Monthly Archives: December 2009

New Year / Cravos de Papel

1

Amorzinho, lua nova,
rica fruta de pomar.
quem será que tira a prova
do vinho do teu lagar?

It has been a hard day.

2

I am streaming New Orleans radio live. Jazz, fireworks and white clothes on the Bay of All Saints. Olodumare let me reflect your brightness this year.

A new year is coming. The sixth sun will grow. I will be a new moon, perhaps.

In the new year, this blog will turn its intentions toward strengthening our meditation techniques.

It has vanquished Reeducation and some other attendant ills several times over.

It has experienced a great deal, and has thought very hard.

In the new year it will wear white and meditate on Olodumare, who lives in power and unassuming peace.

The sixth sun is already growing. I am a new moon, perhaps.

3

For this year we have a quotation from Jennifer‘s friend Stephen:

I am not leaving the human condition to malevolent and benevolent forces which preordain life’s highs and lows. On the contrary, I observe that life is more politically and economically determined by power and how it is exercised. The poor can still come up with a wish list but it is a mere exercise in futility for it must be within the confines of what BIG BROTHER parsimoniously consents to. It is very insane indeed, for the poor it must be a conscious revisit to the injustices of his condition every New Year when he puts together that wish list. The traveler’s ROAD will not and has never been of his own making. He is not responsible for the crevices and potholes he must negotiate to his destinations. Unfortunately those whose responsibility it should be, feel that after all they seldom use ROADS, they fly so they are not morally bound to make the roads’ condition traveler friendly.

Meditation does not mean we are depoliticized. It means the opposite.

4

I accomplished one small thing today. It seemed important symbolically. I hope it works in a ritualistic or, if you will, a “shamanistic” way.

5

Limpeza e lucidez. Olodumare.

Axé.

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Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Old Fashioned

This Brazilian house has in it a book in English, published in the seventies, on how to meditate. I am reading it, in part for the information and in part as a period piece. It says you should not use techniques or continue with teachers that feel wrong to you.

I found this remarkable because in Reeducation we were told the opposite. We were wrong by definition, said Reeducation. Our sense of what was right was necessarily wrong, so things that felt wrong must be right. That is why Reeducation was about learning to be as self destructive as possible, and to disregard one’s internal warning systems about this.

Now, I do know what kind of person Reeducation is talking to and I see why it says what it says. It has no right, however — no right at all — to claim universality as it does.

*

The book really is quite good.  It says a creative practice requires privacy; that is one thing I find Reeducation and also writing coaches to invade.

It says meditation is “a creative taking hold of and shaping your own life and destiny” (104); Reeducation called this “arrogant” and “controlling.”

It says any serious pursuit (any difficult or challenging pursuit) you undertake will have its stagnant and frustrating moments, its periods in which you feel dispirited, or when you feel you are making no progress or are going backward.

Axé.

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Writing on Writing

I have said it before, and I will say it again: I should have started writing this book years ago, because I have amassed far too much material. Had I written more about some of it earlier, I would not now be wanting to stuff all of it into every piece. So I was really, really ready to write, and I either did not realize it or I was too distracted by my other myriad and fragmenting duties.

Writing takes a lot of time — I have said this before, and I will say it again — and it requires recreation encircling it. One can attempt to deny this, and become frustrated and not know why, or one can accept it and plan for it.

That brings me to my point today: perhaps it is not that the students do not know how to write, or do not know how to manage time. Perhaps it is that they really do not have time to do the job in a complete way. Perhaps that is why so many of the papers I receive on time resemble rough drafts.

I think writing is a lot like tinkering and a lot like painting. My studio here in Brazil has a comfortable chair that fits the large table, an Internet connection, natural light, openable windows, enough shelves to keep all the books I need within well organized sight, and a good sea view — and nobody drops in to interrupt me. I love all of these things and evidence appears to indicate I need them.

*

Some people will say I am a great bourgeoise and clearly do not love my work enough, if I require so much to do it. I disagree. My evidence for this is that I have traveled over seven thousand kilometers and I am at a major tourist point, to which it will be both expensive and difficult to return, and that given decent working conditions I traveled to find I am choosing work.

Axé.

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Die Welt Ist Ein Ghetto

We are going to have a major cultural event right here in my neighborhood. This should be a lovely opportunity for me, but I am trying to figure out how to escape the noise it might make and the rough characters who may be present.

