Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tell me what YOU think

Inspiration always helps when a writer is trying to hit one out of the park. When I sit down to write something, I want it to count. And although writing is very yin, the need to hit the mark is yang energy.

I have written my entire life. I have letters and notes I wrote at 6, 7, 8 years of age. I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to go about it. My 10th birthday present from my two maiden aunts was a suitcase and a dictionary. There should have been a copy of the Jack Kerouac classic On the Road inside, along with a big, black, Underwood typewriter.

In high school, I spent every spare moment on one after-school job using the electric typewriter [what fun!] to write satiric commentary, letters to myself on what my 16-year-old eyes perceived as the insanity of the adult world. No-one saw any of this; my high school papers were labored and did not reflect my real thinking; just poorly constructed, desperate attempts to fit in and not be noticed. Give a teacher what s/he wants, stay under the radar, live your real life somewhere else. Not unlike many not-yet-fully-developed adolescents.

But not until I conceived of the idea for the book I am working on, did my yang energy, my meet-the-world-and-take-my-place-energy, literally arise out of a need to reach people with my words, have them actually read what I write, and think about what I was saying. My strong belief is that understanding male-female interactions from a yin/yang point of view can actually make a difference. I want people to get it, use it, teach me what they think is important.

I would like to ask you, the reader, to tell me what you want to understand about people of the other gender. You may remain anonymous, if you wish, but all answers will appear in this blog.

I have a funny story for you:

I got a blowout the other day. I was driving a Jeep, the big version. I happened to be near a gas station, and I pulled in. The guy at the pump immediately said “There’s no one here to change the tire.” Great, I thought. I had a ton of food in the car, a lot of it needing a refrigerator. So I called my friendly tow-truck driver. It would be an hour or more. That meant two. I noticed a man in mechanics’ dark blue coveralls with the name of the garage over the pocket. He was moving cars to the back of the garage. Twice I had to move the Jeep so he could get by. He wasn’t really nice or polite about it. Who is he, I thought, if not a mechanic? But maybe he was invisible to the attendant. Maybe I was imagining him. He was certainly ignoring me as if I was invisible, except when he showed irritation when I was in his way. Maybe red lipstick woulda helped.

Frustrated, tired, and irritable, and, okay, maybe a little ready to cry [I had a whole lot of pressure that day] I thought, let me get the process started, so he could do the tire quickly. So, wearing a skirt and pretty shoes, I opened the back and unscrewed the spare and proceeded to lug it out of its well and roll it around the car. Getting black gunk all over me in the process. I moved the groceries off the back seat where I’d just dumped them five minutes ago to get all of them off the spare tire - including four 24-packs of water - so I could get the jack stored under the seat. [I’m not familiar with this particular vehicle.] I then proceeded to squat down, looking under the car, to find the place where the jack fit in.

But when I actually picked up the lug wrench and approached the flat tire, another man magically appeared and stopped me. “You no change the tire.” He was kind, but very firm. “I will have the man do it. This is not for a woman to do. Why you do it.” It was not a question.

“The guy pumping gas said there was no one here.” I was innocent.

“Ah, no-one here. There are two men here. You do not have to change the tire. I am the owner. Jose will change the tire.”

I said, “Are you Italian?”

“Sicilian,” he answered.

“Me, too,” I say. Immediately he opens his arms. I am amazed as I hug him. From an invisible person with a shredded tire, I have become a lady, welcomed with open arms. And I wasn’t even wearing foundation or blush. I silently thank my departed Sicilian father.

I am instructed to stand aside while the previously indisposed mechanic comes and drives my car around back, pulls out his magic air gun, and – I timed it – changed the tire in three and a half minutes. About as long as it took me to move the groceries a second time to unearth the greasy jack thingie I never ended up using. As he tightened the last lug nut, he said “You a lady, I the man. Lady no change the tire.” Yeah, uh, and who was that guy inhabiting your coveralls 20 minutes ago when I was ready to cry?

