Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tennessee Williams Festival: Finale - STELLA Shouting Contest & Happy Birthday to Tennessee!

The Tennessee Williams Festival ended with the STELLA shouting contest. Shouting contestants met at Jackson Square to shout for Stella, who was standing on a balcony. Women could participate by shouting for Stanley, but I didn't hear any women this year. At Jackson Square I couldn't get into a position that would allow me to see the participants - I could only hear them. Each contestant shouted STELLA three times, ever louder.

Five contestants were chosen as finalists. The final round of the STELLA shouting contest took place on the mainstage of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre in the 600 block of St. Peter Street. Sitting in a theater seat, I could easily see the five finalists. As in the preliminary round at Jackson Square, each contestant gave three increasingly louder shouts for Stella.

Third place went to a French Quarter mime, dressed and body-painted all in gold, who elaborately mimed shouting for Stella without making any noise. After all, he was a mime.

Second place went to the first ever duo to enter the STELLA shouting contest: a tall guy and a short guy. The tall guy yelled, "Stel-," and the short guy yelled, "-la." They did this twice. For the third shout, they dropped to their knees and in unison shouted, "STEEEEEEEELLAAAAAAAA!"

First place went to a guy who truly did shout loudly, dropping to his knees and tearing his shirt on the final shout.

Each winner won an array of prizes. I don't know what the prizes were because I couldn't keep up with the long recital of prizes as they were being announced!

After the STELLA shouting contest, we went out to the courtyard to celebrate Tennessee Williams' 99th birthday with birthday cake.

And that's it till next year, which will be Tennessee's 100th birthday and the Festival's 25th anniversary!

Tennessee Williams Festival: Breakfast Book Club - To Kill A Mockingbird

My favorite event of the whole Tennessee Williams Festival was the Breakfast Book Club on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, held at Muriel's Jackson Square Restaurant. The discussion was led by Barton Palmer, author of To Kill a Mockingbird: From Page to Screen. I was very impressed with Barton Palmer and bought his book.

Breakfast consisted of breakfast pastries and breads with coffee, tea, or juice. Below are some highlights of the discussion. To Kill a Mockingbird is extremely rich, so this hardly scratches the surface of what can be said.

THE CATHOLIC LEGION OF DECENCY. The Catholic Legion of Decency was an organization of Catholic lay people who were concerned about the growing amount of violence, sex, and immorality in movies. From the 1920s to the 1960s, the Legion of Decency rated movies as A (okay for all ages), B (okay for adults only), and C (not okay for anyone). I remember the Legion of Decency ratings quite well. My mother strictly consulted these ratings for any movie we wanted to see and allowed us to watch only A movies.

Anyway, everyone expected To Kill a Mockingbird to receive an A rating, but in fact it received a B. This wouldn't do. Gregory Peck had put a great deal of money into the movie and really needed it to succeed.

Well, it turns out that the Legion of Decency was bothered by the scene near the end of the movie where Atticus Finch asks his eight-year-old daughter, Scout, to agree with the decision that he and Sheriff Heck Tate have made not to let anyone know of Boo Radley's role in the killing of the dangerous Bob Ewell but to state that Bob Ewell fell on his own knife and died. Although this is not true, it does seem the right thing to do to avoid hurting innocent people. Nonetheless, the Legion of Decency felt that asking Scout to agree to this story suggested that it is okay to ask a child to lie. Hence, the B rating.

To get an A rating, the movie was actually changed. Instead of showing Scout agreeing to her father and Sheriff Heck Tate's false story, the movie was changed to show Atticus and Scout talking together without any sound, so that the audience doesn't hear what they are saying. I don't remember this about the movie. I'll have to notice this the next time I watch it.

In the end, To Kill a Mockingbird, with the changed scene, received an A rating, and Gregory Peck made the money he needed to make from the film.

THE EDITOR'S CHANGES. When Harper Lee first approached her editor with To Kill a Mockingbird, she intended the novel to be only what is now Part I - a portrait of life in small-town Alabama. The editor said that the book needed a moving drama, so Harper Lee wrote Part II about the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man, for the rape of Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Lee even managed to bring Boo Radley into Part II at the end.

GRADUALISM. Atticus Finch and others in Maycomb, Alabama, like Judge Taylor and Miss Maudie, espoused a view of gradualism with regard to the injustice of racial discrimination. Gradualism means working for gradual change toward full rights for black citizens and trusting that this will come to pass over time.

Atticus also believes that, despite the racism in the larger society, the most important thing for an individual to do is to treat black people well himself or herself. When Atticus explains this view to his twelve-year-old son, Jem, his son doesn't seem satisfied. For Jem, doing the right thing as an individual probably won't be enough. Jem will probably feel the need to work more publicly for social change.

It was also pointed out that Atticus bows to tradition during Tom Robinson's trial by not cross-examining Mayella Ewell, as she is a white woman. Cross-examination would have laid bare the many holes in Mayella's and her father's stories (which seem fairly obvious anyway), but Atticus doesn't do this.

SEX AND RACE. One reason that To Kill a Mockingbird is so powerful is that Harper Lee had the courage to go straight to the heart of racial prejudice - sex. Tom Robinson is accused of having had sex with a white woman. This was something that prejudiced white people simply couldn't abide. The idea of a black man having sex with a white woman - and producing mixed-race children - was an abomination to them.

The odd thing is that sex between the races was happening all the time. White men frequently had sex with black women. Some had sex with their slaves. Some had black, or octaroon, mistresses whom they supported in style. There was a lot of mixed-race sex going on - and it was producing mixed-race children. But when powerful white men did this with the black women of their desire, no one complained - as along as these white men didn't actually marry the black women. Mixed-race marriage was forbidden by law. But mixed-race rape of one's slave was not, nor was having a mixed-race relationship with a mistress.

So there were contradictory views and practices about mixed-race sex. If you ask me, mixed-race marriage is a good thing. It breaks down the us-versus-them mentality by making blacks and whites part of one family where everyone is us.

Tennessee Williams Festival: Carville LA - Leprosy Treatment Center

I especially enjoyed this panel presentation at the Tennessee Williams Festival - "Kept In, Kept Out: The Haunting Secrets of Carville, Louisiana." The three panelists had each written about the leprosy treatment center and home at Carville, and I had read each of their books.

