Two and a half years of moons and suns have passed since I established a new abode here in Southern California from Northern New Jersey, and I have to say every day is still a new day on the frontier home in the Wild West. Cowboys, gunslingers, and drifters looking for chances and time for winning the Wheel of Fortune in life may have gone with the dust of wind. Still, I feel like a hardscrabble but resiliently brave and adventurous frontier woman I have seen in western TV dramas and movies with the central theme of Little House on the Prairie surrounding as a leitmotif for the story of My Life So Far in the Wild West.
The great French writer and humanist George Sand once said that every place has place memories that influence the spirits of the site and people without them knowing it. Given this, the place memories of Southern California fill the domes of the spirits and palaces of the souls living in it with the characters endemic to the nature and shaped by the events artificers made based upon my empirical observations. People I have come across here are a curious mixture of friendliness and brusqueness added with a dose of saloon bravado and air of southern plantation riches under a high Californian sun. Also, people reading in public, such as public transportation or coffeeshop, is as rare as finding Nemo in a vast ocean. In such an environment, I feel awkwardly vain to read in such places as if I were a showy blue-stocking, contrary to New York City, where readers are part of the landscape under the Manhattan skyline. It brings me back to my reading of Horace Greely’s experience of an overland journey from New York City to California. Greely, the famous 19th-century journalist, the editor of the now-extinct the New York Tribune and the rival presidential candidate of Ulysses Grant, also noticed the lack of intellectual cultivation in many Californians and thus called the attention of young single, educated woman from the East Coast to go west in a proliferation of civilization from the cultured East Coast.
Part of me still longs for the convenience of city life in New York City, where people of all walks of life ride on the same bus and subway and eat at the same place. Nevertheless, what holds me to this immigrant land is its gorgeously untamed wild nature that whispers to my ear, “Tarry with me,” like a beautiful paramour with kisses when we are alone together. The wildflowers in the fields over the ridges are sweetness to the weary soul seeking a place for visual pleasure after being exposed to a miasma of an unpleasant office environment, even though I am still unaccustomed to the sight of palm trees with long unruly hair. Still, I like to think of myself as a 21st-century frontier woman living with an elderly ailing mother and a young tomcat in my care, trying to keep my foot on the ground and my eyes on the stars, to claim my happiness on a new land against all odds in this Wild West, Still and Ever.
The first ray of light from heaven dispels
The gray silence of night lost with lusters
With pale hues of the sun in the soft sweetness
Lingering in a lake of shimmering waters.
Iris unfolds the wondrous seven colors
Weaved into an arch of dreams and hopes
Always new and fresh in never-ending grace
That fills with pleasure the hearts of beholders.
Aurora releases dewdrops from crystal buds
Made of moonbeams, stardusts, and starlights
Kept from a visiting moon and traveling stars
Washing the faces of earth with heavenly pearls.
Since Oscar Wilde said a woman who reveals her age reveals all about her, I will not tell how old I am, but I am still far away from the Shakespearean age of the Old Man. If interested, hark thus. That is about the culture and tendency of the post 9/11 generation omnipresent in everyday life spheres from social media platforms to workplaces. Equipped with computer savviness with a flair for chic insouciance and minimalistic sentiment, this new generation has dominated all. So what’s the rap?
The cause for such generational distance came in the figures of two young lawyers fresh out of law schools in my workplace. They were both in their late twenties – the post 9/11 generation – didn’t have any practical work knowledge, which could be understandable. Yet their work ethic and attitude were disgraceful because a lack of enthusiasm and willingness to blend in the environment was a sign of defiance of conformity and cooperation, which people mistake for a display of subservience or acquiescence in the surrender of the will. But, of course, diligence is not synonymous with servitude. I am not even talking about Stakhanovism, in which workers spend more time at their work than at home. But the new generation is an entirely new breed, a new type of people aversive to warmth and friendliness on account of personal space because goodwill is suddenly turned malice, goodness weakness nowadays. How about calling them, Les Enfants Terrible? Would the ancient Roman scribbler who wrote on a tablet that the kids in his time were all spoiled have felt the same way as I do?
My sentiment toward the post 9/11 generation is, I daresay, dystopian, which pitchforks me into a scene in the movie “Logan’s Run.” In the film, everyone on their 30th birthday is executed under the euphemistic pretext of Renewal. It’s a cult of Youth synonymous with Beauty, and the human race means the everlasting beautiful Youth. Agism and lookism are principles of such utopia, conquering Racism, Sexism, and Classism. Women of the utopia use their Beauty to exert their prowess on their targeted subjects. Only young and beautiful rule the world, and the faces of the post 9/11 generation dissolve into the spectators of the Renewal ceremony in “Logan’s Run.”