Today’s main headline in the city newspaper is: drug traffickers kill 3 and wound 2. Meanwhile, prisoners accused of violent crimes escaped from two prisons in this state over the weekend, and a security guard in a fancy mall beat up a woman suspected of shoplifting as her four year old was forced to watch.

In good news, the boy whose stepfather introduced some 41 needles into his body is now walking. He is also getting ready for a third operation, in which five needles will be removed from his spinal column. If I remember correctly, in the first two operations they took needles out of his heart, lungs, liver and bladder.

All of this is why we are under a certain amount of collective stress here.

*

Brazil is ranked no. 85 on the Global Peace Index. The United States is ranked no. 83. When you consider that Brazil is not fighting any external wars, which is one of the factors taken into consideration, you can see that there is more of other kinds of violence here.

For purposes of comparison consider China at no. 74, India at no. 132, and Russia at no. 136, or Mexico, which is no. 108.  At no. 130 (right between North Korea and Nigeria), Colombia is the most violent country in this hemisphere. Canada, at no. 8, is the least violent.

In Latin America Chile, no. 20, and Uruguay, no. 25, are both more peaceful than Costa Rica, no. 29.

The most peaceful country in the world is New Zealand, and Denmark and Norway are tied for second place.

*

The United States is the world’s largest arms exporter, producing 41% of all arms distributed worldwide. In Latin America, the only producer of large arms now is Brazil’s Embraer, which has fighter jets and other military planes for sale. In the 1980s Brazil was the eleventh largest arms exporter in the world.

Small arms are all over the Americas, however, and Brazil is Latin America’s largest producer of these. The Caribbean has the world’s highest murder rate, and Latin America comes in next.

Axé.

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Academic Monday: What Do You Need?

I am now much happier than I was when I started this post because the electrician came and fixed the electricity. Now I can, for instance, take a tepid, not a freezing shower if I want to, and if it is dark, I have light in the bathroom. This is after twelve days.

That, perhaps, is why I was thinking that while everyone else posts on what professors should do, I would rather think about what we need. These are the things I think you need to survive in the profession and do well. Not all of them are easily attainable, however.

Some faculty will read my list and say I clearly have desires too bourgeois to be a serious academic. Others will be amazed that I am willing to admit I have working conditions which impelled me to even think about some of the items on this list.

TO SURVIVE:

1. Really nutritious food at regular intervals. Otherwise you are weak. It is not always easy to get or afford such food, however.
2.
Superman-style workouts. You have to be bionic. However, with the kind of work week professors, doctors, and lawyers have the lack of time for such workouts is not always just an excuse.
3.
Nine hours of sleep every night. Again, this is not always allowed.
4.
Cultural enrichment that really is enriching. This is rarely available.
5.
Visits with friends who are really friends, not just social contacts. These are very difficult to arrange.

TO SUCCEED:

1. A good city and/or a good spouse. You cannot live by yourself and handle an academic job in the country, in the suburbs, and/or in a red state. The only successful people I have ever seen do this have spouses helping them materially and/or financially. If you expect to have any sort of career you should marry a portable and supportive person in graduate school.
2.
At least one of these: a light teaching schedule, a library, or a very large budget for books and journals. You cannot travel to libraries on a heavy teaching schedule, nor is interlibrary loan designed to replace a standard collection.
3.
Good, responsible students, enough of whom are majoring in your field (or in allied fields) so that they have some familiarity with it. These are far less draining than other kinds of students, especially lower division students taking required courses.
4.
Academic freedom, freedom from harassment, and competent management offering both support and autonomy as well as doing its part to make the university look like one such.
5.
A large enough salary that you do not have to spend too much intellectual energy on the question of how to get through the second half of the month and that you do not think twice about seeing a doctor when sick.

TO THRIVE:

1. A large enough salary to have a reliable car, unless you live where these are absolutely unnecessary.
2.
A large enough salary not to have to put off minor home repairs, if you live in an area where buying is more easily affordable than renting.
3.
Travel funds. It would be nice to be able to go to a conference a year, and go on a modest vacation, and visit home — not to have to chose only one of these, or choose two and combine them.

I would like to read Eric Newfield’s Unmaking the Public University, and discuss it on a Reading for Pleasure Wednesday.

