Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Brief Respite

I am writing to take a short break from writing. On Monday I decided to write a book that I don’t really care about in order to practice. Ironically, compared to the stories I have wanted to tell for years, this one is spilling out like water from a broken dam. If you have read much of my journaling, you might guess the story was a science fiction or fantasy novel. It is, in fact, more akin to a Nicholas Sparks novel than anything else. While my experience with Nicholas Sparks is limited to the very small amount of The Notebook that I managed to make it through before deciding the movie did a better job of telling the story and giving up, I did enjoy the movie, and one of his older films, A Walk to Remember, is one of my favorite romantic movies, hands down.

With the current popularity of trashy literature like Twilight and erotica such as 50 Shades of Grey, I feel like this venture could actually pay off when I manage, for the first time in my life, to finish a novel I start. I feel like there’s a good chance of this happening; I have written 13,399 words in the last three days and I will most likely continue working on it this evening.

As a teaser, let me share a tidbit or two with you. The working title, which will probably stick, is The West Wind. Early in the novel, the male protagonist’s father quotes Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” a Romantic poem about new beginnings. While the story is loosely based on another famous poem from a different era, The West Wind seemed appropriate. Xander and his father move to the fictional city of Vista Bay, California from Seattle, Washington after the death of Xander’s mother to a terminal illness. They buy a house on the National Register of Historic Places so they might restore it to its former glory.

The female protagonist is Hero, the only daughter of a rich family who lives on an island at the center of the bay. Hero and Xander meet at a local club that hosts swing dances once a week. Swing is -the- activity in Vista Bay, and Xander’s favorite hobby, thanks to his mother who practically raised him in the not at all fictional Century Ballroom in Seattle. They meet and dance. At the end of the dance, he dips her almost to the ground. They are about to kiss and, attempting to be a gentleman, Xander says, “No, I’m sorry, it’s too easy.” Hero understandably misconstrues this as an insult and slaps him. He’s so surprised that he drops her.

The story continues from there.

I find I’m looking forward to telling the whole story, (and discovering where it goes while the main plot develops). I tend to write in an extremely organic process. One might compare it to a coloring book, in which the main idea forms the borders of the picture and I freely fill in whatever colors I’m inspired to use as I go.

I probably should have started writing such romance novels years ago, since I’m rather obsessed with the subject. Ah well, there’s no time like the present.

I am Orsino, in love with the idea of love.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Immortal, Ephemeral

I have wanted to be immortal most of my life. Stop for a moment and savor the irony in that statement. I don’t know where this fantasy began, whether it was Heinlein’s three thousand year old Lazarus Long, or Anne Rice’s vampire, Lestat. Maybe it was Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga. Perhaps it began earlier than that, with the gods and demigods of a plethora of cultures whose tales I read as often as I could find a new book at the library. There are people who wish they could fly, people who wish they could turn invisible, there are those who wish they could read minds. I have always wished for immortality.

How curious then, that I am endlessly fascinated by the mortal, the ephemeral. I am eternally conscious of no matter what mark we make in the minds of men and on the land, in time it will fade. It will cease to exist. All evidence of that we ever crawled upon the face of the world will eventually be obliterated. Gaia herself is mortal.

The older I get, the less I care about the material; the less I appreciate gifts unless they facilitate my access to the things I do appreciate. A Kindle, for example, simply because I want the books I have purchased on it available everywhere. A library I can carry in my pocket. As much as I love books, I am not married to their physical form.

When people ask what I would like for a gift, I usually tell them to buy me wine. Unless I miraculously quit drinking, I will always need more. It is a great way to explore more vineyards as people purchase a wider variety than one might on one’s own. My sister’s gift to me last Christmas was one bottle of wine a month for a year. It continues to be the perfect gift.

The things I treasure: a full glass of wine in hand while I sit on the couch in front of a wood stove, fire raging against the iron of its cage, licking the transparency of the door; a Monday night rain storm pouring off the roof while I stand on the second story deck, the light from the house turning the streams of water into dancing beams of light; a good dance, a laugh and smile from my partner; that moment when she catches her breath, bites her lip as a thought crosses her mind and she is too caught up in the now of us to realize that she is as open a book as she will ever be. I love these things that do not last. I love the stories that have endings, and no matter how they are retold, are a little different every time.

I prefer the beauty of a rose to a diamond and the beauty of a woman to a rose. In the dark, a diamond is just another rock. In the dark, a rose is still soft, fragrant. In the dark, a woman is soft and hard, fragrant, alive with the in and out of her breath, palpable, yet beautiful to the senses. The joys of a woman are limitless, and still, each as ephemeral as the life of that rose, the ebb and flow of an ocean’s tide.

The world is full of things that come and go. Change is the only constant. The story begins, rises, climaxes, falls. We have our denouement and our epilogue. A new story begins. I am entranced by these tales, fascinated by my part in them, passionate about how each new narrative reshapes a piece of my own. Fact or fiction, rain storm or lover, new road or familiar path, I am constantly rewritten. I end and begin, day after day.
Today is a new beginning. Today is a reason for living.

Immortality seems to me an opportunity to live the ephemeral to its ultimate. To experience the constant change, the endless stories and combinations, forever. I would say yes, given the chance, knowing the world and its terrible, tragic nature, and its joy. Knowing how hard life sometimes, being diagnosed with chronic depression and having lived with it, knowing sometimes how much my mind tells me it would accept death readily (it took me years to not imagine my parents at my funeral), I would accept immortality. I would welcome the chance to learn everything about the world, to become the ultimate Renaissance Man. To learn every instrument, every language, read book after book after book. To watch, fascinated, as the world was born, lived, and died around me. To watch the rain fall, listen to it on the tin of the roof, share the fire and wine with a lover, to sail again and again into the sunset, forever.

