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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 17, 2020 01:31PM

[I know there is at least one other (it might be Summer) RfMer for whom Emerson’s essay “Self Reliance” exists almost like a talisman for life. Please forgive my inability with names.]

The Myth of Self-Reliance
By Jenny Odell
An encounter with Emerson’s essays:

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/01/15/the-myth-of-self-reliance/

I share this not because I agree with it. In fact I think Jenny Odell misreads Emerson in some very fundamental ways. But it is always a delight to read other people’s take on this essay, which shares in the Shakespearean quality of being different for every reader and indeed goes on to be different to ourselves as we re-read it over a lifetime.

Snippet:

“I’d done this throughout my entire life, but especially in How to Do Nothing. Around my favored versions of contemplative solitude, so similar to Emerson’s, a whole suite of circumstances appeared in full relief, like something coming into focus. The women in the kitchen made the mens’ conversation possible, just as my trip to the mountain—and really all of my time spent walking, observing, and courting the “over-soul”—rested upon a long list of privileges, from the specific (owning a car, having the time), to the general (able-bodied, upper-middle-class, half white and half “model minority,” a walkable neighborhood in a desirable city, and more). There was an entire infrastructure around my experience of freedom, and I’d been so busy chasing it that I hadn’t seen it.“



I have never been in a position to not see it.

Born from a long line of lower working class drudges, rough, ready, none too romantic, and nothing taken for granted, because it cannot be afforded, I have yet to feel my body not chained to a myriad of dependencies. Odell’s confessed blindspot is not my own (nor do I think it is Emerson’s).

What was and is necessary for me, as I jumble around within this endless chain of dependencies, which of course entails all kinds of responsibilities, is to hold the ‘me myself’, as Whitman has it, aloof, to keep “in the midst of the crowd...the independence of solitude,” and to do so “with perfect sweetness”.

It is too easy to conflate our self with our body, our self with our labour, our profession; our responsibilities, creeds, faiths, beliefs; our race, culture, nation; our heritage and lineage. We are more than these, and every single individual is more than these.


Uh-oh. I meant to leave the link and trip away to the rest of the day. Now I’m expanding and about to fall into sermonizing...

My gratitude to RfM for a spot to fumble around amidst a busy, noisy life.

Human

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: January 17, 2020 03:59PM

Human Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> >
> The Myth of Self-Reliance
> By Jenny Odell
> An encounter with Emerson’s essays:
>
> https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/01/15/the
> -myth-of-self-reliance/
>
> I share this not because I agree with it. In fact
> I think Jenny Odell misreads Emerson in some very
> fundamental ways. But it is always a delight to
> read other people’s take on this essay, which
> shares in the Shakespearean quality of being
> different for every reader and indeed goes on to
> be different to ourselves as we re-read it over a
> lifetime.

I just read Jenny Odell's essay (for which I thank you), and I agree with [at least most of] what you are saying.

I think the value (or relative non-value) of Emerson's works and thought, and in particular the personal usefulness of this specific essay written by Emerson, is greatly dependent on the varied realities of any given reader's life.

In my case, I first read "Self-Reliance," that day in Mrs. Cline's class, when I was fourteen years old (younger than anyone else in my class; I had previously skipped twice), when I was, involuntarily and incomprehensibly, in the central midst of what were, quite obviously, very deep extended family problems which made absolutely no sense by any rational standards or perspectives.

I was extremely confused, because of what appeared, to me, to be a crazy/insane/incomprehensible family milieu within which I had not the remotest, slightest, scintilla of suspicion might be centered around, what was in truth, my very biological existence as a living human being. (As I learned over two decades later, to my complete and totally unsuspecting amazement: my "father" who raised me was my biological uncle, and his brother, my "uncle," was my actual biological father--and EVERYONE in the family knew this but me.)

This, the fact that I was not my father's daughter, was impacting my life in day-to-day ways which made no sense at all (I would get punished, and sometimes fairly brutally, for what, to any other family, would be achievements: good grades, school awards, etc.)