Axé.

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Une perception

To amuse myself while sick, I took a personality test. I am 70% extroverted, compared to most women who are 67% extroverted and most men who are 51% extroverted.

I am also 45% “emotional” (I think they mean something more like histrionic – they say “emotional” means “reactive to emotions and mood swings”). Most men are 74% emotional, and most women are 76% emotional.

I have a very balanced way of dealing with emotions, says the test, and my significant variance from the norm is part of my signature, a “guiding part of [my] personality,” they say.

It was this Zen balance that Reeducation considered to be a sign that I could not “feel my feelings” or perhaps did not have feelings.

I have tried to be more histrionic since then and it has been rather exhausting. At the same time, it seems not to have affected me, since this test says I’m so Zen.

Axé.

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Dear Whiteman

Dear Whiteman,

I really have had just about enough of you. I will say it once again: I do not like to be projected into. In particular, I do not like to be projected into by condescending, poorly trained and weakly professionalized individuals.

If I am a perfectionist, how is it that I send out articles which then return to me with suggestions for revision? How is it that I then respond to these and send said pieces out again?

Especially since my work is not perfect or even necessarily first tier, what is wrong with sending things out which are at least not disaster zones? Why should I not check all references and formatting before overloading a hard working editorial board with schlock? Please note that if you had ever been on the receiving end of such an operation and not had an R.A. to deal with it for you, you might know what I mean.

Please note as well that if you had ever been raised as a girl, you might realize nobody is going to finish my work for me. Consider your own case, for example. I do not see you lifting a finger except to heckle.

Who do you think you are to call me a perfectionist? On what planet are you considered professional?

Dear God,

I have felt a strange sense of shame ever since I started negotiating with you. This shame only bound me to you. I had come to understand that if I could appease you, if I could say the magic words and crack the charm, I would be free. I see now that there is no negotiation, and there were no magic words. A magic action was necessary, and I have already taken it. I am worlds away from you already, and I am not even leaving you this note.

Dear Editor,

Many times I have written asking for an extension because I was bogged down dealing with the aftermath of having allowed some random person to encumber me and push me around. I am no longer willing to impose upon you in this manner. For that reason I shall no longer allow myself to be imposed upon.

Axé.

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All the Souls on Earth Shall Sing

It is Christmas! I saw the sun set from an old fort last night after swimming and a long walk on the bayside beach. Now we are at a palm-lined beach on the ocean, dreaming of authentic snow because it would so fit the season. Our snow is made of cotton.

This version of “I Saw Three Ships” is happy and beautiful and very much worth listening to. Many ships sail into our bay every day. I see them at a distance from the balcony and then up close, as my bus passes by the port of Salvador.

Each ship is calm and majestic coming in past the islands and then festive, sitting at the docks with fluttering flags.

Axé.

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The Soul Stirrers

I have spent today, my birthday, in one of the cities named after that holy savior. This is where you get the axé.

Axé.

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Oriana, Olodumare

Oriana Fallaci was the first person I heard say you cannot negotiate with terrorists, and as we know, the question there is who is a terrorist.

But it is a fact you cannot negotiate with abusers. If you remember this, you can safely extricate yourself from an abusive situation — if you have somewhere else to go, of course.

You can require things of abusers. You can even work with them. But you cannot expect good faith negotiation or collaborative communication of any kind.

It is important to remember that when your attempts to make your position known to an abuser are met with hostility or ridicule, it is not poor communication on your part.

It is also important to remember that if you have abusive people around you it is not necessarily due to some failing on your part — you could be living in an abusive culture.

Finally, it is important to remember that abusers have allies. They may be very nice to your friends, feed the poor, be good at their jobs, and volunteer all over town. They may constantly do favors for other people.

This is part of their cover, their game. So when someone tells you, “but ze did do a nice thing for someone,” it does not mean that ze is not abusing you.

My birthday has now morphed into Christmas Eve, as it tends to do each year. But where I was born the evening is younger. That gives me the time to confer, once again, this knowledge upon myself.

I tend to lament the fact that these kinds of relationships, with Reeducation being the main one, have limited my life to some degree.

Yet from the point of view of Olodumare whom we celebrate tomorrow and every Friday, becoming free at last is the great project and adventure of my life.

Axé.

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