On The Value of Story

after following the Evelyn Evelyn controversy for a while, and venting to The Husband about it, he suggested that I write a blog.  my argument was that my blog is pretty much solely about children, culture, politics and general domestic pursuits.  however, after thinking about it, the fact that this controversy has even arisen says something about our culture, and the culture that our children will be growing up in.  so I felt I had to stand up, in defense of story.

I’ve been a Jason Webley ( www.jasonwebley.com ) fan for about 8 years now.  I’ve been a Dresden Dolls ( http://www.dresdendolls.com/main1.htm ) fan since he started touring with them and I checked them out on the theory that anyone that Jason Webley works with is badass (including the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band {http://www.bigdamnband.com/}).

so, when I heard Jason Webley and Amanda Palmer were involved in a project together, Evelyn Evelyn, I was immediately curious.  after doing some research on myspace ( www.myspace.com/evelynevelyn ) and youtube, I was incredibly entertained.  also, as a long-time Webley fan, I was cynical.  this is, after all, the man who faked his own death annually, and I witnessed it several times.  I was never emotionally distressed, though I did get emotionally involved in those shows.  however, it was always through appreciating the value of story.  he was telling an incredible story.  I never saw it as a mockery of people who had actually died, or even as insensitive.  it’s always been art, and story.

Story: “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.”

is Jason Webley the first person to tell a story without mentioning that it was fictitious?  hell no!  telling stories this way is an age-old tradition.  C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy is a fabulous example.  so is JT LeRoy.  sometimes, that is the way to tell a story.  through a character.

Jason Webley’s tales, as painful as they have ever been, have always been lighthearted, joyful and inspirational.  so when I learned that Evelyn Evelyn had become incredibly controversial, and had offended many people, I was taken aback.  many people had become emotionally invested in Evelyn Evelyn, the tragic story of two conjoined twin girls, who had led a painful, exploited life, and started making music together.  the songs are lighthearted and humorous (in a somewhat dark sense), and The Wizard has been running around yelling “Elephant!  Elephant!” since he first heard it.  if you listen to the songs, you might notice that one of the girls does have a startlingly deep voice (a fact that Jason mentions in his blog http://www.jasonwebley.com/weblog/ , which was made solely for the purpose of confronting the drama surrounding Evelyn Evelyn).  if you watch any of the videos of Webley and Palmer discussing the project, you notice them giggling and exchanging secretive grins.  I will not say here if my opinion is whether or not I believe that Webley and Palmer ARE Evelyn and Evelyn Neville, because I have far too much respect for Story.

I’ve spoken before about the folly of excessive politically correct-ness.

all of us have pretended, as children, to be someone who we were not.  and many of the stories and games that were most empowering were the ones where we were dealing with incredible odds.  I remember after I saw “The Jewel of the Nile”, I told everyone for YEARS that I had consumption, and would be dead before the year was out.  I dare anyone to say that they did not, at some point, climb into a piece of oversized clothing with a friend or sibling and claim to be conjoined.  was this because we were heartless, insensitive children?  NO.  it’s because we knew and respected the value of story, something I feel like we are losing in this culture.

the risk of being excessively PC is the risk that we will feel the desire to compare ourselves to others.  the desire to be “more PC than thou”, is dangerous, because then we start looking for things to judge and criticize.  instead of appreciation, inspiration and awe, we feel the urge to be the critic, and start looking for problems and fallacies in the things that we see and hear.

storytelling is arguably the most ancient form of art, and often becomes the most intricate.  in the form that Webley and Palmer are working, their project involves not just storytelling, but song-writing, character development and performance.  try and find any performer who is not developing a character, or stage presence.  do we criticize them for this, or do we appreciate the entertainment and thought-provocation that they’ve gifted us with?

I told The Wizard the child-appropriate parts of the Evelyn Evelyn story, and watched him become emotionally invested in it.  and then I played a video of an Evelyn Evelyn performance for him, and watched the dawning of realization on his face.  the result?  a smile.  as we age, we must not lose our understanding of the value of story.  Einstein said “The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not, who can no longer wonder, who can no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.”

We should appreciate that Evelyn Evelyn gives us the gift of the mysterious.  Their story makes us feel and imagine, and, heaven forbid, even makes us laugh.

there are many people who disagree with me.  I’m not trying to accuse them of having a drive to find fallacies in the world around them, or of being a snuffed out candle.  their views are valid, in their own right.  I’m just urging people to try to see things in a different light.  if you like, you can find an opposing view at http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/02/09/evelyn-evelyn-ableism-ableism/  it’s a well-stated blog by a woman who is offended by Evelyn Evelyn.

