Friday, November 20, 2020

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

The Feminine Mystique
Betty Friedan
Published 1963
American Non-fiction

If you want to read The Feminine Mystique, I found a free copy on FromBook.net and was able to read it there for as long as I needed. And I definitely needed a lot of time.

What was the Problem?

During her career as a writer, Betty Friedan began asking questions: Why do magazines treat women as children? Why are only men's pursuits presented, but not women's? Why should women be relegated to housework, keeping a man, and caring for children? And... 
"When did women give up the world and go back to the home?"
Friedan's search for answers led her to write The Feminine Mystique, published in the early 1960s, which in turn triggered what is today called The Second Wave of Feminism. 

Her hunt illuminated two kinds of women: pitifully unfeminine women with high aspirations for careers and truly feminine women who desired marriage and family; unfortunately, the feminine women had a bigger problem: they lacked fulfillment. It was a "problem with no name," and the author believed she understood exactly what it was.

These unhappy housewives felt incomplete, invisible, as if they did not exist; they did so much, but felt dissatisfied about who they were. Many of them were educated, but their ultimate end was only to serve a husband and children.

Friedan termed this false assumption that women can only find self-fulfillment through being a wife and mother, doing housework, being sexually passive, and practicing excessive consumerism as the "Feminine Mystique" (FM)She said "the new mystic makes housewife an occupation, like a religion, a glorious end," and she marked 1949 as the year of change that "there is no other way to be a woman," or "there is no other way for a woman to think of herself except as a wife to a husband and mother to her children." 

Friedan interviewed women over ten years and discovered that American women did not know who they were. Why did women go to college and become educated only to neglect their education? And the other problem was, why were those women who did pursue careers unmarried and without children? How could women merge both situations, develop the new role, and prepare young girls for this possibility? 

More Problems

But this was half the problem because Friedan also learned that women suffered from a fear of growing up and making personal decisions. They married young and lost themselves in their families and housework. By age 40, many wished they had finished college. 

After so many gains for women in the 1920s, why would women go home again? Friedan said it started in the 40s with Sigmund Freud who was stuck in the Victorian Era, and it filtered into magazines, movies, books, education, and experts. I'm not going to get into Freud because he had some severe mental and sexual issues. Unfortunately, his views were adopted by the American culture as textbook, and generations of educated women were brainwashed. "The FM, elevated by Freud, told girls to go back home and live like Nora restricted to the doll house of Victorian prejudices."

Women seemed to have two choices: either prepare for a lonely, celibate life and career or develop a temporary occupation only to sacrifice it for marriage and motherhood. 

But wait! 

There was another problem uncovered: unhappy mothers stuck at home were now psychologically stunting the emotional growth of their children. Friedan included studies to show that children of working mothers actually fared better than those with unhappy, immature moms at home. So the new question became "Can mothers be better mothers if they have a serious purpose in their lives?

Another part of the puzzle was consumerism. Friedan thought women were fooled into thinking their lives would be made better by purchasing all that they needed to be the better housewife and protector of their families. There was hidden dirt and evil germs to kill all day long to keep one's home safe, and the FM glorified the work women had to do. 

Friedan also claimed that homes were created to keep a woman from privacy, to follow her real interest. There were no walls -- no room to call her own -- continuously picking up after everyone else, entertaining children constantly. By the way, sharing housework with one's husband did not fill the void. "Togetherness is a poor substitute for equality." Importantly, the problem wasn't that the housewife had too much to do, but rather that very little was asked of her at all.

Friedan made a great comment about the change of American character. She said, "The responsibility for self-government was often a burden to bear rather than a right to be maintained. Students who were given complete freedom to manage their own lives and make their own decisions often did not wish to do so. This passivity of students today is more than boredom; it is a deterioration of human character!"

So this may have been why young women choose marriage because there was no reason to grow up, and they rather be taken care of. In fact, husbands themselves were not as important as the marriage was. And young males just wanted a mommy figure as a wife. This was the cycle that kept repeating itself. 

Friedan said that identity could not come through housework or taking orders from husbands or children. Furthermore... 

the housewife could not deny that the world was rushing by and she had no place in it.

How to Solve the Problems? 

Friedan suggested a new life plan: housework should not be a career and should and can be done quickly and efficiently. Say no to all those things that made house work more than it needed to be. 

About marriage, she warned women to see it as it really was: over glorification of the FM.

Remember: when you make room for yourself, you enjoy your husband and children more often.

The only way women could find themselves, to know themselves, was through creative means of their own. A job was not the answer unless she could take it seriously and contribute to society. It also must be done apart from home and family, so that there were clear distinctions between what was home and what was strictly her own.

Education was also key. The author believed there needed to be all kinds of national education and reeducation programs for women and mothers.

