Sunday, July 25, 2010

Silence is the greatest crime

Joan Didion argues that writing by its nature is ‘an aggressive, even a hostile act.’ It is, she argues ‘the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind…setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the readers most private space.’

In this way writing can be considered an enactment of the desire for revenge, as much as it can be a creative gesture, a gesture of defiance, the speaking out against oppression, that in itself might become another form of oppression.

In an essay ‘On hurting People’s Feelings’ Carolyn Wells Kraus writes about the nature of biography as an act of autobiography. She argues that ‘reducing a person’s story on a page, robs it of complexity’.

Is it really the desire for revenge that sets my blood racing or is it, as Kraus argues, guilt that I too am complicit? Non-fiction ‘sucks the life of a person onto the page’ and distorts that life to the author’s own ends, Kraus writes. Characters are slanted in the direction of the author’s obsessions.

‘The real problem,’ Kraus argues ‘is that you’re borrowing the peoples’ identities to tell your own story.’ Kraus quotes at length from her own writing and others to demonstrate the ways in which a writer’s bias influences the description of other characters. And so in telling the stories of others we inevitably tell our own stories.

‘There is no script,’ Kraus argues, ‘only improvisation. We fill in the outlines from the details. All we know of the world as writers is what we see – images, words, scenes. We supply the meaning, and we alter that meaning with every sleight of hand.’

Two days ago a jury found Robert Farquharson guilty of murder for the second time. He had been ordered a retrial on appeal. The jury found that Farquharson had murdered his three sons, ages ten, seven and two. He had driven his car and his boys into a dam, an accident, he said, the result of an out of control coughing fit. Farquharson survived. He had managed to extricate himself but his sons drowned. It happened on Father’s Day.

Farquharson is said to have killed his sons to avenge himself on his wife, to punish her for leaving him. To me if this is true, his action is an enactment of his desire for revenge, although Farquarson may well not be in touch with any such desire. It seems he cannot believe that he did it the way the courts have argued, deliberately intentionally, purposefully. It is his lack of awareness that makes the crime the more chilling.

If Farquarson knew openly about the hatred he held towards his wife after she had left him, then perhaps he need not have acted upon the impulse.

Feelings that are not recognised are far more likely to be acted upon. Rage denied is worse than rage acknowledged. When the anger is denied it seeps out when we least expect. It slips out like a hidden leak, one that drips between walls and causes untold damage. Think of it, a slow drip between the cavities of two walls, the mould, the stench, the rising damp hidden from view and slowly swamping, inching its way into the body of the house.

In 1997 a father murdered his four daughters in Tasmania. He stabbed them in the throat as they slept. Only the oldest had woken and tried to defend herself. There were scratches on her arms. The others must have been asleep when their lives were taken. The father then went off to the local township to post fifteen letters to relatives in bloodstained envelopes. He did not use stamps. He returned home, took an axe, chopped off his right hand, and then shot himself in the head.

Silence is the greatest crime and yet our lips remain sealed.

‘Sunday morning and I flick through the pages of the Best Australian Essays and find a newspaper cutting I left there months ago. I recognise it instantly. The reporter writes: ‘Doctors will have to wait until the end of the week to determine the success of surgery to reattach a toddler’s left leg, which was severed in an early morning axe attack’. In the next paragraph, the reporter tells us that, in the middle of the night, in a rented house in suburban Melbourne, the seventeen-month-old boy’s mother severed his left leg below the knee. She has a history of mental illness, the reporter adds, as if to make sense of it all.

I first heard the story on the radio, the day it happened, a few abrupt words over the static between the weather and fashions on the field. I was driving home after dropping my youngest daughter at school. By the time I read about it in the newspaper the next day some of its impact had worn off. A twenty-one year old mother, no name supplied. She had recently moved here from the country. There were details about the surgery and its similarity to surgery performed on a Perth boy who had lost both his arms and a foot while slam-dunking through a hoop on his garage wall. There the similarities end.

The reporter interviewed one of the surgeons who reattached the Perth boy’s limbs. The surgeon did not want to be named. He congratulated the team that had performed microsurgery on the toddler on the morning of the attack. The chances of success, he said, depended on the slow regrowth of nerves and the movement of muscles and tendons over a number of years. Young people heal more quickly, the surgeon added: ‘They have youth on their side.’ From my essay 'Fierce Amputations', Island Magazine 106, Spring 2006.

