December 2009 Archives

Of Friends and Furniture

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I recently went through the files on my computer where I store all my unposted blog entries. There are dozens and dozens of entries I started and never got around to either finishing or posting for some reason. I decided that I might as well salvage and publish some of the better ones. Here's an entry begun but not posted some time in 2006.

Several years ago a friend confided to me that certain problems he faced in a relationship were due in part to the fact that he too quickly arrives at the point "where you see the other person as a comfortable old piece of furniture you can take for granted and don't really have to think about."

I contemplated this notion a moment before speaking. "I don't think I've ever gotten to that point," I said.

The friend settled back in his chair, which was not particularly comfortable. "Really," he said archly. It was a skeptical challenge more than a curious request for information.

"Really," I said. "It has to do both with how I see people and how I see furniture. It's not that I'm a nicer person than you or anything, because the point I arrive at is the point where I think, 'You are an ugly piece of junk and I can't bear looking at you any more and my life would be so much better if I could get you out of my house and replace you with something that isn't hideous and uncomfortable,' which is how I feel about the couch I have now. I hate my couch. I mean I hate it. It was old to begin with, and now my cat has shed all over whatever parts of the upholstery she hasn't shredded. I really want to throw it out and replace it."



Autochthony is a terrific word I learned as an undergrad and have to few opportunities to use. It means "the state of being autochthonous," which is a fancy word for indigenous. It is, rather obviously, made up of the prefix "auto" or self, stuck onto the word chthonic, a Greek word meaning "of or relating to the gods and spirits of the underground."

I wrote yesterday about reading The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade, and how I didn't like it all that much, except for his discussion of sacred places. Eliade uses the term autochthony to refer to a religious feeling of "belonging to a place, and it is a cosmically structured feeling that goes far beyond family or ancestral solidarity" (140).

saguaros.jpg I like this because it describes how I feel about the Sonoran desert, an area running through south central Arizona and extending slightly into Sonora, Mexico. It is a particular ecosystem with some of the coolest vegetation in the world--the saguaro cactus, for instance, a plant so iconic and interesting that it has come to symbolize the entire southwest, though it is indigenous only to the Sonoran desert.

Thatcher, the town I grew up in, is not in the Sonoran desert. But Tucson, where my mom was born, where my grandparents lived til they died and where I went to college, is. I was in Tucson last week, and while it's not accurate to say that I ever forget that I love it and think it's beautiful, still, going home and encountering it again always has the force of a revelation.

Divine, Transhuman Models

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I recently read a book I should have read ages ago, The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade. I've read so many works that reference TS&TP that at moments I thought I'd read it already-but I hadn't. I'm glad I've read it now, even though I found it fairly tedious. It's a general overview of the difference between homo religiosus and "non-religious man," first of all, not a detailed history of anything, so it lacks captivating details. More importantly, I personally find the general project somewhat spurious, this business of drawing a distinction between the religious and the non-religious human, as if a thirst for the transcendent is not something essential to human nature, but is instead something tacked on to us at previous points in history, and so can be collectively shed. OK, not every individual cares about transcendence, but as a species, I think we hunger and thirst for it, though we find it in different things: art, or science, or literature, or nature, and so on.

The book also assumes a homogeneity (rather than a variety) of religious experience, asserting that certain uniform and fairly rudimentary attributes are what makes one alive to the sacred, and that absence of these attributes makes one, by necessity, profane. For instance, Eliade seems to believe that one cannot be truly invested and alive to the sacred without a belief in a fairly anthropomorphic god. He asserts that homo religiosus

The Most Important Modern Convenience


This is an amazing story highlighting the role of women in a particular society, their commitment to efforts that improves communal life, and the many benefits that derive from that most basic of modern conveniences: safe drinking water delivered by pump and generator to people's homes.

Before the Weekend Ends


Here's a totally NSFW consideration of what it would be like if women were as horny as men, so watch it before the weekend ends.

As for commentary, I have none.

The Good News: Sometimes, They Get It

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OK, first of all, I want to make clear that this entry ends up happy, or at least happy-ish, because I'm going to spin it as a feminist success story. But there's some gross stuff to get through along the way.

Thanks to Salon's Broadsheet, I have been reminded that Feminists suck all the humor out of sexual harassment, always, all the time, though in this case it's because feminists object to ads that try to sell cleaning products to women through jokes about sexual harassment and threatened rape.

Apparently feminists' lack of humor so upsets some guy that he delivers a REALLY HORRIBLE misogynist rant arguing that women who are offended by the use of the imagery and language of sexual violence to market products to them, should be silenced, killed and sexually assaulted.