Prior to my reading "Self-Reliance," my only coping mechanism had been to lump all of the physical/emotional maltreatment of me with all of the, extremely outspoken, racism which my mother's family had brought with them on their way west from Oklahoma. In California history, the "Okies" moving west to California during the Depression was one of our state's most important events, and my maternal family was part of that major migration....thanks to my Aunt Tomi and the huge personal sacrifices she made in order to move her entire family west. [My maternal step-grandfather had been KKK when he lived in Kansas (before he married my grandmother), and my aunt (his biological daughter), and my uncle (from that side of the family, through marriage), were the two most virulent racists I have ever personally known].

So I grew up in a family where, for me individually, "up" was "down" (I got punished, and sometimes really badly, for the achievements any other kid I knew was congratulated for), and every other opposite duo in the life which swirled around me was turned inside out.

When I first encountered "Self-Reliance" in American Lit, I was a kid who was actively mentally searching for some kind of dependable and solid rationality in my life.


> Snippet:
>
> “I’d done this throughout my entire life, but
> especially in How to Do Nothing. Around my favored
> versions of contemplative solitude, so similar to
> Emerson’s, a whole suite of circumstances
> appeared in full relief, like something coming
> into focus. The women in the kitchen made the
> mens’ conversation possible, just as my trip to
> the mountain—and really all of my time spent
> walking, observing, and courting the
> “over-soul”—rested upon a long list of
> privileges, from the specific (owning a car,
> having the time), to the general (able-bodied,
> upper-middle-class, half white and half “model
> minority,” a walkable neighborhood in a
> desirable city, and more). There was an entire
> infrastructure around my experience of freedom,
> and I’d been so busy chasing it that I hadn’t
> seen it.“
> I have never been in a position to not see it.

I "saw" it all right, even before I read the essay in American Lit that day, but I had no framework to understand it because--at home and within my extended family--everything was topsy-turvy. What "Self-Reliance" gave to me, at the age of fourteen, was the framework I had been, rather desperately (because I didn't know if I actually WAS insane or not--most of my family thought I was actually insane) searching for.


> Born from a long line of lower working class
> drudges, rough, ready, none too romantic, and
> nothing taken for granted, because it cannot be
> afforded, I have yet to feel my body not chained
> to a myriad of dependencies. Odell’s confessed
> blindspot is not my own (nor do I think it is
> Emerson’s).

We are all chained to "a myriad of dependencies," beginning with our families of birth--and then extending steadily outwards: to our local communities, to our nation, to the planet and to all of our planet's inhabitants. The "chains" are real, but what I discovered in "Self-Reliance" was a way to continue to exist within those dependencies, while understanding the larger context(s) which is/are simultaneously also true.


> What was and is necessary for me, as I jumble
> around within this endless chain of dependencies,
> which of course entails all kinds of
> responsibilities, is to hold the ‘me myself’,
> as Whitman has it, aloof, to keep “in the midst
> of the crowd...the independence of solitude,”
> and to do so “with perfect sweetness”.

Yes.


> It is too easy to conflate our self with our body,
> our self with our labour, our profession; our
> responsibilities, creeds, faiths, beliefs; our
> race, culture, nation; our heritage and lineage.
> We are more than these, and every single
> individual is more than these.

Yes....this is what *I* got out of "Self-Reliance."


> My gratitude to RfM for a spot to fumble around
> amidst a busy, noisy life.

My sentiments exactly. In many ways, RfM has been the best, most supportive, venue for cognitive "fumbling around" I have ever had access to during my lifetime.

My gratitude towards this board, to its founders (Thank you, Eric!), and to its various members of Admin who have each been SO important through the years, and towards the people who gather here, is immense.

Thank you to EVERYONE!!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/18/2020 01:23AM by Tevai.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 18, 2020 03:08PM

Tevai, that was quite personal, and more than I could have anticipated. Thank you for the cognitive fumbling ;^)

We all end up meeting on campuses and in offices and on worksites and etc, seemingly more or less alike with similar childhoods etc, similar cultural touchstones etc, and yet how utterly different our childhoods are, *as it was felt at the time*. Yours was bewildering, indeed.

At the moment I'm reading of another bewildering girlhood, that of Sybille Bedford's European childhood as revealed in her "Jigsaw".

I recall Rilke, again:

"I prayed to rediscover my childhood, and it has come back, and I feel that it is just as difficult as it used to be, and that growing older has served no purpose at all."

--Rainer Maria Rilke--
--The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge--

Not true; but sometimes it is, still.

(On your Okie background: few books break my heart as bleedingly as The Grapes Of Wrath.)