  • Marcia Gaudet, author of Carville: Remembering Leprosy in America. Marcia is a professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She writes from the point of view of an outside researcher.
  • Jose P. Rodriguez, Jr., author of Squint: My Journey with Leprosy. Jose had leprosy and was a resident of the treatment center at Carville for seven or eight years. He is now a social worker in Houston and takes every opportunity to educate people about leprosy.
  • Neil White, author of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. Neil is a publisher in Oxford, Mississippi. He was at Carville as a federal prisoner in the early 1990s, when the federal government operated a minimum security prison on the Carville grounds. Neil White's crime was kiting checks, an illegal way of trying to help his business grow.

I learned so much from reading the three books and attending this presentation. Below, I will try to give highlights of what I learned.

LEPROSY. Many people have an unreasonable fear of leprosy. These fears are unfounded. Leprosy is only very minimally contagious. Most people have a natural immunity to it. In fact, medical personnel and others who serve leprosy patients do not get leprosy. There have only been one or two exceptions to this over the years. If left untreated, leprosy will damage nerve endings so that a person no longer feels pain and will cause bones of the fingers and toes and nose to retract. However, leprosy is easily treated now with drugs on an outpatient basis. People who receive treatment experience no disfigurement and actually become free of the disease.

I would ask anyone who fears leprosy to compare its contagiousness with that of the bubonic plague during the Middle Ages. If someone in the village contracted bubonic plague, soon nearly the whole village had bubonic plague, and in the end, half or three-quarters or all but a handful of the villagers would be dead. You never hear of this with leprosy. When one person in the village got leprosy, you never hear of it spreading to the whole village. There has never been an epidemic of leprosy as there often was of bubonic plague.

HANSEN'S DISEASE. This is the preferred term for leprosy. It uses the name of the Norwegian doctor Gerhard Armauer Hansen, who isolated the bacterium that causes leprosy. It was thought that using the term Hansen's disease would eliminate or decrease the stigma attached to the term leprosy. However, as Neil White points out, this backfired because people felt that the term Hansen's disease was being used to mislead them. People often reacted like this: This person is trying to fool us by saying he has Hansen's disease. What he really has is the dreaded leprosy.

THE L-WORD. The L-word is leper. It is very hurtful for a person with leprosy, or Hansen's disease, to be called a leper. The word leper has a whole overlay of negative associations. It identifies a person as being the disease: instead of having leprosy, one is a leper. The term leper is associated with being unclean, with being cast out as unfit for society, with being the lowest of untouchables, with humiliating physical disfigurement, with contagion, and even with moral depravity.

If I learned one thing from the three books and the presentation it is this: Never, never refer to a person with leprosy as a leper. Not everyone at the presentation heard this clearly enough, though. During the question and answer period after the panel's presentation, one audience member raised her hand and asked a question about living in the leper colony. This is equivalent to asking an African-American about living in a nigger neighborhood.

BLAME. People with leprosy often feel blamed for their illness. I think it is Marcia Gaudet who, in her book, mentions a man in the early 1900s who was "charged" with leprosy, taken into custody, and sent to Carville. Charged with leprosy?

It was certainly easy to feel that one was being punished for having leprosy. One was taken away from one's family and forced to live isolated from the rest of society at Carville. In some cases, the resident at Carville was never again contacted by his or her family, who considered their family member with leprosy to be as good as dead.

Perhaps because of the harsh treatment prescribed for persons with leprosy in the Bible and because of the severe physical disfigurement in advanced untreated cases, leprosy has somehow been associated with moral depravity. After all, does not the Bible seem to punish those with leprosy? And might not their bodily disfigurement mirror a deformity of soul?

Jose Ramirez saw this in the devastation of his parents at his diagnosis of leprosy. Both Jose's mother and his father came to Jose separately to beg his forgiveness, with tears, for the unknown evil they had done to cause God to punish them through Jose, their son. Many years later, Jose's father died still believing that his sin had caused his son's illness. It took a special blessing from the Pope to convince Jose's mother, in her old age, that she had done nothing to cause leprosy in Jose.

THE HOLE IN THE WALL. The residents at Carville sometimes left the leprosy center, temporarily or permanently, through the hole in the wall. There was an actual hole under the fence surrounding Carville, allowing the Carville residents to escape. Sometimes they crawled under the fence and walked over to a hut on the levee for an evening card game - just to be outside the grounds. Sometimes they had a friend or family member pick them up by the hole and drive to a nearby town for an evening out. And sometimes they went through the hole and lived outside for a long time.

It seems that the administrators of Carville knew about the hole in the wall but closed their eyes to it, perhaps seeing it as a healthy escape valve for the residents.

ARMADILLO. The armadillo is a special animal for those with leprosy. The nine-banded armadillo is the only animal known to be susceptible to the disease. Therefore, the armadillo has been used in research for the treatment of leprosy. Those with leprosy honor the armadillo. The armadillo's image is imprinted on the doubloons that were thrown in Carville's annual Mardi Gras parade.

LIFE AT CARVILLE. Isolated from the rest of society, residents at Carville created a society of their own. They had sports teams and special interest groups of all sorts. There was an extensive library. The residents published their own newspaper, the Star. Every Mardi Gras, there was an elaborate parade put on by gorgeously costumed residents as well as a masked ball.

When Jose Ramirez arrived at Carville at age twenty, some of the older residents took him under their wing and served as surrogate parents.

The Daughters of Charity served the residents with great love and kindness, and a compassionate priest was assigned to the church at Carville.

Nonetheless, especially in the earlier part of the twentieth century, some of the rules at Carville caused suffering for the residents. For example, when a woman gave birth to a child at Carville, the child was taken from the mother and given up for adoption. The mother had no say-so in this.

Jose Ramirez points out that the need for social services wasn't recognized at Carville. Residents often arrived at Carville in a traumatized state. They had just received a dreaded diagnosis and had been removed abruptly from their familiar surroundings and deposited at a leprosy center. No help was offered for the psychological aspects of dealing with these painful changes.

THE PRISON. In the early 1990s, a minimum security federal prison operated at Carville. With the possibility of outpatient drug treatment for leprosy, no new residents were coming to the leprosy center and the number of residents was decreasing. The government decided to open a federal prison on the grounds. This is how Neil White came to be there as a prison inmate for kiting checks.

