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Showing posts from May, 2014

SEXISM AND EVOLUTION

What many people don't understand about sexism is that humans are a species of animal whose evolutionary drive is to reproduce. In mammals this means a receptive female and a sperm-delivering male, sex at its most basic. Pleasure is an added incentive for both sexes but is not essential. Men are designed to look for big breasts, slim waists and  curvy bottoms. This is why the classic image of the female continues to be so powerful.

Despite the thousands of years of civilisation, politics and society that have helped to move us beyond our evolutionary purpose, this is a mere blink of an eye in the long history of the development of man. Maybe behavioural patterns can eventually modify our genes but don't expect changes any time soon.

Of course women should oppose sexism in all areas of life and men should learn to manage their baser instincts. But let's not be surprised by the way distorted sexuality manifests itself. In many societies women have to be suppressed and oppre…

ON SELF ESTEEM

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"Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs,"Joan Didion wrote in her timeless meditation on self-respect. But how can character be cultivated in such a way as to foster that prized form of personal dignity, along with its sibling qualities of confidence and self-esteem? That's what celebrated artist, actor, playwright, and educator Anna Deavere Smith explores in a section of the altogether fantastic Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts for Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind (public library) – a compendium of counsel addressed to an imaginary young artist, titled after the famous Rilke tome, in which Smith addresses with equal parts pragmatic idealism and opinionated optimism those of us seeking change and championing social change, as well as those who see themselves as "one of the guardians of the human spirit." She introduces…

ON FAILURE

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Neil Gaiman urged in his commencement-address-turned-manifesto-for-the-creative life"The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them – especially not from yourself," philosopher Daniel Dennett asserted in his magnificent meditation on the dignity and art-science of making mistakes. And yet most of us, being human and thus fallible yet proud, go to excruciating lengths to avoid making mistakes, then once we inevitably do, we take great pains to hide them from ourselves and the world. But this, argues Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull with the help of journalist Amy Wallacein an especially enthralling chapter of the altogether excellentCreativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (public library), is a grave mistake itself – not only from an abstract moral standpoint, but also as a practical strategy for cultivating a strong creative culture in a company and an entrepreneurial spirit within ourselves as individuals. What mak…

ON KINDNESS

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In May of 2013, celebrated author and MacArthur "genius" George Saunderstook the podium at Syracuse University and delivered a masterpiece of that singular modern package of bequeathable wisdom, thecommencement address. A year later, his speech was adapted in Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness (public library), delicately designed and hand-lettered by Chelsea Cardinal. It follows in the footsteps of other commencement-addresses-turned-books, such as Neil Gaiman on the resilience of the creative spirit,Ann Patchett on storytelling and belongingDavid Foster Wallaceon the meaning of lifeAnna Quindlen on the essentials of a happy life, and the recent compendium of Kurt Vonnegut's magnificent commencement addresses. With his gentle wisdom and disarming warmth, Saunders manages to dissolve some of our most deeply engrained culturally conditioned cynicism into a soft and expansive awareness of the greatest gift one human being can give another – those s…

FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE

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Extracts from Andrew Sullivan's book "Love Undedectable"
For me, friendship has always been the most accessible of relationships – certainly far more so than romantic love. Friendship, I learned, provided a buffer in the interplay of emotions, a distance that made the risk of intimacy bearable, a space that allowed the other person to remain safely another person. You can tell how strong the friendship is by the silence that envelops it. Lovers and spouses may talk frequently about their "relationship," but friends tend to let their regard for one another speak for itself or let others point it out. Reflecting on the tragedy of loss that prompted his meditation, Sullivan adds:
A part of this reticence is reflected in the moments when friendship is appreciated. If friendship rarely articulates itself when it is in full flood, it is often only given its due when it is over, especially if its end is sudden or caused by death. Suddenly, it seems, we have lost somethin…