Here is a video showing sculptor Sabin Howard working on a maquette and inspecting pre-sculpted armatures. Most scenes are set at Pangolin Foundry in the UK. This video was created by the sculptor’s daughter Madeleine.
I took a year of Arabic as an undergraduate at Yale. Along with the language, we also discussed the culture of the Arab world. This was the mid-80’s, so liberal sanctimony didn’t have quite the stranglehold on conversation that it now exerts–even at Yale. We were allowed to discuss things like the terrible oppression and enslavement of women in Islam. We were allowed to consider that oppression wrong.
At the same time, I was the only woman in the class. There were undercurrents of, first, curiosity: Why would a woman study Arabic? And then there was contempt: She must be an idiot to do so. I skipped class regularly, being unable to deal with it. At that time, being naive, I was unable even to articulate to myself how bad it felt to be the target of such jeering condescension.
I realized years later that I had taken the class because of an archetype whom I admire: Scheherazade, the resourceful and intelligent woman of unending stories. There was something in that archetype for me, who would one day be a prolific novelist. My final project was a translation from “One Thousand and One Nights.” I worked hard on the story and pulled off a “B” despite my spotty attendance record and near inability to speak in class because of the sneers I encountered.
Because I have a background in the topic, I understand what Sam Harris is saying: Many individual Muslims are good people, but the faith itself is based on a book and teachings that directly lead to intolerance, the demeaning and enslavement of women, and violence.
That’s my interpretation of Harris’ message. When he says, “…One can draw a straight line from specific doctrines in Islam to the intolerance and violence we see in the Muslim world” in his blogpost “Can Liberalism Be Saved from Itself?”, Harris is correct. He’s not acting in a racist, Islam-hating way. He’s witnessing a truth that must be uttered.
Now he’s written a post about the defamation campaign to which he has been subjected, “On the Mechanics of Defamation.” His words are being taken out of context and twisted to make him appear evil. It’s dreadful, and the people who are doing it ought to be ashamed.
I have some experience in what it is to be the subject of a smear campaign. Someone from my past has gone to a great deal of trouble to distort everything I have ever done or said to make me out to be a bad person. He is obsessed with his vendetta, and he carries it on while stalking my blog and reading my posts obsessively, at all hours of the night and day, from different locations.
So I have some sympathy for what Harris is going through now, on many levels. He’s telling the truth and being scorned, castigated, and defamed for it.
The thing is, there is no reasoning with malice. Harris is trying to present a rational thesis to irrational people: knee-jerk liberals.
I have never met more close-minded, self-certain, impregnable-to-logic people than knee-jerk liberals. Especially since Obama took office, their sanctimony and self-righteousness has become a bell jar bulwark against any kind of reason or logic.
I voted for Obama the first time. However, I grew disillusioned. I believe in women’s rights, reproductive freedom, gay rights, social justice, and gun control. So far, OK.
But I also believe in citizen privacy, supporting and encouraging small American businesses (not Wall Street and not Socialism), supporting Israel, accountability and oversight for multi-national corporations that function as sovereign nation-states, and getting the Health Insurance companies to pay for universal Health care (not the states).
I also find it extraordinarily hypocritical that Obama’s tactic is to rally people against “the Have’s” when he has taken more vacations, and more expensive vacations, and played more golf, than any president in history. So many of his supporters are the Limousine liberals of Wall Street, which may be why he bailed them out.
Whenever I have been asked by liberals, “Why don’t you like Obama?” I answer with the aforementioned reasons–citizen privacy, etc–the lengthy list of policies and presidential actions with which I do not agree. Inevitably, the liberals tell me, “You are racist.”
I provide a rational explanation that has nothing to do with the pigment in President Obama’s skin, but knee-jerk liberals can’t hear the logic. They reflexively answer with their standard dismissal of all criticism for Obama: “You are racist.”
Racism is a great social evil. It’s as bad as the misogyny in traditional Islam. I stand for the dissolution of racism and misogyny. Yes, I am equating them. Shouldn’t anyone who believes in social justice do so?
Back to Sam Harris. I support his intelligent, reasonable words and I support his right to speak them. I just doubt he’ll get anywhere with them. For one, traditional Muslims don’t want to hear what he’s saying. The many peace-loving, good Muslims are probably a bit ashamed of the intolerance, bigotry, and violence–and they perhaps feel at a loss for what to do about it. After all, the necessary end to an insistence on purity is terrorism, and Islam insists on purity.
For two, knee-jerk liberals can not hear or receive Harris’ message. They are closed and unavailable to discourse. They do not want to do the research and see truthful implications. They are just about solely interested in promoting their own ideology.