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: January 18, 2020 11:29AM

I am well aware of my social dependencies. I enjoy my privileges in large part because I come from a long line of people who made good, or bold, or pro-social decisions. I have made many good decisions on my own as well.

Over time, I have become quite comfortable with who I am. As a youth, I went through a period of mild rebellion, eventually returning to my mostly-conforming roots.

As far as religion, I was raised to be something of a skeptic. I was taught by my parents to never accept any dogma or church policy without question -- to never hand over my thinking to someone else. In my high school and university days, this skepticism led me on a quest to find "the truth" through an exploration of various western and eastern philosophies and traditions. This led me to thinking that the Taoists, through their close observation of nature, probably came the closest of any group to figuring out "how things work."

Over the years, I abandoned my quest for spiritual enlightenment. I came to see it as willing a flower to bloom ahead of schedule. If I were meant to be enlightened, it would happen in its own time, not because I forced it. Until that day, I would proceed with my life.

I stopped thinking that any spiritual leader has any great wisdom exceeding my own accumulated wisdom. This is not to puff my self up, but instead an acknowledgment that spiritual leaders are, like myself, mere human beings. They may have thoughts that are worthy of consideration, but as people, they are not to be venerated. They don't have a special knowledge. They are not spokespeople for God.

In that sense, I learned to trust myself. I am comfortable with myself and with the state of my soul. I am not concerned in the slightest with pleasing God (beyond being a normal, law-abiding citizen, and a loving friend and family member.) I have given a lifetime of service (because that is how I wanted to spend my life,) and if that's not good enough, it's not good enough. So be it. What will be, will be.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/18/2020 11:32AM by summer.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 18, 2020 03:42PM

summer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> ...this skepticism led me on a quest to find "the truth"
> through an exploration of various western and
> eastern philosophies and traditions. This led me
> to thinking that the Taoists, through their close
> observation of nature, probably came the closest
> of any group to figuring out "how things work."

That is interesting, how skepticism did not expunge in you a presumption that nevertheless there just *might* be "the truth" out there anyway. Skepticism is often associated with a "holding back", a "halting", and yet it is the very attitude that propelled you forward, to explore and discover.

I was either born with that presumption or learned it via pain (my childhood was painful). This captures my early attitude:

"Born with a home-sick longing after heaven, as a child I wept over the squalor of existence and felt myself strange and homeless among men. From childhood upwards I have looked for God and found the devil."

--August Strindberg--
--"Zones of the Spirit"--

And I keep finding the devil.


> Over the years, I abandoned my quest for spiritual
> enlightenment. I came to see it as willing a
> flower to bloom ahead of schedule. If I were meant
> to be enlightened, it would happen in its own
> time, not because I forced it. Until that day, I
> would proceed with my life.

That is wise. And if you'll forgive me self-praise, I've done the same. What you said here is reminiscent of a key writer to my own early "search", Count Hermann Keyserling, of whom I learned via Henry Miller. I found his two volume "Travel Diary of a Philosopher", dusty, neglected, and presumably unread since 1931, on the back shelves of the Downtown Seattle library:

"To every level of existence a special truth corresponds; the butterfly's formula of life is not appropriate to the caterpillar, no matter how much the former may be the latter's aim --precisely in order to become a butterfly it must previously be a caterpillar and a cocoon."

If it is to happen, it'll happen when it happens. Meanwhile, we live and we love.

And we trust:

"Every state [of existence] is necessary and in so far it is necessary it is good. The blossom does not deny the leaf and the leaf does not deny the stalk nor the stalk the root. To be friendly to man does not imply the desire to change all the leaves into blossoms, but it does imply letting the leaves be leaves and understanding them lovingly."

And yet, *because* I live and love, I sometimes grow very mistrustful indeed.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: January 20, 2020 11:07AM

The lotus does not deny the mud. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of being grateful for the mud. It’s so easy to mistrust that I have to keep reminding myself that all is love. Anything else is illusion.

Or I’m losing my marbles, which isn’t so bad if I get to decide which way to lose them.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 21, 2020 11:44PM

“...I have to keep reminding myself that all is love. Anything else is illusion.”

No. All is not love. For example, torturing people and animals is not love, but is perennially part of all. And that is not an illusion.

