Where are our heroes? Where are our role models? Why are we leaving youth behind and laughing at the ones who are still there? Why not help each other out instead? With a little grace, with a little compassion. Love for all and everyone around because we’re all stumbling or succeeding back and forth, every day, and I want more community. I want helpers and guidance. Am I helping someone? I don’t know, but since the tender age of eighteen I have written down my stories and experiences of love and loss and youth, just so these stories can exist in the world. For someone out there to find and read and feel a voice in my words saying, “I’ve been there, I’ve done this, you can too: come, follow me.”
― Charlotte Eriksson, Everything Changed When I Forgave Myself: growing up is a wonderful thing to do
February saw the second Synkroniciti event, themed Walk in My Shoes. It was a great time to recharge batteries and share new creations.
We began a wide ranging conversation touching on, among other things, art, family, ghosts, spirituality and work. The expression of selfhood and its impact on relationships was the center of our musings. This eventually lead us to speaking of teenagers and our own teenage years, and we continued with a reading of Sister Godzilla, a chapter from Louise Erdrich’s masterful novel, A Plague of Doves.
Evelina has a new teacher. Sister Mary Anita has a large toothy jaw and Evelina, lost in a daydream in class, makes a drawing of “Sister Godzilla”, not realizing that the Sister is looking over her shoulder. Erdrich’s honesty, matched by her riotous and impish sense of humor, are disarming and inviting as Evelina’s cruelty is changed into empathy. Here is the moment of transformation, which comes after a humorous and yet serious exchange between the two women. The evasive humor drops away, replaced by naked awareness.
“Can I go now?”
“Of course not,” said Mary Anita.
I was confounded. The magical two words, an apology, had dropped from my lips. Yet more was expected. What?
“I want you to understand something,” said the nun. “I’ve told you how I feel. And I expect you will never hurt me again.”
Again the nun waited and waited, until our eyes met. My mouth fell wide. My eyes spilled over again. I knew that the strange feelings that had come upon me and transfixed me were the same feelings that Mary Anita felt. I had never felt another person’s feelings, never in my life.
“I won’t do anything to hurt you,” I babbled in a fit of startled agony. “I’ll kill myself first.”
“I’m sure that will not be necessary,” said Sister Mary Anita.
After the reading, Kelly showed some beautiful prints she had made recently using the soles of old shoes. The prints were inspired by a fascinating pendant made by her son when he was in third grade. You can see that the first one is light and tentative; the second, rather like a flower’s corona, is aggressive and darker; and the third, which may evoke snakes, coffee beans, or strings of beads, is a play between the two. You can’t tell this from the pictures, but the prints also had a lovely texture. We don’t think about the patterns on the bottoms of shoes and the surprising variety and beauty in their design.
I was very excited to present two pairs of my old shoes converted into art objects. One pair of high heels that became uncomfortable over time is now a pair of Party Shoes. I like to think of them as Shoe Drag Queens, beautiful and flashy with glitter, flowers, feathers and ribbon. A pair of boots, lightly worn because the arch was in the wrong place for my foot, became Nesting Shoes, earthy representations of nests with wings. They were so much fun to make that I had to force myself to stop (I have a couple more pairs of old shoes). You can read more about my process and my interpretation here. They are somewhat kitschy and very striking. I would love to make more of these for people…it can be an interesting way of preserving a favorite shoe. I am fairly sure this is the only time I’ve ever felt good about “putting my shoes on the table”.
It was a lovely evening. Yuri came out to claim his position as official Synkroniciti Mas-cat. Those who attended our earlier Open Mics before the second and third floods in our old home will remember that his sister Lisa Sasabuki used to preside in meetings, taking an interest in art and performance. She was one of us, and she was always an encouraging and attentive critic. She passed over the rainbow bridge between the second and third flood. We miss her but still feel her big presence (especially for such a small kitty). Yuri’s specialty is performance art, especially rolling over for tummy rubs. Younger sister Keiko Buki spent the evening in the office closet, reminiscent of Yuri in his younger days.
Our next gathering, which is our first Playdate (these are more active than Soirées) is March 30th and we will be building faerie houses. We made faerie houses in 2016, right before the flood came and washed them away. We are confident and hopeful that things will last longer this time. If you are in the Houston area, please come and be a part of this delightful event. It is my absolute favorite!
