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Posts Tagged ‘self

“Dude looks like a lady.”

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Is gender fluid?

Over at my public confessional (Dumb Sketch Daily) I did a drawing so bad that all my sketchy companions are ganging up. Well, OK, that’s an overstatement—they are uniformly kind and encouraging.LadyWithBeard-06092015

It was a quick sketch of a delightful woman sitting across from me at an evening meeting. But the sketch went haywire. In attempting shadow I accomplished a beard. She did not have a beard. She does not have a beard. Even at the time I recognized I had gone too far. So I made sure to sketch her necklace. But the critique of one artist still rings true:

Dude looks like a lady.

I agree with another sketchy commenter, that my unrealistic drawing is perhaps a “sign of the times.” Indeed, not a day goes by without a photo of the current Caitlyn Jenner/former Bruce Jenner and a story in the StarTribune or on MPR about another facet of transgender life.

Gender as something rather fluid is a relatively new thought for me, just as it is for a whole bunch of people. It’s an observation that creates an opportunity to go back and reread ancient texts and ask how I understand them. It’s also an opportunity for a whole series of (sorta uncomfortable) conversations. And the circle of topics included in those conversations gets wider and wider, taking in more ground. For starters: volumes of assumptions about gender, a reviewing of the binary nature of gender I had assumed for so long, questions about identity and self. It actually sounds like a fascinating discussion, if it weren’t all so awkward.

But this is another conversation we’re moving toward.

So gird your loins. Or not.

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 11, 2015 at 9:05 am

Decentered. As in “not the crux of all things.”

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A place for everything and everything in its place

I’ve put a recurring early-morning block on my calendar titled “Decenter.” The block or early morning quiet and focus has actually been on my calendar for decades, but I’ve recently retitled it based on a cue from Merold Westphal, a philosopher who teaches at Fordham University.

Westphal, writing in The Phenomenology of Prayer (NY: Fordham University Press, 2005), introduces prayer as a “decentering” activity. As a conversation, prayer takes me out of the center of my universe. Like the prayers of the old poet-king or the prayers of the inveterate letter-writer, these are conversations that recognize some other as the center of everything. Those two saw God as the center—I’m with them on that.

There is mystery beyond our convenient placeholders.

There is mystery beyond our convenient placeholders.

Of course, “de-centering” is not the way we could describe many of the prayers we pray. We send up endless lists to some imagined order-taking god, with caveats about when (“Now works for me. How about now?”) and where and how. And especially how much. But listen to Westphal:

…prayer is a deep, quite possibly the deepest decentering of the self, deep enough to begin dismantling or, if you like, deconstructing that burning preoccupation with myself. (Prayer as the Posture of the Decentered Self, 18)

Again and again I find myself at the center of all existence. Maybe you do too. We’re sorta set up for that, given eyes and ears that operate from a central pivot, constantly swiveling about to take in all we possibly can.

It seems natural enough to think everything revolves around us.

The truth is we need help to back away from this “burning preoccupation.”

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

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