(Some serving plate I found online on Polish shopping site)
Hello snailers & crowers. Time for another whirled-up blend of crap, such is thee fun of the Abandoned Storage Unit.
It’s a beautiful Sunday and the sill-cactus flowers are beginning to push up their sweet buds of lemon & fuchsia. People are blowing themselves up in two beautiful Coptic churches in Egypt. I just cooked two beautiful sweet potatoes until the peels began to sweet sugar. The depraved Brian Williams is yoking badly-understood Leonard Cohen lyrics to the “beautiful” sight of Tomahawk missiles launched toward Syria. I just steamed two beautiful heads of broccoli until they turned that delicious rich green.
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The Fat Old Couple Whirling Around
BY ROBERT BLY
What a poem, written in 2005, by the great Robert Bly. It encompasses all of life, it is stuck in the mud around your feet and it is up on a mountaintop watching the world burn and cool, green and die, burn and cool, green and die. Become a soul and go. But before you do: whirl, dance, sigh, rise, reach.
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Here is something my daughter made to celebrate Spring. I love how she draws faces. Our red front door is festooned with her bright flowery paintings and drawings and it makes me happy whenever I see it.
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Here’s “meditations after shock therapy” by worm girl; discovered this lil gemstone on SoundCloud. I like the eroded ghost-reverbed vocals, the synth pads, the recessed drum machine beat. And the lyrics are strong, & exactly what they should be given the song’s title. The piece feels rough-hewn and tossed-off, but the attention to detail, the melody, the understated vocal delivery and pacing are anything but. This is a combination that always works for me in art, that feeling of casual paired with the obvious fruits of discipline, talent and skill.
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“A great work of art is like a dream. For all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is never unequivocal. A dream never says: ‘You ought,’ or ‘This is the truth.’ It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and we must draw our own conclusions.” This is from Jung in his Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933).
This is not universal and simply reflects the Jung’s personal tastes. Any work of art can be mute and ambiguous; an art object’s ambiguity is no assurance of its worth. And there are great works of art that are unequivocal — say, “Guernica”, or Dylan’s “Masters of War” (war on the mind today folks, for good reason). They are blunt in their message and motive and that informs their power. Humans just can’t refrain from trying to sum up a phenomenon as complex and variable as art (across all its manifestations and media) in a pithy saying. We’re just addicted to trying to shortcut around the universe and tie it up quickly in language. We’re just wired to do it. We all do it. Geniuses down to fools, we all want to sum up our lives in a tidy bow. Why? It makes us feel we’re in control, we’ve mastered a Thing with an aphorism. We’ve learned it, known it, owned it. Can stuff it in a drawer and mothball it away; no further discussion needed. Such silliness, such transparent folly. But so fucking irresistible.
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(click to zoom)
Le Crapaud, 1949
Lithograph on Arches wove paper, 19.5 x 25.75 in.
Be sure to zoom in on this friend, so many diablos deliciosos in the details. The frog’s little circly warts, its wee grumpy eyes, the Cubistic intersects of the hind legs and face, the flowing linework tying together its body and limbs, the effect of decorative little Christmas lights along its body, the impression of smudge and mud combined with modest, reluctant ornament.
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I just finished Cordelia Fine’s excellent book Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society (2017, Norton). Before reading this book, I would have considered myself something of an essentialist when it comes to the sexes. I believed in sex differences in the brain and in the body, changes both prenatal and post-birth. And I believed these differences were permanent and inherent to humans and were directly responsible for different behavior in men and women everywhere, past present future.
After Testosterone Rex, I still believe physiological sex differences exist. The science is clear. But I believe now they are just the starting point, and not an excuse for the gender gap. They are merely one factor among many in explaining why men and women do what they do, believe what they do, and think how they do. As Fine demonstrates, physiological differences between the sexes may or may not become amplified or nullified or nudged into being altogether depending on a whole galaxy of factors, not least of which are cultural, environmental, parental, marketing (especially marketing!) and institutional forces.
In other words, there’s room for adjustment. There’s nothing hardwired in mens’ brains forcing them to forever be universally aggressive risk-tasking non-parenting and promiscuous. There’s nothing hardwired in women’s brains forcing them to forever be universally passive, cautious, caretaking and monogamy-seeking. There is astonishing variability in the animal and insect kingdom, as Fine exhaustively details, in how males and females of species behave sexually, and this can exist with humans too (and in many cases, as the research shows, already does). We’ve just grown accustomed, over the millenia, to a certain way for men and women to be, and we like it that way — that is to say, those in control, older white men, have always liked it that way (whether they realize it or not).
The research seems to support the theses of Fine and so many other writers: it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been. Men and womens’ physiological differences, says the research Fine exhaustively brings to bear, do not strongly correlate with massive differences in behavior and attitudes both sexual and non-sexual. In citation after citation, Fine shows compelling research that suggests the gender gap exists for far more complex reasons than the presence or absence of testosterone. This passage of Fine’s is crucial in understanding this point: “It’s true that we don’t, as a rule, tend to think that the scientific facts of nature dictate how things should be. Just because a scientist says that something is “natural” — like male aggression or rape — obviously doesn’t mean we have to condone, support or prescribe it. But that doesn’t mean that science has nothing to contribute to societal debates or aspirations. Although scientific claims don’t tell us how our society ought to be, that being the job of our values, they can give us strong hints as to how to fulfill those values, and what kind of arrangements are feasible. [...] rejecting the [view that gender gap problems are solely due to evolved sex differences, such as testosterone in men] doesn’t require denial of evolution, difference, or biology.”
I also really like this passage by Dalhousie University philosopher Letitia Meynell, which Fine quotes in her book: “Biologically speaking, our actions and dispositions are developed and could have bee otherwise, given the right mix of developmental inputs at various points in our lives. If one wants to change the distribution of a given trait in a population, the task is not to overcome nature but to rearrange the developmental system.”
If we want to address gender inequality, we have to abandon essentialism insofar as we lean on it to explain and justify and excuse perceived differences in how men and women think and act in and out of the bedroom. We have to accept malleability in terms of how the sexes develop. We have to stop framing issues in terms of “boys will be boys and girls will be girls.” We have to realize as a species we’re in control, not the hormones, the gametes, the glands, the gonads. Culture, society, developmental input from parents, media, religion, schooling, marketing those are the forces that take those inherent and verifiable biological differences that do exist between the sexes, and truly activate them and transform them into vast gaps and gulfs. Gulfs that become, over generations, seemingly impossible to cross. Seemingly.
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For more information about Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex, please check out The Guardian’s great review.
For more Robert Bly stuff, please check out his entry at the Poetry Foundation.
For more worm girl stuff, please check out Her Soundcloud page.
For more Picasso, please check out the Musée National Picasso (Paris).