Are You A Book Addict?

*This post is inspired by “12 Signs You’re Addicted to Reading” on 101 Books.

Here are 12 more indicators of book addiction:

  1. You have a book bucket list.  It never really gets shorter, only longer.
  2. There are books in every room of your home instead of televisions.
  3. There is no such thing as a partially used or unused Barnes and Noble gift card in your possession.  In fact, when gifted it is most likely spent within a week.
  4. You’ve tweeted a #shelfie.  You object to shelfie being underlined in red by the computer as a misspelling .

    #shelfie

    #shelfie

  5. If you read a book based on someone’s recommendation and love the book that person becomes an instant BFF.
  6. You facepalm when someone announces they liked Twilight.  Don’t blame yourself.  It’s practically an involuntary reflex.
  7. Scouting out bookstores on vacation is a must.
  8. Hunger poses an irritating interruption during a reading binge.  You’ve most likely grabbed food and brought it back to your reading space.  You shouldn’t be judged for bits of crumbs on your shirt and surrounding area.
  9. When people come to you for book suggestions you can match a book to their interest and personality.
  10. Your version of a gossip magazine is a biography.
  11. You feel compelled to tell everyone about the book you are reading and only notice about 20 minutes in that you’re giving a lecture and not engaged in a conversation.
  12. This is your purse.  Well, it’s mine.

    photo-29 copy

    My everywhere-I-go-bag.


Bella and Hermione Meet for Coffee

Bella sits at a booth, staring out the window and mindlessly tugging the strings of her drab hoodie, mesmerized by the overcast weather.

Hermione briskly enters the café, her full mop of hair bouncing as she beelines for the booth to meet Bella.

“Sorry I’m late,” she offers and plops down with an armload of books on the history of the British Empire, specialty spells, wizardry, and Latin.   She explains, “There was this fascinating lecture at Hogwarts by one of the top scholars on Chemistry and I just couldn’t pull myself away; it was riveting, actually, and I had so many questions, the answers of which might come in handy for when my friends and I thrust ourselves amidst danger thereby saving the world from evil.   How was your day?”

Bella slightly frowned, let out an arduous breath and said, “Oh, you know, I’m just so entirely obsessed with this one vampire who I hope will bite me someday and give my existence an ounce of meaning.”


When I Caused the Cringe

*Daily Prompt

There are two occasions when I speak French perfectly: 1) when I’m dreaming, and 2) after my third glass of wine.

During my graduate studies in the quaint town Leuven, Belgium, I lived in a small flat above a coffee shop. The owner was a lovely middle-aged Jordanian man who spoke Arabic, English, Dutch and French. He’d switch languages with enviable ease for his patrons who came in ordering in Flemish, French, or English.  Without hesitating, he tended to their requests in the language they spoke.  I watched in awe.

My landlord and I, of course, dialogued in English, but one day I asked if we could converse in French. He made us some strong espresso, took a seat, lit a cigarette, and then signaled for me to begin. After my first few words his face contorted in pain from the sounds of my speech. He looked like he heard a cacophony of nails down a chalkboard made by cats fighting in an alley. I decided to end our session and switch back to English for the rest of our friendship.

I was/am able to read French; however, taking the time to speak it always proved to be a challenge. Living in Belgium brought many opportunities to practice, but whenever I did venture a try people either responded in English or with a look as though they’d smelled something bad. A fart. They looked at me like they smelled a giant menacing blast of fart.

To earn a bit of money I taught English at a Belgian corporation in Brussels. (Because of the European Union and globalization in general, many businesses invest in their employees learning English.)   At the end of a class one of the students encouraged me to say something in French.

I hesitated.

I spoke.

He was quiet for a moment.

Did I stun him with my skills? I waited with hope.

Finally he said, “Whoa! You have a thick American accent!”

Merde!

My good friend from Romania and fellow philosophy student who had lived in Belgium longer than me said: “It took me a year of speaking Dutch before anyone would reply to me in something other than English. Keep practicing.”