In closing though, I would like to say, respect story.  respect the artists who continue to give it to us in it’s truest sense.  also, go and listen to Evelyn Evelyn ( www.myspace.com/evelynevelyn ) and, if you are so inclined, buy the album.  it’s coming out March 30th, and I’m all over it, because good lord.  it’s some good shit.

-Domestic Anarchist

reactions vrs. responses

The Domestic Anarchist here!  posts have been few and far between, dealing with maternal health issues (my mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a masectomy a few weeks ago), and some marital bumps (valentines day was a complete fiasco, but we got a do-over the following weekend, hurrah for sushi!), but I’ve still been studying life and parenting as I always do, and noticing things in my interactions with my children.

so.  Reactions vrs. responses.

when our child demonstrates any kind of behavior, we can A. react to it, or B. respond to it.

to refer to my trusty dictionary.com

a reaction is:  “a reverse movement or tendency; an action in a reverse direction or manner”

alternately, a response is defined as “an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.”

we react to situations, and respond to people.   a reaction is instinctive, mechanical, immediate, based on what’s going on with us.  a response is calculated, considered and evaluated, based on what’s going on with the other person.  as examples, I give you two instances from my week.

1.  The Squid, while playing on the floor, got into clean, folded laundry, and pulled out a bunch onto the floor.  I could have

a. reacted to the situation.  I was trying to clean the house, and folding the laundry was one of the few things that had been completed.  “oh my god, what are you doing?!  get out of that!  I can’t get anything done with you getting into everything!”

or.

b. responded to my child.  she is crawling very early, and exploring and learning.  obviously she doesn’t understand the difference between folded laundry or piled laundry, or even the difference between clean and dirty.  “oh, wow, look what you’ve found!  let’s find something else for you to explore.”

in this instance I chose b.  I responded to my child instead of reacting to the situation.  I put away my frustration at least til The Husband got home, and I could vent to him.  I made my child the priority.

responding to babies is much easier than children sometimes, since babies haven’t learned to hide their feelings.  children are already learning different ways to communicate.  The Wizard, when he feels nervous, ashamed or confronted, tends to first try and alleviate things through humor, joking and distraction.  he does realize when things are serious, he just prefers to pretend that they’re not, because it’s less stressful.

2.  I opened The Wizards backpack in the morning and realized he hadn’t done his homework while he’d been with his dad.  my choices:

a. react to the situation.  we didn’t have time do get anything done before the bus came, and I was stressed about all the extra work.  “dude!  this is rediculous.  did you do ANY of it?”

or

b. respond to my child.  “you’ve got extra homework.  let’s think of a way to make it fun so you don’t get frustrated with it.”

this time, sadly, I chose a.  my reaction led to a reaction from him, which was to deflect by acting like it was no big deal.   I reacted by stressing to him the importance of school, and telling him to tell his teacher he’d bring some in the next day.  he deflected by saying “if I remember”.  I took this as being a smart-ass.  and reacted with  “that’s not acceptable!  you’re going to do it if it takes all night.”  at which, he started crying, saying he didn’t want to go to school.  so once again I reacted, this time not to just the discomfort of my sons tears, but the sound of the encroaching bus, which was picking up kids one street over.  so, voila, in an effort to stop the tears, and keep my son from missing school.  “oh, I’m so sorry, it’s not your fault.  don’t worry about it.  if you go to school you can have a big bowl of ice cream when you get home!”  …oh lord.

it’s amazing the things that come out when we’re reacting to circumstance and situation, instead of responding to our kids.  during the day while he was at school, though, I did have an opportunity to think on things.  I went to our local game store, which remarkably has free three-day rentals of certain games, found one that The Wizard would like (which is amazing, and is going to make it on as my first video game review), and made up a sticker chart.  each extra piece of homework, earned him 15 mins of video game time.  I also called his teacher, forewarned her that she had a bit of an emotional crisis entering her classroom, and asked her to not mention homework to him.

so, in closing, just because we react, does not remove our ability to respond.  everyone reacts.  it’s impulsive.  it’s our ability to step back and examine the true issues, and respond to our children, which makes us good parents.

-Domestic Anarchist