Finally, Friedan said women must compete as humans, not women, as citizens, not housewives. Life work should be geared toward one's own abilities and be manipulated to work together with changing life situations. "Know that marriage and motherhood are essential, not the whole."


Source: BrainPickings

What do I think? 

The Feminine Mystique is irrelevant now. Women have options today: school, work, career, start a business, travel, hobbies, or traditional marriage and family. Many accomplish multiple options simultaneously. Also, Friedan's arguments were redundant and repetitive, and I sped  through the sections on sex, sexuality, homosexuality, and penis envy. Psychology bores me, and I disagree with it anyway. 

I agree that woman should find ways to manipulate circumstances to fit marriage, family, and work. Some women don't want to compromise, and therefore rather focus on one thing at a time. That is her prerogative. 

I did wonder if Friedan manipulated her experiment to get the desired results, or if she honestly found ten years worth of unhappy, regretful, young and old women with all the same exact dilemma. Did she find any woman who did not lament about missed opportunities or another life? I don't know.

Granted, a lot of what Friedan said was true -- about housework, lack of privacy, feeling useless, etc. Maybe if no one (like Friedan) pointed out what it was (giving it a name and identifying the symptoms), women may have never guessed they suffered from this. Marriage and motherhood are difficult, and being a stay-at-home mom myself, it, like any job, can be burdensome at times. All of those disillusions will visit you at one time or another.

The FM & Religion

I was curious how a religious or Christian woman fit into all of this because I know religion presents complications. Only toward the end did Friedan mention that Catholic or Jewish women would have difficulty escaping the FM because "it is enshrined in the canons of religion...and in their church's dogmatic definitions of marriage and motherhood."

Religion plays a larger role than society cares to admit. Given that God created marriage, I think these issues should have been looked at through a biblical lens. But Friedan is not biblical, and I did not expect her to have a biblical answer. So I'll give it a shot instead. 

God designed marriage to pattern Christ's relationship with His Church. The man is representative of Christ, while the woman is representative of the Church. The husband has the primary responsibility for the relationship; he is obligated by God to imitate a mature, loving, Christlike responsibility, that the marriage pattern be joyfully fulfilled...(not by being the woman's superior, by the way). While both have unique roles to fulfill in the marriage, the husband is responsible to make sure the relationship  is good; and if not, to see that it is resolved. 

Unfortunately, sin has ruined the marriage pattern and the roles men and women have in marriage and the world. Both are equal in the eyes of God, compliments of one another, but man unfairly manipulated marriage and neglected his role in it. It is partly why women have been unhappy in marriage, motherhood, and in her general role in the world. Yet it is not entirely man's fault because a woman shares responsibility to remember her place before God. When she seeks to solve conflict according to her own will and without God, she will definitely struggle with issues of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and a lack of fulfillment. We are all dissatisfied with the world, and worldly pursuits usually do not satisfy forever.

Final Point

Overall, your worldview, your comprehension of what your purpose is in this life, and what you value most will determine how you handle those temptations of restlessness when they come. And they will, regardless of what you are doing. I do wonder if the new life plan that Friedan advocated for -- of pursing education, career, or life work seriously --- truly was the answer that filled the void of unhappy women, or if today's generation of women are just looking for something else to make them happy?

Betty Friedan 1921-2006

Saturday, November 7, 2020

November 2020

Have you ever had to do something you absolutely did not want to do, but HAD no choice, and thence you put on a good face - a fraudulent smile - for the sake of others, but in your gut knew it was utterly unnatural and even made you nauseous?

Yes, it is still 2020. And we all have to.

ABOUT RECITALS

Last September, my girls experienced their first live 5-day YouTube dance recitals at a large church, while family and friends watched from the safety of their homes on their electronic devices. The makeshift dance floor the studio had constructed for the dancers was too slippery for tap or pointe shoes, and many girls slipped while dancing, and some lost their feet from under them. To counter the issue, the teachers overcorrected with various methods, causing the floor to be too sticky, whereas  numerous dancers had ballet shoes stolen directly off their feet, as they continued dancing in stockinged feet while their shoes remained fastened to the floor. Thankfully, everyone was laughing.

MY 15-YEAR OLD (CENTER)

MY 12-YEAR OLD RECEIVING HER 5-YEAR AWARD

I totally blame the California governor for the awkward complications, but we all went along with it and kept applauding.

November is the time my girls prepare for live Nutcracker performances for December, though it won't happen this year because gathering is still not permitted in California. Therefore, the studio is concocting a performance someplace, and it will be recorded and made available to families thereafter. 

Today, in fact, my son is finally having his "spring piano recital," originally scheduled for last April. His instructor has been doing Zoom lessons with her students since March and has decided their recital will also be via Zoom. Family and friends can tune in and watch. So that is today. 

