Monday, December 31, 2012

I forgive you, the Cat in the Hat

"Look at me!  Look at me! Look at me NOW!  
It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.
I can hold up the cup and the milk and the cake!
I can hold up these books! And the fish on a rake!
I can hold the toy ship and a little toy man!
And look! with my tail I can hold a red fan!
I can fan with the fan as I hop on the ball!
But that is not all.  Oh, no.  That is not all . . . 

I forgive you, Cat, for your bad example,  your manic glee for jumping higher, faster, longer.

Learn to hula?  What was I thinking?
Sign language?  I must have been dropped on my head.

Yes, I did yoga twice a week.
Yes, I forgave something almost daily.  Or tried to.  Forgiving is harder that I had thought.  And there are things I'm not yet ready to forgive.

But working through that book Forgiving Ourselves?  Not particularly.

And dance a little daily?  A little weekly, maybe.  But how important is dancing, really, to finding the Renewal I so much need?

That is what the cat said . . .
Then he fell on his head!
He came down with a bump
From up there on the ball.
And Sally and I,
We saw ALL the things fall!

And no, you Crazy Cat, we're not finished reading The Dancing Bear yet, though we plan to continue. I did read The Art of Growing Old by Marie de Hennezel, an enjoyable book.  But not profound.

1000 words a day turned out closer to 500 words a day.
And as for following the sun . . .  ever since sunset started coming at 4:30 my schedule has become completely untethered to the real (natural) world.  With no diurnal prompt to retire I stay up later and later each night.  Each morning is darker and darker and it's harder and harder to get up before the sun.

And still I'm hopping up and down on the ball, O Catliest of Cats, just like you do, but I feel further from Renewal than ever, no matter how fast I fan the red fan.  My books are out of balance, I'm losing pages faster than I can bind them up.

It's true that I've been making progress on some of my Things, which are good Things, oh so good:

Things like:
  • The photo books I've been inching forward on, the scanning done on the first group.
  • Donne's "Meditation XVII" is half memorized.  But I haven't looked at it since the end of November.
  • "La Biblioteca de Babel" I have read, but have not written out the translation.  And what's more I don't think I want to.
  • Nor more than I want to keep doing a daily diagram.

Too much!  Too much!  Renewal would entail less of this not more of it.

Sleep when it is night, Witness the sunrise, Sing in the morning, Work the day's work when it is day, Attend sunset  . . . those still sound sublime but how do I pull that off? (re: 4:30 sunset)

The new month is coming and you, the Cat in the Hat, are not a good model for going forward.  

Which I have learned from this month of forgiving is another way of saying --

I give you over,
I stop giving you anything more,
I forgive you.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I forgive you, the Breakable Body

A year ago today I woke to a phone call from my daughter's coach that began, "I'm with Middlest right now.  And I want you to know that she's conscious."  Because that was the best of the bad news.  In the minutes it took to tell her father, wake her sister, throw clothes on and drive to the scene whose whirling lights we could see before we could see our daughter lying on the frozen ground, during those long minutes, I didn't know what I would find, what I would see, what she would ever be able to do, how our lives would be from that day forward.

We were lucky.  We were blessed.  We were blessed and lucky and so grateful.  We kept thanking everyone -- ambulance drivers, nurses, interns, technicians, specialists, physical therapists, friends who came to visit, family who called.  Grateful for everything that happened to help, grateful for everything that didn't happen that might have made it worse. 

Today my daughter ran her defiance of you, the Breakable Body.  Or celebration of you.  I don't know which.  The sweetness of her patience with you, the fire of her courage rebuilding you, her clever willingness to find other paths when your necessities have closed down the planned itinerary have been a thrill for me to witness. Another instance to be grateful for.  There has been no room in my gratitude and hope and prayers for anger.

Which made it strange to wake to a low-boiling rage. I wondered what was wrong with me, never thinking of you, the Breakable Body.  You were over and dealt with.  We had moved on.  Maybe it was the age I am now, the later nights this past week, the holiday indulgences.  I thought I'd sweat it out, whatever it was.

On the way to the gym I saw the cross country coach with her gaggle of runners running towards me on the side of the road and my arms prickled all over with fear.  But I pushed it away and pushed my body through an hour of exercise, dripping with sweat, though bile rose in my throat when they played a catchy song about  . . . a gun and all the little children better run better run.  A substitute yoga instructor slipped up to the front of the class as we were ending -- even seen out of the corner of my eye, even though the lights were already lowered in preparation for his class, something about him flapped out as wrong.  It wasn't until he led our class the next hour, his body lean and strong as a dancer's, that I realized he was missing most of one hand.  I tried not to watch the missing hand.

How do you try not to watch the missing hand? 

What had happened? A factory accident?  Motorcycle?  Birth defect?  More and more I had to watch that hand, leading me through the poses. The Mountain.  The Tiger. The Downward Dog.  While we held our difficult balances he walked around to each of us, checking our alignment, showing us with his hands, both hands, how our hands should be held.

I had no choice but to contemplate you, the Breakable Body.  Trying to balance, my eyes fixed on my own broken toe that's healed crooked and no longer supports my foot like it was made at first to do.  When we lay and meditated, my mind refused the still pool of warm water and kept curving back to a raptor's curved screech and the flapping of battered wings, beating against the air and going nowhere.

I came home in a rage.  "You're growling, Mom," said my Eldest.

"Am I?  I don't know why.  I'm just so angry at everything and nothing seems to help."

Until Middlest at last came home and my relief to see her, which is seeing you, her Breakable Body, made me sob.  Though I am not a sobber.

I thought I knew myself.  I thought I'd already swept my heart clean.

So here I am, sweeping again.  Saying I see you, the Breakable Body, I name you.  I am mourning you, the Breakable Body, acknowledging you and recognizing you for what you are.  (What are you?  Inescapable Mortality?  Precious Ephemerality?)  Trying to let you go, to move past you.  Trying to forgive you.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I forgive you, False Attribution

In October, thinking of December and this project of forgiving, I thought maybe I might write a post about an empty shell, harking back to the snail shell I began with.  I was thinking it might be something exquisite and spare.