It will, however, be rather inconvenient when the sun grows old, gets fat and consumes the planet if we don’t find a way to spread ourselves out among the stars.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Humanist? Feminist? Rambler.

A friend asked me recently if I considered myself a male feminist. That’s not a question I have really put any thought into. It seems to be a popular topic this last week. Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind, talked about being a feminist in his blog recently. I told my friend that I’d get back to her after I spent some time ruminating.

I tend to be blissfully ignorant as to how others define most labels. I have a very general idea of what constitutes a liberal, a better idea of what constitutes a conservative, barely understand the differences between Democrat and Republican beyond what I see of their actions and decide for myself. This is my general modus operandi. Think for myself. A part of that "ignorance" is a conscious decision. Labels are fluid things, words that shift meaning with time. A decade ago, Republican didn’t mean conservative Christian intolerant assholes deluded by their representatives into thinking it’s still a party for the people by labeling progressive movements scary things like, “socialist” which does not equal “communist” and so on. At least, my understanding of it was different. It’s only since Bush that I’ve concluded that they’ve come down with some sociological form of rabies.

I digress. Am I a feminist? I was raised by one, but that feminist is also Catholic and I am clearly not one of those. I am not certain of my feministry. I admire, appreciate, and prefer strong, independent intelligent women. I dislike patriarchal societies that treat women as baby factories. It was, in fact, my strongest source of distaste for Japanese culture. My manager quit her job as soon as she got married to become a housewife. My friend with dreams of cutting hair in Hawaii wouldn’t chase her dream because her family was putting so much pressure on her to marry. It is a cultural phenomenon, not simply two cases.

I don’t know if my dislike for that kind of treatment makes me a feminist. I am a humanist and no one should be pressured like that: man, woman, child, adult. As a society, we should all be encouraging each other to follow our dreams and make the most of our lives.

Feminism works toward equal treatment for men and women in the workplace, pay grades, socially, etc. I don’t particularly see any reason why a man should earn more than a woman, unless he performs better. That performance should be based on the numbers, however, not pre-conceived notions of what that performance might be.

Is equality enough? One of my favorite quotes is from Robert A. Heinlein’s Notebooks of Lazarus Long: “Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, ‘equality’ is a disaster.” I tend to see the world through Long-colored glasses. Women and children first. Even biologically, it makes sense to protect the young and child-bearer’s of a civilization; it only takes one man to recreate the race. I wouldn’t envy the poor fellow the effort, though.

I have my chauvinistic moments, when I roll my eyes and say to myself, “Women.” When this occurs, it is generally in the presence of other men. Which is somewhat subversive, because I tend to appreciate my gender on an individual level. “Men,” irritate me and I usually avoid their company. One might extend that to people in general, however. I enjoy individuals on an individual basis. There are a lot of reasons for stereotypes out there, however, and I have difficulty connecting with them.

Since in a good argument we must weigh both sides, I’m going to explore my male chauvinist side a little deeper. It has been my experience that women are more likely to listen to what they think I am saying without listening to what I am actually saying than men are. That isn’t a particularly good measurement, however, since I don’t make an effort to spend as much time around men. But I think my male friends are just more likely to not listen at all.

In the spirit of the exploration, a moment of vulnerability: I often find men intimidating, particularly when I don’t know them. I rarely find women intimidating. I do not fear women. I am uncertain how that applies to the discussion at hand.

I suppose I must ask myself if I think that men are better than women. I do not. I think we could argue that my problem is generally that I think I am better than many other people, of either gender. You may call it arrogance, if you so desire.

In my own self-diagnosis, I am not a male chauvinist. I separate myself from those I don’t respect equally. This allows us to revisit the topic at hand.

Am I a male feminist? I support the rights of women to have sex with whomever they choose, whenever they choose. I think she should be able to access birth control without difficulty, and have an abortion. If it is my child, I hope she will consider discussing the decision with me first, however. I would volunteer to be a single father. That has less to do with the abortion argument and more with personal life goals, however. Sorry, got distracted.

A woman should have all the rights and privileges as men. There are undeniable differences however and I don’t agree that they should be ignored. The major feminist example in my life still believes in gender roles. My mother cooked and cleaned most of my childhood (with help), but refuses to do anything with machines. Checking the oil and getting it changed is my dad’s job. I am uncertain, however, that if she were mechanically inclined and my dad a gourmand that things wouldn’t have been organized the other way. Impossible to tell.

I know that in my own experience, I would like to try being a “househusband,” if the opportunity is provided. Depending on the circumstances, I want to home school my future children, though were the future mother of my children a teacher and wished to do so herself, I certainly think the topic open for discussion. I would welcome the opportunity of house husbandry to provide time for writing, raising puppies and children and educating them to be the kind of people I wish their were more of in the world. Would I be satisfied in that role? I don’t know. But I would give it a shot. I am not a career-oriented person. As long as my future significant other knows how to balance work and play, I have no problem with her being the professional, bread earning one.

I don’t know that I have come any closer to an answer. I don’t really think I am a feminist, per se. I am just a humanist. Man, woman, everyone deserves equal opportunity and humane treatment. (Not all men were created equal, except in terms of human rights. It’s an unrealistic statement.) I keep coming back to the quote from the movie, 100 Girls, when at the end of his feminism course, the protagonist says, “There are just too many ‘-ists’ in the world. Feminists, chauvinists, capitalists, communists, racists, sexists… These are all groups that fight one another instead of trying to understand one another. I think the only “-ists” there should be are humanists.”

So, my dear Robin Goodfellow, you tell me. In your words, am I a male feminist?

And a thousand words, goodnight.