At first, Neil was incensed to learn that he would serve his prison term at a leprosy center. He thought, I deserve to serve time for the wrong I did, but being imprisoned on the same grounds where people have leprosy is inhumane. No way do I deserve to be exposed to people with this hideous disease.

But then Neil got to know the residents with leprosy, largely because he was often assigned work duty in their dining room. He was very impressed with their kindness, their acceptance of their situation, their interesting personalities, their aliveness. He began to see the presence of the prison from their point of view. He thought, Who is being exposed to whom here? What an insult it must have been for the residents of the leprosy center to be told that they would have to share their grounds with criminals like us.

MUSEUM. Today the National Hansen's Disease Museum is housed at Carville. I intend to visit it.

Tennessee Williams Festival: Treme

At the Tennessee Williams Festival, I attended a panel discussion titled "All that Jazz . . . And Beyond: The Making of Treme." The panelists consisted of the creators and writers of the new HBO television series Treme, which will begin airing in April.

  • David Simon, co-creator of the series
  • Eric Overmyer, co-creator of the series
  • David Mills, writer for the series
  • Tom Piazza, writer for the series and author of two post-Hurricane Katrina books - Why New Orleans Matters and City of Refuge
  • Lolis Elie, writer for the series and former columnist for the Times-Picayune

What struck me about this presentation was the high level of collaboration required when writing for a television series. The writers come together to contribute ideas and hash things out. A writer is assigned a specific episode, but it can happen that some (or much) of what he writes for that episode may need to be replaced with something someone else has written for a different episode. Clearly, the writers need to be flexible and to give up any attachment to their own work.

Writing for a television series is also quite immediate. Early episodes are airing while later episodes are still being filmed (and even perhaps being written). What actually happens on the set during earlier episodes may need to inform later episodes.

As I think about collaboration for a television series, I think of all the many levels of collaboration beyond the writers. One important but perhaps overlooked area of collaboration is collaboration with residents of the neighborhood where scenes are being filmed. We recently saw an instructive example of this in a March 22 article in the Times-Picayune, "Treme Crew Disrupts Uptown Area." The uptown area in question is not far from where I live - but far enough that I'm not within the disrupted area. I've seen the filming going on while out riding my bike, though.

Anyway, according to the Times-Picayune article, the owner of the home on the uptown river corner of Lowerline and Garfield Streets has allowed the Treme crew to use his home for filming several uptown scenes. He has been handsomely compensated for this, though the actual amount of money he received is not public knowledge. Meanwhile, the neighbors, who are not compensated, have to put up with reduced parking space, increased noise, and swarms of people all over their normally quiet block for a period of about ten days. Some don't like it. This is clearly an area of collaboration that television series producers have to consider.

NOTE: David Mills died suddenly of a brain aneurysm on March 30, 2010, two days after participating in this panel discussion and twelve days before the airing of the first episode of Treme on HBO. I believe that he will be watching over the Treme series from the spirit world. May he shine as a bright spirit in his new home.

Tennessee Williams Festival: Plays

I attended five dramatic performances at the Tennessee Williams Festival. These took place at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre in the 600 block of St. Peter Street, either on the mainstage or the Muriel's Cabaret stage. Below I give a description of each performance.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS IN HIS OWN WORDS. This was actually a reading of three of Tennessee's essays published in the newspaper prior to the opening of his plays to whet people's appetite for the play itself. In these essays, Tennessee explains what events led him to write each play and reflects briefly on the play itself without giving away the plot. We heard the three essays that introduced The Night of the Iguana, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Orpheus Descending.

AMERICAN BLUES: TWO ONE-ACTS BY TENNESSEE. These were performed by the Cripple Creek Theater Company.

  • Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen. A man and a woman, lovers, are in a bedroom listening to each other talk about their lives, their thoughts, their feelings. They seem to be at the end of their rope financially and emotionally, but they are listening to each other. This play is given to long monologues. The woman particularly has an animated monologue in which she speaks of her yearning to fly away - and the man actually grabs her as she seems ready to take off into flight.
  • This Property is Condemned. Two young teenagers, Willie (female) and Tom (male) are talking as they wander around the railroad tracks behind their town. They seem more like children than teenagers. As their conversation unfolds, it becomes clear that their families are in desperate financial straits due to the Great Depression and that Willie supports herself through prostitution, about which she speaks very innocently.

RELATIVE MADNESS. This play by New Orleanian Phyllis Clemons was presented as a staged reading. It takes place in the kitchen of Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as the family is preparing for Big Daddy's funeral. The women of the family banter about family matters, reveal and resolve small jealousies, and deal with Blanche Dubois when she shows up in their play from A Streetcar Named Desire. The play is very funny.

VOODOO VOWS. This play by Tommie Sorrell, a 2009 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, is about two sisters (Merle and Zoie) on the morning of the younger sister's (Zoie's) wedding. As the sisters talk and dress for the wedding, they find themselves remembering dark secrets from their childhoods and spilling out their feelings of guilt over "submitting" to their father's sexual abuse and of not protecting each other from it. This leads to Merle's expressing her fears about the character of Zoie's husband-to-be, Bob. As Zoie listens to Merle and expresses her own feelings, she too begins to have doubts about this marriage. The gay hairdresser, Ramon, provides some very fine comic relief.

THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. This was the featured Tennessee Williams play of the festival. It was performed by students of the Department of Film, Theatre, and Communication Arts of the University of New Orleans. They gave an excellent performance. Having previously seen the movie (directed by John Huston) but not the play, I noticed two things as I watched the performance. First, I missed the wonderful interactions among the busload of women faculty on tour from the Baptist Female College, who are given far greater scope in the movie. Second, I was enthralled with the boisterous German family, who appear not at all in the movie but who in the play march across the veranda of the Costa Verde Hotel at exactly the moments when one could use some comic relief.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tennessee Williams Festival: Master Classes

One of the neat things about the Tennessee Williams Festival is that the events were held in different locations around the French Quarter. The Master Classes were held in the Historic New Orleans Collection in the 500 block of Royal Street. The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, a research center, and a publisher. One of its publications is the Tennessee Williams Annual Review, devoted to scholarship on Tennessee and his works. The Historic New Orleans Collection also has an extensive collection of portraits - we were in one of the portrait rooms for the Master Classes. The work and holdings of the Historic New Orleans Collection are extensive, and it is worth a visit, as is its website:


I attended five Master Classes at the Tennessee Williams Festival. Below I give a summary of and highlights from each.