I was replaying in my mind a poem a friend had sent me before we lost touch.  My lost friend, with whom I used to engage in small contests of taste which we disguised as gift-giving.  She had the advantage on me: ten years older, European relatives, an East Coast education, money.  But I had fun trying.  The candy tin in a dusty secondhand shop of a blond flapper deploying her dapper squadron of mustachioed marionettes with a careless gesture. A necklace of colored Indian corn.  Obscure books (see Out-of-Printness).

We are lost to each other now, but her gifts and quotes keep showing up in forgotten corners and falling out of long-unopened books.  This summer a poem fluttered out printed up in her idiosyncratic hand.

If thou couldst empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — "This is not dead," —
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says — "This is enow
Unto itself — 'Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me."

By Sir Thomas Browne, my once-friend had printed at the bottom, Sir Thomas Browne whom I have often felt I ought to read.  After all, Borges loved Sir Thomas Browne, translated him into Spanish, patterned his own writing on the "complexity of his labyrinthine thought."   Julian of Norwich and Sir Thomas Browne had this and that in common.

But that quote above?  It's also to be found on a Googled site that says my friend was wrong in her attribution, as perhaps in other things.

The Brown who wrote my lost friend's poem is the author of such whimsies as the late Victorian "A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!" Not the Renaissance Browne who is "widely considered one of the most original writers in the English language . . . 'an instance of scientific reason lit up by mysticism'", who rubs shoulders now in Literary Heaven with Borges and Julian.

And maybe, too, the girl I was is not so shallow and surfacey, as she finally told me that I was, once my too-ready applause paused and my emulation turned mulish.  Maybe it was not even a friendship, so admiring on one side, so exquisite on the other.

Or maybe it was and maybe I am:  still admiring, still shallow, still surfacey.  Like water, reflecting.

We can't all be deep.  God wot. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I forgive you, Time

You keep outrunning me and running me down.  I think you must have not many distractions.  And very few interests beyond the marathon you keep running.  No secret vices.  No warm sympathies. Which makes it very hard to appeal to anything in you that might bring you to relent a little, to take a breather.  Slow down.

It's not that I want you to run backwards, to bring back the dewy complexion I'm sure I once had, the easy elasticities of mind and body that I'm beginning to regret the stiffening of, the dearly departed I still miss.  You change everything I've ever wanted to keep.  You steal from me, make me late, and still expect me to get up when you say in the morning.

You are like an autistic housemate, innocent, idiot savant, and dense to the social niceties.

I feel wronged by you over and over.  With no recourse for any compensation.  I can't say "I forgive you"  like a bargaining chip, hoping if we get along a little better you'll be a little easier on me.  I know you will never reciprocate by saying you forgive me, too, for wasting you, beating you, killing you -- which makes me sound so violent and you so innocent, language (that crony of yours) being the unfair thing that it is.

I do not like you, Time, not entirely.  You are not kind, not entirely.

But I have learned that forgiving lets me live with that.  Rather than try to make it otherwise, rather than try to balance my accounts with you so that everything adds up, I can let some debts drop. You can never make up to me the things you've stolen from me, though you will bring me to moments I would never want to trade away.  I will never catch up with you and you will be forever tick-tocking in my ear.   I know I will waste you until the day I die, as you keep wasting me day by day.  I will rage against you and still pray for more of you and let you go only at last when there is nothing left to forgive.

I forgive you, Out-of-Printness

I've learned that to forgive I first must recognize myself as wronged. Which is a little hard today.  A full complement of candlelight and carols.  Jane Austen movie cuddled up with daughter.  Not to mention pumpkin eggnog cheesecake made by another daughter.  Not to mention all the hugs after the opening of every single gift and sometimes in between.  The dear dramatic enthusiasm over each package each child opened.  Even the set of coupons a younger brother gave to an older:  Save Time!  Play More!  I've got your chore today covered!!!!!! 

Life is good.  I hope as good there wherever you are as it has been here.

I have even had a delicious book to read, a forgotten YA fantasy, The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson, a book that begins with the snow we wish we were having here:
It had snowed in the night.  Tilja knew this before she woke, and waking she remembered how she knew.  Somewhere between dream and dream a hand had shaken her shoulder and she'd heard Ma's whisper. 
"It's snowing at last.  I must go and sing to the cedars.  You'll have to make the breakfast before you feed the hens."
It looks like it's going to be just the cozy kind of book, a little dangerous, a little magical, perfect for a Christmas read.  That it is out of print in some ways adds to the pleasure. The pleasure of having found something that other people have forgotten.  But it is also a little sad: so much work goes into writing anything that I ache to see all that heartfelt effort remaindered.

This month I've been reading out loud to my sons another of Dickinson's books, The Dancing Bear, a young adult historical novel set at the fall of the Byzantine empire.  A book about remaking a life after its complete destruction.  Also out of print.  I don't know why so many of Dickinson's books are out of print.  I love what I've read so far.  The characterizations fresh and real, the plots well-wrought, the tone a little droll, a little sly but at the same time full of a simple warmth.  It is sad to think how many other better-deserving books I may never find that have already disappeared with their small delights into the great abyss of the out of print.
. . . and Tilja last of all, with Calico and the roller, watching the repetitive pattern of golden grains arcing out from Ma's hand and falling in a graceful curve, like the ghost of a huge, slowly beating wing. 
Tilja was filled with a kind of happy grief that she should be seeing Woodbourne at its most loved season, and family and horses working all together, expressing that love, and their love for each other, in their work, expressing it in a way that her parents would not have put into words, this last time, when she might never see it again. 

You are a small sorrow, Out-of-Printness, in a world of big sorrows.  It is a kind of happy grief to be able to feel a little sad over something like you. To feel wronged by your willingness to forget and discard.  To have to forgive you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I forgive you, my Angers

I don't understand this project
a friend of mine has written.  I don't understand it either.  I understand it less as I dive further into forgiveness.  Or at least, understand that there is more to it than I had thought at first, that there is more to forgiving and seeking forgiveness than a quick month can contain.  It makes sense to spend a month counting blessings, basking in gratitude.  But even to me it seems a little strange to spend a whole month thinking about the negative, giving space to it.  And to choose Christmas Day of all days to talk about angers?

But in light of recent events, the dark and lurid light of recent violent events, what better day to open the door on this room, to sweep it clean of cobwebs and air it out, to chase out all its spiders and let a clear clean light shine in?