ABOUT THE RONA

Let me get this out of the way lest I be thought an ostrich with her head in the sand. Yes, I understand about the virus. Last month I know someone whose husband died because of it. Also, my friend and her daughter got it. They recovered at home, but my friend ended up in the hospital with double pneumonia. They gave her hydroxychloriquine and sent her home the next morning. She said she should have not spent so much time inactive while she had Covid because, she believes, it is what brought on her pneumonia. I know one young man who is still testing positive after six months! He is depressed because he has been quarantined for so long and cannot be reunited with his wife. He's well, but he's stuck in Florida, unable to go anywhere, and he won't be able to until he gets a negative test. So absolutely strange! 

I know others, too, who have tested positive, but all have recovered at home, except my uncle back in NY. His granddaughter, a nurse, exposed via Covid patients, brought it home and infected her father, brother, and grandparents.  What concerned us all was his co-morbidities: age, weight, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoker, cancer, and beginning stages of COPD. On paper, my uncle should not have survived. And this was back in April when they were intubating everyone and killing them. Instead, thank God, they put him on oxygen and administered hydroxychloriquine. After twelve days, he tested negative and went home. He gave all the glory to God. 

FUN FACT-CHECK

My point is, I know this virus is out there and it is spreading very easily. However, we know so much more about it now, how to care for severe patients if they end up in doctor's care or even a hospital. Therefore, hospitals are no longer threatened to full capacity, nor are deaths looming. People are mainly recovering at home, to start, and if they need care, we know better how to help them survive it. 

I'm will go out on a limb and say Covid has reached levels of seasonal flu; but even better, at least so far, children and young people, especially healthy people, have shown themselves to be extremely resilient to Covid, whereas seasonal flu does not discriminate. 

Of course, this does not diminish the pain people have from the loss of loved ones because of Covid, but we need to use reason, and we've been living extremely unreasonably for far too long. It is taking its toll. 

But, we're all fine. Keep smiling...behind your mask, if you wear one. 

ABOUT THE ELECTION

I will admit that I am shocked and disappointed about the U.S. presidential election. I am sure there are often shenanigans during elections, but I never believe it is enough to make a difference in either direction. However, this year, many states vied for mail-in ballots -- never tried before! In fact, our governor swiftly and executively decided every actively registered voter was going to vote by mail regardless, and he proceeded to mail out millions and millions of ballots months ago. He did not stop to evaluate the ramifications of what he was doing. Suddenly, copycat governors followed suit. What has resulted is an unconvincing presidential election with so many disparities; it's insulting! America's incompetent election process is fundamentally Third-world. 

RALLY FOR PERSONAL LIBERTY & SELF GOVERNMENT

I said I am disappointed -- yes...because Trump was not reelected, but more so with Americans. I misjudged them. This election was a fight between explicit polarizing ideas: 

personal liberty, self-government, pro-Americanism, and anti-Marxist/technocratic globalism 

VERSES 

limited personal liberty, big federal tyranny/dictatorship, anti-Americanism and pro-Marxist/technocratic globalism. 

Trump attracted hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic Americans who organized their own car and boat Trump parades, also by the thousands, each weekend, which you can look up because I am not going to describe them here. Yet the guy Americans really wanted spent more time in his basement, barely raked in 25 masked supporters at a time to his sparse rallies, who dutifully sat in circles marked out six-feet apart, or remained in their cars honking their approval, and clearly has mental deterioration. But ok. I'm convinced. Even if you say what we all suspect, that it wasn't him Americans chose but his running mate, and she is hardly known or very likable. She is worse than Hillary Clinton. 

RALLY FOR GOVERNMENT CONTROL

Well, let's be honest: the ideas matter, and that is what is disheartening. Apart from the violent anarchist faction that is raging, ultimately seeking an end to law and order and eventually America, there are more people who prefer to be taken care of by a dictator-like authority mandating what is best for ourselves, our families, and especially our children. You may ask what is wrong with that. It is the threat that follows, removing all self-government and personal responsibility. 

We are moving away from preserving the Foundational American principles to instituting federally-mandated personal behavior, with penalty for those who do not comply. This is the direction of America each time we elect a Democrat, whose party, by the way, is being altered by radical Marxist/technocratic ideologies now more than ever. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already collecting names and addresses of Trump supporters - labeling it the "enemies list." She literally is Stalin in red lipstick. 

Don't think this is the direction of America? You are not paying attention. We are gratefully, for some,  moving away from our Founding principles. This is a grave rejection of all that was good and right in government. For now, all I can do is grab my popcorn and watch the coming implosion. (Though I am paying attention and doing what I must.)

Grin, and bare it. 

