Saturday, December 15, 2007

ofer waþema gebind & a meme

Well, not exactly, but I do love that line; and if you squint and look sideways at my recent experiences, it might just almost fit. What with all the waves of paperwork (FSM give me strength), and the wintry weather. (Although I must say the level of panic when winter weather comes to Charmingly Historical Edge City and its environs is not exactly proportional to the level of danger. It's a very "The sky is falling! We're all going to DIE!" reaction, starting at about the second flake.)

Anyway. Prepare yourself for literary solipsism, again.

Braced well?

OK, let's begin.

I have been thinking quite a lot about The Wanderer and the issue of what happens to identity when it is bereft of its usual context. Again, this is prompted by my recent experiences. I am out of context for the first time in my life, really. I have wanted this opportunity to do the developing that most people do when they are 17-18 and in their first year of college, but I never really thought about the mild anxiety that runs just below the surface of that experience. The anxiety of not knowing that comes as you question every assumption you have about yourself and your interactions with the world. Well, scratch that. I did think about it, and understood it intellectually, but understanding an emotional state requires experiencing a hint of that state. Or, maybe I'm even flattering myself that I get it now. Bah.

If I were younger, and possibly cuter (though I was delightfully decorative at 22, seriously), all these tangential ideas would be endearing, I suppose. Note to self: While constructing your new, Beltway-adjacent identity, keep in mind that you're no longer able to successfully pull off ditzy. That is all.

Back to the topic at hand, it also helps that my new job is Middle School English teacher in a school that is being 'restructured.' That's governmental rhetoric for 'This school is in an iffy area, and has not been doing as good a job providing middle class mindsets to poor children as we'd hoped. Therefore, we must inject extra levels of bureaucracy rather than, say, building a community center and staffing it with tutors and mentors and coaches.' So, I see a school community that is in flux, and a staff that is in flux. And all this is before we get to the children, who are engaged in the very serious business of trying to navigate the liminal space between childhood and adulthood. Which can be a very frustrating thing to see as a teacher, because the silliness is strong within them, and that silliness really detracts from learning how to read a newspaper. However, it can also be a very profound thing to witness as a fellow human being.

How many run-on sentences is that, now? Ah, well. It doesn't matter. Back to me.

A few weeks ago, I was wandering about the Charmingly Historical downtown in C.H.E.C. and quietly envying the molto fabuloso other women who were wandering about in the same vicinity, because they were able to rock lovely capes, and I had a notion of myself as a more work-a-day sort of person. Non-fabulous, and incapable of wearing a garment that intimates quite that much 'tude. And I reminded myself of "my place," and walked past the capes I saw while officially shopping for teaching togs, and unofficially thinking about the identity I would construct for myself with three whole months family-free to work with.

Ironic that I would be conscious of identity as constructed, and of myself as engaged in the task of constructing an identity (albeit in a hurry), but would deny myself something I liked because it didn't fit in with my comfort zone. Silly.

A few days later, happy with my very buttoned-down purchases, but still ruminating over the many possibilities in becoming a new Heo, and intermittently giving some thought to The Wanderer and his 'anhaga' situation (It's not so much that I enjoy plaintive poetry, as it is that I have a planctus problem), that I remembered the anxiety of the greater culture over the 'anhaga.' Who might he be? How can we know? And the power of being away from everyone and everything that acts as a conservative force on your identity hit me. The Anglo-Saxons had fear of outsiders because they could and possibly should fear them. Those separated from their tribes have nobody to put them in their place. They can decide for themselves who they are. That's quite an amazing power, really. I mean, how do we know who people are if we don't know the people they belong to?

In real life terms, this means I was able to quiet the internal voices that told me I didn't deserve/couldn't be/ shouldn't try X, and I bought the damned cape. Heo Fabuloso, at your service. (And I wear it well, too. ) Now, I am very aware that discussions of clothing are by definition superficial, but the shift in imagination that the change in wardrobe represents is not superficial. Of course, there's another irony, in that I am attempting to construct an identity that is non-specific to my old time and place, but am doing so by mimicking others in another place. And I'm still battling with myself over the dragon and phoenix cheong sam I want to buy, because it's culturally different and fun, and I also have a brocade problem, but is it commodity fetishism? Am I making some sort of imperialistic gesture by assuming someone else's conventions of dress? Should I just go put on a Dirndl and my Aran knit sweater and be done with it?

Damn it! Where the hell did I put that point? I just had it a minute ago! &*(^%$#@

Oh, well. How about this ...? Whatever choice I make regarding my future career path, (to be a bocere or not to be a bocere, that is the question), the knowledge of literature from a culture that was self-reflectively and simultaneously emergent and in decline changes the way one thinks about almost everything. You begin to think that non-liminal spaces simply don't exist, because they can't. Which, in some ways is very freeing, The Wanderer rethinking who has the right to speak openly, for instance, but also rather scary, because that Wanderer dude ( if we're in his audience) could be an axe-murderer for all we know. (Very likely is an axe-murderer, considering the whole Anglo-Saxon warrior status.)

