Wednesday 15 June 2016

Writing with care

I woke up this morning to a song by Sade, with the lyrics "It hurts like brand new shoes..."

The song is called pearls:

There is a woman in Somalia
Scraping for pearls on the roadside
There's a force stronger than nature
Keeps her will alive
That's how she's dying
She's dying to survive
Don't know what she's made of
I would like to be that brave
She cries to the heaven above
There is a stone in my heart
She lives a life she didn't choose
And it hurts like brand-new shoes

Hurts like brand-new shoes

The song stayed with me until I started reading.  I started with  some of Susan Griffin's work.  Our Secret looks at the ways in which our lives interconnect with the world around us, a world we both inherit and create via our own contributions.  Susan Griffin is an Eco-feminist, but one of her passages focused on art, poverty, and the terrible fear of having a baby whose health is fading.  Griffin explained how poverty seems to expose the rawness and vulnerability of what it means to be a person in this world.  She also explained that art may sometimes be used to challenge the social norms of the time.  Explaining that poor people were (are) sometimes seen to be both less valuable, and less threatened by the loss of a child, Griffin explained that this artwork shows something different:  the fear of a mother for her baby, and the anxiety of the baby's father and sibling, who linger in the background.

Some of Griffin's work focuses on war, and while I was reading, I thought about Rollo May's work on care, and the story he shared of images returning from the Vietnam war.  These images no longer showed the heroics of soldiers.  Instead, May explained that they were images of care.  In a very beautiful paragraph, May explains a scene he had observed on the television of a camera man at a scene where a child comes out of a tunnel which has been gassed by marines.

May explains that the child emerges in a state which is beyond crying.  Instead, he is bewildered by a world which could contain such horrors.  And the 'black' marine, aware of the mistreatment and oppression which exists in his own homeland, possibly sees his own oppression and pain in the face of the child:

"While the announcer of the program rattled on about how the gas is harmful for only ten minutes and then leaves no deleterious effects, the cameraman kept his camera focused on the face of the marine...I think he sees there another human being with a common base of humanity on which they pause for a moment in the swamps of Vietnam.  His look is care.  And the cameraman happens to see him - happens almost always now to see them so - and keeps his camera trained on his face; a subconscious reaching-out only for human interest, rendering to us an unconscious expression of the guilt of us all.  And...keeps his camera pointed at the face of the large 'black' man starting down at the crying child, nameless in the whole sad quicksand of modern war..."  (May, 1969, p 289).

May explains that this image is a simple illustration of care, a state in which something does matter.
He lets us know that care is 'the dogged insistence on human dignity, though it be violated on every side..."

Last week, English journalist, Giles Coren, wrote with a great deal of tenderness and sensitivity about the need to break the cycle of violence or harsh treatment of children in a very moving article which related to a seven year old who was lost in a forest.  The article comes from the London Times, which is usually protected by a pay wall, but can be found here.

He explains how "Mr Tanooka told a Japanese television channel, "I said to Yamato, "Dad made you go through such a hard time.  I am sorry." And then my son said, "You are a good dad.  I forgive you"."

He then shares that "That is how it goes when fathers punish their children.  The violence happens in the heat of the moment and then the burden of forgiveness is placed, almost immediately, upon the child.  The power to make everything okay in the family again is placed in his tiny hands."

And that "The chain has to be broken.  it cannot go on.  The violence and punishment that begin in the home go on to ...cause all of the misery in the world.  And if this chain is to be broken it has to be broken by us.  Me.  You..."

These writers are teaching me about aesthetics or soul, about putting care into action so that it can resonate with others, breaking down the hierarchies which harm other people, and giving us images which embed themselves into the minds of others, offering an awakening or a deeper sense of consciousness.  This, I think, is what it means to work with warmth or soul.  It's what I would like to do too.

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