And when people point out that his misogynist rant is as gross as the original ad, he says, "But I didn't see it that way. I didn't see the rape imagery in the original ad, or in my own comments. When i said that women who didn't think it was funny to see a woman threatened with sexual assault, should be confronted by a bunch of guys who ejaculate foamy white stuff on them, I wasn't try to offend anyone."

And then there's a long discussion of male privilege, and one wise commenter points out that The greatest advantage of privilege is the ability to be blind to it.

That reminded me of old entry of mine that makes a similar point: namely, that one of the privileges of being on top of the power hierarchy is that the people in that position don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about the people below them, the people who take care of them.

Here's the good news part of all this:

Reciprocity and Gratitude


When I was engaged two decades ago, I was in a position to do things for my fiance that he could not do for me. This was OK with me at the time. I was in love: it brought me joy to do things for my beloved. It let me think of him, and imagine his happiness, and feel close to him.

At some point I noticed, however, that while he enjoyed the things I did for him, he didn't see them as special the way I did. Not only did they not require reciprocity--which we both knew he couldn't provide--they didn't even seem to require gratitude or, more disturbingly, acknowledgment at times. I began to realize that he thought they were his due, what he was entitled to, not something I willingly chose to do for him because I loved him, and that I could have chosen not to do.

I met my fiance in Arizona but he was British, and I knew that at some point before the wedding, he'd have to go back to England. The particular way he decided to go home involved considerable sacrifice and hardship for me. I wasn't happy about it, but I understood that sometimes, things just have to be a certain way. You deal with it as well as you can, which is what I tried to do; I also tried to make things easier for him.

On the eve of his departure, I told him, "I need you to say two words to me."

"What?" he asked, grinning. "Bug off?"

Loss, Made Concrete, in Concrete


Here's a link I found way back in July or August on a friend's Facebook page. I saved it to blog about and look how long it has taken me... It seems appropriate to post the link after yesterday's entry on loss, since these images of the Ruin of Detroit all depict great loss. They are gorgeous photographs of tragic and appalling ugliness and waste. I personally HATE tragic and appalling ugliness and waste--I mean, it really, really upsets me.

I have never been anywhere in Detroit except the airport, but I flew in and out of it enough times to thoroughly assimilate the fact that "Detroit is in the eastern time zone" (I could even understand the Chinese version of that announcement) and so developed an affection for the city. Plus it's my friend Jim's hometown. Plus, it became the Motor City only because my old home of Erie turned down Henry Ford's request to build an automobile factory there.

See, Henry Ford wanted to build his factory in a port city very close to the ports of Buffalo and the steel mills of Pittsburgh. And there happens to be a port city almost midway between Buffalo and Pittsburgh, which is--that's right--Erie.

But Erie city fathers told Mr. Ford, no, we don't want your nasty factory. Take it some place else. So he went to the port city on the other side of Lake Erie, which was Detroit.

Erie is solidly in the rust belt and has plenty of urban decay, but it's nothing like Detroit. So perhaps the decision of Erie's city fathers, which seemed very foolish long about 1950, was actually wise in the long run.

Loss Anticipated, Loss Experienced


My favorite poem by Robert Hass is "Meditation at Lagunitas," which begins

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.

Pretty much.

Friday night I went to the Sunstone Chritsmas party, my first Christmas party of the season, and perhaps my last.... I was also invited to one last night, but I couldn't make it. No other parties are scheduled for the next few weeks except a few celebrations of ME, 'cause, you know, Jesus's birth isn't the only one celebrated in December.

Anyway, there was a conversation about New York Doll, a documentary about Arthur "Killer" Kane, which I wrote about several years ago in an entry that garnered lots of very interesting comments. There were people at the party who had never heard of it, and those of us who had seen it tried to explain what it was about and why someone should watch it. I mentioned what I said in my entry: that when I heard David Johansen sing "Come, Come Ye Saints" I burst into tears and sobbed until I couldn't breathe or sit up.

This struck some of the other people there are strange. "I didn't cry when I heard that hymn," one person said. "Not at all."

"You're still active in the church," I said. "You still get to sing that song as part of a community that values it. It doesn't represent a loss to you."

Loss ebbs and flows. We get over loss to some extent because we have to, and because time, if it doesn't heal all wounds, at least changes them. But our experience of loss starts not with the actual loss, but with our awareness that it WILL happen.

Celebrate Like Jesus

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I'm not even a Christian and I think this is so freakin' awesome.


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This page is an archive of entries from December 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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