Being the cause of a cringe due to an accent is something for which I am honestly grateful. The frustration of searching for the right word in a second language while in the throes of communicating taught me the importance of patience. There I was, a Ph.D. student in philosophy with the speaking capacity of a child in French, and people would sometimes view me as such.  Despite this I hold the experience dear.

Learning to communicate in another language is incredibly humbling. One must step outside of their comfort zone and be vulnerable. Mistakes are inevitable. Once the language begins to take root in the thinking process it is an amazing sensation. The world opens up. Objects seem different. Expression is different. Interaction is different. It’s like walking around in a parallel universe.

Returning to my home, southern California, I encounter people on a daily basis who are non-native English speakers.  Shifting into an alternate grammar structure, pronunciation, alphabet, and all the nuances of language is difficult; moreover, the endeavor deserves respect.  I’ve witnessed frustration and cringes on the faces of the native English speakers when they hear accents. “Speak English!”  Assumptions about intelligence come into play albeit unwarranted. I wish for the angry hearted to give communication in another language a go.

Because of my time trying to speak French I make a conscious effort to listen carefully as non-native English speakers reach into their repertoire of unfamiliar words for communication.  Now I cringe at the cringers!


Feminist? But but but!

 

Confused Individual: Come on. Feminist? You?

Me: Yep. Feminist. Me

CI: But you’re married. To a man!

Me: True.

CI: But you’re not (whispers) a lesbian?

Me: (whispers) Nope.

CI: But you don’t hate men?

Me: Nope.

CI: But you shave your legs.

Me: Yep.

CI: But you clean your home. Confess! I’ve seen you with a Swiffer.

Me: Yep. I have a thing against dust.

CI: But you respect your friends who have chosen to be stay at home moms.

Me: Yep. They’re awesome, loving, and wonderful women who work hard.

CI: But you don’t keep a copy of The Feminine Mystique by your bed to read and highlight every night.

Me: Nope. Actually, I’m partial to detective stories. There are other books on feminism, by the way. Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Carol Gilligan…

CI: Huh?

Me: Never mind.

CI: But I know you sometimes watch FOX.

Me: Yep. I have a sense of humor.

CI: But you’re not angry all the time.

Me: Nope.

CI: But you wear make-up!

Me: Yep.

CI: But you wear uncomfortable shoes!

Me: Unfortunately.

CI: But you teach Aristotle, and he thought women were underdeveloped men.

Me: Yep. Even Aristotle made mistakes.

CI: But then how can you be a feminist? You obviously don’t share any of the characteristics of Feminists.

Me: Feminism is the advocacy of equality, of treating people as human beings first and foremost, and that one’s potential for flourishing ought not to be stifled by prejudice based on the body into which one was born.

CI: But, when you put it that way…um…well, that makes sense.

Me: Yep.

 

Your misconceptions displease me.

 


Heavy Thoughts: Women’s Issues Are Human Issues

“We are governed not by armies and police but by ideas.”  Mona Caird, 1892.

Catherine Mackinnon, professor of law, wrote a provocative essay “Rape, Genocide, and Women’s Human Rights” examining the nature of what is legally deemed a human rights violation.  In time of war it is well documented that rape becomes a method of terror.  The perpetrators of this systematic terror are not held accountable for this because rape is not classified as a crime against humanity.  Mackinnon points out that if soldiers were to march from village to village and cut off the arms of civilians then that would be a crime against humanity–and rightfully so.  She writes:

“What is done to women is either too specific to women to be seen as human or too generic to human beings to be seen as specific to women.  Atrocities committed against women are either too human to fit the notion of female or too female to fit the notion of human.”

What is the reason for leaving rape out of a legal discourse as a human rights violation?  Is it because the act of cutting off arms is identified as impacting all people whereas the raping of women during wartime as a method for attacking the “enemy” only physically impacts one gender?  How much do women count?  She continues:

“This problem is particularly severe for women’s human rights because women are typically raped not by governments but by what are called individual men.  The government just does nothing about it.  This may be tantamount to being raped by the state, but it is legally seen as ‘private,’ therefore not as a human rights violation….When men sit in rooms, being states, they are largely being men.  They protect each other; they identify with each other; they try not to limit each other in ways they themselves do not want to be limited.  In other words, they do not represent women.”

