Leave Room for Acts of the Spirit
All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.
URSULA LE GUIN
“What makes people good communicators is, in essence, an ability not to be fazed by the more problematic or offbeat aspects of their own characters. They can contemplate their anger, their sexuality, and their unpopular, awkward, or unfashionable opinions without losing confidence or collapsing into self-disgust. They can speak clearly because they have managed to develop a priceless sense of their own acceptability. They like themselves well enough to believe that they are worthy of, and can win, the goodwill of others if only they have the wherewithal to present themselves with the right degree of patience and imagination.”
– Alain De Botton, ‘The Course of Love.’
“I am completely tied up with softness, fragility, and the problems of a feminine world.” – Lillian Bassman
I dabble in photography. You could say I have a good eye. The eye is a strange thing isn’t it? A part of the body that speaks the most kindly and yet ferciously. My eyes have seen a lot. Good, bad, yes’s and no’s. I have soaked in life on more than one occassion. I stumbled aross Lillian Bassman’s fashion photography when researching graphic designers. A simple enough search. When I saw Lillian’s works – vignettes of memory and exposure – there was definitely a sense of mystery. A gracefulness that is instinctive.
“For more than 80 years, Lillian Bassman defined, not only fashion, but the role of a fashion photographer.”
By Night, Shining Wool and Towering Heel, Evelyn Tripp, Suit by Handmacher, New York, Harper’s Bazaar, 1954
The Little Furs: Mary Jane Russell in a cape-jacket by Ritter Brothers at the Essex House, New York, 1955
Tra Moda e Arte: Teresa in a gown by Laura Biagiotti and shoes by Romeo Gigli, 1996
I admire people who are good communicators. I also love people who show passion and nuance; the story of the spirit, the blooming of the body. I’ve started my Masters in Communication Management so I’ve been thinking about communication and conversation more than ever – away from my natural philosophic inclinations.
Communication Management: a fancy word for the study, exploration, and purposeful transformation of messages. I read a quote not long ago by George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” How true those words are.
I saw Alain at the Opera House with a friend of mine in May. He was discussing his new book: On Love. We sat eagerly, along with many others, as he slowly unpacked a rather voluminous topic. He did, as we all strive to do, his authentic best in exploring the ennui in the myths of love…
How much more can we converse, exalt and indulge in the search for love – for understanding – for dialogue – for communication – for comfort?
“Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her masterful meditation on the magic of real human conversation. “They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.” But in moments of pain or anger, when words spring from the rawest recesses of the heart, they can amplify our deepest insecurities and emotional vulnerabilities, in turn fueling a maelstrom of mutual misunderstanding.
How to avoid that is what Alain de Botton explores in a portion of The Course of Love (public library) — the immeasurably insightful psychological novel that gave us De Botton on vulnerability and the paradox of why we sulk.
Read more at Brain Pickings
There are few women of the silver screen I admire – Aubrey Hepburn is of course a favourite (it almost goes without saying), Rita Hayworth, Shirley MacLaine (if you haven’t seen ‘What a way to go!’ I suggest you watch it), Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. Obvious choices to some but not without personal and somewhat unbias consideration. Mae West was a zinger! Her characters embodied a fearless entity- the true definition of a Femme Fatale (You can also check out Complex‘s top 50 hottest Femme Fatales of all time). Mae was unapologetic and a down right minx. I remember the famous line, “when I’m good , I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.” – yowza! What a bold line from a women with substance. Women are too often afraid to claim both sides of themselves – the Mae West and the Aubrey Hepburn, with a splash of Lauren Bacall; you know, just to throw them off…
As Mae put so candidly and coquettishly :
Mae West stood as the epitome of playfully vulgar sex in the United States, portraying the role of a woman who made men slaver when she crossed a room in her sinuous walk.
Dressing in skin-tight gowns, bedecking herself in jewels, maintaining a n impeccable blondness and offering innuendos in a sultry voice, Miss West posed as a small-town Lothario’s dream of sexual abando nment in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Her heyday spanned the 1920’s and 30’s when as Diamond Lil she devised her own legend in films, on stage, in nightclubs and on records, not only performing, but also writing much of her own material. She continued acting on into the 70’s, and in a career stretching over six decades she became a millionaire.
”It isn’t what I do, but how I do it,” she said. ”It isn’t what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it.” Her invariable role borrowed heavily from the popular conception of a strumpet of the Gay Nineties. She swathed her petite, hourglass figure in garish furs and gowns, and she sashayed on five-inch stiletto heels; she purred witticisms that evoked both the atmosphere of the bawdyhouse and the raucous laughter of the honky-tonk.
Vanity Fair magazine was right in calling Miss West ”the greatest female impersonator of all time.” It was a remark passed without malice because the actress, although flamboyant, was bascially sedate, neither smoking nor drinking.
Some Memorable Lines
Some of the actress’s lines have entered the American vocabulary. In the mid-30’s, her suggestive invitation to ”come up ‘n’ see me sometime” became the most-repeated phrase of the day. ”Peel me a grape,” another utterance that hinted at sybaritic sex, was almost as frequently imitated.
Other memorable Mae West lines included: ”Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” ”I’m not good and tired, just tired.” ”When a girl goes bad, men go right after her.” ”It’s hard to be funny when you have to be clean.” ”It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.” ”Between two evils I always pick the one I never tried before.” ”I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.” ”The man I don’t like doesn’t exist.” During World War II, Miss West’s name was applied to various pieces of military equipment and was thus listed in Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. The Royal Air Force named its inflatable life jackets ”Mae Wests” and United States Army soldiers referred to twin-turreted combat tanks as ”Mae Wests.”
via: NY Times
Mae West on Goodreads
For the past half-century, Joan Didion (b. December 5, 1934) has been dissecting the complexities of cultural chaos with equal parts elegant anxiety, keen criticism, and moral imagination. From her 1968 anthology of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (public library), comes “On Self Respect” — a magnificent meditation on what it means to live well in one’s soul, touching on previously explored inadequate externalities like prestige, approval, and conventions of success.
The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.
To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals with one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.
Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.
Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.
Self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.
To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out — since our self-image is untenable — their false notion of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan; no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meting the next demand made upon us.
It is the phenomenon sometimes called ‘alienation from self.’ In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.
For the women who are not afraid.
(Somewhere there is a poem)