asakiyume: (miroku)
Eve Shi introduce me to this great phrase, shy like a pigeon. It means someone who seems gregarious, but flies off if you get too close. I really understand that! I can be really sociable so long as there's a certain distance built in, like with .... drumroll .... social media!1 Specifically, the sort of interaction that you can get on LJ/DW. You can share all sorts of thoughts, chat, enthuse about whatever it is you want to enthuse about, even give or receive comfort and consolation--but you can also retreat, and by and large people won't mind too much. It reminds me of something [personal profile] sovay said about a writer's characterization, that his characters were "on the whole are drawn more vividly than deeply." It's that type of friendship, vivid but not deep.

Of course you can *make* it deep. I bet anyone who's been online for more than a few years has had serious, lasting friendships blossom from their online interactions. I know several people who've gotten married to people they met online. But when it gets deep, most probably you're no longer interacting solely through LJ/DW. Probably you're meeting up in person, sending private messages or emails, maybe exchanging paper letters, maybe phoning--you're getting to know the person through more than one medium.

But once a friendship is a deep one, you can't convert it back into a shallow one. You can drift apart as friends--that happens--but you'll never not have shared a deep friendship. And if you have a social-media space made up of people who are mainly close friends, that's very different from a social-media space made up of strangers and acquaintances. Speaking for myself (but I'm willing to bet this is true for many people), it changes how you interact. You have responsibilities in a way you don't if you're interacting with strangers and acquaintances.

Musing on the nature of online interactions and in-the-flesh interactions, and what friendship is, etc. etc., has gradually led me to the conclusion that I haven't been a very good real-life friend to very many people. I **haven't** done that thing that gets talked about in every movie and every essay on friendship: I haven't been there as a supportive presence for people in hard times. Not very much. Part of me wants to say that it took my mother dying, and having to be there for my dad, for me to understand what being there for someone really means. Kind of late in life to learn that stuff.

But I'm trying harder now. Still in a very limited way, because, see above, shy like a pigeon. (Or maybe I shouldn't blame shyness. Maybe it's just selfishness.)

I thought I might segue into talking about how being in a social-media space composed of actual friends lends itself to certain types of posts and inhibits others, but as I think about it more, I think a lot of that comes down to personal styles--it's actually hard to generalize on. Maybe what I could talk about would be my own feelings on that--but another time.


1And not just social media. Acquaintanceship through some shared activity can be like this; my interactions with people in my book group feels similar. Warm, friendly, but not too deep.

fights

May. 17th, 2017 05:41 pm
asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)
It was one of the women at the jail who first told me that middle school and high school kids film their fights with their phones and then post them on Youtube. Then last week one of my high school tutees was talking affectionately about one of her younger sisters. "She's so bad," she said, laughing, and showed me a video on her phone of her little sister and another girl fighting. They had hands in each other's hair. "Ouch," I said, "that looks like it hurts!" "She's so bad," my tutee repeated, shaking her head and smiling.

I went online and found other videos, with breathless remarks from the person doing the filming. None of the ones I happened to look at were cases of someone being beaten up (though I'm sure that happens too), and none of them were mass melees (though same). These were ... well, in some cases they seemed like duels: there were seconds hanging back on both sides, and the fight was very short, and then it was like the seconds decided it was over. And in other cases it kind of reminded me of training? Like, instead of boxing or mixed martial arts, you're doing homemade fighting.

And the people filming. They seemed from their voices and their excitement levels so YOUNG. "Come on, hurry up, Celie! Somebody grab my sister!" exclaims one kid, and then, "Come on, fight fight fight, yo!" And in another video, a similarly young-sounding kid (a boy whose voice hasn't changed yet) shouts out advice ("keep your head up"), and when one of the fighters says "I can't breathe!" he calls out for everyone to stop. The girl says, "This asthma," and the kid says, "I fucking hate asthma too."

I know there are way worse fights. I know people get really badly hurt--I've seen scars my students in the jail have. That's not what was going on in the videos I happened to see, though.

I remember one of my other high school tutees, a *tiny* girl, talking about finally having to fight someone to get people to stop taunting her. I couldn't believe that having a fight would do that--I would have thought it would just escalate things. But apparently not.