I do know that living with a child whose angers are new to us but not unresonant has exacted its toll.  The timbre of our home has had to stretch and strain to contain and modulate his voice.  We have had to sing higher and deeper to make a wider harmony.  And our own old angers and frustrations have risen like fierce ghosts in all of us, have had to be addressed and laid to rest. Or at least danced with.  There was one evening a month ago I threw a tantrum in tandem with my youngest son, shaking my head when he shook his head, throwing back my head to screech as loud as he did, waving my arms around just like he did.

"Stop it!" he sobbed with tears that were for effect and yet also deeply meant, "You're scaring me!"  He has had reason to be afraid.   His boy's angers and picture-perfect tears have had to try in real life to do a man's job of protecting and fighting his way to safety. 

"I know!" I said, "It is scary when people go crazy wild and throw themselves around when they are angry.  What are we doing next?"

Which set him off into another dance of fury with which I kept perfect time, improving on some of his head-shaking technique and overtopping his arias of bellowing because I have years and years of angers to draw from.  And have had so little chance to tap-dance in the open with them in center stage.  

We ended, sitting face-to face in the doorway of the kitchen, exhausted and laughing a little shakily, his legs over my legs, our faces and hands still mirroring each other but in gentler motions.  This is not an exercise I will indulge in again.  I don't want it become a habit.  I'm not sure his besotted caseworker would approve of it, in any case, as a useful parenting technique.  I'm not certain I approve.

But I see a taming as we've gone forward with all our ways of engaging and rearranging his angers. Physical clowning and conscious melodrama taking the place of violent tantrums and dark theater as we give a safe space for the negative.  As we dance our anger before it dances us around out of our control.  Play it, say it, and then move forward.

I look forward to the ending of this month, just a week away now.  This is not an exercise I will indulge in again.  But I'm also glad to have sent some old angers packing, some paraded here, others privately.

I read somewhere this month that a fear of spiders has been shown to be reduced if arachnophobes approach a scary-looking hairy legged monster and say out loud, "Oh, I hate you.  Your hairy legs are disgusting and you scare me!  You are horrible!"  The next time the sufferers approach another offered spider, sensors the experimenters have fastened on their bodies pick up much lower levels of stress and the people themselves report themselves much less afraid the second time than the control group who approached a spider and kept their reaction unsaid and locked inside themselves.

I say, good bye, Spiders.   Good-bye, Angers.  You are forgiven.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I forgive you, my Stutterings

May you be openings through which better light can shine.

Every Christmas Eve, I listened to the best story, holding my breath as my father read word by precarious word.  About the time when
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
I say “precarious” because my father had a speech impediment:

He stuttered
      each sentence like shutters
            banging in the wind      I had
                  to learn to listen
for more   than words   to sit
      silent   holding   back
            my quick   inaccurate
                  translations until he
                        wrestled his own words
out   panting   into the open
He wouldn’t like me to draw attention to his impediment – that he stuttered. He worked all his life to overcome it, to work around it, to be so smart and quick in other ways that any slowness of speech became unremarkable.

When I read my poem above to him -- I had meant it as an act of love and forgiveness for the angers of my teenage years -- he sat back like I had just slapped him. I think all he heard was lack and failings.

He didn’t hear how it was the very slowness of his speech that opened the story for me. How his slow and careful reading, slowed me. Made me see, instead of swiftly skating over. Made me hear.

The way he read, even through the years when we were so often angry at each other, let the starlight and the light of love in the mother’s and the child’s eyes shine in and fill me. Made me feel how it could possibly be that an all-powerful and flawless Love, the Creator of the universe, could enter into this broken world of anger and taxes and the wandering poor, a world which thought it had no room for Him.

So that now, any one else’s voice is never as good -- is too quick, too slick, too sure of itself. Now when I read these words to myself,
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
I read it slow and hesitating, wondering, trembling a little, remembering how as a child
I would shut
                  my eyes    hunkering
                        down until the fretwork
opened and there
      in the articulated    hes-
            itation    between
                  words    see starlight    see
                        lantern's glow on
heaped straw    see the shifting
      feet of cattle    their warmth
            their whuffling breath    the lamb’s small
                  bleat    and far off the icy    voice
of angels

 for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people

And now I am the mother, with you, my Gaps and Failings, the ways I stutter in the language of love.  Now I can only hope my children can hear around you and through you and despite you that same clear singing that I heard and hear still.

Ah, that singing, hear it ringing, earthward winging, Christmas bringing,
Hearken!  We can hear it, too. 

[revised from Dec. 2009:  "where there is room" ]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I forgive you, Why Bother

Why Bother, you irritate me.

You keep saying nothing is really worth doing well, Why Bother, nothing is really worth doing at all.

You don't plant flowers.  You don't even draw flowers unless forced to by others who bother with things you can't see the reason for.  And then you want to draw all flowers to look, not like orchids -- each uniquely rippled and tinged, with or without sentient whiskers, cupped or not cupped, veined or unveined -- but to look like this:

Happy sketches: Flowers with round petals suggest an amicable person while hearts mean you're in love
from Daily Mail: "What your doodles really say about you"
simple circle center with lazy petals.  Why Bother, do you know what your doodle says about you?

It says you are a simple circle with lazy petals.

You think ironing is pointless, Why Bother.  You think poetry and voting are a waste of time.  You think thank-you notes and family meals are unrealistic, that personal integrity is foolish, and that answers to hard questions are out of reach. Why Bother, you don't think there's any reason to speak politely to rude people. You don't think you should make your bed. You don't think small things will ever make a difference.  You don't think.

Why bother?

You don't climb mountains, Why Bother.  You don't make boiled cider syrup.  You don't read much.  You don't care much.  You don't ever sing, Why Bother.  You don't go up against injustice. You don't go for walks.  You don't go the distance. 

You don't go.  And then wonder where your life has gone.

But I have to forgive you, Why Bother, because you have no idea what you are missing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I forgive you, my Darling Fritz

Fritz said, "So are you going to forgive me sometime too?"

"Do I need to?" I said.

"I just thought if you were forgiving things that I would be up there on your list."

"No. I don't think I have any lingering things that . . . well, okay.  There's . . . okay, there are a few."

"That didn't take long."

My Fritz, I forgive you for abandoning me on Big Rock when we were hiking when I was first expecting Eldest.  And I forgive you for leaving me in IKEA last week without telling me you were going to the car.  There may have been a few other things in-between.  I forgive you for them, too.

It may look to some like I'm just playing here. I am playing, like a child plays: with real seriousness.  You ought to recognize, my Darling Fritz,  that this serious play is not really about forgiving imponderables and abstractions.  You should know you are my Seventh Question.  You are my Silly Bollywood.  You are the Distributive, Commutative and Associative Property of my personal mathematics.  You are my Expectations.  You are my Real Life. 

I could go on.  And probably I will.  Definitely I will, as we go on as we will go on -- with all our misstepping and mistaking, all our forgiving and being forgiven.

Good thing they go so well together.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I forgive you, Supernova

If the Mayans are right, then this is the perfect thought-experiment.

Though if the Mayans are right, who will know?

Perhaps only my mind, standing here beforehand, standing alone here at the precipice of the present moment with the world counting down around me tick-tick-tick to a future I can't predict.  Does forgiveness have any meaning in this setting?

Which I would say is really the Real World that we live in daily.

Can you be forgiven, Supernova?  My respondent John Romeo Alpha says not:

If the sun were to go supernova and annihilate me, would I forgive it? In no way that would be meaningful, no, I am able to respond, because I can project that the supernova would destroy the I that would have become. Similarly, we don't forgive that which we project will go on destroying (altering, defacing) the I that we would have become. So long as we go on permitting that destruction of I-becoming, forgiveness is impossible, meaningless. If I am to nurture the I that would become, I must forbid that which would destroy it from doing so, and find the way to strengthen that forbidding through knowing and understanding.

First, let us quibble.  If we will not forgive anything that alters the Self, we may as well forget and forswear any forgiving whatsoever.  What does not alter the Self?  She is fluid and changeful and responsive.  It is that quality of being changed and choosing changes that makes her a Self.  Even to say we will not forgive anything that defaces the Self, we limit ourselves to . . . forgiving only those offenses that treat us with proper respect?  I suppose we could still mostly forgive ourselves, which is a project in itself, but somehow less than what forgiveness claims to be.  Most offenses, though, especially from others, deface the Self - i.e., treat the Self as if it were not a self but a faceless entity whose needs need not be considered.  That is what is so offensive about them.

But I am attracted to the sense that forgiving has some indissoluble bond to the I-becoming of the Self.  Though my own personal Self has never described herself before as an I-becoming, she assents to that title as fitting in some ways.  She shrugs her shoulders into the sleeves of that coat and says it fits her quite nicely.  She is the eye and the I, she says, and certainly she is becoming and comely in all manner of ways.

So let us ask the question, Can the Self forgive what destroys her? Which sounds kind of sick and masochistic, like kissing the hand that hits and not the kind of thing I'm after at all.  More to the point, it begs the question whether the Self can ever actually be destroyed.   Do you, Supernova, by your looming existence -- if you do indeed loom as we cannot know until tomorrow -- do you by your existence cancel out my existence as a Self who can forgive?

I don't know about you* (and here I mean you, the readers* whom I hope will still be around on Friday, not you, the Supernova,  whom I'm not so eager to meet up with ever) but I can't shake the conviction that my Self outlasts even Supernovas.

Even if you cannot accept the immortality of the soul (both you-the-reader and you-the-Supernova -- as who can imagine that you-the-Supernova would? You-the-Supernova being a kind of ultimate anathema to the idea of immortality) is there any other way to live while we are living?

I can imagine you and project you, the Supernova, and in the moment of extremity I would even for an instant perceive you, but you can neither imagine nor perceive me ever or at all. There is some quality of eternity in my awareness within even this one limited moment that outreaches the far flung incendiary gas of you, Supernova, at your most extreme.

Maybe we should quibble for a second time.  I think forgiveness only works one way through time and that would be backward.  Forgiveness is a response only.  In that sense, I suppose I cannot forgive you, Supernova, until you happen and once you happen I may well not be around to carry out any forgiving.  But in the meantime, as long as I am living, I may consider forgiveness as a legitimate response to any wrongs that burden me.

I've been resisting hunting out the etymology of forgive, wanting to discover its definition through active participatory exploration instead.  I can say I have discovered some things that forgiveness is not:

  • Forgiving is not excusing what was done.
  • Forgiving is not erasing the effects of the wrong.
  • Forgiving is not permission to continue.

Forgiveness can still forbid destruction.  I am finding, in fact, forgiveness does actively forbid destruction.  Forgiveness is a stance that frees the soul, the Self, from having to dance to the tunes of the destroyer.  Which in this case, would be you, Supernova.

Which is why I plan now to go to my kitchen-of-the-moment where rather than stew over you, I will forgive you,

 i.e. set you aside 

and set my Self to rolling out Limey Lambs and powdered-sugar-covered Almond Crescents,  while I listen to the music my Self is loving most right now:

And if you do show up tomorrow, Supernova, you will not have been able to take away this moment, will you?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I forgive you, Expectations

Forgive in the sense of dismiss.

You are dismissed, Expectations.  You've served your purpose, I guess.  Sweetened days that came before in anticipation.  But now you only bring me gravel and thorns.

So much for this sweet week I've been looking forward to for so long, each day planned out in detail.  So much for planning out.  So much for the conversations and laughter and light work of many hands while the necessary rushing and working had to happen so that the holidays can happen.

The rushing and working that still have to happen, at least in some abbreviated form.  Some, hopefully better than grudging, form.  Some form that love can fill only if you take one more thing from me, Expectations, and that is yourself with your distorting demands for fulfillment.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I forgive you, the Distributive Property

You and the rest of your thuggish triumvirate (I'm talking to you:  Associative, Commutative) with your tough-guy demands for protection money at the start of every math course.  But are you ever around later to help out?  Not much.