ERIC OVERMYER: ON STAGE, ON SCREEN. Eric Overmyer is both a playwright (On the Verge, In a Pig's Valise, Native Speech) and a television writer (Homicide: Life on the Street, Law and Order, The Wire). He is currently writing for the new HBO series Treme, about life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Overmyer spoke mostly about writing for television. He said that most bad television writing comes from the tendency to over-explain with dialogue rather than to trust the acting.

JOHN DUFRESNE: WRITE A FIRST DRAFT OF YOUR NOVEL IN SIX MONTHS. John Dufresne is a novelist and short story writer. He teaches writing at Florida International University in Miami. He has also written Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months. Dufresne's Master Class drew upon this book.

Dufresne said that, by following his plan, you will have a first draft of a novel in six months - not a finished product. He said that everything important happens in revision, but you can't revise until you have something in black on white to revise. The first draft brings into the world people and their lives that weren't here before.

Ideally, Dufresne's plan calls for dedicating three hours a day to writing, seven days a week, for twenty-six weeks. By keeping a notebook in which you write every day, Dufresne said, you confirm to yourself that you are a writer. You also raise your antennae because everything around you will be attracted to your novel and you want to pick up those signals.

Dufresne stressed the importance of solitude. He warned us not to answer the telephone or the doorbell while writing. "Remember," he said, "how Coleridge answered a knock on his door - and there went 'Kubla Khan.'"

Dufresne's plan for writing a first draft of a novel in six months is very detailed. You spend the first two weeks on writing about yourself. Dufresne's list of what to write is extensive: pre-school years, earliest memory, first grade (including a seating chart of the classroom), smells and the memories they evoke, all your toys, all your childhood meals, everything you ever lost, all your jobs, your regrets, your first love, your death scene, your obituary, and ever so much more.

You then spend the next two weeks writing in equal detail about your characters. You also need to know the items in your characters' refrigerator, the contents of their medicine cabinet, the appointments on their calendar, the mail on their side table, the stuff in their junk drawer, the clothes in their closet. And you need to know ever so much more about them.

Dufresne's plan continues with place, theme, point of view, plot. The time allotted to the Master Class was up long before Dufresne had finished taking us through his plan.

It strikes me that it would be worthwhile to work through Dufresne's book even if you never intend to write a novel. You would certainly get to know yourself very, very well.

JOSEPH BOYDEN: THE ART OF REVISING. Joseph Boyden is a Canadian of mixed European and Native Canadian Indian descent. His novel Three Day Road is about the experience of three Native Canadian Indians fighting in World War I. Boyden teaches writing in the MFA program of the University of New Orleans.

Boyden said that a fiction writer's goal is to get the reader to suspend disbelief. I like the way Boyden expressed this in his handout titled "Notes on Some of Our Communal Tools": "We need to slip the reader into a world that we've created that is so believable, she forgets not only that she's reading fiction, but that she's reading at all."

Boyden presented many ideas for revising a work of fiction so that it produces this complete suspension of disbelief. He stressed the importance of one's choice of narrator and of the point of view from which the story is told. He also stressed the importance of hearing your work read aloud - either by someone else or by yourself. He said that it is vital to have trusted friends who will read your writing and tell you honestly what is not working.

JILL McCORKLE: SHORT FICTION WRITING. Jill McCorkle is a short story writer and novelist. She teaches writing at North Carolina State University. She spoke about writing short stories. Four points especially impressed me in McCorkle's Master Class.

First, McCorkle stressed the importance of emotional truth. She said that a good short story has the same emotional truth as a child's drawing. Whoever is figuratively looking over your shoulder and censoring your work has got to go. As you are writing your first draft, McCorkle said, you want to let the truth spill onto the page. There is great freedom in not editing yourself before the story is even there. This allows the subconscious to speak through the writing. None of us knows as much as our subconscious does, McCorkle said.

Second, McCorkle stressed the importance of putting a draft away for a time to let it sit. During this time, she said, your brain is at work making connections and preparing for the next steps.

Third, McCorkle advised a constant listening for the story in the midst of the goings on of life. It is important, she said, to keep a drawerful of anecdotes. For example, McCorkle said that she once overheard a woman say, "The humility has been just awful lately." Things that you overhear or see can become part of your writing.

Fourth, McCorkle said that her short stories take shape when she begins with a concrete image, never with an idea.

BEV MARSHALL: LIVING AS A WRITER. Marshall has written three novels: Walking Through Shadows, Right as Rain, and Hot Fudge Sundae Blues. She teaches writing at Southeastern Louisiana University. Her presentation dealt with all aspects of a writer's life.

Marshall said that a writer must possess or develop these skills:

  • Be technologically savvy and have a Web presence.
  • Act as one's own salesperson.
  • Maintain a good-looking appearance for public events.
  • Keep up a high energy level for heavy-duty book tours.
  • Know math and accounting.
  • Work with a legal assistant to understand contracts.

Marshall then gave many practical suggestions about what a writer needs.

Curiosity. A writer is curious about the world and the people in it. She wants to know what, when, where, how, why.

Empathy. A writer has empathy for her characters. She loves them. If she doesn't, then the reader certainly won't care about them. Marshall advocates getting to know one's characters thoroughly. Marshall's own notebooks are filled with columns and columns of information about each character. Sometimes, if Marshall is having trouble hearing a character, she has that character write a letter to her beginning "Here is what you don't know about me and what I want to tell you . . ." Marshall also sees herself in every character. She sees herself in each character's best and worst and the whole range between.

Newness. Marshall said that editors reject books that are too familiar. A writer needs to find something fresh and different.

Time. A book needs time to rest, to stay home, to simmer. The longer a book rests, Marshall said, the better you can revise, and writing is really revising. Editors will reject a book sent to them before the book is ready.

Journals. Marshall has four journals or notebooks.

  • Emotional dumpster journal, to spill her feelings out onto the page and let them pass through and out of her
  • Notebook of random notes and quotes about writing itself
  • Working journal for writing projects
  • Pocket journal to capture thoughts and things noticed in the moment

Special place. Marshall advocates dedicating a special place for writing, a place that is not shared with others.

Proofreading critics. There is no substitute for a pair of fresh eyes to pick up errors, inconsistencies, and awkward phrasing.

Playfulness. Marshall reminded us that Joseph Campbell said that work should be play.