I could never master the zen trick of accepting all, let alone loving all. I do not accept all things, and I cannot love everything.

Truth to tell, I struggle to deny Schopenhauer’s “life is something that should not be.” And I LOVE life! But I do not love Koalas and Roos burning alive by the tens of thousands. That should not be. Hell should not be.

But it is.

I will never be zen. I love too much and I hate too hard. If pressed, my god (whom I’d never worship) is the gnostic one, the evil demiurge blundering a catastrophe for who knows how long.

I would love zen. I would love to accept everything. I would love to find love everywhere. But I don’t. I just don’t. Where you see an illusion I see living, breathing, feeling aliveness, I see life.

Maya’s a bitch because it’s real.

Human

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 12:14AM

Human, I don't think you have Zen right.

There is no form of Buddhism that "accepts all" or "loves all." To the contrary, Buddhism posits that suffering is the defining characteristic of life and that there can be no happiness in life. Nirvana is literally the extinction of individual existence. Buddhism teaches respect for life and the advisability of helping other living beings when possible but it rejects as delusion and suffering everything people experience in this or other lives.

Those who say Buddhism, including Chan/Zen, teaches loving and accepting everything have fallen into (what I sardonically describe as) the California School of Buddhism, meaning the touchy-feely notion that life is wonderful and reincarnation a good thing. That may be attractive to wealthy Westerners with an affinity for marijuana, but it is about as far from Buddhist doctrine as one can get.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 12:35AM

yes. I used the idea as it was given.


But California Buddhism is no less or more than other forms of Buddhism. Buddhism takes the form of the people, the local, whether in Laos or Thailand or Japan or Santa Barbara. It has moved many ways out from India.

Yes, there are scholarly ways to distinguish between them, and to note the history of Buddhism’s spread and change.

And back to zen, Japanese rather than Hindu, as different as satori is from nirvana. Different places with different people emphasize different things, as well as discard and add different things. And California has its version too. Yes

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 12:54AM

> yes. I used the idea as it was given.

Our views are probably quite similar.


-----------------
> But California Buddhism is no less or more than
> other forms of Buddhism. Buddhism takes the form
> of the people, the local, whether in Laos or
> Thailand or Japan or Santa Barbara. It has moved
> many ways out from India.

I'm not sure that is right. Of course religions do evolve as they move into different contexts, but there is only so far the rubber band can be stretched before it snaps. For example, Buddhism and Jainism and Hinduism all originated in the same place and from the same sources but are generally treated as distinct religions. The same is true of Christianity and Judaism or Islam and Judeao-Christianity.

My point is that while you can say that California Buddhists are truly Buddhists, I think the rubber band burst some time ago. The foundation of Buddhism is rejection of life. It follows that a school of thought that affirms life is, no matter what its adherents claim, no longer Buddhism.


----------------------
> Yes, there are scholarly ways to distinguish
> between them, and to note the history of
> Buddhism’s spread and change.
>
> And back to zen, Japanese rather than Hindu, as
> different as satori is from nirvana.

I'm confused by this point since Buddhism is not Hinduism. They are about as close as Islam and Judaism. Zen is in fact Chan, and those two schools remain very similar despite the many centuries since their geographical separation.

Moreover, "satori/wu" is not significantly different from "nirvana." Satori/wu is simply a taste of nirvana experienced in this life. But every Chinese and Japanese Chan/Zen text explicitly teaches that nirvana is the goal and satori is simply a temporary "realization" of that condition. There are other Buddhist sects that share that doctrine.


----------------------
> Different
> places with different people emphasize different
> things, as well as discard and add different
> things. And California has its version too.

True to a certain extent. But the Californians' assertion that their celebration of life is truly Buddhist is belied by the foundational Buddhist doctrine that corporal life does not in fact exist.

Mormons may claim that they are the true Israelites and the true Christians, but their insistence on that point does not make them right.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 01:21AM

You are trying to make a scholarly case (in extreme brief) for what is and what is not Buddhism, and what the one true Buddhism is. You even assert an opinion for what is the first axiom of Buddhism, so to speak, the point where a thing is no longer itself and becomes something else:

“The foundation of Buddhism is rejection of life. It follows that a school of thought that affirms life is, no matter what its adherents claim, no longer Buddhism.”

Okay. That’s your assessment. Others disagree. So it goes...

