Someday, when the world begins
to darken, I’ll
walk in the silence
of early morning, peering
into empty shops with
cataract gray eyes
And I’ll remember being
young, moving fast, skin
smooth like a new bar of soap,
and wondering when I would
I’ll know then, there
is no making it.
Child, you’re already home.
At 4:00, I’ll eat my
dinner, just the basics –
salad, potato, tea.
And I’ll look out the window
near the garden and watch
the early robins feast
until my eyelids flicker,
The final act, not a drama but a lullaby.
I already talked about the Hobby Lobby case in various corners of the internet, but I realize it’s something I should address here because I take an approach few critics are taking, and it has a lot to do with the topic of my blog, Style Wise.
If you haven’t already heard, the Supreme Court exempted Hobby Lobby from providing certain types of birth control believed to act as abortifacients (basically, birth control that keeps a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall). While I’m ideologically pro-life, I think it’s better to regulate the market and make safe options available to women than to restrict more invasive types of birth control. But I’m not all that disturbed by the immediate repercussions of this particular case. What scares me is that the court had to argue that Hobby Lobby is protected under rights normally granted to individuals. Corporate personhood is a slippery slope!
All that aside, Hobby Lobby represents a type of Christianity prevalent in America that so heavily favors capitalism it can’t see the plank in its eye (that’s a Bible reference! Matthew 7:5). I should know because I worked there for a year. Because I helped set up a local store, I got to see the first boxes of products arrive. I had a lot of time to read the labels and scrutinize the products. As it turns out, the majority of products are made in China. And this isn’t artisanal stuff; it’s sweatshop quality. Even the custom frames are shipped from China. It doesn’t take long to realize that Hobby Lobby, a company that plays Christian elevator music over its speaker system and donates to Texan homeschool organizations, is making profit – a lot of profit – on goods sourced from sweatshops.
There have been several articles that point out the hypocrisy of buying product from a country with a one child policy, but I don’t think this approach goes far enough. It’s not just about abortion! If you’re going to be pro-life, that should extend to everyone. Everyone deserves a chance at life, even poor people in China, even non-Christians, even people who don’t like Americans very much.
What kills me about the Hobby Lobby case is that they had the resources to revitalize their production chain and provide better wages and better protections to the people who toil to make cheap shadow boxes and “handcrafted” garden statues, but instead they directed their time and money to the petty task of trying to prove a point about the shortcomings of universal health care.
In your curiosity
and gentleness you
Life can be simple.
One need not strive
some choice hay
and a welcoming
Or a friend to get
And, don’t be shy
about a midnight snack
or, an argument
easily made up
with a quiet sit together
on the stoop.
If you walk into the story – if you walk into Christ among us – that releases hope in our midst.
– Sister Simone Campbell
I took a step back from writing longer posts because I got tired of all the opinions flooding the internet. Sure, I’m bound to prefer to tweak a few things here and there with any given argument, but for the most part I’d rather let a few prominent voices with more energy and more resources than me hash it out while the rest of us watch.
We think that because we have platforms for voicing our opinions that we must come up with something to say. But then we’re all mumbling and grumbling and shouting over each other and nothing is resolved. I have opinions, but I tell them to my husband, my sister, a coworker, my mom. I stumble over my thoughts as I let the words pour out. I make a fool of myself, but I do it in relative privacy.
I think it may be better if we use our words for stories rather than opinions about other people’s stories. Think about it. The only truly novel thing we have to offer are our stories.
You can shout with the masses that you loathe [insert societal woe here], but your words will largely go unnoticed. But what if you told a story of overcoming prejudice, or of helping resolve a tense social situation? You have profound object lessons to present and you’re the only one with access to them.
You can jump into the battlefields of the great opinion wars – scrambling for something to add to the cacophony, elbowing and kicking the shins of anyone who dares shout over you – or you can extend your hands and weave a tale that leads the people out of darkness.
Our stories offer clarity. They offer peace. They make sense of nonsense. Your story is a little part of the human story. Tell it and listen to others and you’ll realize that most online arguments are just meaningless blips on the map of human experience, not worth a comment or a blog post or a rant.