Even my favorite math site says you are a holdover from the ill-conceived New Math that sent my generation's minds into free-association, communal living and the redistribution of wealth just in reaction to your bullying.  And I quote:
There are three basic properties of numbers, and your textbook will probably have just a little section on these properties, somewhere near the beginning of the course, and then you'll probably never see them again (until the beginning of the next course). My impression is that covering these properties is a holdover from the "New Math" fiasco of the 1960s. While the topic will start to become relevant in matrix algebra and calculus (and become amazingly important in advanced math, a couple years after calculus), they really don't matter a whole lot now.
Why not? Because every math system you've ever worked with has obeyed these properties! You have never dealt with a system where (a×b)×c did not in fact equal did not equal a×(b×c). Which is why the properties probably seem somewhat pointless to you. Don't worry about their "relevance" for now; just make sure you can keep the properties straight so you can pass the next test.
I have to quote that explanation because no one who is not (1) a math teacher, (2) anal-retentive, and/or (3) otherwise afflicted, really gives a toot about you -- let alone has the foggiest what you really are.  And yet you give undue pain to thousands and are a root cause, I can attest, to the onset of childhood math-hate and lingering math-distress in most American adults.

Last night, YoungSon did battle with you.  And you won, Distributive Property, as you so often do, your Pyrrhic victory.  Probably, you, in all your numeracy, are too illiterate to understand that means you really lost.  Lost your student, lost your chance to illumine him.  Your contender retired moaning how he could never get it, how math was too hard, how his brain was math-stupid.  I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't mean to beat your student, but you are so bumblingly blind about the way most minds learn math that I could almost feel sorry for you if you weren't such a brute about it.

Instead of you, which are useless, I gave YoungSon a walnut.  "So you want to solve for x, right?  Imagine x is the nut, the good part.  Write it over again bolder and focus on that X.  That's the prisoner you're going to break out of prison.  It's the sweet meat of the nut, the part you can digest.  You need to get it free from all its husk and shell without breaking it, though.  So if x is inside parentheses, that's the shell.  The adding and subtracting outside the shell, that's just husk -- it breaks off easily if you roll it underfoot, right? and so you can undo each of those and put the mess over on the other side.  The adding and subtracting inside the shell, though, you can't get rid of until you've cracked open the shell of the parentheses.  And it's the multiplying and dividing outside the parentheses that lock the shell so you have to undo that next.  See?"

And he saw. Metaphorically.  Cognitively.

Which if he is like me, he would never never never see by simple-mindedly graffiti-ing the gang-sign of whichever of the -Tive Brotherhood thinks this step or that is his turf.

So I forgive you in the sense of letting you go, not relying on you any more, not trying to argue or explain you.  As far as I'm concerned, you can stop dooming around, Distributive, with your dystopian take on reality.  Keep away from our neighborhood community, Commutative.  Stop being such a donkey, Associative. If you must, we can try again when we have to face the Matrix and other sci-fi forms of the maths, but I don't need you to make things more difficult than they are, when really what I've got now is not that hard a nut to crack.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I forgive you, Real Life

For interrupting my ride here.  You are the heart of the matter always.  The only reason I have anything at all to forgive.  The only reason I want to forgive.

Forgive me, for forgetting what I need to remember.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I forgive you, Camera

No matter how new your technology, you keep showing me a face older than the one I'm expecting to see there. 

But I guess that's not really your fault, is it?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I forgive you, Magical Thinking

I forgive you, Magical Thinking, for the creepy way you have of pretending you knew what was happening before I knew what was happening.

I forgive you because I think you are trying to be helpful, but cut out the creepy, would you?

If you want to claim foreknowledge of good things and happy things, I wouldn't mind it so much. Or even if it's just run-of-the-mill news events.  Like I don't mind how you've always predicted correctly the winner of our presidential races.  One of these times you'll be wrong maybe, but meanwhile you're kind of fun.

But there's something a little gruesome, a little gloating about the way you claim catastrophes as your own.  Almost as if you were one of those wackies who call the authorities to admit to crimes you didn't commit.

I've been posting these Forgives the night before usually.  But yesterday's I couldn't write until yesterday, when I woke up suddenly with a compulsion to get up and write about the evils done to innocents.  I resisted, tidying the kitchen, boiling water, until I could not resist.  I had no pleasure in the writing, though, and when the post was done, I sat there, unhappy, feeling a  heaviness.

I didn't know -- I wasn't aware of knowing -- how my inadequate words would seem too slight a comment on the day to come.  I didn't know that at the same moment that I began to write, on the other side of the continent, yet another evil against innocents began to play itself out. By the time I knew, the news from Newtown was old and grim. 

If you're going to come bother me, Magical Thinking, give me more information earlier, give me something to do about it, some way to tug events away from the worst.  Give me some way to warn or open an escape.  Some way to throw up roadblocks.  Don't just come sit on my heart with your heaviness.

Don't come to me the way you did one morning a decade ago, only half-waking me and setting me to snipe and gritch at Fritz with my eyes closed and my head still on the pillow. Sniping at him without any context until he sniped back out of his sleep without waking at all.  We both woke later wondering what had happened.  What biting bitter wind had blown through our minds, our mouths.  It wasn't until we got to our feet and turned on the news that we learned our bitter little dream-quarrel had timed itself exactly to the fall of the Twin Towers.  That haunted me.  Like I had somehow participated in the hatred that brought so many families down that day  That I had lined up on the side of the destroyers that morning. 

Don't tell me that you knew my Middlest was going to be hit by a car, that somehow I brought it on by writing a story of a family grieving the death of their middle daughter who is hit by a car.  Don't draw connections that have to pass through etheric realms to get there.  Not just because it puts me off the writing.  Makes me reluctant to let anything happen to my characters I wouldn't want to see happen to my children.  And my characters, perverse creatures, are not grateful to be protected.  Instead they get bored and slip off somewhere else leaving behind only stand-up cardboard cut-outs in their place.

Magical Thinking, I want to suppose you are some atavistic holdover from the superstitious perilous days where death walked in at any moment.  I want to imagine you are some leftover attempt to maintain a sense of control in a frightening world of senseless deaths and illogical violence.

It scares me to think this world is not so much unlike that world as I would like to imagine.

Hear that, Magical Thinking?  All that's the chatter of anxiety you bring on.

But still I have to forgive you, because I think you're trying to say that maybe we are all more closely tied together than I have ever imagined, like a tent straining straining after the loose side flapping in the wind after its peg has come unanchored.  That maybe it's not just in sci-fi movies that we can feel a great disturbance in the force.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I forgive you, Things I Can't Forgive

I forgive you, Things I Can't Forgive, only for the way you bark and howl when I come around the corner, the way you jump at me, slavering, growling, pulling at your chain, trying to put your filthy paws on me, trying to get me down. You think I'm going to give you something.

