Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Afternoon Knows

In finding my path, I’ve promiscuously sought wisdom among both men’s and women’s writing. While the brain of humans is wired as dominantly male or female, part of it is clearly beyond sexual distinction. Wisdom literature, seeking to tame our unruly selfish instincts into patience, forbearance and generosity, addresses us at our most common humanity, equally shared by men and women.

I grew up in a homogenous community, of northern European origins, the Christian religion and a fairly cohesive post-war sense of country, the United States. Like others of my generation I set off early to see the world. Determined not to be held back from anything human, I allowed myself to be quite open, going into free fall more than once. Luckily, my family was there to pick me up. But crashing and burning didn’t stop me. Once healthy again, I proceeded outward, my internal steering mechanisms strengthened.

The fact that I was a young woman had a great deal of bearing on my adventures. No mountains were involved, except as a metaphor for aspiration. "Everyone has something to do from his or her essential nature," says Rumi (in Coleman Barks' translation). Seeking my place in an expanding and pluralistic world, my love of literature was my guide.

Though I read all over the map, an internal reality detector served me. Everyone has this. Even if we have been dominated and influenced by a decadent culture, each of us must accept responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Sometimes, for safety’s sake we go along with a prevailing situation. But we hold in our hearts the inner knowledge of what is good, true and beautiful, and the desire for it. The ground of reality shines through art, aligning with inner certainty. Literature thus serves, holding up stories which satisfy and feed the yearning heart. I was moved by many women characters.

This blog records the characters I have learned from. It’s a mixed group from all over the world, their stories told by both women and men. I’ve used translations freely as my interests range far afield. I want to give younger women the gift of these stories. Some women fear passion and certainly see around them cautionary tales. But there are also tales of luminous, intense love which lift the characters into the mythic realms which illuminate everyday life. Each of us should have such a tale of our own. They point us to our essential nature.

The blog allows me to speak from a feminine point of view. Claudine Herrmann in The Tongue Snatchers says: “I’ve thought it useful to show not only how the vision of a woman was different, but also that this vision could serve to shed light on the most varied of questions.” By most accounts I am in the afternoon of my life, which gives me the chance to look back, but also the freedom to speak to many questions. For the afternoons knows what the morning never suspected, as the Swedish proverb has it.

Since blog entries slide off the page, the intent of each here is to be synecdoche, the part representing the whole. A brief telling of the story, pointers for those who are interested in more, and the reason I loved it. They will be in no particular order.