ABOUT FACEBOOK...CASE IN POINT

For example, I have left Twitter, and now I am done with Facebook. If ever there is a way to taste  Communism (just a taste), it is social media, which is like voluntary Communism. Are you tired of the promotion of one-sided views and opinions? Tired of the blatantly biased fact-checking? (Orwell didn't even imagine fact-checking.) Say the wrong thing, share the wrong story, have an opinion? Think the wrong thought? Gone! You can't do that, and they have the power to shut you up or remove content, as if it never existed. They can even remove you, too, along with your means of income.

THEY HATED THIS VIDEO!

If you value liberty, freedom of speech, ideas, and thought, you cannot in your right mind tolerate such overreach, which is why I cut myself off. And maybe that is what they want, but truly, we never needed social media before. It is a cancer we can live without. 

And well, I'm not grinning about this.

AND SO

I said I was paying attention and doing what I must, and if you've been to my homeschool blog, you know my family is trying to escape California, which is like a smaller replica of what America is set to be if we do not check the coming destruction (which is inevitable). California prides itself on leading the way. (That should be the state motto.) We have a dictator for a governor. For example, he just outlawed gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Again, there he goes making decisions without care for the ramifications. But I digress. 

So my husband had an interview for a company based in Round Rock, Texas. An actual bite! His interview "went well," and he had two more interviews. It was so exciting! However, it has been two weeks since he has received any feedback, and it has been a heavy burden on his mind. 

Back to the drawing board, unless we hear more from this company. We are prepared to be ready for when or if God calls us to move. That's all we can do. 

WHAT NOW?

Life goes on. I will continue homeschooling, going to church, and trying to raise up Christians. I'll keep praying and reading my Bible, preparing for my Savior, pursuing and sharing His Truth. I know I am in good company, so many like-minded people...we could start our own nation (I wish). And we know the battle is a spiritual one, between good and evil, that has been raging since the beginning of Creation. We also know who wins!

Lastly, I had lost interest in intentional reading over recent months, but I think a renewed desire has finally returned. I look forward to exploring new lives and worlds and ideas. And I hope to write more extensively about it all. 

Overall, I know I am blessed. I am grateful. 

And I have no reason not to genuinely smile about that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Suzanne Collins

Published 2020

NO SPOILERS

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. I read those books back in 2014 and wrote poor excuses for two of them here: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

Regretfully, this will be another deficient excuse of a response. 

In this prequel, Collins takes the reader to the beginning of the Hunger Games, sometime after the conclusion of the civil war. The citizens living in the districts are being punished for the rebellion, and two youth from each of the twelve districts, male and female, are sent to participate in the annual Games, to fight to the death. The final remaining tribute becomes the victor. But that is all. 

The current year of the story, the Academy decided to experiment with exciting ways to garner interest in the Games because the appeal in children bludgeoning each other to death had waned in previous years. Hence, a mentor was assigned to each tribute, with a reward of a University scholarship to the one mentor of the victor. The mentors would be responsible for brainstorming enticing ways to engage viewers to support the Games.

The main character, Coriolanus Snow, a young man who lived in the Capitol, was hoping to attend University; therefore, it became a great opportunity for him when he was chosen to mentor a tribute, Lucy Gray, from District 12. 

Snow, an orphan, lived with a cousin and grandmother. For one living in the Capitol, he suffered poor circumstances, and it was easy for feel empathy toward him. 

Snow's tribute, Gray, was 16-year old colorful and talented, yet, quick-witted, benumbed girl who was also living in compromised circumstances. While you expect to feel compassion for Gray, you sense she is a survivalist and can manage her own ways without help from anyone. 

But Snow is the one you keep your eye on because he is the villain in the future trilogy. I anticipated a major event that would turn him toward evil; but instead, I had continuous reasons to hope for him, which was conflicting. His conscience told him that the Games were wrong, but he never acted on it to change the situation. 

And as is common with Collins, the love interest never felt true. At least, in the case of Coriolanus and Lucy, their relationship or interest was not convincing, and it left off very abruptly.

Furthermore, the whole ending was unexpected and hurried. The events changed without evidence to support why, and I was left with that sudden change in Snow, which also was not compelling. 

In my reviews of two of The Hunger Games books, I had the same problem with Collins. My son warned me: she does not really know how to end a story. She can tell a story, but sometimes it falls apart. For example, I liked the premise of The Hunger Games trilogy very much, but some of the events were curious, or the story did not connect itself -- a flow of continuity did not exist. And then there was the lack of compelling relationships and the abrupt endings, which is frustrating.

I think the idea behind the story of the Hunger Games is more interesting to me, still, and Collins discussed it at length in an interview. She incorporated the philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, stating that how we view human nature will determine the kind of government we think we need. 

Hobbes, in short, believed that humans were brutes and it was "every man against every man." Man required a "common power, a sovereign or absolute political authority" to rule over him. "In return for protection, we agree to give our obedience."

Locke believed that if man used reason, he could live in harmony with all. Thomas Jefferson was also of this opinion. They both understood that "government should protect the rights of the people," and if it failed, the people could replace it.

