17 June 2008

At-one-ment

Some thoughts for this Tuesday morning (this post is dedicated to my friend Charlotte):

I had a survey Western civilization course at Berkeley, 20-some years ago, where the woman who taught our discussion section was absolutely brilliant and yet had no clue about popular culture. She knew the Greeks and the Romans inside and out, from scientists to historians to politicians to warriors, and explained wonderful things like "hubris" and "hamartia" (missing the mark, a great concept) to us relative neophytes. One time she was explaining Yom Kippur and the idea of atonement, which she broke down into At-One-Ment and I have always read it that way since. In the worldview she described to us, the concepts of atonement and becoming as one were completely intertwined. Yet when someone said, "May the Force be with you" and we laughed, it went right over her head. (Note to Charlotte: I haven't read McEwan's book so I don't know. But your posts make me want to read it very much, and I will.)

That's one of the things I admire about my friends, though: they do think about the big stuff and the little stuff. As my friend recently pointed out on her blog, a lot of people are preoccupied with the little stuff to the absolute exclusion of international relations, politics, law, etc. A frat house near the university in our town was shut down last week because of health and sanitation violations (you know things are bad when they have to say "health" AND "sanitation" in that context). Authorities said the boys had been living in "substandard conditions," surrounded by overflowing and broken toilets, vomit, and "loose garbage" (another evocative elocution that calls to mind a scene from Trainspotting or something). From the front, the "house" is just a somewhat shabby brick building, like many of the buildings that house students in that neighborhood. It's three stories high and has some greek letters adorning the front. You can't tell from the outside that there were eight people living like animals in there. And what were they doing? What were they thinking? Did they know anything about the Supreme Court's decision about granting habeas corpus hearings to suspects being held at Guantanamo this past week? Do they know who they are going to vote for and why in the coming election -- or are they planning to register to vote at all? What was on their minds before the inspectors and cops came to close their residence down? I am sad for these young fellows, yet also continually heartened by my friends and glad to know we're all out there thinking and waging our own little battles against apathy and ignorance, working at staying human.

This just in: The BBC radio report this morning cited a study in Sweden that showed remarkable similarities in hemisphere sizes of the brains of (get this!) straight women and gay men, and between the brains of gay women and straight men! I just love this bit of information! It just seems to absolutely confirm something I have long felt.

2 comments:

Charlotte said...

seriously, I love the title of your blog. Glad to know I'm not alone. :)

Charlotte said...

I finally finished and wow, just wow. You need to get your butt to the library/book store and get this book POSTHASTE.

It's amazing.