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For my women/Buddhism course this week we are reading articles about whether or not Western feminists and Western feminist scholars should comment on issues of Buddhist female ordination. For more information see: the Third Wave. Female ordination is a complicated thing for Buddhists. Most of the female ascetics we would identify as Buddhist nuns (especially outside of China) don’t have the same religious position as monks. Most of the proponents of full female ordination have been/are Western Buddhist women. After those articles section today turned into a conversation about issues of insider/outsider.
Prof [to me]: Say you have a group of Burmese nuns who are meditating in the afternoon and the monks tell them not to do that and they are like, okay, okay and they stop. Should you say something?
Femmephane: Well. I don’t think there’s enough information. I’m not sure you could be certain about what’s in the best interest of the nuns and I’m not sure it’s your place to effect that change for them.
Prof [to me]: Well say you’re an anthropologist and you’ve been living in the village and you know all about the dynamics of what’s going on and you see it happen.
Femmephane: I just think that you have to look at the effect that you have on the monks and nuns. Why does (hypothetical and Never Real) anthropologist-me have an objective opinion that should be respected. I would be a white, Harvard, educated person coming in there and..
WhiteBuddhistGuy: Yeah and also … this might be a case in which you know what the nuns want because they said it. Maybe in other cases you wouldn’t know because you couldn’t really read it and it might be tricky.
Prof: But you’re always going to have this insider/outsider problem. And here’s the part where I discover that my Professor is NOT just playing devil’s advocate. How would it be if a brown, educated, scholar went over there? Would that be acceptable? Huh? I mean there are so many identities: white/brown, Buddhist/non-Buddhist, male/female, educated/crappy…. [laughter around the room]
Yes. I called her out. No, it did not improve things.
Really? Educated v crappy?! I would unpack it a bit more but, don’t worry, she did it herself later in section:
Prof: If these nuns took a class here then I think it would blow their minds and they wouldn’t be happy with
their situation anymore.
WhiteMaybeBuddhistWoman: But, that’s kind of what these writers are arguing against. Liberation in one community doesn’t look like liberation in another community and so it might be frustrating but I feel like we have to try to understand that in order to do responsible scholarship. We might not be able to know what they want.
Prof: Really? I don’t think that THEY know what they want. I think it’s just a matter of information and if they had it, if they had access to Judith Butler, then they would know enough and change their minds.
WhiteBuddhistArchNemesis: Isn’t that a little sexist?
[world explodes but in freak accident me and you persist]
phew. I can’t decide which I like best.
Anna Nicole Smith mug. Green tea. Peeling stickers. Episodes. Fiber arts. Boots. Bike. Soup. Joshua.
In response to addiction in the family my cousin claims, “I just don’t understand, I’ve never known anyone- no one close to me has ever–”
It is her default to the platitudes against answering. She’ll plead ignorance rather than engage in a potentially embarrassing conversation in which she might be forced to learn something.
My guts are falling out. Not right now or today. I ate for a whole week! Normal eating with normal swallowing and a respectable dearth of panic and gut-wrenching.
Before me a beautiful host of stories unfolded. I heard AK’s scope in and out in some time of miraculous fiction craft.
In order to make space for a bunny I cleaned out my closet. I got rid of all the residual over-sized tee-shirts of NC and exes past. I should have given them to her when she was here picking up her things last spring but instead just acquired more. I’ve tucked away the summer clothes that I denied owning in big flat boxes under my bed.
Last night Lcooper used my apartment to write and now I can feel her everywhere in notes and bars. It’s warm here now- especially in my fever and I’m going to bed.
It’s the middle of the day. Isn’t it always.
So. I’m taking this class with this professor at this school and, as us’, some shit is happening. Fucked up shit, even.
Some points about it:
1. Prof acting like Judith Butler is a radical proscriptive text encouraging people to perform gender transgressively. Ex: Refers to “transgender activities.” Q: Such as…. cross-dressing? bowling?