Reading Lolita in Tehran is the best memoir I’ve ever read. It’s intelligent, creative, intimate, and intricately and artfully narrated. I paused several times throughout my reading so that I could participate in author Azar Nafisi’s classroom just a little bit longer.
Her firm grasp of English Literature and Literary Criticism serve as a surprising, but really quite fitting, foundation to a discussion on revolutionary Iran. The memoir is about politics and fundamentalism, but it’s ultimately about the human condition, about how our proclivity for self narration informs the way we see and form ourselves and our societies. Stories can obstruct as much as they reveal, destroy as much as they create. The book, then, can be understood as a literary critique of the story Iran tells about itself at the start of the Iranian Revolution and of the thousands of personal narratives spilled out to counter it. Perhaps in peeling off these wordy layers – narratives piled on top of narratives – we can begin to arrive at something closer to the truth. But the truth we discover is less tangible, though just as moral in its aim as the black and white ethics imposed upon the Iranian people. It is seeing, really seeing, the multifaceted nature of humanity; we are strong, dishonest, cowardly, loving, kind, hateful, and oblivious all at once. We are all capable of evil. We all lean toward apathy.
I can only assume that those who say they “couldn’t really get into it” were expecting the light stuff of Eat, Pray, Love and its equals. But Reading Lolita in Tehran is the pinnacle of what memoir can be. It’s what memoir should be. You should leave with more than a feeling. As Nafisi explains within the book, literature exists to provide context for the individual, to explore the nuances of human interaction and behavior. Reading Lolita in Tehran bridges the gap between literature and autobiography; you should leave it with a better understanding of the other and yourself, and with a great deal more empathy.
We last went sightseeing in Baltimore in December 2012. This time around was much different. Daniel’s mom, a Baltimore native, was our chauffeur and tour guide last year, which made getting around simple and fairly stress free. This time, we relied on the hotel shuttle to drop us off at the Inner Harbor (beautiful, but a bit touristy) and walked where we could.
On Friday night, we went to Fridays after Five at the National Aquarium (only $12.00 after 5 pm until March 28!) then sought out a place to eat. On our way to Cheesecake Factory, we spotted a Pizzeria Uno and a wave of nostalgia washed over us both. We ate at one of the original Pizzeria Uno establishments almost every night when we visited Chicago with friends in college. Chicago was the first big city I visited and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Since we were technically there to attend a Religious Studies conference, we spent most of Saturday at the convention center reading, attending panels, and catching up with friends when we had the chance. I gave myself a tour of the premises while Daniel attended a session and found that the 4th floor offered lovely city views. We joined some friends for crab cake sandwiches at the Rusty Scupper for lunch.
After checking out of the hotel on Sunday, we went to Savers, a delightful thrift emporium, then met up with Daniel’s cousin, Dustin, for lunch and a glimpse of the Ravens game at a local sports bar. He suggested we visit historic (founded in 1772) and affluent (situated in the 3rd wealthiest county in the US) Ellicott City. The antique stores were mostly rubbish, but the coffee shop we visited had good hot chocolate. We finished off the day with a quick trip into the city to check out the Walters Art Museum and visit with the girl I used to babysit and her mom at their hotel (they were there for the conference, as well).
A trip to Baltimore makes for a unique, enjoyable, occasionally alarming experience.
I’ve been manic for the past few days. I have this sudden urge to do, make, complete. But it feels unhealthy, because I’m never satisfied and I’m always on edge. Perhaps starting up a Monthly Goals post series will redirect my activity to something a bit more satisfying.
- List items for Platinum & Rust every week.
- Go to Carter Mountain Orchard.
- Visit Skyline Drive and take lots of photos.
- Find a nice candle and burn it often.
- Finish painting bookshelves and get the library back in order.
- Watch Hocus Pocus while eating homemade popcorn.
- Cut my bangs.
What are your goals this month?
A smile between strangers.
Watching the robin hunt
folding three loads of laundry, dropping
into the teapot.
Writing in your journal, listening
to your spouse, sharing:
a meal, a ride,
A cool breeze that cuts
through humid air.
The clack of boots
on asphalt. Going,
Habit and impulse.
Pray without ceasing –
Let this journey be