Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's the Year of the. . .

My brother, who is much smarter and cooler than I would ever give him credit for, put a post on his blog just for me yesterday.

His address is:

It's about cats, and if you love me, you love them too. Especially fat ones with thought bubbles.


I have always associated people with animals. One day I just knew that my Aunt Connie WAS a raccoon. My first boyfriend was a duck, another one was a beetle, one was a bear cub/moth, and one was even some sort of large, carniverous cat, I swear to God; he'd nip the back of my neck like I was a weak gazelle he'd just run down and he wanted to be sure I was dead. Then he'd growl.

My friend Tristy? A sea otter. She agrees. I also think she could be one of the those cute sloths that live up in the trees is Costa Rica and sleep all day. Her husband is a polar bear (his last name is Hunter!).

My mother is one of those picturesque, beautiful seals, but she's also a rabbit. There are lots of rabbits. One of my roommates is also a rabbit, but a different kind of rabbit. My old roommate Brenda is a pretty, dope-y bunny. My friend Leslie is a foxy chipmunk. This girl who works at the local DIY co-op looks so much like a giraffe it freaks me out.

I once offended a very good friend of mine by telling him that I thought he was a monkey. Everybody wants to be a tiger or a deer or a shark or some sexy, strong animal--a barricuda, a snow leopard, a black widow. People want to be like basketball teams.

But there are beautiful and awkward versions of every animal. My Aunt Connie, the raccoon, is a lovely human being, but I wouldn't call her sexy. And I have seen some very sexy raccoons. Being a beautiful three-toed sloth is so much better than being an awkward gazelle. However, if someone ever calls you a hyena, they probably don't think much of you.

And I'm not sure if most people are really able to see what animal they really look like. I've been trying to figure out what animal I resemble most for a long time. I was starting to think it was a cat:

1. I have big, fluffy hair that I'm always tending to.
2. I don't like to take a bath or get my hair wet.
3. I like to run around the house when I'm excited.
4. I sleep a lot.
5. When I want to be left alone, I will walk away.
6. When I want attention, I will pester you.
7. I spend a lot of time staring out the window of my tall, tall apartment building watching people on the street and the birds on the power lines.
9. If I'm really hungry, I freak out and cry.
10. I can be left alone for long periods, but after enough time I get mad and pissed off.
11. At crowded parties where I don't know anyone, I like to sit in the corner and watch.

I think I made a good case, but it all seemed too good to be true. In February, one of my Chinese students took a photo of me, and I realized that the animal I really look like is a pretty pink piggy:

(Sorry it's blurry. It's a digital picture of a picture. I don't have a scanner.)

I don't think I look bad in this picture at all, but I do think that I look like a pig. And that is fine with me. I don't particularly like pigs, but they are very intelligent, enjoy casserrole-esque food, and they're known to take a nice mud bath when it's hot. Plus, the South is full of pigs.

What's SO great is that below is the full photograph:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

High Compassion

Today, in a moment of self-absorption, I was thinking about what I would say if I were in some group situation, like a corporate conference or the first day of graduate school or some writing class and some group leader wanted everyone to name his or her greatest weaknesses. At the corporate conference, some douche-bag would probably say he was too much of a perfectionist and some witty, half-sexy lady would say "chocolate." And if it were graduate school, half the people would name something they thought was clever ("space and time") or slightly obscure ("Kraut Rock"). There would definitely be some girl who loves tea who tried to be clever ("the semicolon!") but then everyone who wasn't a complete asshole would kind of feel sorry for her. The other half of the grad school folks would be all witty and might even make you laugh and feel slightly intimidated: "my greatest weakness is gravity."

So this evening while I was driving in downtown San Francisco, I was just thinking about how I must be mildly retarded because I was fantasizing about how badly I would love to be able to say "I'm self-righteous and I talk like a 14-year-old girl in an internet chat room" (OMG, R U Serious!?!?).

Self-righteousness is integrity and compassion gone too far. It's idealizing a way of being right in the world so intently that ends up placing more emphasis on that than on the "beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh" who inhabit it [1]. In the New Testament, the Pharisees were so concerned with how Jesus didn't conform to what they thought the Messiah was supposed to be like that they couldn't see that he was him. It's different than being judgemental. It's wanting so much for the world to be full goodness that you are intolerant of people when they don't conform to how you feel you would act. It's some Mormons, it's some punks.

There's a fine line between having integrity and being self-righteous. I never knew this existed until today, when I thought about the poem "A Broken Appointment" by Thomas Hardy while I was driving. It's a poem about a man being stood up by a woman. What makes him sad isn't so much that she didn't show up, but that he realized that she didn't have enough character to show up and be kind, even if she didn't love him.

A Broken Appointment

You did not come,
and marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindess' sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.

You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
--I know and knew it. But unto the store
Of deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?


In the third line of the second stanza Hardy says, "I know and knew it." What does "it" refer to? Is he saying he knew when he invited her that only love could "lend [her] loyalty" (i.e. that only if she loved him would she show up)? Or is he saying that he knew when he invited her that she didn't love him?

When you read it the first way, Hardy seems like he's testing her. Or like he's a martyr. This way is self-righteous. He creates a situation knowing that she will disappoint him and give him a reason to re-impose his view of the world on everyone else.

But if you read it the second way, that he invites her knowing that she doesn't love him, just to be with her, not expecting anything from her, then she is a fool to not show up.

And depending on how you're feeling at a certain hour of any day, either interpretation holds up. I think.


[1] That quote is from Walt Whitman "Children of Adam" in Leaves of Grass. Dear Lord, go read it. It's lovely!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sharks and All That

I just finished reading the book Devil's Teeth by Susan Casey. It's about the Farallon Islands, which are about 40 miles west of San Francisco. They're vicious. The Native Americans thought that was where evil people went to live for all eternity (and all along you thought it was Spokane, Washington!).

Nowadays, the islands are home to tons of seals and, due to this, a population of Great White Sharks that attack anything remotely resembling a seal (i. e. a surfboard). Sharks are so old they predate trees. Can you imagine a time when the world didn't have any trees? Or grass? But some giant fish with three rows of teeth was evolving its scale-y skin?

[Spoiler of the film Deep Water below:]

This woman I used to "work" for showed the film Deep Water on her 50th birthday. That's the film about the couple who was forgotten on a scuba trip and were never found. It's sort of assumed that they were eaten by sharks. Sorry I ruined it for you. It's based on a true story. If you get a kick out of imagining being eaten by large sea creatures, then this is the film for you. And I'm with you on that one.

I do think it's sad that a relatively "young" person (50 ain't old) tried to suggest that it's all over and the sharks are just coming to get you on your 50th birthday. Now, I may be only 27 (god's perfect number), but I do know A LOT of Senior Citizens and fifty seems so adolescent in comparison. I hope that I hit my stride by then and stop getting all pissy around 3:00 every afternoon.

Love ya,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Just Hope That

That someday, someday, they publish a book about me, a book titled:

Susanna Williams: Mildly Retarded?