At the heart of the matter I am wondering if the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby didn’t succumb to some of the same problematic thinking.  I realize the issue is not of the same magnitude as rape during wartime, but I’m not looking to the actualization of the actions; rather, I am questioning the underscoring point of view that may contain a similarity.

The Supreme Court carefully stated that while Hobby Lobby was exempt from providing coverage for four types of birth control due to “belief,” this could not translate into a company opting to withhold blood transfusions based on belief.  What is the difference?  First, let’s examine the essence of the belief.

Those opposing blood transfusions are basing this on the belief that it is a means of consuming another’s body (or one’s own in the case of receiving one’s own blood).  This hinges on an interpretation of the Bible stating that one must not consume another.  That is, people abiding by this interpretation believe the taking of a person’s blood falls into that category. This belief, and I’m not advocating for it, is not something that can be “proven” false, which is primarily what makes it a belief and not a fact.  Yet, it is a serious and deeply held belief, but not serious enough for the Supreme Court to consider as protected.  Why not exactly?  (I’m being rhetorical, please note.)

On the other hand, birth control acting as an abortion is not a belief, even though it is characterized as such in the ruling.  It is, rather, a false claim.  One can prove it is untrue.  Please read this insightful blog post for a thorough understanding by Defeating the Dragons.  Abortion by definition ends a pregnancy, but the contraceptions in question prevent a pregnancy.  That little tidbit is apparently unimportant, as the ruling made the effort to acknowledge that Hobby Lobby’s and thereby the court’s decision was not based on medical facts.

Is there a parallel here between Mackinnon’s concern for how crimes against humanity come to “count” as crimes?  Notice the act of cutting off arms impacts both genders as would the withholding of a blood transfusion.  Men, the ones making the laws, can identify with that.  They “get it.”

The desire to not be pregnant (one of the health issues) only physically impacts women, and it has been decided is not worthy of being protected legally.

But “Belief” should be protected!  Well, then, why not the belief about blood transfusions?  Although, as previously stated there is a stark difference here, for that does qualify as a belief whereas the other, contraceptions as abortions, amounts to a false claim.  Note the quote below that demonstrates what is called a straw-man fallacy; namely, the position is reframed from its original claim and then argued against.

Nonsense with an audience is dangerous.

Nonsense with an audience is dangerous.

In this case, keep in mind that Americans never argued for abortion inducing medications; moreover, the “medication” is misnamed here (as abortion inducing), and its actual functions are not mentioned.  This also mistakes a company’s role with respect to insurance, but that topic can be for another day.

 Click here for more information on the medical reality of contraception.

The quality of an action or law hinges on the quality of the idea initiating said action or law.  For example, if I wave to someone who is far away (the wave being the action), and then the person approaching turns out to be a stranger instead of my friend, I realize my wave is silly because the idea (that I knew the person) supporting it was erroneous .

To put another way, a boat may have the best navigation plan, but I don’t want to be on it if the captain believes the world is flat.  In both instances, the hand wave and a navigation plan cannot hold much weight because the foundational ideas are shaky.  Something of this nature actually happened with the Titanic.  A series of bizarre decisions were made (not enough life boats, going faster, a nearby ship could have responded to the Titanic’s distress signal and saved everyone but decided not to, the look-out was without binoculars), and they teetered on the idea or false belief that the Titanic was unsinkable.  We know how that turned out.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to belief as such or religious practice.  My concern is twofold: issues pertaining specifically to women are not held in the same esteem as issues relating to men, and that we now find it acceptable to create a law based on a false claim, which thereby threatens the value of the law.

 

 


Curious about Philosophy?

Hello, friends.  Care to dabble in the study of Philosophy?