I may have given you the wrong idea, the way I've let you mill around my backyard, night after night, just outside the door. Listen, you Things Done to People I Love, you Things I Can Never Forgive.  I'm not taking you home.  I'm not keeping you.  I'm not going to feed you.  Go away. This is the only bone I'm ever tossing you.

Because you're not mine to forgive. You are not my dogs.

Maybe some of the people I love will forgive you.  Some of them already have, though you will never deserve it.  But maybe they won't.  It doesn't matter.  I don't know that you belong to the people I love either.  Even Jesus says of you, better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.  What I know is the people I love are wise and strong;  they will find their own ways of putting you down.

In the meantime, I have my own Things to Forgive.  I will forgive the Things that Come After.  I can forgive the Not Telling Someone Sooner.  I can forgive the Not Paying Closer Attention.  I will work to forgive the Sincere but Failed Vigilance, the Well-Meant Errors in Judgement, the Misplaced Angers, the Acting Out, the Unreasonable and/or Misdirected Fears, the Difficulty Trusting, the Difficulty Handling Emotion. 

 But these are none of your business, you Things I Can't Forgive, these ways I and the people I love wrong ourselves and each other in the aftermath. These are my bad dogs and they are bad enough to keep me busy each time they come bounding down the path barking.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What does it mean to forgive?

I teach a weekly workshop at the middle school on close-textual interpretive reading.  A few weeks back, a question came up:  "What's the meaning of impressionable?  Does it mean easily impressed or does it mean good at making an impression?"

"I think it means both," said one of the brightest of these bright children, having learned her lesson too well: when you don't know, it's best to split the difference, never take a stand you're not sure you can defend. 

There are words like that, words that mean both.  Cleave for example.  Though it's always seemed apt to me, the way carrot coins cleave to the cleaver that cuts them apart, the way cheese chunks cleave together even after they are cloven.  The way a husband and wife cleave and cleave between them.  There are also words that should be opposite but are not, like ravel and unravel. 

But impressionable is not one of those words.

Is forgiveness one of those words?

This month I keep saying forgive, forgive, handling it so much that the meaning starts wearing away beneath my fingers. Already I'm not sure if to forgive means to forget or to remember.  Already I'm not sure if I'm forgiving so I can understand others, or so I can understand myself.

Or if I'm trying to understand so I can forgive
These acts of forgiveness, like everything Emma writes, reject always the easy fluid gesture in favor of the hard, knotty path – forgiveness not as absolution but as an act of knowledge, with all the intimacy and difficulty knowledge always entails.  [Moria from  Moria in Excelsis ]
But I wonder if my knotty insistence on trying to know is blocking me from the fluid gesture of grace?  I am finding that in order to forgive I have to re-enter closed rooms of anger.  Is anger knowledge?  Is forgiveness a kind of anger?  I hear in one ear:
Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to.  Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right.  Our anger may tell us that we are not addressing an important emotional issue in our lives, or that too much of our self -- our beliefs, values, desires, or ambitions - is being compromised in a relationship.  Our anger may be a signal that we are doing more and giving more than we can comfortably do or give.  Or our anger may warn us that others are doing too much for us, at the expense of our own competence and growth.  (from The Dance of Anger)
I hear in the other ear:
Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.  And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.  But if any man love God, the same is known of Him.  (from 1st Letter to the Corinthians)
Is forgiveness an act of knowing? or an act of love?  An act of cognition and boundaries? or an act of recognition and embrace?

What is forgiveness?  Not absolution (which sounds like what some people are looking for in the bottom of a glass of vodka.  But even looked at soberly I can't help but feel absolution is too extreme an unction for me to ever have power to grant). To err is human, to forgive divine  suggests that only God can really forgive. 

I , the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all  suggests that only God can safely not forgive. Suggests that forgiveness is a kind of hygiene we mudborn bodies need, a kind of maintenance that keeps our frail boats afloat.  So, is forgiveness just a more loaded word for repair?  In her post  a becoming whose arc may extend no further, Moria posits that
. . . repair, like forgiveness, isn’t very nice. It’s not comfortable or easy and it doesn’t really make you feel better. What it does is enable you to survive the present without making claims on the future. The reparative gesture allows you to cohabit with damage, loss, and failure without being destroyed by them.
But Moria says she doesn't really believe in forgiveness.  I do want to believe in it.  Faced with the dire and unwieldy realities that come with adopting an older child, that come with the daily care of an aging parent, that come (let's be honest) with being an aging older child myself, I have need for something more generative than reparative.  More regenerative.

I love the different ways Moria's commenters define forgiveness.  The healthy utility of Flavia's:
I think about forgiveness a lot. The most useful statement I’ve come across on the matter is “forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past.” So yeah: it’s about being able to let go of anger in order to survive and be whole oneself — and as such is a relatively selfish gesture. And I can get behind that.

The generosity of Renaissance Girl's:
 I too think about forgiveness a lot, and while I agree that it’s about letting go in order to survive (which may have some selfish motivation), I also continue (naively?) to believe that it’s an efficacious and selfless act, something like allowing the forgiven to be wholly selved in all complexity without the expectation of conforming to my will.

I want that wholeness they both mention for myself.  And  suspect that I can only find a whole self in that clearing where I allow others too to be "wholly selved."

So I'm not sure how helpful it is to just say I forgive you, which can be said so repressively, judgmentally, so primly and stingily, so grudgingly.  And to say these words in a public space like this can come off sounding more passive-aggressive airing of grievance than a peace-making clearing of the air. I'm beginning to suspect -- no, I'm beginning to fear that to forgive requires more of me than just words and a feeling of measured benevolence.  I'm afraid forgiving is going to require me to make stands I may not always be able to defend.  I think forgiving is a little dangerous. 

I forgive you, Wislawa Szymborska

Under One Small Star

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity. 
My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all. 
Please, don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade. 
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second. 
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first. 
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home. 
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger. 
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths. 
I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m. 
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time. 
Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water. 
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage, 
your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed. 
My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers. 
Truth, please don’t pay me much attention. 
Dignity, please be magnanimous. 
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train. 
Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then. 
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once. 
My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man. 
I know I won’t be justified as long as I live, 
since I myself stand in my own way. 
Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that they may seem light.

