“All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are ‘sides,’ and it is necessary for one side to beat another side, and of the utmost importance to walk up to a platform and receive from the hands of the Headmaster himself a highly ornamental pot.” Virginia Woolf
Over this last decade I have re-appreciated the power and value of many ideas in Virginia Woolf’s book: A Room of One’s Own, which I read in my twenties. As I have picked up brushes again this month, the ideas have become more salient. In terms of women’s experience across time Virginia Woolf writes: “Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics…” And elsewhere, “There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” What if we could all live from this place of inner freedom, where the walls that kept us locked out of ourselves had collapsed, while simultaneously having a physical room of our own to retreat to, to be and to do.
“Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.”
“I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross–roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to–night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting–room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky. too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would he impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.”
And a recent podcast
I’d also like to share a podcast I listened to a few days ago with Dr Rick Hanson, his son Forrest Hanson, and their guest Frank Ostaseski, who is an advocate for mindful and compassionate end-of-life care-giving at: https://www.rickhanson.net/being-well-podcast-living-and-dying-well-with-frank-ostaseski/. The discussion covers topics and experiences like: Frank’s own recovery from multiple strokes; what death can teach us about living well and ourselves; our fear of our own death, and mostly, the death of those we love, especially, our children; bringing wisdom to anger and courage to the world; the coming together and the falling apart and accepting each other as is.