Me, I'm wrapped in a floor-length robe of ignorance, with a fluffy hat of ignorance on my head. I don't have any summarizing statement to make or judgment to pass, beyond to say---I mean, maybe this is picking up on the high spirits of the people making the videos? and the casual attitude of my student?--but I felt surprisingly un-bad about the fact of the fights. I don't want kids to be ganged up on and beaten up, and I **definitely** think there are other ways to settle differences or strut your stuff. But ... maybe this is one possible way to settle differences and strut your stuff that isn't as bad as all that if all parties are willing? I don't know! See above: ignorance.

a fight

fighting
asakiyume: (miroku)



If the lines inscribed on my hands and fingers were contour lines, what effort it would take to scale the steepness of my thumb.

thumb contour lines



asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)
A couple of weeks ago at the jail, there was a new-to-me CO, B--, at the programs desk. I was heading into the room I've been using for my tutoring when he said, "You know there's a ghost up here, right?"

Usually when people tell me things like this--in any circumstance, not just at the jail--I just go along with it amiably until I can get my bearings and figure out how I'm expected to react, but this time, I couldn't help it: I said, "This jail is only ten years old, and you're telling me there's a ghost?" (I could also have said, "I've been volunteering here for more than five years, and I'm only just now hearing about a ghost?")

"They think it's maybe a child, looking for love," he said.

Even at the time, and more so now as I'm writing this down, it struck me that if you didn't think of a ghost as the spirit of someone dead but rather as a coalescing of intense feelings connected with longed-for people, that sure: there could very well be something like that hanging about. Wakanomori suggested that it could be like Lady Rokujo, whose spirit leaves her body while she sleeps and haunts Genji's lovers, only in this case, children deprived of their parents, haunting the locus of their deprivation.

Anyway, I think I said something noncommittal like "Thanks for the heads up" or "I'll keep my eyes open."

Then this past Friday B-- was there again, along with M--, one of the first COs I ever talked to, a woman I like a lot. I mentioned to her that B-- had told me about the ghost, and he said, "Oh, M-- knows all about the ghost; she's had an encounter with it."

M-- nodded emphatically.

"What was it like?" I asked.

"Well, I had just had a drink of water from my bottle," she said, nodding toward her largish clear plastic water bottle, which was on the desk, "and I felt something really cold right at my waist. I thought maybe I'd spilled some of the water on myself, but when I touched the area, it was dry. Then it started tingling. I jumped away from the desk--I just had to walk away from there. It was like a little icy arm around my waist."

"It probably knew you were a mother," said B--. "It was probably looking for comfort."

I thought about how my imagination runs in different directions: If that had happened to me, I would have been as freaked out, but it would have been because I imagined I'd gotten sudden-onset neuropathy, or worse.

Or maybe not. I'm only there for one afternoon a week. The COs are there for 40 hours a week, and the inmates are there 24-7. Ten years is young for a building, but it's a long time to collect misery. Even I've seen a thing or two, in the slivers of time I'm there. Maybe if I was in M--'s shoes, I would have intuited it the way she did.
asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka tries to stop the assault Lady Eboshi is making on a primeval forest and the gods who live there. He's been cursed for killing a boar god who, maddened with pain and anger after Lady Eboshi shot him, turned into a demon and threatened to destroy Ashitaka's village. His cursed hand twitches uncontrollably when, upon hearing Ashitaka's story, Lady Eboshi mocks the boar god.

"Does that right hand of yours want to kill me now, Ashitaka," she asks.

"If it would lift the curse, I'd let it tear you apart, but even that wouldn't end the killing now, would it?" he replies, and she says lightly and mockingly, "No, it wouldn't. It would have to kill all of us to be at peace."

And then a bed-ridden leper speaks up. (Lady Eboshi has taken in the people whom society has rejected: lepers, prostitutes, and other outcasts--they are her strength.)

He says, "Forgive me, milady. You must not make light of the boy's strength." Then, to Ashitaka, he says,

Young man, like you, I know what rage feels like ... and grief and helplessness. But you must not take your revenge on Lady Eboshi. She is the only one who saw us as human beings. We are lepers. The world hates and fears us, but she took us in and washed our rotting flesh and bandaged us. Life is suffering. It is hard. The world is cursed, but still, you find reasons to keep living . . . I'm sorry. I'm making no sense.


I feel such intense empathy with the leper's last lines and with his attempt, weakly and without confidence, to speak up.

Ashitaka's mission was to see the world with eyes unclouded by hate, but the curse gives him supernatural killing power. Later it manifests as a twisting snake around his arm, and he shouts out,

Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like. This is what it does when it catches hold of you. It's eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster.


The truth that Princess Mononoke recognizes is that anyone can turn into a demon, even if they don't want to. Rage, pain, hatred, despair can do it.