But to go back to your original objection, the loose use of the word/idea zen: to speak absurdly, Buddhism doesn’t own it any more than Christianity owns the word/idea Heaven.

(Off to sleep. Sweet dreams, LW)

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 01:26AM

And by the way, I affirm your point. I’m still pissed that people get away with saying “I could care less” when they mean “I couldn’t care less” just because enough people make the mistake.

But that’s how it is and always had been, one mistake to another.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 03:43AM

We are at the point of semantic differences, so this is all unnecessary, but when it comes to Buddhism the best place to start is the Four Noble Truths, which are effectively the Articles of Faith shared by all sects. They are

1) The truth that life is suffering,

2) The truth that suffering stems from the existence of the individual,

3) The truth that suffering ends with nirhodha/nirvana, the extinction of the individual existence, and

4) The true path to nirvana through the unraveling of the passions that tie one to the illusion of life.

That quadripartite scheme is the earliest enunciation of Buddhism, attributed to the Buddha himself, and recorded in what are considered the earliest documents of the faith. It informs all modern sects--

--except for what I am calling the California school of Buddhism, whose celebration of life is a direct contradiction of the Four Truths. The two philosophies are opposites, tied together by nothing more than Orwellian doublespeak.

Elder Old Dog may claim that he is the reincarnated Jesus, but that does not make it true.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 10:55AM

If I meet EOD in my path may I kill him?

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 08:33AM

“Maya’s a bitch because it’s real.”

Shit happens. Sometimes bad shit. It’s better by a lot if it doesn’t happen, or so it seems, but how would I know looking through the peephole lens of life? Eternity is hidden from me. Whatever happened was not ruled out. It could still fit the mold of “the best thing that could possibly happen”.

My philosophy was once “life’s a bitch and then you die”. One day was idly talking to myself, making jokes, when just before I got to the “bitch” part I distinctly heard in my head, “Wonderful gift”. I chewed on that for many years, wondering how it could be. Maybe I still don’t know, but at least I have a testimony that it’s indeed the case.

There can be two truths at play, existing simultaneously. First, life’s a bitch and then you die. Second, life is divine perfection. Perhaps the ability to happily entertain both at the same time is a matter of temperament. If you can’t do it’s because God made you that way. Riddles, riddles. It sucks so bad, doesn’t it? Yet we keep coming back for more.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/22/2020 09:57AM by babyloncansuckit.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: January 18, 2020 05:03PM


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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: January 18, 2020 06:15PM

Nightingale Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> n/t

Thank you, Nightingale!!

:)

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: January 19, 2020 03:26PM

You're welcome, Tevai. I really enjoyed reading this thread - thanks, Human, as well. Thought-provoking.

I'm so very sorry, though, for the unhappy childhood experiences that you've been through, Tevai. I don't remember reading about that before, or at least not these details. You know what they say: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And you are so strong. And willing to limitlessly share your strength with others. It is amazing and unbelievable what people can survive. The negatives can become positives in the sense of the refiner's fire principle - that absent such experiences you wouldn't be the person you are or do what you do on the positive side of the equation. Musicians and artists and writers create great works arising out of their pain and multitudes of people respond to the beauty of the music, the art and the tales which reflect their own feelings and experiences and yearnings.

I am reading a book called "Five Days Gone" by Laura Cumming which you may enjoy, Tevai. It relates experiences in her mother's life in England, including being kidnapped at the age of 3, which her mom doesn't remember and doesn't find out about until the age of 60. Her daughter goes on a quest to discover what happened. (I'm not giving anything away writing these details - Laura Cumming shares this description in interviews - I heard her speak on the radio recently. She's lovely to listen to and compelled me to buy her book the very next day just by the beautiful way in which she expresses herself). She is a journalist, an art and literary critic, a radio presenter and an author. Her book (Five Days Gone) is a memoir, so beautifully written I can't put it down. It has pushed aside any other book lined up awaiting my attention (not to mention numerous chores going undone!). Cumming's writing is infused with her artistic eye, her lyrical descriptions unique from anything else I've ever read. You can tell she loves art and is learned about it from how she expresses herself.

