a leader is to recognize and exemplify when someone does something you've asked them (or volunteers themselves for it).
So don't just express your appreciation: Live it. Show it.
And to everyone in my life, keep being amazing.