Inspiration. A writer should know what inspires her and bring more of it into her life, whether it be poetry, music, the outdoors, exercise, a luxurious bath, or any of the many other possibilities.

Reward. A writer should always reward herself after a period of work. Marshall said that an alcoholic drink can be a reward but should never be used to jump-start one's work.

Patience. A writer would do best to avoid becoming angry with her work or her characters. This doesn't help the writing process. Instead, when the writing seems not to be working, it is best to trust that tomorrow will come and things will turn around. I also think that it is well to see the very condition of being stuck as part of the process, as something that the writer needs to go through to get to the finished product.

Reading. A writer is a bibliophile, constantly reading.

Perseverance. Marshall advocates seeing rejection as an opportunity to try again.

Priority. A writer makes her writing time sacred. Writing is writing - it is not thinking about writing or planning to write but actually writing. There will never be a "good" time to write. The time must be set aside and dedicated to writing. The writer then needs to say no to everything else regarding that time.

Courage. A writer faces fears. What the characters say may frighten the writer, but this is exactly what the writer most needs to write. When we write through our fears, we do something valuable for ourselves and our readers.

Bridge. Marshall said, "We bring light to each other through the sharing of our stories. Books become a bridge between the banks of our differences."

Tennessee Williams Festival: Sex and the City - Prostitution

At the Tennessee Williams Festival, I attended a panel discussion titled "Sex and the City: The Oldest Profession in the City That Care Forgot." The moderator was Emily Toth, author of eleven books, many of them about women's lives. The panelists were three historians.

  • Alecia P. Long, author of The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1922
  • Judith K. Schafer, author of Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women
  • Christine Wiltz, author of The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld

Below are highlights from the presentation as well as my own thoughts.

NORMA WALLACE. Norma Wallace is the subject of Christine Wiltz's book The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld. Norma is a legendary figure who ran a house of prostitution in the French Quarter from the 1920s to the 1960s. She is purported to have run a high-class establishment and to have treated her girls well. She was a very savvy and assertive businesswoman. I think I would like to read this book.

SEX SURVEY. Alecia Long teaches history and sexuality at Louisiana State University (LSU). She mentioned that a survey of women students at LSU had been conducted to find out for what reasons women students at LSU have sex. Among the reasons given was "To be polite."

As I think about this response, it seems possible that these women students felt compelled by a code of politeness to have sex in certain situations - situations in which the code dictated that refusal would be rude. It was important to these women students to be polite, so they had sex. They may not have really wanted to have sex.

This reminds me of a conversation years ago in which a friend told me that she had had sex for a reason very similar to "To be polite." My friend had been impressed with the dictum that, if a couple is on a date and the man becomes aroused, then it is only "fair" (polite?) that the woman allow the man to relieve his arousal by having intercourse with her; otherwise, she is being extremely "unfair" (rude?) to the man. My friend said that she felt unhappy about having had sex for this reason. She felt pressured by the code of fairness (or politeness) to have sex when she didn't want to. Perhaps she wanted to kiss, but then - Oops, now he's aroused, so I have to complete the sex act.

I would certainly want to find out more about those women students at LSU who had sex "to be polite." Does this survey indicate a need to break a code of politeness that compels a woman into unwanted sex? In a case of sex "to be polite," a woman does give her consent, so it can't be said that the man has forced her. Yet she was perhaps forced - by the code she has internalized.

SEXUAL MORALITY. This is a real bug-a-boo. In many ways, sexual morality seems to come from a comfortable middle-class mentality. It's easy to be moral when you can afford it.

I believe that the best context for sex is within a committed life-long monogamous relationship, such as marriage. Sex strengthens the love and trust bonds of the couple over the years. And yet . . .

And yet . . . I am aware that some people have a heightened sexuality that is hard to contain within a marriage. Some people feel sex as a fierce physical drive that needs to be fulfilled rather than as an intimate bonding act for a committed couple. Some people seem to thrive on a variety of sexual partners. Some people groove on three-somes. Some people groove on orgies.

It is easy for one who is deeply fulfilled within a marriage to point a condemning finger at those with other sexual practices. But if one is deeply fulfilled within a marriage, one doesn't experience the feelings of a person who seems to need more sex or more varied sex. If someone says that he or she finds orgies deeply satisfying, I just don't feel that I can respond that this is a perversion. Why is it a perversion? Because traditional morality forbids it and because I don't feel a need for it? One can make a case for immorality when someone is hurting another person, but when willing participants engage in mutually fulfilling sex acts, that argument disappears.

And yet . . . Those in power have often arranged society so that women have had very few options for making money. When a woman in such a society finds herself alone with children to support, she needs work that pays. Sometimes she turns as a last resort to prostitution to feed her children. This is not as far removed from us as we might think.

An audience member at the "Sex and the City" presentation told us about a woman she was aware of who had turned to prostitution after some financial reversals because this woman simply couldn't find work that paid enough to meet the needs of her children. One might say that there are always other options. I think that maybe sometimes for some women there really aren't. Of if there are, the woman in question can't see them.

And yet . . . There are women who are victims of sex slave trafficking. This exists even here in the United States. The panelist Alecia Long said that this often happens to Eastern European women who are tricked into accepting work positions abroad - and find themselves "working" as sex slaves. Not knowing the language, not having any friends or acquaintances, not having any financial resources, these women are truly trapped.

OVERALL. This was a valuable discussion. Even though I don't engage in sex, I certainly find the topic fascinating, important, and worthwhile.

Tennessee Williams Festival: Erotica vs. Pornography

In my last post, I mentioned that the Saturday late night event of the Tennessee Williams Festival - Bedtime Stories - ended on a rather upsetting note for me. This post will attempt to explain why.

The Bedtime Stories late night event consisted of readings of erotic literature over the ages. The final reading, unfortunately, was an excerpt from The Story of O by Pauline Reage (pen-name of the French author Anne Desclos), published in 1954. I had heard about this so-called novel, and based on the lengthy excerpt read at Bedtime Stories, I would say that it is not erotica - it is hard-core pornography. The message of the excerpt I heard is that woman is fulfilled by sacrificing herself to the desires of man, even when those desires are extremely sadistic.

SUMMARY. This is a summary of the excerpt, as I heard and understood it. Some of what I will say is a graphic description of sadistic acts.