Here are some of the opening lines:

"This is how it began, and how it would end, on the long pale strand of a Lincolnshire beach in the last hour of sun, the daylight moon small as a kite in the sky. Far below, a child of three was playing by herself with a new tin spade. It was still strangely warm in that autumn of 1929, and she had taken off her plimsolls to feel the day's heat lingering in the sand beneath her feet. Short fair hair, no coat, blue eyes and dress to match: that was the description later given to the police." (pg 1)

"The place where she was playing empties into air; the tide freezes; the beach turns blank. Time stands still on the shore." (pg 2)

"Come over this ridge, and even more surprising than the flatness is the way the sand appears to merge with the sea. The beach is tawny brown and so is the brine, because it washes over beds of clay. On a still day they become one vast continuous expanse, an optical illusion only dispelled when a chink of reflected blue sky spangles the water or a sudden gust troubles the surface." (pg 4)

---

In my dreams could I come up with descriptions such as that.

There is something in common with Laura's mom's story and yours, Tevai, that I can't spell out or I'll give away too much information in case anybody wants to read the book. I don't want to spoil it. But that's partly what made me think you might enjoy this read.

Cumming also includes photos in the book and describes them in her unique style. Of great interest to me, as I am intrigued by photographic history, is that she has photos taken by her grandfather in the 1920s. It's amazing he had a camera and could afford film and developing costs as he was not well off. I have a few sepia photos of my great-greats and they are precious to me, although at this remove, sadly, information on their names and histories, and even their relationships to me, is thin. Dust you are and to dust you will return, certainly. I hope to fill in some of the blanks and bring them back to life, at least in the photographic history of the family. Even if nobody is too concerned about it now, maybe in the future some relative or other will be happy I made the effort. I hope so.



I also happened to come across a story yesterday about a woman who sends in a sample for DNA testing, the test a present from a relative, only to receive back unexpected startling news that she wasn't related to the man she had thought was her father. Apparently (and I guess predictably) it's quite common. Here's her story:


https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/07/dna-test-misattributed-paternity/562928/


I'm very interested in doing my own test but am uncertain about possible repercussions - more about putting my DNA out there than about concern re possible results. But I guess everybody says that! For now, I'm holding off. But I'm very tempted.


Anyway, happy reading, Tevai, if you choose to get this book. It's more narrative than action but so well done, imho, that I don't mind that. It's perfect for me, anyway, on this dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon, sitting here with my cup of tea. English, of course.

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: January 19, 2020 11:31PM

Thank you, Nightingale!!

The article in ATLANTIC is superb for anyone who is, or thinks they might be, affected by "surprise" blood relatives (or, as in my case, relatives who you know full well ARE related to you--but you eventually discover are not related to you in exactly the same way you have always been told they were).

In the years since my Mom was finally forced to tell me the truth (my Grandma was trying extremely hard to tell me before she died), I have (unsurprisingly) done a whole lot of thinking about what this experience is like, and how someone in my general situation reconfigures what they thought they knew--but actually did not.

My conclusion is: of the two brothers, I got the best of the two as the father who raised me.

In no way is this meant to whitewash anything he did in his life (especially to my Mom, when I was about two or three on, after HE found out the truth--but also includes some particularly pernicious, and in one case lifetime in duration, damage he did specifically to me in retribution)....

....but I observed enough of the family fallout which happened through the years and the decades (some of it the doings of my Grandma's malicious youngest sister, for reasons I do not know--today, with what we know now, I think she was probably deeply personality disordered) to realize that, of the two brothers, I got, by far, the best one.

Regardless of any other simultaneous reality, I was given the opportunities and the "space" to carve out, in the family I knew as "my own"-- a place where I could thrive, and reach many of my potentials.

Without any question in my mind, the alternative, if I had grown up with my biological father, would have resulted in me, at a very young age, being squashed like an unwanted bug. (There were considerable, insoluble, problems with the woman my father's brother married--and, as life has unfolded, his other biological children were harmed for life.)

I am sorry for my Mom. What my father (the one who raised me) did to her, from the point where he found out the truth about my paternity, to the very end, the very last breath, of my Mom's life, was unconscionable and, frequently, horrifying. She deserved MUCH better--but with him, that was never to be.

I am very happy that, because of DNA testing, the situation for what I think are most people is better now. My sense is that there is a lot more of families accepting facts as they are, and a WHOLE lot less judgmentalism, from most family members, and from society at large, than used to be the norm when I was growing up.