 -- Wislawa Szymborska, translated by Stanislaw Branczak and Clare Cavanagh

It's always so much easier to forgive those who ask,
and those who make me laugh.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I forgive you, my Desire to Take a Break from All this Forgiving

You thought you could get beyond, get ahead of the wrongs that needed forgiving, didn't you, my Breaking Desire?  Start out the new year with a clean desk, a clear heart?  Empty out the inbox of resentment?  You ought to know life's been working at its sudden twists much longer than you've ever been trying to put things straight.

Tonight I hear there's been a shooting at the mall, two dead, more injured.  This week three people dear to me are doggedly trying not to die.  A young person who matters to me has been newly harmed.  My Desire, there will always be too much for you yourself to forgive.

There's nothing wrong with you, my Desire, except that you are not wide enough, tall enough, brave enough to do what you claimed you came to do.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

the only atheist in Texas sees God

"One of the few atheists who lives in Texas" sees God in OK Go's song "Skyscrapers."  Somehow I'm not surprised.

But from Chicago, this is "the song I'd feel like singing if I ever decided leaving Chicago was a good idea.  And that doesn't surprise me either.

What does any song mean?  God?  Chicago?  Sleeping around?  Depression?  Big city dreams? Suicide?  "Love, life, and just trying to get by"? The bright meniscus of the song gives back whatever scene crowds up to the edge of its pool.  

"That's just my thought's" what?  My thought's reflection?  My thought's trace?  My thought's shadow?  My thought's though, indeed.  The act of interpretation still slips over the surface.  Even as it tries to plunge down into the muck beneath. Replacements and parenthetical insertions are already skating over the water's skin.

All that crystal clearness promises is a bright and backward reflection.

Any mirror is an interpretation.
Any interpretation is a translation.
Any translation is an unmaking and remaking into foreign terms, a picture in a frame, a choice among possible shades of meaning.

Of course, some translations are better than others, if by better we mean hewing closer to the goals of the original. If we can know what those originals were. Some other interpretations are better if by better we mean more interesting. If by better we mean more useful.  If we mean more beautiful.  If we mean, whatever it is we think, we hope we mean.

These are all different betters, though, which will not necessarily coincide.  To interpret is to leave some small and unimportant parts out.  If we are sure what is unimportant.  But to understand all is to forgive all.  But we can never hope to understand everything, or even anything completely.


I'm not sure there can be a human solution to these two opposite equations.  Is it the act of forgiveness to leave out and to forget?  Is it the act of forgiveness to remember and to bring back into the dance all the colors and footwork that went before?

Take these two different "quotations" of the song/dance "Skyscrapers" below.  Which one is better?  Which one is more true?

I'd say the second, in a heartbeat.

Rather than a hodgepodge like the first, the second exhibits some sense of the original's grace and balance and symmetry, shows the direction of the dance, preserves the progression from red to violet, the order of the rainbow (which is not a bad translation of please forgive me), the order of visible light (which is not a bad way to say I was blind).

But neither snippet is the song:   


Each quotation-strip leaves out the tenderness of the beginning in black and the finality of the final step off the edge of the screen in eternal white as well as a whole week's worth of gestures and costume changes.  Each stripped-down summation leaves out the movements I love best: the dip in aquamarine, the at-arms-length eye-locking Ferris Wheel, the arm flung out with joy in summer's greens and blues, the drawn-out around-the-clock spin.  The shared glance of mutual satisfaction in sunny yellow, the flutter of a skirt, the steady forward stance.  Neither maps the backtracking of the dance's movements, a backtracking that plays out within the dance as utterly necessary to the forward motion.  Neither quote will ever be the dance.

And sadder still, even with the full dance playing before your eyes, no one can ever really see what I see when I see this dance. No one ever can.  Says Harriet Lerner in her Dance of Anger :
In a sudden and unexpected fury, [the bus driver] launched into a vitriolic attack that turned heads throughout the crowded bus.  The three of us stood in stunned silence. 
Later, over coffee, we shared our personal reactions to this incident.  Celia felt mildly depressed.  She was reminded of her abusive ex-husband and this particular week was the anniversary of their divorce.  Janet reacted with anger, which seemed to dissipate as she drummed up clever retorts to the driver's outburst and hilarious revenge fantasies.  My own reaction was nostalgia.  I had been feeling homesick for New York and almost welcomed the contrast to the midwestern politeness to which I had become accustomed.
Not even I will see this dance as I saw it now seeing it again. 

So how can I ever hope to understand enough to forgive?  How can I remember clearly enough to finally forget?

What am I hoping to accomplish with these approximations which are the closest I can ever come?  Will I ever see anything but my own reflection?  Or is that reflection, bright but backward, and peculiarly my own, the very thing I've come here this month to see?


I forgive you, Driver of the Red Truck

I'm talking to you, Distracted Driver, you coming home from the night shift who eighteen days from today a year ago struck my daughter as she ran one winter morning with her coach and teammate.  Do you remember?  She was almost across the road, almost stepping up onto the sidewalk when you hit her.  That she is living and not dead makes it easier to forgive you.

But not much easier.

Unlike her father, I never went over and took you by the hand. I never made any gesture to make peace with you.  It wasn't just that I had hands and eyes only for her stilled form lying there on the cold road in the whirling lights of the ambulance.  I didn't want to see your face.  This town is small enough, I knew I'd see you again and again.  I didn't want to recognize you later.

I'm not going to harrow you up with the pain she still has when she runs hard.  The nights she had to sleep sitting up.  Her weeks in a wheelchair.  Her missed opportunities.  Apparently you are a good guy.  No alcohol.  No drugs.  A moment of inattention, eyes drawn by someone's Christmas lights, head weighed down by a long night's work at our local big box store.

It could have been anyone.

Which makes me angrier.  The acceptable risk we agree to live in, with an acceptable level of fatality and an even higher acceptable level of injury.  The miles and miles of roads we build to the specification of our cars, houses built around garages, towns set up to service the automobile.

I don't hate you, Driver of the Truck that Struck my Daughter, though I do abominate your insurance company whenever I'm forced to take notice of its wriggling and whining, its unabashed greedy stinginess trying every angle to avoid paying her medical expenses, suggesting in a hundred ways that maybe she shouldn't have been running at all  - on the road! at a crosswalk! at 9 in the morning! without a bubble-suit and helmet!

