My friends, I am neck deep in end of semester assignments…but I miss you guys! I needed to rest last weekend, oh my, I so needed a rest. I still rose early, but instead of working on something, I curled up on my comfy armchair under a blanket and read a novel. You know, one of those wondrous inventions where a writer has come up with a story for the sole purpose of entertaining and enriching a reader? Yep, one of those babies :). A leisurely breakfast followed by a spring lunch at a friend’s house, where we ate delicious food, talked with interesting people and lay idly on the cool green lawn admiring the profusion of flowers and natural beauty. That kind of day creates space for me by opening up the windows of my mind and letting in nothing but sunshine and the sweetest, softest breeze.
And then you know, it’s been head down, bum up ever since :). This week was the final teaching week in the semester; we have another week to get our assignments done and in, and then…holidays! Which I’m bat-shit excited about, because I am going away with my mother for seven nights to the Sunshine Coast :). My mother has a five day course to go to, and she wants someone to help her with the driving and keep her company. I have no problem being that person :). Meanwhile, we will be staying in a beach-side apartment in Maroochydore, and I will have five whole days to myself to do whatever I want. Whatever I want may be writing, reading, having adventures, seeing places I have never seen before, cafe hopping or shopping. Likely it will be a combination of all of the above :). Yes, I am going away, just me, for a whole week, in the school holidays. Indulgent, yes? A small army of people will be needed to fill in for me while I am gone, yes.
Mostly I feel happy, excited and grateful. Except when I am feeling guilty, selfish and irresponsible for leaving my family in the middle of the school holidays and staying away for so long, the longest I have ever been away from my family. I acknowledge the part of me that feels her responsibility to her family so keenly, and I admire her for her 100% commitment to being a mother and for always being there for her children. But she doesn’t get to decide whether I go on this holiday, and she doesn’t get to decide how I feel when I am there, either. Have a rest, uber-mother! It’s time to let some other selves come out to play.
Meanwhile, I need to get those assignments in two days early so that I can go away in peace, as well as make sure my kidlets have some fun in the first week of the holidays. I sense some 4am starts this week – my definition of burning the midnight oil :). Whatever it takes, people, whatever it takes.
How do you feel when you go away from your family? Is it a female thing, the going away guilt, or do you men feel that way too?
Wisdom. I am reading a gorgeous little book called How to Love, by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn. Each page has a snippet of wisdom or a little story about love. It would be easy to read it in less than a day, and a most enjoyable day that would be too – but I am stretching it out, just reading two or three pages before I go to sleep at night. Here’s one of my favourites so far:
Feeding Our Love
Each of us can learn the art of nourishing happiness and love. Everything needs food to live, even love. If we don’t know how to nourish our love, it withers. When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.
Making time for fun. A couple of nights ago I went and saw some live music at a funky bar with a good friend. It was cold, rainy night at the end of the week and an hour’s drive away, but I didn’t even consider not going. For starters, I haven’t seen my friend in weeks, and I miss her. Secondly, we were going to see The Mae Trio, a gorgeous folk trio who sing like angels and can play any stringed instrument you can think of like you would not believe. There was something else that got me there too – something I had been thinking of over the past week. Some people have forgotten to have fun in their lives. They have put aside their dancing shoes, their sketching pencils and their paintbrushes and have settled into a hum-drum life of paying the bills, cleaning the house and cooking the dinner. Maybe that’s what their parents showed them being an adult was all about. Who knows? I like working, I like having a clean house and Goddess knows I love a good home-cooked dinner :). But those ingredients do not make a life, my friends. Having a fun, creative, productive, soulful life with good, deep relationships takes commitment, effort and organisation. It is not the way of least resistance. So what? Who wants a life like that anyway?
The wisdom of children. My uncle showed me this gorgeous clip yesterday, of a little girl (maybe three years old) giving her mother some advice on how to manage conflict with her husband after she witnessed her parents having an argument. It has to be seen to be believed, seriously. Check it out:
Poetry Reading. I found this gorgeous poetry reading on Brain Pickings this week: Amanda Palmer reading Life While You Wait by Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska. For those of you who don’t watch videos (which kind of makes you out of luck in this post, sorry about that!), you can click on this link to read it. You want to watch it though, I promise.
About renvois. You know, I’m kind of sad that this semester is nearly over, because I have enjoyed both of my subjects so much. My media subject, Media Convergence and Culture, has been alternately fascinating and disturbing, with the last two weeks being no exception. I have been learning about news – genres, framing, values and agenda setting – with a focus on Rupert Murdoch who is the subject of my final essay. Disturbing. The Bear laughs at me for studying media, because of my refusal to follow the minutiae of current affairs and politics as well as my dislike of celebrity culture. My argument is that I have always been interested in media, but I am a discerning consumer. I have always asked questions of what I read, see and listen to. I want to know who is giving me that information and what their agenda is. I also know that whatever I fill myself up with, eventually becomes a part of me. That makes me cautious. And who knew, that kind of attitude makes me a good student of media :).
Now, back to renvois :). In the 18th century, with the advent of the printing press, there was an explosion in knowledge distribution. Scholars wanted to create a universally accessible collection of all knowledge, thus birthing the encyclopedia. Firstly, they had to figure out how to organise this information in a way that made sense, and secondly, they had to try and avoid censorship and persecution from vested interests in Church and State who did not like people having access to information. Denis Diderot’s Encyclopedie, a set of 35 encyclopedias written from 1751 – 1772, was considered one of the longest and most complete collections of information of this time. In Michael Zimmer’s article, Renvois of the past, present and future: hyperlinks and the structuring of knowledge from the Encyclopédie to Web 2.0, he says:
Diderot wanted to collect all the knowledge previously held by a
privileged few into one public work accessible to all, and to ‘discover all the
secrets painstakingly concealed by ignorance, hypocrisy and falsehood’.
This was phenomenally subversive and dangerous thinking in those times:
By exposing these ‘religious and social myths’, the Encyclopédie was
considered a threat to seats of authority, both intellectual and religious. Opponents of the Encyclopédie tried to block its publication and many church and state officials attempted to censor its contents.
To get around these difficulties, Diderot invented the renvois, or as we know it, the cross-reference. Diderot and his team used the renvois to direct readers to other radical or subversive readings, all while eluding the authorities. For the first time, anyone who could read was able to access information that up until then had been hidden from view. The renvois is the father of the hyperlink, the Encyclopédie is the mother of the internet – and all old media was new once :). Fascinating.
For my second subject, Storytelling and Genre Writing, I have been hard at work writing, re-writing and editing my travel story that forms the major part of my final assignment. I am ridiculously fortunate to have an academic mentor who has offered to help me in my studies, so this week I emailed her my story to read over. Within 24 hours she had read it and sent it back to me complete with comments and technical suggestions. Gratitude hardly begins to describe my feelings about this <3. I am learning little things like keep the same goddamn tense all the way through a story, and see the difference when you swap an ‘and’ for a ‘but’ and if you describe the weather at the beginning of the piece, make sure you are consistent with that description all the way through. Plus so much more. When I get the results back, I’ll share the story with you, okay?
And that is it from me – I hope you have found something that makes you smile and opens your heart today. It’s a cold, rainy Spring Sunday in my part of the world. When I’ve finished this, I’m going back into the underworld that is researching Rupert Murdoch’s appearance at the Leveson Inquiry :). Wish me luck! Meanwhile, have yourself a beautiful day. Don’t forget to nurture your creative spark; your soul will thank you for it <3.