Rousseau believed men were motivated by self-love. But together in society, men moved toward a destructive form of self-love. (I really cut a lot out of this.) Long story short, his thinking led to the French Revolution and socialism. I see a lot of Rousseau's ideas in American society today. 

Three of Collin's characters each espouse or represent some of the concepts of the aforementioned philosophers. The author also injected a little Romanticism here and there, which celebrated individualism, emotion, nature, and nationalism. Romanticism wins the day in Collin's strong female characters throughout the story and well into the trilogy. 

In the end, Collins tried to make the case that Snow, who adopted the Hobbes worldview, was a result of his environment, like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; but as I said, it was difficult to grasp, and it wasn't totally believable. 

But aside from that, it was a break from my complex reading, and that was good for me. I gave it three stars on GoodReads because I liked it. One time. And that's it. 

Suzanne Collins

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings by Olaudah Equiano

 

The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings
Olaudah Equiano
Published 1789
Memoirs

This is the true story of Olaudah Equiano. He was born in 1745, in a part of Nigeria, kidnapped, and sold into the West Indie slave trade. 

Slavery was commonplace in Equiano's homeland and during his upbringing, especially as punishment for crime. Equiano described how "red men" brought them firearms and gunpowder and often brought slaves through the land. Sometimes Equiano's people sold slaves (either POWs or criminals) to the red men. 

When Equiano was eleven, he and his sister were taken from their family and sold and resold until they reached the coast and were put on a slave ship, in which he "fainted away." He was terrified that white men would eat him. Other blacks tried to reassure him to no avail. The whites were brutal, not only to the blacks, but even to each other. He described the whole scene below deck as horrid, and it was.

He ended his first chapter with a message to Christians, similar to what Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle Tom's Cabin, declared to the Christian Church:
O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God? who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? 
Equiano was brought to Barbados and then Virginia, where he was purchased by a planter and later by an officer of the British Navy who took him to London. Equiano, now 12-years old, made friends wherever he went. His first companion told him about God. In London, he lived with a kind family that had servants who waited on him. His master, who always treated him well, often gave him the option to work with him or stay in London; Equiano preferred to go with his Master, never parting from him.

It wasn't long before Equiano felt at ease about his situation because he began to understand more; his fear subsided. After four years at sea and in England, he felt very comfortable around the English and understood the language. He considered the English superior even to his people and desired to resemble them in spirit and manners. 

A lady friend of his master's sent him to school and told him he needed to be baptized in order to go to heaven (which is absolutely false). He was baptized in 1759, but will understand later why this did nothing for him.

With his master, they sailed on the Mediterranean and even fought the French in a sea skirmish. It was rough. They sank a French frigate, but some of the English were killed. When his master was promoted to captain, he was promoted to captain's steward. But he really struggled with being good. He recognized God's hand in his protection and he thought he came to fear God alone. 
I thought I could very plainly trace the hand of God, without whose permission a sparrow cannot fall. I began to raise my fear from man to Him alone, and to call daily on His holy name with fear and reverence; and I trust he heard my supplications, and graciously condescended to answer me according to His holy word, and to implant the seeds of piety in me, even one of the meanest of His creatures. 
When he returned to London, he started to think of freedom, education, and working for himself. He learned to read the Bible and to write. People he met gave him hope that he could achieve these things. Olaudah knew his master had no right to him. Then his master unexpectedly tried to sell him, which caused him devastation and sorrow. He believed he had angered the Lord; therefore, he repented of past sin and asked for God's mercy. He later learned it was his master's new girlfriend who instigated his release to a new master. 



It was 1763, and Equiano was sold to good man, Mr. King, who was kind to his slaves. But his new environment exposed him to the cruelty of the slave trade, where he witnessed new shipments of slaves, the mistreatment of female slaves, the neglect and inhumane treatment and conditions, and the breakup of families. 
But is not the slave trade entirely at war with the heart of man?  

The slave trade had hardened man's heart. Harriet Beecher Stowe also said this in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Mr. King permitted Equiano to sell goods and turn a profit for himself, and he learned to be a shrewd businessman. Yet he still desired his freedom and hoped one day to purchase it with the money he saved from his business. He said "...life had lost its relish when liberty was gone." 

He witnessed free black men stolen away into slavery in Bermuda and Jamaica, and realized that a black man does not have recourse even if he is legally free. This was a fear that stayed with him. The West Indian laws were harsh and made a mockery of liberty, which is where he spent much of his time with Mr. King. Ultimately his desire was to return to England where he would never need to worry about being stolen back into slavery once he was free.

In 1766, Equiano had sailed to Philadelphia, and while there, sold his goods to the Quakers, whom he liked very much. Out of curiosity, he visited their crowded meetinghouse on day when the Rev. George Whitfield was preaching. 