Silence is the greatest crime and yet our lips remain sealed.

Another person who tackles silence but in a different way is Lynn Behrendt. Could I please introduce you to her exceptional and haunting work. She is a stunning poet and artist.

48 comments:

ScoMan said...

Wow.

At the start of this post, I wasn't sure where you were heading with it.

By the end of the post, I'm a little teary.

I'm not one to release my emotions as they come to me. I follow after my father, and bottle everything inside.

I know I need to change my ways, it's just hard to change what you've always done, and what you've always been shown is right.

Mary said...

Since the children cannot bear witness, adults must. In that the children do not have the words to acknowledge these horrors. Adults do.

And yet it is adults who visit these hideous acts on them.

I am chilled to the bone by these (true) stories and wish it was just the mountains air that makes me shiver.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Interesting... and terrifying. It's awful that someone could do those things.

Rose Hunter said...

That opening quote does a lot to enlighten me as to why I can't get into Didion, even though I always want to.

I like your blog! I just got here, via Sherry (O'Keefe). I'll keep looking around...!

Kass said...

It's hard to know if violent acts could have been avoided if perpetrators had voiced their rage and been acknowledged and helped.

I alternate in my revenge thinking between desiring to exact some and wanting to camp out in a more peaceful realm. Sometimes I think the only thing vengeance is good for is formulaic protagonist vs.hero screenwriting.

Other times I let my imagination go and develop fantasies of offenders who seem to have gotten off scott-free, getting their just dues.

Then I wonder if taking vengeance in my mind throughout the day is concocting a brew stew that will only infest and pollute me.

The desire to 'get even' is natural, but is 'even' ever accomplished?

Most days I'm with Schopenhauer in thinking, "“Vengeance taken will often tear the heart and torment the conscience.” - Do you suppose this is true for revenge writing?

I don't want the negative times in my life to forever be a point of reference. I recognize it is my thoughts alone that cause me pain and this is the only arena I can accomplish anything in, so I would rather spend my energy on understanding forgiveness than rehearsing my outrage until it's perfect (which is not to say that I don't have great empathy for those who have suffered and struggle to understand the impossible).

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

Yours is an eloquent and compelling post.

Ann ODyne said...

when I got The Weekend Australian I was really confused by the two magazines, until I read that one was banned by the Farquarson court case. I just could not read about the children attacked.
Using children as a punching-bag for frustration is nothing new or unusual.

Jim Murdoch said...

Aggressive? Based on the use of the first person pronoun? There’s a novel I hold dear, a science fiction novel as it happens, by Robert Silverberg – I may have mentioned it before talking about “soul pissing” – but the culture in the book is one where the use of the first person pronoun is regarded as swearing. Everyone refers to themselves as “one” – one thought this, one wonders if . . . you get the idea. ‘I’ is selfish but I would argue against it as being aggressive. When I write am I trying to impose my opinion on another? I certainly have an opinion – I’m formulating one as I write this – but my intent in writing is not to attack you, Didion or anyone else.

I had a poem knocked back by an editor once. The reason was because I used the same opening line a she does in her extract, “In many ways…” The editor thought this was a weak opening and he was right. I would have been far happier had she chosen to open with, “Writing can be viewed as an aggressive act,” or something along those lines. Because it can. In fact there are cases where that’s not simply an opinion. That is a fact. But saying that writing is aggressive is reductive. To borrow from Carolyn Wells Kraus, it robs writing of its complexity.

I had a look at Lynn Behrendt’s blog earlier today and passed a comment which I read out aloud to my wife and my daughter who had just arrived as I was finishing up. If you’ve subscribed to the comments you’ll probably have read it by now. In the comment I tried to present an alternative perspective to the one she had expressed. My intent was to change her mind. Was that an act of aggression? No. Compassion more like. I wanted to change her mind.

Writing is not an invasion of one’s privacy if the author is invited in. Were I to stand outside your house and read my poems at you through your letterbox then that’s another thing entirely. We not only invite writers into our homes to express their thoughts but quite often we actually pay them for the privilege. Some authors are worth the money, others are not but good or bad they are all limited by their chosen medium. Writing is not life, it is a facsimile and wafer-thin (or at least paper-thin) most of the time. In a biography, even an autobiography, everyone, including the primary subject is simplified for the page. I have three biographies of Samuel Beckett totalling some 2200 pages and yet I feel they only scratch the surface of his life. They raise as many questions as they answer.