Apparently it was okay for me to sit and look miserable, but when I attempted to do a ‘man’s work,’ that just tore it. Guys materialized of nowhere lest an act against nature be committed. The truth is, I could have changed that tire, I have done, but I hate doing it. It hurts my hands; if the last person tightening the lugs was a sadist you have to sort of jump on the wrench to loosen them; and the tire is dirty. Then you have to lift it up into the place where it fits in the back and there’s no way the black crap doesn’t get on your clothes. And as you drive away, you always worry that you didn’t tighten everything enough and your tire will fall off. Your dirty hands stick to the steering wheel. Not to mention the utter cruelty of looking like an idiot if the tire gets away from you and rolls into the road.

Now, I know what happened. I could use yin and yang, and explain the different dynamics, but you know what? I’m not gonna do that. Some things are best left unanalyzed.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Provoking Yang

There is a current news story about the young woman who walked into an airport with a provocative piece of art on her chest, allegedly reminiscent of a bomb, and clay in her hand – supposed to resemble C-4? – What’s interesting is the commentary.

People either despise her for her stupidity or think the police overreacted. But this incident shows the complexity of protection vs freedom. Some comments indicate that anyone who knows about bombs and computer would know the circuit board she was wearing was innocuous. Some people loved calling an MIT student dumb. Other people see the police statement that she is lucky they didn’t shoot her as indicative of a police-state mentality. Innocent people should be able to walk through airports freely without oppressive policing. These reactions do not get to the basic problem, however.

So let’s look at this another way:

Yang energy is a protective energy. Yang does not think: it acts upon perceived threats. And thank goodness for that. We don’t want the people assigned to protect us to think about it too much. No waiting around while the threat gets carried out; no long decision-making process while various responses are weighed and evaluated. Strike, hard. Eliminate the threat. Go back to the cave and watch TV, take a nap, eat. That’s yang energy. Essential to survival. Necessary to protect yin energy.

On the other hand. Yin energy is also essential. Balance. Yin is ease, the spaciousness of freedom of thought and expression, home and hearth, playfulness, sweetness, lightness of being. Yin also nurtures yang. Without these things, we would literally perish.

So here you have two sides to what happened in Boston. Sort of.

OK. But yang also does not like to lose. And the yang energy of the US took an enormous blow on 9/11/2001. There are tons of people out there who literally would rather die than let anything terrible like that happen again. And we need these people. We need that edge, that state of alertness, because there are still people who would take any opportunity to do it again. And our 'protectors' are essential to our survival, not only form terrorist attacks, but from the erosion of society that happens when you feel in danger all of the time.

Yet, we also cherish the ideals of the supposedly free society we live in. How to balance them?

Well, would you walk up to a sentry on duty in Baghdad and pretend to draw a gun just to provoke his defensive stance? Uh, not a good idea. Yet that is what this young woman did. The fact that she was not a threat is after the fact. Had she been truly armed with something, people would have died. Is there anyone on sentry duty at our airports who would take a chance on that happening? Are there people out there who believe the stuff of futuristic films and think that somehow, the people charged with protecting our airports, should have divined that she was not really threatening by knowing the difference between what she was wearing and a real bomb? Obviously there are. Reality is messier and not so clear. Of course, TSA pulling my 80 year old mother out of line [more than once] for a more careful search may have more to do with poor training and bureaucratic idiocy than we’d be comfortable knowing. And I have a feeling that this kind of thing is what many people are more pissed off about.

Truly, provoking a reaction from art critics is a better – and more appropriate method of getting attention. The guys with guns [and some of those guys are girls – no slouches in the shoot-first department] are there to prevent mayhem. If they seem trigger-happy, remember what we lost. Yang protects yin, and will do so even if it means s/he who puts his ass on the line dies. To mock that is a perversion of the natural order. Had she been shot, I would have felt two contradictory things: Thank GOD they are on TOP on any possible bombs – and I would have cried at the death of a yet another kid who did something careless and stupid that got her killed.

And for those critics who think that she got off with too light a punishment, take it easy. She’s a nineteen-year-old who did a really dumb thing. The fact that she was not hustled off and made to disappear– or shot dead instantly – is a good indication that yin is alive and well and nurturing the yang of our system, at least in Boston.