Finally, after saving $47, he convinced Mr. King to give him his freedom, which was granted at half the price. He did hope to go immediately to England, but agreed to do a few more voyages for Mr. King. One trip turned out to be a nightmare when his ship almost sank and Equiano needed to save the slaves below deck, which he did alone. After the ship was repaired, they sailed on to Georgia. 

A few other unbelievable incidents happened to him, which threatened his freedom, but good fortune always saved him; even Mr. King tried to keep him from returning to England by tempting him with land and his own slaves; but Equiano did not want those things. 

In 1768, after returning to England, Equiano went to sea frequently, and visited Italy and Turkey. He said he witnessed the Turks mistreat the Greeks just as the whites did the blacks in the Indies. He stopped in Portugal, in 1769, and learned that a Bible was an illegal item and would cost you ten years in slavery. He returned to the Mediterranean and saw galley ships with slaves in poor condition. He witnessed Mt. Vesuvius erupt and was in Smyrna during a great plague. 


Then, I cannot believe he did this, but he returned to Jamaica and Barbados, in 1771, and he said he saw blacks flogging and torturing other black slaves. And the craziest thing of all: he went on a voyage to explore the North East passage to India. The farthest they sailed was Greenland, where they almost died after becoming immoveable in ice. 

After all these dangers, Equiano reflected on God's mercy and tried to work out his own salvation. He wanted to be a first rate Christian, and he sought a relationship with Christ. All of these other religions - Quakers, Catholics, and Jews - he observed, were keeping the Ten Commandments. I suppose he recognized that he really couldn't do it. He was becoming very concerned about his soul. 

He prayed that God would show him better friends because the ones he was keeping company were wicked. He then met an old friend who invited him to church, and it was there that he finally heard the true gospel of new birth, Christ's blood, and faith alone. He struggled to understand how the Ten Commandments did not save us and how to know we were saved and forgiven. 
I thought I kept eight commandments out of ten; then my worthy interpreter told me I did not do it, nor could I; and he added that no man ever did or could keep the commandments, without offending in one point. 

The following page is my favorite. It reminds me of the reckoning Crusoe had in Robinson Crusoe when he came to understand grace and faith. 


 For example, Equiano said,

Now every leading providential circumstance that happened to me, from the day I was taken from my parents to that hour, was then, in my view, as if it had but just then occurred. I was sensible of the invisible hand of God, which guided and protected me, when in truth I knew not: still the Lord pursued me although I slighted and disregarded it; this mercy melted me down. 

I notice that no matter what I read or when it was written, that testimony of a person who comes to individual faith through grace has always been and always will be the same truth. It never changes. All of the stories are the same. 

Equiano continued his sea voyages and travels, as he liked to see the world, and on his way to Spain, his ship was involved in an accident. He thought he'd die, but he was quite ready to stand before God. All were amazed at his calm, and it was an opportunity for him to share the peace he had with God. 

In 1775, on a return voyage to Jamaica, he hoped to be used as God's instrument, but instead he found the people did not fear God, and the experience irked him. In 1784, he sailed to New York and Philadelphia, where he visited the Quakers again, whom he said were constantly working to free the slaves. 

The last quest written in Equiano's Narrative was his voyage to Sierra Leone and his communication with the Queen about the state of Africans and Britain's part in ending the slave trade. 

Equiano died 1797, ten years before Britain abolished the African slave trade, and thirty more years before slavery was finally abolished in all of the British colonies. Not that he was aggressively pursuing an end to the slave trade or slavery, in general, as slavery was commonplace, as I have already said; it was that he was aware that it was very wrong, and perhaps it was his desire to persuade others to see what he saw  when he so eloquently wrote The Interesting Narrative.

Words that are useful even today: 
If, when [anyone] look[s] round the world, they feel exultation, let it be tempered with benevolence to others, and gratitude to God, "who hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and whose wisdom is not our wisdom, neither are our ways his ways."
Cocoa Plantation in the West Indies
Cocoa Plantation in the West Indies

Monday, October 5, 2020

Obsessing Over a Reading/Book Journal

It's not enough to have a blog to write about the books I read. Now I need to have a reading/book journal. Yes, I do own a notebook in which I inconsistently record books I read or quotes that appeal to me, but it is not pretty. 

I have used this ugly journal for several years to keep or write down every book I've ever read because GoodReads is not enough either, right? Well, in truth, I do prefer to handwrite everything. 


Unfortunately, my method was and is unattractive and severally boring. 


A year ago, I began watching numerous YouTube videos on handmade and beautifully decorated reading journals. 

I tried. I really tried to do this countless times, but it only ended up in torn pages from the notebook.

Then I knocked myself out with this layout. Whoa.


Finally I became bold and drew my shelves into yearly reads. This is what daring looks like. 