I am going to read the Laura Cumming book, and I thank you very much for your recommendation.

Thank you for all of your many gifts which you give so generously here.

Thank you, Nightingale, for being you.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/19/2020 11:35PM by Tevai.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: January 21, 2020 04:49PM

Tevai Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thank you, Nightingale!!

You're very welcome. (And you're so kind to me - I appreciate your generous words).

Here is a bit more of Cumming's genius descriptive ability:

"On the beachfront now, the blue paintwork fades to white and a sudden shaft of winter sun strikes the dun sea, emphasizing the fine silver brush-line that divides the monochrome sky from the monochrome water. Glowing lightbulbs sway uneasily along the front. People walk their dogs miles away, as it seems, at the sea's edge while the big wheel slowly turns. Skegness, off-season, still has the power to enchant, a period piece of the pleasurable past." (pg 83)

"In summer, the sky is almost blindingly bright, arcing high above the green crops. In winter, voluminous clouds scud blue-black over bare claggy soil. Even now the nameless roads are only just wide enough for tractors and hay carts, twisting around the boundaries of ancient fields, barely any distance between sharp right-angled bends. Sugar beet alternates with potatoes - the Second World War victory crop - brussels sprouts with beans, sending out their beautiful fragrance into the summer air." (Pg 84)

"Gradually Betty began to draw what she saw from the bus, trying hard to get down the peculiar geography: "I faced the obvious pitfalls: how to express the vastness of the plain stretching away to the horizon, unfeatured almost, and the nebulous over-circling hemisphere, to make it all breathe, make the space limitlessly airy and never inert." At school, the art teacher, who would later become a decisive figure in my mother's life, showed her Rembrandt's etchings. 'He could do this with the Dutch landscape in such a few deft lines incised on the copper plate. I wondered why we had no Rembrandt...'" (Pg 85-86)


It's obvious that Laura Cumming sees the world through an artist's eyes. I love that "monochrome sky/monochrome water". A detail she has noticed and described that many wouldn't even see or couldn't paint a picture with words as she does.

OK, so, yeah, I'm liking the book.

Sorry for the diversion.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/21/2020 04:50PM by Nightingale.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: January 21, 2020 05:27PM

The great woman is she who in the midst of any society keeps without perfect sweetness the independence of her soul. Anyone who can lose their self (reified and nurtured by their society) to find a soul in fact.

Creatures have souls, selves have aspirations.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: January 21, 2020 11:52PM

I’m sorry. I tried and failed. I don’t understand.

I like the rhythm of the words, the sound. But I can’t make sense of it.

What does it mean?

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 11:00AM

"I was far from immune to this essay. I underlined “the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” But the more I looked back on it, the more I began to wrestle with the essay’s blind spot. I didn’t immediately see it, because the blind spot was also my own."
https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/01/15/the-myth-of-self-reliance/

Context everything. Sorry for my stream of consciousness leaking onto your thread.

Self is the premier illusion for us. The Myth Of Self is our reliance upon it.

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Posted by: olderelder ( )
Date: January 21, 2020 09:35PM

The transcendentalists impacted me at a very simple level. Having been raised in the conformity cult called the Mormon Church, it was one of the first times I was exposed to a high-minded call for nonconformity. Whoa! Nonconformity can be good? It's not always evil? Tell. Me. More!

From there I learned about autonomy and being self-directed, about developing my own locus of morality rather than always deferring to authority, about setting my own goals rather than chasing only the ones others set for me (which mostly served their purposes, not mine). I learned that I had value beyond my ability to please others with my conformity. Validation and praise stopped being my only motivation. (Do you like me now? Do you love me yet? How about now? How about NOW?)

I became self-reliant in the sense I could take care of myself, run my life (my OWN life) without supposed authority constantly telling me what to do and how to do it.

And I became less anxious, less self-loathing. I became happy.

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: January 21, 2020 10:04PM

What you describe is what I am pretty sure Emerson himself had as his ultimate goal, when he put his words to paper.

I wish he could know that, 179 years later, his work is still actively changing lives for the better.

Really good post, olderelder!!

Thank you.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: January 22, 2020 11:03AM

olderelder Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And I became less anxious, less self-loathing. I
> became happy.

There is a middle way. Attempt to not self-loath or self-worship regardless of who is in control of many of the little things that self-promote your illusion of self control.

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