I’ve listed four suggestions to add to your summer reading.  If you have read any of these please feel free to leave comments and reflections.  Enjoy!

  1. What Does It All Mean? by Thomas Nagel.  Recommended to accompany any Introduction to Philosophy course.  It is also a fantastic overview of basic philosophical questions.
  2. Existentia Africana by Lewis R. Gordon.  I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Gordon give a keynote address at a recent conference.  His goal is to broaden the discipline of Philosophy.
  3. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.  This is a lovely “story” of philosophy.  It is charming and written in such a way to ease one into major philosophical concepts.
  4. Confessions of a Philosopher by Bryan Magee.  (I’m currently in the throes of reading this autobiography.)

photo-29 copy


BitterSweet

As mid-June approaches my thoughts inevitably waver between memories charged with happiness, mourning, and a sense of gratefulness.  This is the time of year to celebrate fathers, and I had the wonderful gift of knowing my father for fourteen years.  You see, I can’t help but smile at the image of him conjured up in my mind; yet, I catch a slight frown at the feeling of his absence.   The loss of a parent, or someone dear, I believe is never entirely healed.  I wish he had lived longer.  How I would love just one more conversation!  I wish he could see me now.  I wish I could hug him.  I wonder what he would look like today as a man in his 70s.  It’s been over twenty years since he died and I still miss him terribly.

But this is not meant to be a “woe is me” sort of post.  I mentioned that I experience happiness and gratefulness as well during this season of Father’s Day.  His love established a strong foundation for me to journey through this crazy thing called life. A voracious reader, he impressed the habit onto me from my early years.  In the evening we would sit in the living room each holding a copy of the same novel and take turns reading it out loud.  Our first book together was Treasure Island.  We moved on to Wuthering Heights, and War of the Worlds. Even as I type this I grin at the vivid recollection.  I remember that his nightstand teetered precariously with the weight of books, and as I glance at my own nightstand cluttered with fiction and philosophy I see (with delight) that I am without question my father’s daughter.

As an adult I recognize a lot of his habits, interests, and even appearance echoed in my existence.  I gravitate towards the humanities and dabble in a bit of science.  He earned two undergraduate degrees: English and History with a minor in German, and then went on to graduate studies in History. My nose has a wee bit of a bend like his.  Indeed, every time I catch my reflection in the mirror at my unruly eyebrows, dark hair, and Polish features, I understand that I am not at all without him.

Recognizing his influence, be it in manners or genetics, pushes me in the direction of happiness and the realization that our brief time together was an absolute treasure.  This conclusion did not come easily.  In a recent talk at my alma mater high school for a scholarship dinner, I told the audience that scholarship is about falling in love with the world and it is also about rebellion.  For example, the thinker Mary Wollstonecraft argued for women’s education: it was evidence of a love of the world, and a rebellion against the prevailing opinion.

However, in order to fall in love with the world support is essential.  When my father died I exhibited anger at the world.  I retreated.  I did not want to participate.  What did it matter?  Fortunately, my teachers pulled me out of that dark disposition, and they exercised an incredible amount of patience.  My grades plummeted for a good couple of years.  Eventually, with their encouragement, I found a way to fall in love with the world and embrace education.  This transition required me to view the beauty of my relationship with my father instead of harboring a resentment over his unexpected passing.

Let me end with this: I think it is okay to be sad and to even be angry about loss.  I think it would be weird and unhealthy to seek out a quick solution, after all, I’m still quite attuned to the loss even though it has been over two decades.  But, despite this, the sentiment comes because love is so powerful.  That is, it is because of the relationship nurtured by my father, this good man, that the loss felt so cutting.  I don’t know how else to describe it. I do know that I can’t be angry.

Thus, in the spirit of celebrating fathers, I do join in and cheer!  He is present in my memory, in my way of doings things, and in the way I participate in the world.  He was a gift.  That is the joy and the reason for me to celebrate.

One of my favorite photos of us.

One of my favorite photos of us.


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