messages lie in words …. But it’s metamessages that have clout, because they stir emotions, and emotions are the currency of relationships.
So said Deborah Tannen on page 10 of I only say this because I love you (2001).
Tannen wrote “those closest to us have front-row seats to view our faults” yet they also have the proximity to our attributes, gifts but we perpetuate a culture that does not appreciate as much as it deprecates.
A decade ago, I remember how bringing an assets based approach was a welcome salve in the nonprofit/civic sector rather than the continued fixation with being motivated by what was missing or lacking in a place and wanting to be the problem solvers by confronting those things that were missing. But a few workshops in a year full of meetings results in a low concentration. And that short lived attempt to embrace what a place had was challenging to sustain when being critical is easy and familiar and a way that we have been told to treat one another in school, at work, in public spaces, and at home.
Now, I have made it a fixture of naming appreciations for the people i am with on a daily basis, at the end of most of the webinars that I design. And still it is difficult for people to begin with what they like.
Tannen elaborated no messages and metamessages by saying:
message: the meaning of the words and sentences spoken, what anyone with a dictionary and a grammar book could figure out.
metamessage: “the meaning that is not said, what we glean from every aspect of context: the way something is said, who is saying it, or that fact that it is said at all.
Or using another metaphor that “message is the word meaning while metamessage is the heart meaning.” Tanner elaborated by saying how metamessages are implicit and difficult to pinpoint as they are about relationships. Her early suggestion is to distinguish metamessage from message and one way of doing so is metacommunicating or talking about communication, which I suppose is using words to describe the implicit heart emotions.
Even in COVID times, the act of checking out a library book is delightful. We could not go inside the local branch. Instead I wrote a few authors and titles on the back of scrap paper that I handed to the librarian as one child walked through the grass and another rode a bicycle back and forth. We waited on the personalized attention as the librarian walked through the stacks pulling the books that we listed. And I saw one more sitting on top of the shelves nearest the door and asked if we could have that cat going cross country (skiing?), too.
Library books and lending are endless gifts of infinite curiosity. For a few years, I have searched for “publisher: Enchanted Lion” and a few series like Mercy Watson [“the porcine wonder”] by Kate DiCamillo, Dodswortb and Duck by Tim Egan, King and Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler and the Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem. I’ve read multiple books (approximately 24 different titles) by these four authors more than 200 in the last three years.
Yesterday’s haul included a few Mercy Watson stories along with books on whales, other marine life and volcanos. It was most special because they were the first library books that we checked out in three months — the longest stretch of not borrowing books in five years.
Now we are back at it in a new library system with no limit on the number of books that we can borrow. But a system that does have late fees, so hopefully I will be more diligent about returning borrowed materials back on time. Better than I was 15 and 20 years ago, when I’d incur late fees but it was paying $.10 a day per book to the libraries and though I never saw the budgets of the library, I never had remorse about paying fees that paid for such a renowned institution.
In 1975, Ursula K. Le Guin named the pitiful norms and dominance of othering, blind cultural superiority of men writing science fiction books in an essay called American SF and The Other (pages 93-96 in The Language of the Night).
It’s amazing how pervasive and entrenched this white male complex is:
In general, American SF has asssunmee a permanent hierarchy of superiors and inferiors, with rich, ambitious, aggressive males at the top, then a great gap, and then at the bottom the poor, the uneducated, the faceless masses, and all the women.
Such notions of self and character development enable rape, belittling, disgust, and false senses of supremacy.
If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate or deity it; but in either case you have denied it’s spiritual equality and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And this you have fatally impoverished your own reality. You have, in fact, alienated yourself.
These last two sentences are intriguing because they distill what happens when men orient by wanting or having power over. It is a position to prohibits us from getting reciprocity or being able to benefit from learning, and prohibits us from being able to benefit from the experience, wisdom or wealth of others since the experiences and knowledge and resources of others are not seen or seen as only serving some pre-conceived idea of how others will be KF service.
But suddenly the racial interest … felt like a kind of corruption to me.
Never has the perversity of racialized thinking been so clear as when it is being applied to a newborn baby.
Says Danzy Senna in page 165 of her memoirs, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (Published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.)
Something for me to ponder. To sit with. And to revisit.