2. Prof suggests wants to MAKE woman the site of infinitely contestable meaning. Which is true but only insofar as Butler is invested in parody and performance and only because women are ALREADY the site of infinitely contestable meaning.
3. Prof keeps asking, “do you guys think this is too radical?” and also “do you think we should get rid of gender categories completely?” Q: how does that go in the koans where someone asks a question and someone else slices them in half and everyone is happier/silent? A: [whomp]
4. Prof repeatedly suggests we write papers called “Judith Butler is a Buddhist.” A: Fuck no.
“Judith Butler is WAY NOT a Buddhist” (an outline)
I. Introduction: what does it mean to be a Buddhist? What does it mean to be a Judith Butler?
A. Buddhist: Buddhist theology, Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist ritual/practice, Buddhist identification, Faith.
B. Let’s only read Gender Trouble here. [censoring nasty comment, CENSORING NASTY COMMENT!!1!]
C. Thesis: Judith Butler is not a Buddhist because she does not believe in Buddhism and does not practice literary theory toward the same ends that a Buddhist might practice Buddhism.
II. Maybe someone has to have some beliefs-in in order to be a Buddhist
A. Errant examples: is a Christian just some guy who loves his neighbor as thyself. OR he he also a guy who does it on purpose because of some Christ-guy? A: duh.
B. Nice atheism, Judy.
III. But I see where your dumb mistakes are coming from.
A. A brief history of the origins of structural linguistics. Actually– I actually KNOW this is all in A Very Short Introduction To Literary Theory so maybe I’ll just footnote that out:
1. Butler < — Lacan/Derrida <–Deconstructivists <– Saussure <— UNNAMED SANSKRIT TEXTS*
2. Hmmm. If only we had Harriet the Spy… Scooby Doo… Maxwell Smart on the case. Darnit.
B. The crux of the paper that you ALL know I will eventually cave and write for her: for Butler a complete erasure of the categorical framework, the mythic “return” to a pre-gender discursive which is actually essentially post-gender, would mean chaos. Words would fail to signify. The world wouldn’t look like it does anymore. Language would no longer be intelligible. It is an alluring mistake to believe that this is the same as the Buddhist hope: an escape from the signed world. Nirvana, after all, would “look” much like the extended un-Butlerian, Bulter-based fantasy world. I think the problem is in the word “hope.” Theory is not a practice of deconstructing until one successfully undoes language. Jouissance? Nirvana? I think not.
*yes. I did just do this. Yes, I did leave out Freud. Sorry about that. Kind of.
1. T thinks everyone’s fucked up because of the turbulent political situation in the US. All the showbiz and terror, uncertainty, hopelessness, and expectation. He wants it to be a month from now when we’ll all know a little more. Right now everyone’s in deep shit. Love, Money, Work, Love, Sex, Race, School, Health, Drugs, New York. Everything but the fucking, unscathed, Sox. In a month he will have had a birthday and the rest of us will have weathered an election. Maybe also a successful or unsuccessful assassination attempt if the election goes well. What cheer. He wore a red sweater over the whole ensemble and when people stared we decided it was because he was eating whipped cream off a milky brown coffee drink with the handle of a fork. I jabbed the knife in.
2. After you told me this, I wrote it down: “___ called me at 10 am. She was drunk.” It’s accumulated a row of little x’s to the right and tipping. One for every time I’ve heard it since: xxxx.
3. This week, after a battery of additional blood tests: an upper GI series and an ultrasound. I’d be more comfortable if my doctor would call it a sonogram because it sounds less like an extreme sport and more like a song.
4. At my new old job my co-worker told me that she liked Iris Murdoch despite the fact that she had never read any of her novels. It was just the writer’s character in the film Iris that had wooed her. (An alright okay alright okay alright film. Or, as she put it, “pretty great for something mediocre.”) I could not agree more with my new new coworker boss. There are all those parts where she rides through the leaves on her three speed. My coworker mimes a tear.
