Mary Beth Writes

2/20/2024

Aristotle wrote a lot of important stuff, very little of which I’ve read. But this Aristotelian idea is cool and I don’t know why we are not taught this in high school. It helps untangle the importance of what we read and watch.

When a writer writes a play (or some other form of writing for public consumption) people in the audience generally identify with the main person/protagonist of the story. If the writer ends the play in such a way that goodness is preserved, then people leave the theater feeling okay. If goodness is left hanging, they leave jittery and worked up.

Artists who produce stuff for the public generally know this and if they don’t, they should. Artists influence what we will do or not do by manipulating our emotions.

Our current world, if we are paying attention, is awful. Right? Witnessing Israel whom we knew and trusted AS OUR ALLY - bombarding, bombing, killing, murdering, and entirely destabilizing the entire Palestinian population. This makes us crazy and angry. Many of us are revamping what we think about Israel. Looking for truth in a crisis time is how things change.

As anti-war as many of us philosophically are, witnessing our own house of reps withhold military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, makes swear words dangle in our brains like a mobile over a baby’s head.

This week Alexei Navalny was murdered. I felt physically assaulted just reading this news.

The travesties of injustice are endless.

What to do? Care. Write some letters. Donate some money. Gah, it’s not enough.

How do we breathe in such a world as this?

Most days I flip to frugality blogs to see how random people are saving money here and there. It’s not that I need more frugal hacks; we’re good. But reading these blogs calms me. “Hey GFs, here are ways to feel in control”. Tens of thousands of people, mostly women, mostly white, mostly un-young, read and contribute to frugality blogs. Such blogs are particularly popular in Mormon and Evangelical cultures.

Why?

In the past two years Len and I have streamed-binged New Tricks, Miss Scarlet and the Duke, The Killing, The Bridge, Unforgotten, Annika, and we are on season three of The Wall right now. We’ve watched more than these shows but I can’t remember all of them. These are detective shows where the leading character is a female detective in her 30’s-50’s. She has some kind of dramatic/pathetic story in her past that haunts her, though she will rarely talk about that which is actually nuts because what powerful woman do you know who doesn’t know and share her story? Anyways, our detective doesn’t comb her hair enough. She doesn’t wear glamorous makeup. She wears boring clothes and really nice boots.

Why are there SO MANY detective shows with female detective leads?

The clue, I think, is in the Aristotelian observation that we follow what soothes us. We get wrapped into a drama. While we watch we are curious and anxious but then everything works out except for the one surprising event which hooks us into watching the next show.

Women these days are anxious. We are smart and we are in the middle of busy lives. We feel as if how we live and what we do matters. But then do we see ourselves in the real world? Does what we intuit about the value of our lives match what is out there? How do we live and witness so much injustice without losing our sanity and our hope?

It would be crazy (if I even knew) to tell you what to do with your feelings of both power and powerlessness. When I write my stories I try my best to not “solve” issues but to give my protagonist a situation in which she can act and make a little difference.

It seems important to make sure we are choosing and acting. Spending less money on groceries and streaming services is cool. Watching strong women solve crimes is cool.

But our real lives are better.

 

Yesterday I finished reading Where the Line Is Drawn by Raja Shehadeh. This is a modest autobiographical recounting of living as a middle-class lawyer and intellectual in Gaza since the 1960’s. He is not an overly dramatic writer and this not a polemic. The injustice of ordinary Palestinian life through the past decades steals one’s breath.

What are you watching and reading and doing these days that imparts unsettling truth instead of comfortable tropes?

 

 

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Comments

I am reading “Oath and Honor” by Liz Cheney. Who’d have thought that Liz Cheney would be someone I admire? These times in our country are mind-bending.
Mary Beth's picture

Totally agree. Leaders appear in places we were not expecting.

Much food for thought here. Thank you for expressing your opinion and giving us all a voice.
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks!

As always , thank you. I am reading : This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. It's a hard read, and I often have to put it down, and walk away. The abuse of children is difficult. The abuse of orphans and native American children is aging.I continue to read, and I hope. Like you, I also escape to frugality blogs (found you through one of them :) ), and detective stories. Vera is my jam. Be well, my friend. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

I read all 17 of William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor detective stories the winter I was trying to get over a sore tailbone, so I read a lot of them while sitting sideways. I love that he gives us both the formula of order, but to get there he goes through the familiar but too little known tragedies of our time and generation. Krueger was kicked out of Berkeley in '68 for being one of the students taking over administration to protest racism and the Vietnam war. Street cred.

I have enjoyed his writing. I've only read Ordinary Grace, which I loved.This Tender Land is a departure from the Cork O'Connor series. I recommend it. Last year I discovered the Inspector Gamache series by Louis Penny, which I loved. LOVED!! Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks!

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Hot Weather Diary #3

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Today was another hot one and right now, it’s still 93 degrees in my backyard.

Hot Weather Diary #2

6/18/2024

“Time wasted at a lake is time well spent.”  (I tried to learn who wrote this; it seems to have arisen spontaneously on a Pinterest plaque for your cabin.)

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Hot Weather Diary #1

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We all knew it was coming and here it is. A Hot Week! We are in the news! We are important! Humans around the nation, especially in the East and Midwest, will be living through a week with temps in the 80’s, 90’s and worse.

What the Dickens?

The photo is from Barnados, a childrens charity in London in the 19th century. 

6/15/2024

Argh! I have a new phone because the old one stopped staying charged plus a few more foibles. My phone cost $400 five years ago so it makes sense that it stopped working reliably, right? If an appliance worked like this we would burn that manufacturer to the ground.

Swan Story

6/3/2024 

I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s writing lately and I have decided there is too much to read. Much of it is very good but there is JUST TOO MUCH!

So my goal going forward is to write shorter posts, more often, that might remind you of the glory, power, and goofiness of your life as well as mine.

So, let me say again what’s always very true. Thank you for reading what I write.

..

About My Memorial Day Story

5/25/2024

Today my story ‘Memorial Day’ is posted at Substack. Read it here. 

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