But I hope Sam Harris doesn’t give up. I hope he keeps defending himself and stating his views. I support what he says.
If you are asking my take on Fifty Shades of Grey, I admit that I think it’s a stupid piece of crap that does nothing to help women’s sexuality be understood or embraced. The protagonist is a male fantasy: an inane virgin who climaxes effortlessly, no matter what he does to her. Why have women accepted this ridiculous character as some version of themselves? I do not understand, nor do I approve.
I also think that, for most women, to fall off the cliff into bliss requires surrender. Surrender is difficult, especially in the current climate, in which women are supposed to be star neurosurgeons as well as perfect mothers raising perfect kids and, at the same time, loving wives with the bodies of 23 year olds, because of all the time spent at the gym. That’s a pretty butch expectation of women. It sucks. So here we are supposed to be superwomen, yet one of the deep truths about our sexuality is that it requires surrender.
Re-reading my response, I think I have an answer to my final question.
What women want is to own their own sexuality, and to be able to surrender freely, as they choose.
That’s one of the problems I have with Fifty Shades. It appears, superficially, to empower women by allowing them to imagine non-vanilla sex. But what it actually does is deprive them of the power to surrender themselves into orgasm from inside themselves.
Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci.
It’s the new theme: writing again.
The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.
It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.
It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.
Change is afoot.
Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.
His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.
In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.
Why then this heart ache?
For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.
What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?
How have I betrayed myself?
I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.
Imagine eating a Mallomar cookie. It gives itself over to you on your tongue, surrendering utterly, melting into sublime marshmallow and chocolate mush. It’s so gooey and rich and sweet that you can’t stop with just one. You sort of hate yourself while devouring the next five, but you’re also secretly exulting in the vice.
I am, of course, talking about CW’s Beauty and the Beast, starring Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan, both of whom are utterly gorgeous and drool-worthy.
During the long hours of posing for Sabin at night, I’ve Netflixed a lot of TV shows. I don’t like TV much, in general, so finding shows I enjoy is a challenge. There’ve been some fun surprises. I enjoyed The 4400 and Continuum. I really grooved on White Collar. I have a running daydream about my second career as an art thief. Art thieves get to wear sleek black leather catsuits, use all the coolest gadgets, and go into great museums at night, when no one is around to disturb them. Also, do you realize, they search you when you enter the Pinacoteca Vaticano, but they don’t search you when you leave? If you can get that superb little Fra Angelico panel under your shirt, you might be able to keep it!
Last week Netflix suggested Beauty and the Beast, and I started watching. It took me a few episodes to get engrossed. Then, suddenly, without my even realizing it, I was hooked.
It’s all that gazing into each other’s eyes and talking about their relationship. The desire and the longing, the stolen kisses and murmured declarations of eternal love. The intensity of their oft-thwarted passion–and how they discuss it endlessly. Oh, lordy, my girly heart swoons at all that flowery verbiage. I just can’t help it.
No one’s picking up anyone’s dirty socks, which strikes me as highly romantic.
A few nights ago, as Catherine and Vincent dissolved into each other’s arms in a ravishing tangle of beautiful limbs, I sighed. “They’re going to do it,” I cried, clasping my hands to my chest. “They’re finally going to do it!”
“You’re such a girl,” said my husband, rolling his eyes.
“You noticed?” I responded.
This is the man who phoned last week, disgruntled after a long day’s work on a business trip, and declared, “I’m going to eat, poop, and go to sleep!”
“That’s so romantic,” I replied. I mean, you’d think the world’s greatest living figurative artist could muster something a little less pedestrian, right? But I guess all men have a bit of the beast in them.
“I’m not feeling very romantic,” he muttered. I understood that he was tired and that he hates to sleep apart from me and that he travels because the money is good on these gigs. In their own way, his commitment and hard work as a husband and family man bespeak grown up romance. I reminded myself of all of that.
Still, it would have been nice to hear something throaty and suggestive and oozing with ardor. But that’s what TV is for, right?
Last night, after an extended bit of dialogue during which Catherine and Vincent once again affirmed their abiding love and passion, Sabin threw down his sculpting tool. “I can’t take that show anymore!” He stalked out of the bedroom where we work. We were almost done with our third hour of work, and it was after 10 pm, so it was a good time to finish for the night, anyway.
Yoga Teacher Training
A few months ago, a long time friend came for dinner. She’s an American living elsewhere. She’s brilliant and amazing and full of knowledge, an expert in her field.
But she has forgotten how to listen.
