Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our Institutions Are Made of Gingerbread

Well, I did manage to write, even with my sister and nephew here. I blogged regularly, worked on a paper proposal which I submitted to the College English Association (their annual meeting is in St. Petersburg this year--the city in Florida, not Russia), and worked on an article for The Lutheran. An editor read this post on my theology blog and wanted me to write something like it for the magazine. Hurrah! I realize that she could still reject it, but it's nice to have been asked to write on spec. When I think of how often I've sent essays to magazines . . . and now, out of the clear blue sky, I'm asked to write an article.

I've always admired Kathleen Norris, and her book, The Cloister Walk, is one of my all-time favorites. Years ago, I would read the acknowledgements of her books and try to figure out her writing trajectory. How did she become the writer and theologian who created those books?

How much time we waste trying to figure out the trajectory of others. I'll admit that it has some minimal importance. But what life has taught me is that technology will change all of our trajectories in ways we can't anticipate now. From what I can tell, Kathleen Norris was published primarily in small journals before rocketing to the best seller list. These days, those journals don't exist. I suspect blogs and other online resources have filled the void. What will be the technology of the future?

If only I knew. Here again, I should take a lesson from the past. It's fruitless for me to try to forecast the technology future. I need to focus on creating the best writing that I can, and to keep my mind open to new technology directions--I'll learn as I need to learn, and in the meantime, I can keep the focus on where it should be, the writing.

If only it was that easy.

I also need to be alert to cross fertilization. This week-end, I was writing out a variety of possibilities for a title for my academic paper. I left those word sketches on the desk, and a few hours later, my spouse said, "I like where you're going with this latest poem."

I asked for clarification, and he said, "The office building is made of gingerbread--cool idea."

My paper proposes to look at the way mid-century female poets used the fairy tale and compare with the ways that female poets currently use fairy tales. I will argue that the predominant difference is the use of the fairy tale to explore the modern office. I used a shortened version of that title. I hadn't thought of it as a poem prompt--but now I will.

If I had been a good citizen, I'd have spent time thinking about voting. Here in Florida, we have a lot of constitutional amendments, which I find dizzying. In my younger years, I'd have diligently studied them. Now I'm older, and I resent being asked to effect legislation this way. Don't we elect state senators and congresspeople to do these tasks? They're the ones with time to ponder all the implications.

Plus, I've lived in Florida long enough to see that each of these votes on constitutional amendments comes with a host of unintended consequences. We vote for smaller class sizes. A good idea, right? But we don't figure out how to pay for those smaller classes. Sigh.

But I will go and do my civic duty. I don't expect to have to wait in line. It won't be that onerous. I'll stand in line and think of the gingerbread structures and all the ways that metaphor could fit for our variety of institutions.


Shefali Shah Choksi said...

I love the gingerbread house office metaphor too! I'd also love to read your article once it's done. It really sounds fascinating!

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog from my longtime virtual friend, Dave Bonta's Via Negativa. I live at the opposite end of Florida near Pensacola, in a Longleaf pine forest, where I've been documenting the life here for about 7 years.

Kathleen Norris is one of my favorites, too.

As for a gingerbread house. . . that makes me want some coffee, so I'm off to grind beans!