I still plan to use my messy notebook to track statistics, like determining my favorite read for each month, and eventually, the entire year. It will depend on my mood at the moment; therefore, it won't be concrete. I will keep a TBR for the year, too. 


I also expect to do some year end stats, though I am not so sure I will care. 


My TBR for 2021 is already growing, which, by the way, I also have on an excel spreadsheet on my laptop. If I was content with my handwriting, I would eliminate my excel spread sheet because it is duplicated work. The bottom line is: I loathe my handwriting. If it was beautiful, I'd do everything by hand. 


So I was not satisfied with that above journal as an official reading/book journal. I thought about what to do differently and why I should do it? What was most important to me? It finally came to me: I wanted it to portray my personal experience with books...a sketch or a study of my life with books. This is what I have been working on obsessively for several weeks.

The physical work definitely reflects who I am: messy, imperfect, and inconsistent. But that's me. 

Here is my cover page, using water color with dry brush. 


The table of contents is in progress because I will add more pages. It should have been moved over to the left more to make room on the right. [eyesore]


If I had planned better, I would have put this next page before the table of contents. It's almost like a dedication page.  


My first page is a record of the books I remember from the early years: elementary/middle school, high school/college, and early married years. So I called it the Early Years.


And for the next eleven years, I started reading a lot. The next three pages in the journal look a lot like this following page, with books I have read aloud to my kids or to learn more about homeschooling. I mostly read for others. Hence, I called it the Homeschool Years. 

Here I colored each book according to the rating I gave it on GoodReads. I dislike the colors I chose and later changed it.



In the last image I pointed out The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer because that is where my reading changed drastically. I read Bauer's book in 2011, and started reading through her list in 2012.  

But first I added a WEM reading list of the novels, and rated each using the ugly color scheme from the previous years. 


And then I gratefully switched over to a more pleasant color scheme in 2012. I wish I would have called this the Intentional Years. 


Out of order, these next two pages are the WEM biographies and histories. I'm almost done with the histories.



The remainder of the pages are bookshelves containing the books I read for that year, including rereads; but more importantly are the memorable quotes from past reads. There are so many that I have collected over the years, though there is not enough room to include them (although I have the option of placing them on the opposite facing pages, which I did not use because the ink runs through). I would need to write it on a loose sheet of paper and glue it down, and I am still open to that. Significant quotes from loved books are pertinent to who we are.






This is the final bookshelf page of 2020, which is not complete, yet. I don't expect much more to be added this year. I'm SO distracted with lockdowns, riots, fires, and the election.


Finally, my other favorite part was recording my personal canon. I cut and pasted the little blurb I have on my personal canon page on my blog and included it here. 


I did not include all of the pages in this post, but you'll get the idea how I wrote them down under fiction and non-fiction.



This is the last of the non-fiction. (Gosh, I'm so messy!)


So, what's next? After this unpleasant year ends, I will begin a page for 2021 books. I also expect to complete the WEM histories next year. After 2021, I will add a WEM list for plays. Plus there is the question of what to do when I want to add to my canon. I'll just have to start another page(s), which is fine. Things will change. They always do. Right now, this is how it is, and I'm content. I finally have a reading/book journal. Yay!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Great Crash 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith

The Great Crash 1929
John Kenneth Galbraith
Published 1955
American Non-fiction 

Men have been swindled by other men on occasion, but autumn 1929 was the first time men succeeded on a large scale of swindling themselves.
The 1920s were a good time. Americans longed to get rich quick with minimal effort. The New York Stock Exchange was an agreeable way to make easy money. Up to 30 million families were invested in the Stock Market; but, by 1927, the seeds of eventual disaster were sown: internationalism, speculation, and escapism. 

The purpose of speculation was to accommodate the speculator. People were getting brokers' loans to invest and buy stocks on margin, which increased the price of stock without cost of ownership. Also companies formed trusts, which made it easier for lower incomes and single women to participate in the (get rich quick) gamble. 

The summer before the Great Crash there was heavy volume trading, and brokers' loans increased to $7 billion by the end of the summer. Some were alarmed that the NYSE seemed to be "devouring all the money of the entire world."  The Federal Reserve rebuked those who brought light to the coming storm because it was an attack on confidence. It appeared no one wanted to stop this runaway train. 


However, by the fall of 1929, there was already a slight depression in industry production. Speculators decided to get out and others had no choice but to sell. 

On October 24, disorder, fright, and confusion reigned and 12 million shares changed hands; there were no buyers. The ticker fell behind and prices fell faster. 

October 29 was the worst in history. Remember those trusts? They dropped to almost zero. I assume that means they were worth nothing. Banks suffered hardest, and people lost their whole savings! Many thought the Exchange should be closed to give it a rest, but it remained open. 