And the whole thing both fascinates me and frazzles my brain. Which is what philosophy did when I tried to read it the last year of high school. So, maybe I'm having the truest mid-life crisis ever, and reverting to childlike thought processes. **Sigh**

While I'm being self-indulgent:

The 7 MEME

I've been tagged by squadratomagico for the 7 meme, the one in which you tell the blogosphere 7 random and/or odd things about yourself. I'm trying not to copy all the weird stuff I have already told you about me, but I can't be sure I haven't shared the stories before. If I start to repeat my stories like that old guy in the lobby, just let me know.

Here are the rules:

The rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.

3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.

4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. On it.

And here is the Meme:

The Meme:

1) I actually was one of those children who read the dictionary for fun. Now, in some cases, that was because there were ever so many words in there that sounded rude but weren't rude at all and couldn't get a person grounded. Like farkleberry, for instance. But also because words fascinated me. What they sounded like, what they looked like, how they felt, all the exotic places they had come to us from, all this fascinated me.

2) I don't remember being conscious of it, but I think I started reading medieval literature partly to feel closer to by-then-deceased eldest brother, who was -- while living-- an astonishingly successful auto-didact who loved medieval literature himself, and read voraciously enough to engage local famous-ish English professors in rigorous debate. This despite having quit high school to work and help the family, only earning a GED in his mid-twenties when it became hard to get a job without a high school education. When I was a child, my family thought of me as 'the smart one,' but as I age it becomes clearer to me that I was merely the one most likely to seek outward recognition (in the form of degrees, honor societies, etc.) for knowledge gained.

3) I don't know that I have ever accepted a new idea without putting up major resistance to it first. Not necessarily in a studious and scholarly way, but more in the lines of an uninformed tantrum. My process is simple; hear/read new idea, hate n.i., resent people positing n.i., create multiple rants about n.i. and people positing n.i., realize n.i. has merit, realize n.i. has more merit than my old idea, feel stupid for all the uninformed and blatantly idiotic things I said about n.i. and people surrounding it, shut up for half a second, grudgingly accept n.i. but hope to be proven wrong -- and therefore right-- soon, proselytize for n.i.'s acceptance, repeat. I shall illustrate, because it's rather funny in context, and because I know the persons in my example wouldn't know me in real life if they tripped over me. I was researching my senior thesis when I encountered Becoming Male in the Middle Ages, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler, for the very first time. And I was irritated from the moment I read the title, because why the hell do we need to think MORE about masculine existence in the medieval period, don't we think enough about men now?!, and then when I saw that feminist perspectives were included and a man's name was on the editor's list, I became even more annoyed because my experience with men writing/speaking about feminist ideas was not good. I read the titles, noted all the times "castration" was mentioned and decided that any feminism discussed or engaged with would be given poor treatment, and I returned the book to the shelf with a sort of snort. And as my research continued, I kept coming across these names and thinking "Those jerks! They're everywhere! I just want to write a paper about the representation of women!" without ever thinking that "They're everywhere!" might be an indication that they had something to say worth reading. Well, fast forward, and look over there at my links on the right, and see whose ideas I seem to want to know about now.

4) I smile, and smile, but secretly hate the dude who comes into my gym and starts his treadmill at 7.2 mph, when I was having fun and feeling special because I had my 'wog' ( half walk-half jog, think kid trying to keep up with mom) up to almost 4.0 mph. Bastard! How dare he enjoy his workout at the level of his comfort, when my comfort level is so much lower! What the hell is he trying to prove anyway?!

5) I have great difficulty finding common ground with people who were raised in deeply patriarchal households. I just don't get them. This is not an affectation on my part, some sort of diligent application of feminist theory in questioning societal assumptions from the perspective of personal experiences. The whole idea of a father-centered family and society really is just so incredibly weird to me that I'm always astonished when people bring it up as if it's somehow normal. This confusion often gets me labeled a smart-ass. Which is also true, but not in these cases.

6) Probably the proudest I ever remember feeling was when I hit an A over high C for the first time when I was about 19, and made the chandelier in my voice teacher's house shake with the force of it. I never did manage a pianissimo at that pitch, but whatever, man...the chandelier shook!

7) When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be President of the United States or Roberta Flack. Either one would do, really, though if I really thought about it the Presidency was the best. I used to get very upset about that whole 35 thing, too, because I did the math and discovered that the year I turned 35 was not an election year, and I'd have to be 37 before I could take office. So, this is actually the exact time I envisioned myself literally preparing to take over the free world after an infuriatingly-long extra two-year wait. Instead, I have to remind myself weekly not to take the Metro into the district to throw stuff at Senators.

I tag: Anniina, Bardiac, Magistra, and rule-breaker that I am, all others who wish to play, too.


Bardiac said...

Welcome back, Heo :)

I'm going to decline, with respects, because I did the seven things meme just a week or three ago.

I liked your #3. It's an important thing to realize about oneself!

squadratomagico said...

Congratulations on the cape! HeoAwesome!