Going easy on ourselves also reflects a key cognitive fact: we judge ourselves by our internal motives and everyone else by their external actions. And thus, in considering our own misdeeds, we have more access to mitigating situational information. This is straight out of Us/Them–when Thems do something wrong, it’s because they’re simply rotten; when Us-es do it, it’s because of an extenuating circumstance and “Me” is the most focal Us there is, coming with the most insight into internal state. Thus, on this cognitive level, there is no inconsistency or hypocrisy and we might readily perceive a wrong to be mitigated by internal motives in the case of anyone’s misdeeds. It’s just easier to know those motives when we are the perpetrator.
The adverse consequences of this are wide and deep. Moreover, the pull towards judging yourself less harshly than others easily resists the rationality of deterrence. As Ariely writes in his book, “Overall, cheating is not limited by risk; it is limited by our ability to rationalize the cheating to ourselves”.
―Robert Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst
We need myths that will help us to identify with all our fellow-beings, not simply with those who belong to our ethnic, national or ideological tribe. We need myths that help us to realize the importance of compassion, which is not always regarded as sufficiently productive or efficient in our pragmatic, rational world. We need myths that help us to create a spiritual attitude, to see beyond our immediate requirements, and enable us to experience a transcendent value that challenges our solipsistic selfishness. We need myths that help us to venerate the earth as sacred once again, instead of merely using it as a ‘resource.’ This is crucial, because unless there is some kind of spiritual revolution that is able to keep abreast of our technological genius, we will not save our planet.
“People speak of the misfortunes of suffering, but if at this moment I were asked: ‘Would you rather be what you were before you were taken prisoner, or go through all this again?’ then for heaven’s sake let me again have captivity and horseflesh! We imagine that when we are thrown out of our usual ruts all is lost, but it is only then that what is new and good begins. While there is life there is happiness.”
But there were some things I believed in. Some things I had faith in. And faith isn’t about perfect attendance to services, or how much money you put on the little plate. It isn’t about going skyclad to the Holy Rites, or meditating each day upon the divine.
Faith is about what you do. It’s about aspiring to be better and nobler and kinder than you are. It’s about making sacrifices for the good of others – even when there’s not going to be anyone telling you what a hero you are.
―Jim Butcher, Changes
Some moments in a life, and they needn’t be very long or seem very important, can make up for so much in that life; can redeem, justify, that pain, that bewilderment, with which one lives, and invest one with the courage not only to endure it, but to profit from it; some moments teach one the price of human connection: if one can live with one’s own pain, then one respects the pain of others, and so, briefly, but transcendentally, we can release each other from pain.
But the Phoenix is not remarkable for its feathers or flames. It is most revered for its ability to climb from its own funeral pyre, from the very ashes of its old charred body, as a brand new life ready to live again once more. Life after life, it goes through this cycle. It absorbs human sorrow, only to rise from death to do it all again. It never wearies, it never tires. It never questions its fate. Some say that the Phoenix is real, that it exists somewhere out there in the mountains of Arabia, elusive and mysterious. Others say that the Phoenix is only a wish made by desperate humans to believe in the continuance of life.
But I know a secret.
We are the Phoenix.
―Courtney Cole, Every Last Kiss
I want to write something that means something to someone…that reminds them of what a second, a moment, really is…or that assures them that we are just as lost as they are. I want to write an emotion they are too fragile to let loose, so that my words can do the expression for them, the feeling for them. I want to write beyond the basics and the cliches…I want to write you, I want to write a long walk on a starry night, I want to write an exhale or an inhale…or suffocation.
I want to write as clear as my voice could be heard…that is, if I had anything to say.
We are known, appreciated, even cherished by our favorite writers; every word of our favorite books seems to have been written for us. Within their sentences and paragraphs, those writers are forever available, forever patient, including us in their compassionate recognition of the impossible, exhausting complexity of being human (those “many thousand” selves), never ignoring us or abandoning us or finding us dull. It’s you, they whisper, as we turn their pages, you are the one I’ve been waiting to tell everything to.