In this excerpt, O is a young woman being prepared for a life of sexual service to Sir Stephen. Interestingly, this woman has no other name than O. Perhaps this is to suggest complete loss of individual identity. Also interestingly, it is other women who are charged with preparing O. Perhaps Sir Stephen prefers to assign this dirty work to women, although one receives the strong suggestion that Sir Stephen will do plenty of his own sadistic dirty work to O once she becomes his. O is a willing participant in all this - she wants to give herself to Sir Stephen.

The preparation of O consists of these acts of sadism. O is tied up and beaten savagely on the insides of her thighs. Iron rings with Sir Stephen's insignia are inserted into O's labia. O is branded across the buttocks with Sir Stephen's name, using a red-hot branding iron.

Once the preparations are complete, O is taken to Sir Stephen. O feels proud to belong to her new master.

S & M. Now I want to say a word about S & M sex. S & M sex can work - so I've read - with truly willing participants. Below are some of the things it seems to encompass.

Receiving Pain. Some people find pain sexually arousing. Karen Armstrong describes this in her memoir Through the Narrow Gate, which recounts her years as a nun. Karen entered the convent at age seventeen, before she had had the experience of sexual arousal. As a nun, she was required to do penance using what is called the discipline. The discipline is a set of cords with which a nun flagellates herself to identify with the sufferings of Jesus and to help atone for her own sins and those of unrepentant sinners. Karen, however, found that her body came alive in a strange way when she used the discipline. The pain was sexually arousing to her.

Some people find it sexually arousing to be beaten. This makes sense to me because there truly is a fine line between pain and pleasure. There is actually such a thing as painful pleasure or pleasurable pain. For pain to be pleasurable, though, you have to stay on the right side of the pain/pleasure line. Once you cross the line, you get painful pain.

I can imagine a couple, one of whom is aroused by pain, agreeing to include beating as part of their sexual activity. If both parties agree to this, if the beating is truly a pleasurable pain to the one being beaten, if the act of providing the beating is not disturbing to the other, if the couple establishes clear guidelines and signals, then I think it can work.

Giving Pain. This is more problematic. Some people are sexually aroused by inflicting pain. A friend, years ago, told me that her husband was of this type. During sex, he did things that hurt her, and he wouldn't stop when asked. (My friend and this man are now divorced.) The problem with this is finding a mate who enjoys the pain inflicted. However, with some pain inflicters, I think that the arousal only occurs when the mate experiences painful pain. Inflicting pleasurable pain may not be arousing for the pain inflicter. I don't know the solution to this one.

Dominance and Subordination. Some people are sexually aroused by dominating or by being dominated. This is different from being aroused by pain per se. Inflicting or receiving pain could be part of the dominance or subordination, but the key is the dominance or the subordination itself. This can certainly be acted out with willing participants. The mate doesn't even have to find his or her role arousing. The mate only needs to be willing to act out the opposite role to please his or her partner. With clear guidelines and signals, I think this can work.

Overall: Healthy S & M. For S & M sex to be healthy - and I think it can be - you have a situation where both parties in a couple love and respect each other, communicate well, share their sexual fantasies, want to help fulfill the other's sexual fantasies, are willing to experiment, and establish clear guidelines and signals. They can then act out each other's sexual fantasies - and the key is "act out." The dominator, for example, is acting out a domination fantasy with a willing participant, not actually dominating a helpless victim. The subordinated one is acting out a subordination fantasy, not actually being tortured.

BACK TO THE STORY OF O. In The Story of O, O is actually being tortured. The things done to O are not sexually arousing for her. They are excruciatingly painful. O submits to them only because she wants to give herself fully to Sir Stephen, and this is what he demands. O's "fulfillment" is to satisfy Sir Stephen's demands, no matter how painful they are for O herself.

This is a terrible message to send to women and to men alike. A woman is not fulfilled in this way. And any man who enjoys subordinating a woman to real pain has allowed his soul to become twisted.

This is what I found upsetting in the reading of the excerpt from The Story of O at the Bedtime Stories event. The Story of O gives a soul-twisting message. It is not erotica - it is hard-core pornography. I have read that Anne Desclos wrote The Story of O for her lover, who admired the Marquis de Sade. (What a surprise that is.) To include The Story of O in an evening of erotic literature is to give literary legitimacy to something destructive.

Tennessee Williams Festival: Late Night Events

Before the Tennessee Williams Festival, I told myself that I would not attend any late night events - and then I ended up attending every single one of the them! They were too much fun to miss! So I went to four late night events in a row.

Wednesday, March 24
Cocktail contest and rooftop screening of A Streetcar Named Desire
Chateau Bourbon Hotel (800 block of Iberville Street)
Described in my previous post

Thursday, March 25
Literary Late Night - an improvisation troupe & a poetry slam
One Eyed Jack's (600 block of Toulouse Street)
Described below

Friday, March 26
Literary Death Match - four writers read their work & three judges gave humorous commentary
One Eyed Jack's (600 block of Toulouse Street)
Described below

Saturday, March 27
Bedtime Stories - readings of erotica through the ages
Dragon's Den (400 block of Esplanade Avenue)
Described below


Improvisations. The evening began with a warm-up of improvisations by the National Comedy Company. The actors took suggestions from the audience and unspooled improvised scenes based on those suggestions. I don't have much to say about this because I found it only mildly funny.

Poetry Slam. This was the main event. Anyone could sign up to perform in the poetry slam for a $100 prize. We wound up with fourteen performance poets in the preliminary round, of whom five were chosen for a final round. Five judges were selected from the audience and given slates on which to write scores for each poet on a 10-point scale. After each performance, the judges wrote a score and held up their slates to be calculated.

The poetry slam was MC-ed by Chuck Perkins, a New Orleans poet and musician. Chuck Perkins' MC-ing was a performance in itself. He was funny and kept a high energy level. I think the audience was in a high energy mood as well.

Poetry slams can be intimidating events for the performers, but this poetry slam was very friendly. The one poet who appeared nervous was encouraged by the audience. When this poet started snapping his fingers, the audience began clapping in time to help establish a beat - and this helped launch the nervous performer into his poem.

The participating poets did not read or recite their poems - they performed their poems. The poet I thought was the best (and who made it to the finals) was a young intensely expressive African-American woman. Her preliminary-round poem was about living with the knowledge that your parents hadn't really wanted to have you because they were too young and unready for a child. Her final-round poem was about the challenges of living with a name like Chaniqua or Nakeisha or Lashandra.

The actual winner was a young male English teacher from Warren Easton High School. Amazingly, three of the five final-round poets managed to disqualify themselves by going over-time!


This was a nutty and enjoyable event. Four authors read from their work.

  • Amanda Boyden, novelist, Writer-in-Residence at the University of New Orleans, and former trapeze artist
  • Chuck Perkins, the previous evening's MC
  • Arthur Phillips, novelist from New York
  • Michael Patrick Welch, humorous journalist from New Orleans

Three judges provided off-beat commentary.

  • Jeremy Lawrence, actor
  • Carol Sutton, actor
  • Kit Wohl, cook book author

The MC was Todd Zuniga from New York, who founded both Opium Magazine and this very Literary Death Match event, which he conducts in cities around the United States.

To me, the two best contestants were Chuck Perkins and Michael Patrick Welch. Chuck Perkins performed several of his poems, one of which was a very clever poem about street names in New Orleans. Michael Patrick Welch's performance was quite unusual, as I will describe in the following paragraph.

While waiting for the Literary Death Match to begin, I saw a goat being led through the lounge of One Eyed Jack's. Then, when Welch got up to perform, he began with a question: "Did anyone see a goat here earlier?" Several of us raised out hands. Welch then said something like this: "That's my goat, Chauncey Gardener. I had planned to have Chauncey with me on-stage, but he smokes, so the management wouldn't allow it. However, I'm going to read an FAQ that I've written about Chauncey, composed of questions that people frequently ask about my goat and the answers I've come up with." This turned out to be probably the funniest performance of the whole festival. Chauncey, by the way, lives with Welch at Welch's home in the Bywater (the neighborhood behind the Marigny, which is behind the French Quarter).

After all four performances and the judges' commentaries, two finalists were selected. The finalists had to run across the stage, shout STELLA, grab a long-stemmed rose in their teeth, and blow out a candle. The two finalists were Amanda Boyden and Arthur Phillips, and the winner was Amanda Boyden.


This is the event I liked the least. It consisted largely of readings of erotic literature through the ages. Erotic literature isn't that interesting, I found. It's a bit tiresome to keep hearing descriptions of sex. It just wasn't funny enough for a late night event.

However, I did enjoy the three burlesque dances, largely because I had never seen this before. Each dancer performed a strip act, the climax of which was the revealing of the dancer's breasts with only a tasseled nipple covering, followed by a brief period of bouncy dancing that made the breasts jiggle and the tassels swirl.

Unfortunately, this event ended on a note that I didn't care for at all - an excerpt from the so-called novel The Story of O. I found this upsetting, and I will devote my next post to why.


I am delighted that I went to these late night events. Bedtime Stories aside, they were fun, funny, and high in energy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tennessee Williams Festival: Pre-Festival Night

I hadn't intended to go to the pre-festival night festivities of the Tennessee Williams Festival on Wednesday (March 24), but something got into me at the last moment and I decided, Hey, why not go? The festivities began at 7 p.m. at the Chateau Bourbon Hotel in the 800 block of Iberville Street, but I drove down to the French Quarter early, arriving at about 5 p.m. I decided to park in the hotel's parking garage and to pay extra for valet parking. (Self parking in the garage at 5 p.m. would be okay, but self unparking alone in the garage at 10:30 p.m. I felt would not.)

Since I was early, I trotted over to the Gumbo Shop for supper and had a great meal in the courtyard - tossed green salad and gumbo z'herbes. Gumbo z'herbes is a green gumbo (vegetarian) that I hardly ever eat. I grew up with my grandmother's seafood gumbo and later got into chicken and sausage gumbo but never gumbo z'herbes. Anyway, the gumbo z'herbes at the Gumbo Shop was a light relaxing gumbo that I just loved. I will certainly order it again!

After this supper, I strolled along the Mississippi River until time for the festivities.

The first part of the festivities was a cocktail contest at 7 p.m. in the Clock Bar of the Chateau Bourbon. Now why would you name your bar the Clock Bar? Because the Chateau Bourbon is in the location of the former D. H. Holmes Department Store, which was famous for its large clock on Canal Street. I remember the days when we would say, "Meet you under the clock at Holmes." Now we can say, "Meet you in the Clock Bar."

Anyway, we all met in the Clock Bar, and three bartenders - also called mixologists - competed to create the best Tennessee Williams inspired drink. Official celebrity judges actually sat at the bar and commented on each drink, but everyone got to vote - samples of each drink were passed among the crowd on trays, and we each had a ballot to cast our vote. These were the three drinks.

  • Big Daddy's Stella - a fruity drink with a slice of mango in it
  • Pink Honey - some sort of almond liqueur with milk and honey
  • 19th Hole - I don't know what it was, but it was strong
I very rarely drink, but I really wanted to try these drinks, so I took the samples and had two sips of each. (For my own larger drink, I had non-alcoholic fruit punch.) I voted for Pink Honey, but it didn't win. I missed the announcement of the winner, but someone told me it was Big Daddy's Stella. This now becomes the Stella Drink (or did they say the Stellar Drink?) of 2010.

The second part of the festivities was a screening of the movie version of Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. This took place outdoors by the light of the moon on the hotel's rooftop courtyard - a really nice setting. A Streetcar Named Desire is nothing if not intense - and the acting is masterful. Marlon Brando is Stanley Kowalski, and Vivien Leigh is Blanche Dubois. It was a great way to get into the spirit of the Tennessee Williams Festival!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Philosophy Cafe: Detachment

On Friday evening, March 19, I participated in a Philosophy Cafe, or Philo Cafe for short, on the topic of detachment at the Hey Coffeehouse in New Orleans. Our discussion of detachment yielded some important insights for me.

First, a word about Philo Cafes. A Philo Cafe is a group of people who meet to discuss a philosophical topic. Members commit to sharing their ideas in an atmosphere of deep, welcoming, respectful listening. Philo Cafes in New Orleans are held at public locations, such as a coffeehouse or a library, and anyone is welcome to drop by and join in. They are usually facilitated by David O'Donaghue, founder of the Lyceum Project, which promotes experiential adult education, usually free or low-cost. (Philo Cafes are free.) You can find more about the Lyceum, David O'Donaghue, Philo Cafes, and other Lyceum events at this website:


Now, for our Philo Cafe of this past Friday on detachment. Here are some of my thoughts as a result of our discussion.

WHAT IS DETACHMENT? Detachment is not withdrawal, it is not indifference, it is not a lack of caring. It is maintaining a healthy separation. To de-tach is to separate. To at-tach is to join, to make one, to enmesh. One can care deeply and yet practice detachment.

To be a good parent, for instance, one must care deeply and yet remain detached. A mother is not her child. A mother must maintain a healthy separation from her child in order to parent the child effectively. An attached mother will not be at peace when her child is fussing; her child's moods become her moods. She cannot effectively calm the child, since she herself becomes one with the child's agitation. A detached mother, on the other hand, will notice that her child is fussing, will care deeply about calming her child, and will maintain her own inner peace as she searches for a way to help the child calm down. The detached mother loves her child deeply and is able to parent well because she remains separate from her child's moods.

The bullet points below show the difference among enmeshment, indifference, and detachment with a loved one - perhaps an adult child, a sister or brother, or a good friend.

  • Enmeshment: I cannot allow a loved one to make her own decisions because I see so clearly what is best for her. I just have to persuade her to take the path that I know is in her best interests. My inner peace is completely destroyed if my loved one does not do what I know is best for her.
  • Indifference: I give up on my loved one. I cease to care what she chooses.
  • Detachment: I offer to explain to my loved one my concerns and observations about her choices, and I honor her freedom to choose her own behavior. If she chooses a path that I see as harmful, I continue to love her. I may feel saddened by her choice, but I don't let it destroy my own inner peace.
I see a fairly simple example of the above in a good friend's experience with her adult son. My friend's son rides his bicycle around New Orleans at night. My friend is concerned that this puts her son in danger. Her son, however, is not going to give up his night-time bicycle riding. My friend has decided to practice detachment. Rather than nag her son or worry incessantly about him (enmeshment), she honors his freedom to ride his bicycle at night, continues to care deeply about him, and retains her own inner peace (detachment).

DETACHMENT FROM FEELINGS, especially "negative" ones. I am enmeshed in my feelings when my feelings become my world. My entire world is then swathed in anger or fear or hopelessness. I can see nothing else. On the other hand, I am detached when I acknowledge my feelings and yet do not let them become my whole world. Or if they have already become my whole world, then I can try to step back enough to acknowledge that fact. Perhaps I can say to myself, Okay, all I can see right now is anger, so I had better withdraw temporarily from this situation until I can be more detached. I am detached when I can experience and acknowledge my feelings and yet choose not to BE my feelings. If I can feel and acknowledge anger, for instance, and yet choose not to embody anger in my behavior but to embody compassion, then I am detached.

THE IDEAL AND THE REAL. In our Philo Cafe discussion, I saw a tension between striving to attain an ideal state of detachment, on the one hand, and on the other, espousing a practice of detachment that forgoes attainment of an ideal. The former seems to focus on "I'm not there yet," while the latter seems to focus on "This is where I am." I find the latter more appealing and accessible.

DETACHMENT FROM DETACHMENT. I think that this is very important. Just as it is said, "Moderation with all things, even with moderation itself," I think we can say, "Detachment with all things, even with detachment itself." Below are some reasons why.

  • Enjoying life. Attachment to being or becoming detached diminishes our enjoyment of life now. Focusing on reaching a full state of detachment emphasizes the ideal, the unattained, the future at the expense of the real, the actual experience, the present moment.
  • Emptying oneself of self. In previous posts on Karen Armstrong, I've discussed what Karen says about the ecstasy of self-emptying. Karen emphasizes that self-emptying NEVER occurs when one is pre-occupied with the self, for instance, when one is constantly examining the self to see how detached one has become. Ecstasy occurs when one steps out of the self and into the joy of the other.
  • Hearing others. When one is overly focused on detachment - and on one's ideas about detachment - it is difficult to hear others. If I "know" the "truth" about detachment, there is no room inside me to welcome your ideas. This defeats the whole purpose of a Philo Cafe, or of any free conversation.
  • Telling oneself the truth. If I am attached to embodying an ideal of detachment, I may be tempted to conceal the truth from myself. It may become important for me to appear detached when I am not. I may try to appear detached from a particular outcome when I am actually resentful about what happened. If I can't admit my resentment even to myself, my resentment will probably emerge in some unexpected way, whereas if I can admit to myself, Okay, I really really cared about this outcome. I am not detached in this instance. I am angry that things didn't go the way I wanted, then I can more readily choose how to behave.
  • Experiencing carnival. Carnival provides a creative container for excess. Every so often, we need carnival. An over-emphasis on detachment precludes carnival.
MY FATHER. Our Philo Cafe discussion helped me to understand my father more deeply. My father was very enmeshed with his feelings of rage. There was no separation between his rage and himself. When events triggered his rage, my father BECAME rage. He EMBODIED rage. He WAS rage. Rage was his world - he could see nothing else. He simply could not separate himself from his feeling of rage. Inevitably, therefore, he acted out his rage because he and his rage were one.

My father's rage was, of course, devastating for my mother, my sisters and brothers, and myself. None of us seemed able to detach from my father's rage, either. My enmeshment with my father's rage took this form: My father's rage is my badness. This is how bad I am - so bad as to cause this terrifying fury of uncontrollable rage. This rage is a picture of my badness - and it's off the charts. I'm completely abnormal - no one else is this shamefully bad. These were my conscious thoughts: My father is enraged at me, and this means I am bad. What I could not consciously admit was that I was enraged at my father for hurting me in this way. I could not admit the torrents of rage stored inside me.

It is helpful to understand my father as enmeshed in - really a slave to - his rage. He had no idea how to separate himself from his rageful feelings. Understanding this helps me to detach from my father's rage. An understanding of attachment and detachment clarifies more concretely that the problem was never me or my imagined badness but my father's enmeshment with his own rage.

In a blog post on August 24, 2009, about the family soul, I speculated that a family may have soul wounds that family members can help to heal. I know that my father's father was also enmeshed with his own rage and that my father often experienced rage from his father. I don't know how far back this rage goes or what caused this family soul wound. Perhaps one reason I am here is to help heal the family soul wound of enmeshment in rage by learning to detach from my own feelings. This means to acknowledge when I feel anger or fear or hopelessness, yet not to be those feelings, but to be and act from a place of compassion - something that my father simply could not do when his rage was triggered.