This begs the question if you can’t do justice to your subject even if that subject is you then why bother? Because a taster is better than nothing at all. Even if that taster is a distorted one. No author no matter how much they try to be is ever going to be completely unbiased. As long as one understands that then I don’t see where the problem lies. I have two audio recordings which I keep meaning to blog about, one is a one-man show based on the life of Philip Larkin, the other is a selection of his letters. If that was all I’d ever heard about him then he comes across very much as “the magnificent Eeyore of British verse” as the Daily Telegraph called him but read Andrew Motion’s biography and you get a far more sinister and disturbing picture. The fact is that it’s na├»ve of anyone to think that if they pick up a biography, auto- or not, that they’re going to get to know anyone, to get a true picture. As long as you start off with that perspective then you shouldn’t be disappointed. Not too much anyway.

Enchanted Oak said...

What you say in the paragraph about the seepage of violent emotion into the walls of a house, the stench, the creeping mildew, is vivid, beautiful writing. I am trying to wrap my mind around your transitions between the selfish tyrant of Didion, the self-distortion of Kraus, and the suppression of violent emotion leading to appalling acts of violence against children. It's Sunday morning here in California, and I'm waiting for my eldest daughter to wake up so we can go for a buccolic drive. Reading this post has disturbed me. It woke me up like a nightmare. Good work, Elisabeth.

Kirk Jusko said...

Hate and anger are considered "negative" emotions, and, according to some, including many in the blogosphere, we should only experience "positive" emotions like happiness and joy. My problem with that is, who makes a conscious decision to experience a particular emotion? We can only consciously decide whether or not to act upon a particular emotion, be it negative or positive. And, as you said, you have to acknowledge the emotion even exists in the first place. Is that acknowledgement also a conscious decision? I sure hope.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Writing, expressive forms of all descriptions, I see as acts of alchemy; simplistically said, the opportunity to transform one substance or state into another. I disagree with Didion, unless agressive means daring to speak authentically.

Isn't art the process of taking what we contain, our core selves, and making it manifest? People will interpret things as they wish; I believe we know our own truth.

Kath Lockett said...

I'm struggling between tears and awe as I type this comment - for your writing and thought-processes, Elisabeth, and for those of your commenters.

I do pursue revenge in my writing, even in some of my so-called light-hearted features. It's not necessarily violent revenge or getting 'even' but the fact that I'm sharing it and trying my best to 'live well' seems to work.
Mostly.

Eternally Distracted said...

That was an amazing post. I find the way you write absolutely facinating.

Elisabeth said...

I wasn't sure myself, Scoman, as to where this post might lead when I first started out, and then I worried about it's being too grim.

I worried as well that I might be one of Joan Didion's 'aggressive' writers foisting such horrors on my readership.

Finally, I decided, as others have suggested, no one is forced to read on, if they choose not to do so. Blogs are not compulsory.

Thanks, ScoMan

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Mary. I'm afraid these stories are chilling. It is what gets to me every time I hear them and similar accounts of the atrocities visited on some children.

And you're right, it's certain adults who inflict these atrocities on children and equally - other adults, most likely - who must speak out against them ever happening again.

Elisabeth said...

It is indeed awful, Rachel, that people can do such things. To me it bespeaks a certain madness.

The perpetrators need help too, but often times they might seem to be beyond it. More often than not the perpetrators are also victims of trauma.

It does not mean we should not stop trying to help and in order to keep trying we need to be able to speak about these things. Too often these stories go underground, after the first shocked reaction.

Thanks, Rachel.

Elisabeth said...

I'm pleased to meet you, Rose. I think this quote may not do justice to Joan Didion's ideas. I've plucked it out of context.

I don't think she means it to sound as aggressive as it might sound. Of course that depends on what we mean by the word aggressive.

I'll address this in a later comment, because I suspect the word aggressive is not as bad as some might think. It might simply mean 'assertive' in this context.

Of course I can't speak for Joan Didion and what she really means.

Thanks for your kind comments, Rose.