5. I have “Unpretty” stuck in my head. It hasn’t been stuck in my head since J’s sub-horrific shower in pvd when everything was still green. Then: I sang it. Now: I’m somewhat glad it’s replaced “Onward Christian Soldier.” Wait. Shit. Oops. I did it again. nm.
6. On a morning walk I started a story about the dirt and brown meadow my father bought so many years ago but the block was so yellow that we had to stop to talk about how yellow. A yellow store and a yellow wall and a yellow tree. About a neighboring tree JRL, my new boyfriend, said: That tree did not get the memo about turning yellow, it has turned brown and died. True.
I have run right out of numbers. I expected to get to six and move to seven but something broke. Good thing I only care about poetry now and not numbers. Wait. Strike that, reverse it. Because I only care about poetry. Three weeks ago I made a soup for everyone. T and L and A and divFriend and JRL and his identical twin. It was one of so many other things that it didn’t get finished and three days ago it was still in my fridge and I decided that I wasn’t taking the pot-cleaning job seriously enough. I took the soup out of my fridge and cluttered my kitchen table with it. I didn’t want to be Too serious about it, after all. Each day it did not smell but the point was that I was supposed to understand how serious rotting food was and take a few minutes to clean it out. I didn’t. Tonight in the middle of three hard conversations and one hard perceived-evasion I moved to do the responsible thing. The soup had separated into a light beige layer of oily velour over wretched dirty water and then all the solid parts below. I didn’t notice any of this at first– transfixed as I was by the tri-cornered carnelian leaf of mold shuddering along the upper left hand edge.
In a month. I’ll sneeze and all of this will come tumbling down.
Having just returned from nyc-travels, I find my bag full of disposable razors and shelled walnuts, short one green jacket, and much improved by my Ladywife’s generous gift of Jesus Loves Porn Stars. The title is the best part– he explained– and the rest just makes no sense. It’s the just the life of Jesus Christ in the very best gospel-mashing, pulpit-prepared style.
It was three days of sheer laughter interrupted only by the horrors of a migraine and a seven hour lull begun, perpetuated, and honored by the film-decision Trouble the Water. Which, I guess, some people would describe as a documentary about some folks post Katrina. Those would be some people who can muster a little more rhetorical commitment to possible imprecision than I can right now. If you haven’t seen it then you should and, of course, shouldn’t. I just looked at the website and now regret it and maybe feel differently about the film but will link you anyway. Fortunately, Ms. EM was there to highlight a different series of questions than the ones I had.
Some remaining, preliminary, questions:
What is the point of this “kind” of documentary? What narratives to we expect, recreate, or insist on through this packaging and format?
What’s up with farming people’s lives to make statistics feel more potent? Can experiential knowledge of trauma be communicated to do-gooders and Liberals? To what extent can/do do-gooding Liberals help anything? Is their help Worth It?
In the beginning of the film it becomes clear that the directors began with certain intentions and ended up making something unexpected. Maybe contrary to The Plan they focused on two people (Kim and Scott) and used a ton of Kim’s own footage from during Katrina and the subsequent weeks. What was the relationship between Kim and directors? Who’s message was where?
From Ms. EM: The film seemed instrumental in Kim’s music career. Can we have more about that?
What was up with the news coverage? Is the film supposed to be an indictment of the government? Is it one? Should it be one? What happens to the actual people depicted, flattened, and expanded into icons as evidence against the Regime? What happens the the people whose stories are perceptually analogous or legibly similar to the icons when these narratives are published?
How much did Spike Lee’s film (which I obvi didn’t see) suck?
Memoir? Documentary? Memoir?! Documentary?!?1?111 Lolaj?
Ooh. I also learned a new form of argumentation from my Ladywife (aka Ladyshackles). It turns out that the titles of Foucault’s works are actually legitimate, concise, and- whatSmore- complete! arguments in themselves. I would explain more now but I’ve got to run off to clean up my apartment so I don’t look like a contaminated slob in case pizza and cider come over later (Birth of a Clinic). But am hoping this newly codified format will helping update more frequently but with fewer and fewer actual words.
*Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle.