Tag Archives: culture

reverence


reverence n. a gesture indicative of respect

Reverence

At the end of a ballet class, the dancers pay respect to the pianist and teacher by performing a series of curtsies, bows and ports de bras known as reverence. It is a physical manifestation of deep respect and honor. Several weeks ago I came upon reverence when searching for a word that could capture my feelings and thoughts regarding a recent tragic event. I have been struggling back and forth about whether to write and what to write about it because I don’t have confidence that my writing here will create an appropriate reverence for those who have suffered and lost.  There are writers and artists far more eloquent and talented than I who have and will create tributes of much more profundity that I can express with my dictionary words. I’ve decided that instead of writing about how sad I feel about the whole thing, I would attempt something more reverent.

The world would be a better place if we were all ballet dancers and could perform reverence when needed. Imagine at the end of a business meeting everyone standing up and performing a 3 minute reverence as a gesture of respect for what was just discussed or planned – or just for the whiteboard on the wall, comfy chairs and overhead projector. Having attended quite a few meetings in my life, reverence would add some much needed civility.

As a reference, here is what reverence looks like:

Obviously this is not a realistic practice to propose, and unfortunately in our current world, the beauty and constraint of reverence would most likely be perverted into some sort of vulgar flash mob in Grand Central station – which would make it most irreverent.

In the here and now, the word reverence seems quite archaic. So few things in life are truly respected and honored these days. As a society we seem to want to flock to the center of attention and when the spotlight has moved we flee to another center elsewhere. In the perpetual chase to the “next big event” we become more and more numb, never taking the time to pay respect or to really absorb the gravitas of the thing that has just occurred; always searching for the next thing that will restore feeling or emotion. Perhaps it is because we don’t really understand “reverence” any longer or we feel the appropriate reaction would be to mimic what Hollywood tells us is sorrow or grief so that others will be sure to know we are suffering – like actors on a stage. In the case of Newtown, I feel this type of behavior is truly saddening and disrespectful.

The other day I was watching MSNBC and a talking head named Ashley Banfield was speaking about the tragedy. With a flip of her perfectly coiffed, shoulder length hair, mascara coated lashes clearly fluttering with feigned emotion, she said that “Newtown would probably never recover.” Her comment saddened and angered me and I wondered to myself if she ever listens to the words that come out of her mouth while she is on television. If she had any idea that her words were feeding a media fire, painting a picture of a town that deserves so much more respect. Or if she merely needs to boost the ratings for her paycheck.If Ms. Banfield had ever visited Newtown she surely would never have questioned whether it would “recover.”

26 people, some children, died in Newtown, Ct – undoubtedly one of the most horrific event that has occurred in in this country. But if we choose to dramatize the events and squeeze out all of the emotion and cinema, we are truly doing a dis service to those who were lost. The people that died in Newtown also lived in Newtown. There are far more happy memories shared at Sandy Hook Elementary than the one horrific event that occurred. For the parents that lost their children that day, it is in those memories that their children live. It is a place where teachers loved their students so much they ran in front of bullets to try and shield them as if they were their own children. Where neighbors took in children that fled the scene and people gathered to support each other in the aftermath.

It is a place where babies will be born, children will ride bikes in the streets, lovers will be married and families will celebrate memories. Newtown is a rare example of family and community, far too beautiful and strong to be destroyed by this terrible event. It is the type of town that Newtown is that makes what happened all the more tragic. A community strong enough to endure and pay reverence to the memories of the heroes and children that died that day.

A Psalm of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

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ecdysiast


ecdysiast n. a striptease performer

demi_moore___striptease_by_lord_iluvatar-d50cjyg

Such a classy name for such an unclassy practice. I’d love to make a business card for myself with this listed as my profession just so people would go home and look up the word – then gasp in shock. When I first saw this word, I thought of Demi Moore and that movie she was famously topless in. I also thought of that chick from Saved By the Bell who starred in that movie Showgirls. Every now and then VH1 airs it with the addition of very obviously digital bandeau tops to cover the dancers breasts – which are prominently displayed, bare, in every scene. The digital tops are very entertaining as they don’t always move with the dancers correctly…thus taking on a comical life of their own.  I also think of Scores – that famous smutty strip club in Manhattan that you can see while walking down the High Line in the city. It’s such a clash of environs that it always makes me stop and giggle.

I actually think that the art of strip tease has taken a bad rap in our modern society. It has quite a rich history, as mentioned on Wikipedia:

The origins of striptease as a performance art are disputed and various dates and occasions have been given from ancient Babylonia to 20th century America. The term “striptease” was first recorded in 1932, though “stripping”, in the sense of women removing clothing to sexually excite men, seems to go back at least 400 years.

I suppose at some point, someone added the pole and G String, stripping away all of the enticement and attraction of the traditional art of stripping. As much as pole dancing takes quite a lot strength and agility, I don’t consider it an art at all – maybe a good workout, but that’s about it. In my new found learning of the word “ecdysiast”, I think that in order to call it performance art it should maintain some type of dignity and grace – and doesn’t have to show all of the skin to be entertaining. Take this performance by Gypsy Rose, which is perfect for this blog post I might add…

I believe pornography also has much to do with the modern day connection between smut and stripping. When women became more liberated sexually and seeing naked or near naked women became something that was common in the day to day, most of the mystique was lost. These days, you seemingly cannot avoid catching a glimpse of risqué appendage just waking down the street – even in my little suburban village. When you turn on the television, you are instantly accosted by sexual images. About the only channels where you don’t run into it are the Disney and Sprout channels – which is only because they are for children. Even PBS splashes some boob here and there usually on Art 21 or National Geographic.

We’ve also combined stripping – or staring at scantily clad females oddly…with eating…Hooters being the best example.

The genesis of food, drink and naked ladies can most likely be tracked back to the Playboy Club. A few years back I read Gloria Steinem’s “A Bunny’s Tale.” The infamous feminist went undercover and became a bunny at the famous club and wrote about all that the women had to go through to don the satin bodice and cotton tail of the Playboy Bunny. It was really fascinating. I didn’t walk away from it thinking about men being like pigs. The women wanted to do it. They voluntarily wanted to dress up like busty bunnies and serve drinks to men. It carried an elite status for them. What stands out to me is how Hooters is the antithesis of that older attitude. The bunnies had to stand a certain way, the costumes were painful. It was a strange art form, but admirable in a strange way. At Hooters, you only need the right…ahem…proportions to don the orange shorts and ogled owl tank top. Let’s hear it for women’s liberation?

We are simply no longer shocked by the visage of the nude female body and this is why, in my opinion, the erotic art of strip has become synonymous with lewd and classless in the opinion of many. Why buy the proverbial cow when the milk is free?

But perhaps the world has had it’s fill of Victoria’s Secret Angels, Hooters girls and celebrity sex tapes as burlesque and “pin up” are making a comeback. Instead of swinging around a pole to Motley Crue in see through 6 inch heels and g strings, these women are bringing back performance and confidence to the art of the strip tease – like our lovely friend Gypsy Rose’s apropos performance earlier in this post. Perhaps ecdysiast won’t be regarded as such a dirty word after all and feminists will have more time to deal with that pesky 50 Shades of Grey business…

 

 

 

 

 

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cacoethes


cacoethes noun an irresistible urge to do something inadvisable

At first I thought, “Oh…this word is the same as spontaneous” and then I stopped to really think about it and it isn’t the same at all. I think the key to the difference is “the irresistible urge.” Like an itch you cannot help but scratch. I feel like that in spontaneity there is not an urge, you simply just do something…and it could be inconsequential. Cacoethes has two friends – the urge and consequence – that make something totally different.

I think a cacoethes is a bit like an out of body experience that occurs in adulthood, but is discovered in childhood. In kindergarten I bit a girl because she was reaching over my arm to take the rotary phone I was playing with away. I just had this irresistible urge to hurt her and so I bent my head down and bit her forearm. I was fully aware of the fact that I was going to pay dearly by missing recess and having to stand in the corner for a week, but I couldn’t help myself. For one split second it felt so good to be bad.

If you’re going to talk about cacoethes, than you have to talk about that evil split second of delectable urge. It is really at the center of why people love to be bad. It’s that short moment that feels like a match striking in your chest causing a momentary, wondrous burst of flame. In that moment, you feel incredible, rebellious, powerful…and then it goes out as quickly as it lit. You marvel at the embers and smoke of sweet, sweet rebellion and then the air just clears…and the consequences begin. Much like an orgasm or binge, you do something reprehensible to achieve that feeling knowing that you most likely will regret it later.

Cacoethes has a lot to do with addiction as well. It would seem to me that if you come to the consequential portion of the “cacoethan cycle” and launch right back into the urge – not taking the time to acknowledge the consequences – you are some sort of addict, always chasing that evil split second of bliss. The consequences just continue to pile up like undone laundry until you have nothing left to wear, naked and exposed. I suppose when you get this far into it you make a decision to live or die – to end the cycle and face that pile of dirty laundry…or to stay naked in the world chasing that urge until you die.

At least I didn’t become a biting addict. But I still remember the girl’s name who I bit that day. This song reminds me of my first memorable cacoethes. So perhaps I am still paying a small consequence to this day…

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vainglory


vainglory n. excessive vanity

A few months ago I was watching an absolutely horrible show entitled “Wife Swap.” The premise of the show is to take 2 families at completely opposite ends of the economic spectrum and switch wives for a week. For the first week, the “new” wife had to follow the usual house rules of the home she is temporarily visiting. Then the next week, the family had to live by the visiting wife’s rules. This particular episode featured a mother who was a self help guru and had a series of books and lectures on how to “Be Your Best You.” This included dressing well, eating all organic food, wearing make up and being overly friendly. During the episode she gave a lecture at a homeless shelter and tried to sell her book to people who didn’t have any money. The much less affluent family she was staying with was appalled.

The question is where to draw the line on “Being Your Best You.” What does that mean? Isn’t the phrase somewhat narcissistic in itself?

To clarify my thoughts I looked up the story of Narcissus which I remembered the basic plot of but not all of the details. I stumbled upon an excerpt from Milton’s Paradise Lost that captures the mythology beautifully:

“That day I oft remember when from sleep
       I first awaked, and found myself reposed
       Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where
       And what I was, whence thither brought, and how
       Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
       Of waters issued from a cave, and spread
       Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved
       Pure as the expanse of heaven; I tither went
       With unexperienced thought, and laid me down
       On the green bank, to look into the clear
       Smooth lake that to me seemed another sky.
       As I bent down to look, just opposite
       A shape within the watery gleam appeared,
       Bending to look on me. I started back;
       It started back; but pleased I soon returned,
       Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
       Of sympathy and love. There had I fixed
       Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire,
       Had not a voice thus warned me: ‘What thou seest,
       What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself;” etc.
                                              Paradise Lost, Book IV.

Every morning when I awake, I look in the mirror. Most days I am somewhat apathetic to my appearance. Other days, I hate what I see. Rarely am I pleased. Now that I think about it, I look at my reflection a lot during the average day. Not even because I am trying to. There are just mirrors everywhere – windows, puddles, etc. I am sure if you think about it, you are looking at yourself a lot too.

The world would be much better without mirrors. Imagine that you had a rare opportunity to look at yourself – perhaps once a week. Imagine how much less time you would spend on yourself and what you might do with that time. If Narcissus had not been able to stare into the water, perhaps he would have fallen in love with someone other than himself. Perhaps we would all stop trying to “Be Our Best Us” through physical appearances. Perhaps we could use other people as mirrors.

Other people can reflect us. Our families and children. If we focus on using people as our mirrors then our reflections are our actions and not just a facade that people see. Think of how different “Being Your Best You” would be if all you had were other people to be your mirror and you theirs. You would most likely be a nicer, respectable person. Or the opposite – if you’re an asshole, you would get it thrown right back at you.

It scares me to think that we live in a world of vainglorious people. I fear that vanity is the default for the vast majority whereas it used to be a deplorable trait. Yet another modern dilemma. I wonder if things will level out as the years go by…

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