She talked over my husband and me and couldn’t hear any of our ideas or opinions. Now, this lovely lady is a wonderful person in a thousand ways. She’s a repository of information about the fascinating field of the esoteric, because she has studied metaphysics for decades. Her whole life, really. But there was this thing missing from the way she related to us and it was receptiveness. Her vast knowledge has become a bulwark through which no one else’s thoughts and experiences could penetrate.
That dinner made a big impression on me. I don’t want to be like that: ossified behind my own learning. I want to be open and flexible and receptive. I want to hear other modes of thought, other people, even when I have education and experience that contradicts what they think. Even when it’s hard to listen, which it can be, because I’m an opinionated person with a great deal of education.
I thought of this dinner when I signed up for Yoga Teacher Training at Three Sisters Yoga; as the body goes, so goes the mind. A flexible, open body will yield a flexible, open mind. I was also thinking of the next three decades of my life. I don’t want to teach yoga but I do want to invest in the training to nourish my body and to create flexibility, strength, and stamina for the next thirty years.
The program at Three Sisters Yoga is meticulously thought out and the teachers are terrific: warm, engaged, present. But already I have encountered opposition to my own internalized systems of thought. Because Yoga considers itself a Science, and I studied and used a different system that also considers itself a science. I studied Healing Science for 4 years at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing (BBSH). I had a practice as a healer and saw clients for a decade.
The BBSH was a pivotal, seminal experience for me. It is integral to who I am as a human being and to my writing. Most of my characters are healers in one way or another.
This thing about wholeness haunts me.
I seldom speak of the BBSH now. When I was at the school and for years after I graduated, I went around talking about it a lot. It was amazing: there existed other people like me who were attuned to the subtle worlds! Who perceived the subtle worlds! I was newly out of the closet as an energy sensitive and exulting in the liberation.
But I got tired of head-blind non-healers projecting weirdness onto me–as if it isn’t our birthright as souls taking on flesh to see, hear, feel those other, primary realms.
Also, there’s a lot of acting out at the school. The BBSH doesn’t always act in integrity. Graduates and teachers of the BBSH don’t always act in integrity. It was upsetting to me that when someone questioned the school, the school’s response was to squash that person and to decree, “You’re in resistance.” Translation: you’re bad.
There was a point at which almost all of the teachers with open hearts were either fired or chased out of the school. I did not respect that.
The founder of the school Barbara Brennan sued people over her healing techniques, an action which lacked integrity. In the field of science, scientists throughout history have built upon one another–that’s what leads to progress, to the slow and meticulous accumulation of scientific knowledge. Newton didn’t try to own gravity. But Barbara wanted to own her healing techniques, some of which had been developed by other people. She had a paranoid streak which she never owned but which was clearly visible to anyone not submerged in the cult of her personality.
Nor has the BBSH been open and honest about what’s going on now with Barbara: she’s institutionalized with Alzheimer’s. Students and graduates deserve to know this. Barbara Brennan isn’t just a private figure; she’s also a public figure. She put herself on the world stage with schools in Europe and Japan. She has forfeited some of her right to secrecy.
I had a lot of problems with the conduct of Barbara and the BBSH. Nonetheless, I remain grateful to both. Barbara’s vision was extraordinary, both her high sense perception and her larger sense of the possibilities for healing techniques in the world. The BBSH was a left brain mystery school. It was a gift and a blessing for someone like me, who has a good working intellect as well as access to the subtle realms.
Barbara herself was extraordinary as a human being. Before enrolling in the school, I attended a lecture she gave. I walked up to her to have her sign my program, and as I approached her, my energy bumped up. She had that affect on me. She smiled at me and her eyes got dreamy as she gazed at me. She wrote, “Traci, Keep letting out your love, beauty, and sweetness.”
In my sophomore year at her school, Barbara read my field in front of the class. She said, “One day everyone will know that you have a secret, private inner world full of butterflies.”
As someone who has spent a lifetime with a secret, private inner world full of butterflies, I was shaken, startled, and freed to have her see me and validate me.
I owe Barbara a debt of gratitude. Also, I used BBSH healing techniques effectively in my practice.
This circles back to Yoga Teacher Training and my desire to remain open and flexible because already some of the Yoga precepts that are taken as “true science” butt up against my training and experience as a healer.
Can I stay open and flexible and allow divergent schools of thought to live in me simultaneously? It will be a challenge. Of course, it’s only fun if it’s a challenge–and I love to have fun.
The Power by Rhonda Byrne
Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret and now The Power, is close to people who are close to my husband, so I had the good fortune to meet her. She was lovely, with the contained grace that I associate with people who live from a strong sense of purpose.