The corruption of being aware of race and being fixated with race in ways that were preordained many generations ago. There is some naïveté to not knowing or pretending to not know one’s history of the histories of a place, of people, and of things. But, that compulsion to pursue and understand becomes a cycle of attempting to know and analyze the world through some lens crafted by ancestors, both ours and our oppressors, that illuminates and also distorts like mirrors in a funhouse. What may be shameful one decade can be empowering in a different mirror. What looked too broad at one moment may become just right in other circumstances.
Over the last 18 years, the Internet has been a boon for my reading. I still choose paperback and hardbacks, and I increasingly choose books from the public library rather than abebooks.com. I have made buying a book from an independent bookstore a simple act of selecting a sweet gift for a friend. (And, no, I don’t buy books from amazon.com as it cannibalizes the industries of writing.)
This morning, I had a fascinating 25 minutes as I sought the name of a young adult science fiction book that I read a couple of years ago. I could remember the name of one of the supporting characters, Dikeagou, because his name is a familiar and repeated name in our home. But, the book’s title escaped me. And so teh internet searches began (mind you through duckduckgo.com where they don’t track and store your searches like they do over at “do no evil” google).
It took multiple searches, and a few marvelous stops along the way that are sure to stoke my reading this winter are:
Best Sci Fi Books with Female Main Characters, a list of hundreds of books on goodreads. I didn’t find the book I was searching for in the first 100, and opted to not click on to the second page. But, I am pumped to know about this treasure trove and portal to critical lit.
I began my first writing class last week. The title is Fast Flash Fiction is a six-week course taught by Meg Tuite at Santa Fe Community College. Tuite, the instructor, cusses, inspires, and tells stories with plenty of tangents like thet legions of great storytellers that I know.
Tuite dispensed multiple dosages of simple truths in writing on the first night:
1) Read it out loud.
2) Keep your core.
3) Get it out | “I am not sure that I’ll call it vomit. Maybe, pink vomit.”
4) Deadlines are good.
5) Every page matters | in flash fiction where we have to condense our work.
6) Start thinking about the senses.
7) Brevity and ambiguity | These are essential in flash fiction, leaving the reader wanting to know more, to be taken along.
8) Gamble. That is where your voice is.
A couple of other choice moments were:
– “I get a lot of people published. Because you work hard in this class.”
– “Write about something that you are close to. Emotionally invested. Risk, risk, risk. The most exciting part of life –> getting close [to something].”
Lastly, there are three, simple questions to guide the workshopping and feedback shared with classmates are:
What do you love?
What makes sense?
What is confusing?
Baltimore, Philly and Greensboro just aint the same after reading Octavia Butler’s science fiction on time traveling into slavery. Kindred — first published in 1997. First picked up by me in mid-August 2010.
I’ve trampled over history this summer of 2010. Looked at leaves swaying along the interstate south of Philadelphia. Seen Black youth, Black families and Black communities with new eyes. New eyes cast having read about the slave trade, migration routes, escape routes, and movement of commerce.
I sat in a branch of the Durham Public Library, pulling books edited by Ishmael Reed and Member of the Club, a collection of articles written by Lawrence Otis Graham. Slavery doesn’t look the same now that it sits on the other side of the wall. A wall capable of taking my arm off, as it did to Dana/Edana in Kindred.
Atrocities of commerce. Or was it genocide borne of commerce, in visiting Colorado’s Camp Amache and Sand Creek Massacre. According to the War Department, Amache was called the Granada War Relocation Center.
Of all the books on my nightstand, there’s currently plenty o nonfiction:
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
I Will Teach You to be Rich, by Ranji Sethi
Post Traumatic Slave Disorder, by Joy DeGruy Leary
Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist
The Summer of Black Widows, by Sherman Alexie
Ambitious to read books simultaneously, but it works better for me. It’s kinda like when I have an abundance of groceries in my kitchen rather than not enough. When I haven’t been to the grocery store, I end up glossing over the hunger I do have. And I hastily buy food out, which is rarely as tasty and satisfying nevermind nutritious and filling as what can be prepped or cooked at home. Similarly, too many books keeps my mind/soul in a literary state. I read more pages per week, or month, than when I stick to reading a single book that can stumble along, bore and lead me to putting that book down for days. And I avoid other books because I inhibit myself from picking up a different genre or author.
Here’s to reading more and more. Both online, on my mobile tech, and on the written and typed page. Back to Joy DeGruy to help me rest my eyes…