BTW I love your name, if indeed it is your name. One of my daughters travels under than name.

Elisabeth said...

Kass, you are so thoughtful in your comments. It's always such a treat to read them.

I think you may be right. Some of the perpetrators of these types of actions are so damaged as to be beyond self-reflection of the type I have described.

Also, I want to make the point that writing from revenge will only be effective in my view, if the writer has processed some of the vengeful feelings.

Otherwise the writing becomes a pure enactment of revenge and literal enactments of revenge, are as you suggest, dangerous and damaging to both sides.

My interest, as far as writing is concerned, is to do with an awareness of the desire for revenge in a writer that can the lead on to a lot of soul searching and thoughtfulness and in time be a trigger to good writing.

But raw unprocessed revenge in writing probably produces something unpalatable by most people's standards.

Thanks, Kass.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, AnnODyne. I agree, it's hard, almost unbearable, to read about child abuse, especially when it gets mixed up in newspapers with all the trivia of our lives.

That is the point of the essay I wrote, 'Fierce Amputations' - how much newspapers tend to reduce our sense of awe and horror at some of the things that go on daily, including the treatment of indigenous people, asylum seekers, and in domestic violence etc etc.

Elisabeth said...

Where do I begin in response to your comment, Jim as generous and far reaching as all your comments are?

I have a suspicion that Joan Didion is talking about aggression in its most neutral sense, as if such were possible.

I think of aggression as a basic emotion, one we we all experience and need, rather like assertiveness or a sort of life force that drives people to protect themselves and their own.

My hunch is that Didion means aggressiveness in this sense, not as destructiveness or as an attack.

Our attitudes to the first person pronoun seem to be changing slowly, Jim, but I reckon we are getting there, when it comes to writing, but the accusations of selfishness in the use of that first person still exist in some circles.

Maybe again that's what Didion is alluding to, the sense that we impose our views on others, but she seems to refer to all writing, not simply that written in the first person.

I am glad you visited Lynn Behrendt's blog and that you shared your thoughts with her.

It is such a strange world we live in, that so many of us sit at our computers trying to communicate with one another the most heartfelt feelings across continents and oftentimes affecting one another deeply.

It confirms to me yet again the power of writing.

It pleases me that we can also spend hours and hours grappling with issues on the nature of writing. Whether it's poetry, autobiography, biography, fiction, creative non fiction matters not. It is thrilling, challenging and a rare privilege.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

My transitions can be a bit erratic, Enchanted Oak. Please forgive me.

I'm also sorry to have visited a sort of day time nightmare on you, but I suppose I wanted to communicate something immediate and that's in part why I started with Joan Didion's thoughts on the aggression that se considers lies at the heart of writing. Was I foisting ideas on you - ideas, words - that you were powerless to defend yourself against?

There are many who would object to this, I suspect, and others who might appreciate my efforts.
Thanks for being in the latter camp, at least I assume as much from the fact that you left a warm comment.

Elisabeth said...

I agree with you, Kirk, about a subtle pressure within the blogosphere to steer clear of certain so-called negative emotions.

It is as if there is a belief that in our writing we can actually orchestrate the emotions that get stirred up in our readers by what we write.

I find writing to be such a mysterious process, both writing and reading.

It's one of the reasons why I use the words 'haunting' and 'resonance' often in my comments.

Writing is often emotionally charged. You can't get away from it and one person's emotional response to a piece of writing can be the exact opposite of another's.

That's part of the joy and the terror of writing.

Thanks, Kirk.

Elisabeth said...

I agree with you, Marylinn. Authenticity might be a good word to take the place of aggressiveness.

There is a view in some psychological circles that when there is more than one person involved, even when there are only two, even mother and infant, there is some degree of competition for space.

There is aggression in all of us therefore in our struggle to survive, but here the aggression exists in its most benign form.

I also value the word 'alchemy'. Writers and readers form a sort of alchemy on the page and it can't be orchestrated.

Thanks, Marylinn.

Elisabeth said...

Kath, I read a brilliant piece about the desire for revenge entailed in women who not only write but also talk about their husband's snoring at night.

We do it all the time, write and speak endearingly about our loved one's foibles - our spouses, our children, our friends.

There's nothing wrong with it. It's necessary. It takes the tension out of life's seriousness.