Nevertheless, who cares about what I feel about this new type of humankind that will soon dominate the entire generations in our time? Indeed, time is ephemeral, so is culture. Yet, the universality of reason and sentiment common (I hope) in all human creatures has remained since time immemorial. Will the world now turn into the Real Logan’s World in the future? Or maybe am I too serious about it? Suddenly Madonna’s “Live to Tell” sings in my ears.
Teresa of Avila: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Her epithet is deservedly illustrious, equal to her protean capacities for being multifarious: saint, mystic, and artist’s muse who was a curious kind of practical mystic with vision to match – that she would talk and hear God’s words from within and share them with the crowd in practice of charity, faith, and hope but never without heart. Protestant Elizabeth I of Great Britain might have envisioned the image of a Catholic nun of Spain a night before her Tilbury address that she had a woman’s body but had the bravery of a king. She is also the Doctor of the Church. She is Saint Teresa of Avila, the headstrong founder of the Carmelite Discalced and the woman of Lorenzo Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
My first encounter with this remarkable woman was not religious but academic; while researching women’s monasticism in the high medieval age during my college. Teresa saw many women who were too poor to pay dowry and didn’t want conjugal life found convents as shelters from social conventions without certain religious convictions. Consequently, convents became gossipy sonority houses populated with lackluster and jealous nuns backstabbing one another. The sad atmosphere of the convents used as a mere social institution propelled Teresa to establish the Carmelite Discalced – the Convent of Saint Joseph – with physical labor and disciplined monastic rules not without tenderness attended to individual nuns from all walks of life. She abolished land ownership and rent collections of and by nuns and instituted self-sufficiency of working without shoe but sandals, hence the name “Discalced.” The reformation within the Church was seismic but was a necessary medicinal receipt for the ailing monastic community.
What is most brilliant about Teresa was to create the idea of “The Interior Castle,” a philosophy that the creator of the Universe dwells inside the castle of our souls. That God is from within us, rather than the beyond betokens the idea of personal God with whom we can communicate and thus become a literal mirror image of him for what’s best in ourselves. In fact, this revolutionary philosophy is also linked to Giordano Bruno’s “The Memory Palace,” from which the knowledge needs to be unlocked to bestow upon us the power and joy of the knowledge from within. Further, it is related to the idea of the Nine Muses, whose inspirations are invoked from our minds, not from the Olympus or oracles. All of the mentioned above shares one origin in the cognitive technique employed in Christian meditation developed from the essential reading and contemplating the Bible. But Teresa’s Interior Castle is a beautiful poetic license to enrich power that is never esoterically prideful but blissfully joyful. Where Bruno’s Memory Palace and the Artist’s Nine Muses are not all-inclusive, Teresa’s Interior Castle is universal with tender charity and faith even if it is not necessarily Christian God.
Teresa of Avila was one brave and adventurous woman who was a prototype of feminist in the sense that she voiced out her mind to the patriarchal church authority in danger of being suspicious of heresy or witchcraft even in Catholic Spain, known for the Spanish Inquisition. But she was not a vociferous activist for abolishing the Church or would-be founder of an offshoot of the Church. Teresa was religious of the supreme kind. However, she never abandoned her femininity latticed with passion for helping a young priest in his spiritual crisis in war with physical temptation, tenderness for attending those in need of her consolation, and beauty that was both beautiful externally and internally. She shows us that a strong woman doesn’t need to shout out invective expletives or clamor for the reward for her damages in the name of womanhood when it is really for her sworn revenge. Aside from sectarian religious affiliations, Teresa of Avila deserves her reputation as a star in the Milky Way of the Great.
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The devil came upon a poor miller
In exchange for wealth with luster
And wanted his daughter’s hands
Though it pained her in blood and tears.
Now the girl without hands wandered off
Day and night with her tears washing off
The pain she suffered from the promise
Her father made with the devil for riches.
The girl without hands came upon a garden
Where Tree of Fruits of Grace seemed to beckon
with the susurrus of leaves coaxing her
And she saw a besotted king approaching her.
The girl without hands became a queen
But the devil returned with a scheme
To kill her and her son for their pure souls
As bounty for his region against angels.
The girl without hands fled with her son
Deep into a forest where seven years began
Until the king found them in Angel’s Hut
And the girl with no hands was no more.