I see this all around me. There's no one who isn't embracing a good hate (myself included, sometimes). But we have to, somehow, pull away from that, because when we become demons, everything goes down to destruction. Anyone can bandage lepers--even Lady Eboshi. Anyone can kill a god--even Ashitaka. I want us to be more in the bandaging mode. And if that sets off your alarm bells (band-aid solutions), then put in a different metaphor. Gardening mode, meal-preparing mode, coat-offering mode, stranger-welcoming mode ... but with that last, remember that we don't get to pick and choose our strangers. But who am I to speak this way. No one. I'm sorry. I'm making no sense.
asakiyume: (miroku)






You've probably heard this before: I came across it in A Wind in the Door.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.



(source)

I had some thoughts.

1. First, the progression is important here. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant item has a giant effect right away, with no intermediary steps--for example, a peanut would, if Serena Williams happened to eat it. (Serena Williams is allergic to peanuts. I Googled "famous people allergic to peanuts" to finish this example. The Internet is wonderful.) So the point the saying is trying to get across isn't merely that seemingly insignificant things can play dramatic roles. It's a more Butterfly-effect statement: a tiny mishap at one end of the chain causes a huge mishap at the other end.

No peanuts, Serena!

(source)


2. The fact that the horseshoe nail played such a crucial role had a whole lot to do with the fact that the nail was in the shoe of a horse being ridden by a messenger to a battle. Horseshoe nails get lost all the time without having dire consequences. This seems like a really Scrooge-ish thing for me to say; it seems as if I'm stomping all over the message of the saying as it was used in A Wind in the Door, which was to say, "No one is insignificant; your role in the universe is important." I'm not, though: I agree with both those statements, resoundingly. What I'm criticizing the metaphor as a vehicle for conveying that message--because, as I say, not all nails are in the shoes of a warhorse carrying a mission-critical messenger. That nail was important in that way, but what about all the rest of us nails? There are three directions we can go:

3a. "They also serve who only stand and wait." This direction asks us to consider what it means for a life to be of consequence. It's not all about the battles! It's also about churning the butter--or about recording the rate of glacial melting, or about saying something friendly to the kid sitting by himself, staring blankly at the wall while his classmates goof off and have fun. Or about standing and waiting. When people resist this direction, sometimes it's that they don't value these other things, but often it's that they don't want to be denied access to traditional realms of glory, and I totally get that.

John Milton standing and waiting

(source)


3b. The Butterfly Effect again, but more roundabout than the messenger's horse going lame because it lost a shoe. Each of us, in our humble nail-ness, may have dramatic effects on events, but in ways that not at all apparent or predictable. You make a joke to your co-worker at the café; a customer overhears it and thinks it's funny; he tells it to his boss, who tells it to her boss, who, spirits lifted by the well-timed humor, goes into highly sensitive diplomatic negotiations in a better frame of mind. Even that's too linear, but you get the idea.

What natural disasters have you caused today, butterfly?
IMG_6064
(source is [livejournal.com profile] deponti's Flickr, here)


3c. Inherent worth, apart from actions or consequences. This says that nails are a wonder just in their nail-ness, regardless of whether they're holding horse shoes on or hanging pictures to a wall. You are, so you have worth, period.


(source)


All three of these things are true, but all three of them are dissatisfying for various reasons. And yet true. For that matter, "For want of a nail" is true too--it just has its limitations if you go teasing it and pulling at its threads. It's almost as if this stuff is complicated and no one formulation is completely satisfying, and yet each has something powerful to say. Hmmmm.


asakiyume: (dewdrop)






I realize I've fallen prey to magical thinking, believing that if I fail to do X or Y activist thing, then the whole resistance will fall apart. It arises from erroneous logic that goes like this: "This situation is so bad it caused me to cancel plans with a friend to go protest. I'm not alone; other people feel that way too. That's why there are so many people protesting. But if I let up, then they will, too, since they're like me. So I have to prevent that from happening by not letting up."

I am the drop that controls the ocean!!
world in a dewdrop


But of course, my actions don't actually control other people's.1 I doubt I'm even a very good indicator of what other people will do, but if I were, my actions still wouldn't control other people's; they'd merely be predictive. And it's grandiose to assume that my action or inaction is going to spell the success or defeat of, for example, resistance to the executive order2 on refugees and incomers from those seven majority-Muslim countries. Maybe this exhortation is something that only I need, but I'll put it out there anyway: Do whatever stuff you do because you want to help change something that you find intolerable. *Don't* do it because your action magically controls the outcome. It doesn't.

1It's true that our actions can influence other people, so if you do something or refrain from something, it may ... pick your verb--cause/push/induce others to follow suit. But you're still not controlling them.
2I wasn't entirely clear on how executive orders work, so I read up on them (well, mainly I read one Washington Post article) and created a two-page summary of what I learned, which I can email anyone who'd like it.

ETA: Please read also what [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija writes here.





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