Interestingly, there was no suicide wave. Suicide was already on the rise, and the media focused on suicides more because "that was the expected response to a loss of fortune of that scale." The Crash exposed the activity of embezzlement, which was more essential than suicide. It was more common for defaults to occur. Large-scale embezzlements were organized by groups. 


By mid November 1929, the Market stopped falling, reassured by President Hoover. Prices of commodities fell. Consumer buying was obviously down. Hoover, following the Keynes economic approach, cut taxes on individuals and corporations, and while it helped business expansion and confidence, it was still too meager.

Hoover ordered meetings with industry leaders where they conveyed a labor shortage since confidence had risen and morale had improved. But for all their meetings, they were really about nothing. It gave the appearance of urgency, but no solutions were conducted. 

The laissez-faire attitude had waned; yet, Hoover was opposed to large-scale government action.
He was too optimistic about the recovery, as the economy began to rebound in 1930. Unfortunately, every time he said something encouraging, the Market dropped again.

The overall picture -- that hundreds of thousands of Americans had lost their fortunes and savings, that reputations were ruined, and that those who had said that the economy was sound before the Crash were not held accountable -- was bleak. President Hoover was targeted most because "he converted the business proper of reassurance and positive words into public policy." The people were suffering in hopelessness and looked to government leadership for solutions. Hoover lost his bid for reelection in 1932 against New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. During his Inaugural Address, FDR promised to "drive the money changers from the temple." 

The Federal Reserve Board was assigned the job of fixing the margin requirements, regulating and restricting pool opportunities, wash sales, tips, false information, rigging, and manipulating the market for profit. A Securities and Exchange Commission was established to enforce regulations, and they were aggressive in their work. 



Galbraith said the causes of the Great Depression are far from certain. He disagreed that it was because credit was easy and that people borrowed money. He said it is common for the economy to take a natural rest after seven good, healthy years. Prosperity destroys itself and then depression corrects it. In 1929, the economy could have continued, but something was amiss.

So what could have caused the Great Depression following the Great Crash? 

For one, production outran consumer investment demand. Businesses misjudged prospective demand, causing them to curtail buying and cutback production. There was an inventory recession, and investments failed to keep up with profits. 

Two, there was a deep discrepancy between incomes where 5% of the population earned 1/3 of all income. The economy was particularly dependent on the high level of investment and luxury spending by the wealthy. 

Three, core structure of holding company dividends was weak. An interruption of dividends meant defaults on bonds, bankruptcy, and collapse.

Four, the independent bank structure caused a domino effect, and many people lost all their savings. 

Five, an unreliable state of foreign imbalance permitted other countries to purchase U.S. goods on credit. [Today, it's the other way around.] This was also a burden on farmers.

And six, poor economic intelligence policy made things worse. The budget should have been balanced first, which both political parties agreed. [Imagine both political parties agreeing on anything!] Borrowing, they determined, led to "slovenly recklessness of the public purse." AMEN!



Galbraith could not say if something like what happened in 1929 could happen again. (He published his findings in the 50s.) He did list all of the protections in place now meant to protect individual and corporate investments and savings today - provisions that came about as a result of the Great Crash. But he did also include one lesson we could draw from that historical event: 
A very specific and personal misfortune awaits those who presume to believe the future is revealed to them.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Late Wrap-up of Ten Books of Summer by 746 Books


This bookish challenge ended September 1, and I totally forgot to do a wrap up. Of the proposed list of ten books, I completed five, started three others and backed out, and completed two other books not on this list. 

Following is the original proposed summer book list and the end results:

  • Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Was not motivated to finish this book and adopted it out to a new home.
  • McCullers: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: read half way and had to stop because I failed to make a connection to the story or characters. Gave this copy to a friend.
  • Brown: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: grateful to have finally read this, and I am keeping it.
  • Wells: Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells: I love Ida and I'm keeping her story, too.
  • Dinesen: Out of Africa: was not excited about finishing this and didn't even return to it. We are finally parting ways.
  • Equiano: The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings: reading this RIGHT NOW AND LOVING IT! This is my kind of book.
  • Haley: Roots: a great story. Keeping it.
  • Turner: These is My Words: LOVED IT! (Hamlet, this is your kind of story.)
  • Robinson: Gilead: Only read a third of the way and stopped. Also found a new home for it. Again, I failed to find a connection with the story. 
  • Bergreen: Over the Edge of the World: absolutely well done and excellent work. Keeping it. 
  • Tan: The Joy Luck Club: This one I wanted to love so much; it took off at first; but I lost interest a third of the way. So I'm giving it away. 
I am done forcing myself to read and just want to enjoy what I am reading. If I don't like it, I won't feel guilty about stopping, and I'll find a new home for my book and move on. So that's that! I'm really excited about several books I am reading right now, and that's how it should be.

Hope you are all enjoying what you are reading right now, too.