Eventually, though, the bills will all be paid one way or another and then I can forget if not forgive your corrupted bicoid American Family Insurance, too.

Time heals many wounds.

But still I will live in an economy that believes big box stores are necessary, that requires big box stores to stay open through what should be the still hours of the night.  Still I will live in a system where medical care is determined by bottom-liners lining their own nests in snug offices of insurance companies.  A culture in love with its machines, in exile from the body.  A town with narrow roads.  Where runners and walkers and bikers run and walk and ride at their own risk.  Even though our town, our nation, our whole economy would be healthier, happier, stronger if we ran and walked and rode more often.

I can forgive you, Driver, but not your accident, because it was no accident.  It is what is expected to happen.  Not too frequently and nothing personal, but still expected.

And I can't come to peace with that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I forgive you, Wounded Bird

I forgive you for not being who I wanted you to be.

"I feel so useless," you said.
"I wish I were more useful," you said.

Until my friend suggested you volunteer at the school across the street and you shook your head, "But I don't want to do that."

"What can I do to help you?" you kept asking me. "You are so busy all the time."

"What would you like to do?"

"I would like to get up and just do!"

"Yes," I said, "that would be great."  Then you would change the topic.

"What can I do to help you?" you would ask again the next day.

"What do you think you can do?  What do you feel like doing?"

"Oh, I can't do anything." And you would change the topic.

"What can I do to help you?" you asked the next day.

Until I said the best thing would just be working at getting your strength back.  I was imagining a kind of inching day-by-day recovery, a foot at a time, a little further today than yesterday  But the next day you sent yourself all the way out to the street without your walker where you were stranded until a neighbor rescued you and carried you back home.

I forgive the gleam of glee when you told us how it happened, how impossible -- see? -- it would be to ever recover, how you had tried but sadly and not surprisingly it had been beyond you.

I don't understand you.

I'm afraid to see myself in you.

I forgive you for not being who I want to be.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I forgive you, Name Withheld

Not because I've discovered any redeeming quality, any endearing sidelight, I'd earlier overlooked in you.

Not because I've realized our encounters have actually strengthened, sweetened, enlightened, or otherwise blessed my day-to-day existence.

Not because I think you're ever going to change, ever going to admit you've been a bunion.

Not for any reason except that I am tired of carrying you around. 

What I wonder now is . . . does forgiving you free me to or forbid me from basing the self-righteous vegan villain of my story on you or not?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I forgive you, Giraffes

No reason.

Just if ever your long-necked serenity is troubled by any misplaced thought of remorse, please go back to your gliding knock-kneed stride and consider yourselves already forgiven.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I forgive you, Silly Bollywood

To differentiate from the non-Silly, right?

This is going to be a hard one.

Because first, you, Silly Bollywood, are really really long movies which can be embarrassingly satisfying when you are good and when someone has time for you.  But so frustrating when you are banal which, yes, is a clear and present danger.

And besides, when someone's not really really getting bronchial garbage but just trying not to and so staying at home one day to rest but could still get lots of very good work done, it's then, Silly Bollywood, that your epic stretch betrays the unwary and makes for more than a minor indiscretion.

Gracy Singh and Amir Khan, "Radha Kaise Na Jale" ("How Can Radha Not Be Jealous?"), Lagaan (Land Tax)

Plus, not to mention, you are so terribly indiscreet. All those colors, all that music, all those tears, all those lovers caught in rainstorms, all those stylized gestures, all that dancing all the time. 

Bollywood, there is no subtlety in you.

Which honestly, is not really a problem for me. Obviously. 

Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan, "Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyan" ("Let the Mistakes of these Eyes [be Forgiven]"), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the Heart)

Neither do your cavalier ways with copyright and intellectual properties trouble me unduly.  Nor your set-piece formulas that play out, click-click-click, like the tumblers in a lock while at the same time straining the sinews of believability.  Whether you are locking me in or unlocking is beside the point.  The point is, you delight in cliche and wandering roundabout plot-lines -- and so do I,  unfortunately.

It's not, though, that your plot-lines are not even plot-lines but more like simplistic and yet tangled plot-knots indiscriminately  looped and relooped for maximum melodrama that really grinds me.  It's not even the way you churn them out like hot samosas.  Or if we're talking churning, like acres of butter churned from the frothy buttermilk of your being and clarified into golden ghee. 

Aishwarya Rai and Avay Devgan, "Nimbooda Nimbooda" ("Lemon Lemon"), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the Heart"

And please, let's not get into your questionable attitudes towards women.

Okay, not even questionable sometimes.  Violence towards women in "you needed that" slaps, violence sublimated into dance moves, sublimated into caresses, the ever-simmering mockery between men and women.  Manipulative ugly older sisters-in-law.  Bossy little-boy men.  Objectification of women.   Aging stars paired with nubile starlets. (Oh, wait, maybe I'm talking my own tinsel town there.  Sorry.)  All of which I would like to say I wrestle with and can only barely tolerate by noting the progressive improvement of women's roles as the years pass, the broadening of expected manly behavior as time moves forward, and  how I can derive some benefit as your outre forms of misogyny shed light on the subtler forms always alive and well in my own culture and besides it is always useful, and very probably globally responsible, to understand other people's cultures.

 But the problem is that none of this is the problem.

Tabu and Ajith Kumar, "Enna solla pogirai" ("What will you say?"), Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Seen It)

The problem is that once you start shrug-shrugging your shoulders and shouting Balai! Balai! Balai! and pointing pointing up in the air and then the jewelry glitters like dancing chandeliers and all the saris start to swirl and flutter like tropical birds and the background settings switch for no reason from Mumbai to the Swiss alps to the pyramids to a field of mustard in brilliant yellow bloom,while the beautiful shiny-haired people begin singing to each other in full-voice while also performing intensely aerobic feats of flexibility and strength -- the problem is I'm right there with you.

So, sorry.  This is one forgiveness too far.

Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Kajol, Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, and Jaya Bachchan, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham  (Sometimes Smiles, Sometimes Tears)

Silly Bollywood, I take it back.  I can never forgive you.

Even I have no time now anyway.  Must get back to the last sobby half hour of Kal Ho Naa Ho (There May or May Not Be Tomorrow).

Bye-bye! So sweet!

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