To me again it's an expression of emotion that is creative. It is not the same as outright revenge which is destructive.

Thanks, Kath.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for your kind words, here, Eternally Distracted. May you have a fine holiday.

Mim said...

Unexamined rage: bits of tinder piling up, drier and drier, then the flare, explosion, fire, destruction, murder.

O, the terrible furies.

Better the pen than the axe.

Eryl Shields said...

There's so much to think about in this post, Elizabeth, that I find myself unable to comment even though I've been back several times and lingered.

I will say this, though, I think of writing as an act of sharing, inclusive rather than invasive: the reader has to invite the writer's sensibility into her 'most private space.' And the reader can respond, or not, in her own time and own way, unlike in oral conversation. Though I think I understand, in a way, what Didion is getting at.

I think I will have to check my dictionary for the various meanings of 'revenge.'

This is a great, thought provoking post.

Dave King said...

Like ScoMan I was wondering where you were heading. The use of "I" can represent many things, depending on the writer. Of course it is assertive (usually), even aggressive, but to associate it particularly with revenge seems to me to be stretching a point. That said, a thought-provoking and fascinating post.

Elisabeth said...

'Better the pen than the axe'. That's it in a nutshell, Mim. Thanks for your thoughts.

Elisabeth said...

I suspect, Eryl, that as with most things this is a case of neither one or the other, but both.

Sometimes writing can seem inclusive, and at other times invasive, depending on the writing and as well, depending on the reader.

I'm forever reiterating that when I refer to revenge in my research, I'm talking about the DESIRE FOR REVENGE, not its enactment.

There's a huge differnce between WANTING to punish or hurt someone in someway or other once they have hurt you, and actually EXACTING revenge.

The latter is dangerous, destructive and unhelpful. The former is human and part of a list of emotional responses that can be triggered, I stress CAN be triggered when someone has wounded us or when we have been hurt in some significant way.

It is not inevitable, but it happens, and people feel this desire more often than they want to admit.

It's the DESIRE FOR REVENGE that can serve as a trigger to writing in some instances, not in all instances and it is only helpful in my opinion in so far as the writer knows about these feelings, understands them to some extent and has gone to some trouble to work them through.

The writing can also be part of the process of 'working though'.

Sorry to go on at length about this Eryl, but I feel a need to try to clarify some of my meanings.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment here.

Reader Wil said...

Two weeks ago the son of a colleague of mine stabbed his mother to death, then climbed on the roof of their house and jumped off it. He is 35 years old, suffers from schizophrenia and is a drug addict. A very dangerous combination.
All the examples you mentioned are terrible. They happen since the dawn of times. Cain and Abel, Medeia in Greek mythology and they continue nowadays.Whatever possessed these people??? I don't know.The killers were unhappy people.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Dave. I'll borrow here from some of what I wrote above in my comment to Eryl.

When I write about revenge I am not talking about its enactment.

There's a huge difference between WANTING to punish or hurt someone in someway or other once they have hurt you, and actually EXACTING revenge.

The latter is dangerous, destructive and unhelpful. The former is human and part of a list of emotional responses that can be triggered - I stress CAN be triggered - when someone has wounded us or when we have been hurt in some significant way.

It is not inevitable, but it happens, and people feel this desire more often than they want to admit.

It's the DESIRE FOR REVENGE that can serve as a trigger to writing in some instances, not in all instances and it is only helpful in my opinion in so far as the writer knows about these feelings, understands them to some extent and has gone to some trouble to work them through.

The writing can also be part of the process of 'working though'.

I don't think of writing here as therapeutic in any traditional sense, but more as a way of getting at something that may well have been nagging at the writer, the way some things do.

I don't want it to sound as though I view writing as purely therapeutic. I think when it comes to writing as art, it serves multiple functions for the writer and for the reader.

As an expression of a desire for revenge is only one further dimension along the spectrum of writing as assertive/aggessive at one end and writing as conciliatory and sharing at the other.

Thanks again, Dave. I hope my links are clearer now. I'm sorry tat they weren't so clear from this post. But that's one point of the comments section, isn't it?

Phoenix said...

I find myself agreeing with Kass, who wrote that "It's hard to know if violent acts could have been avoided if perpetrators had voiced their rage and been acknowledged and helped."

I grew up in a violent home. I called the police on my father several times, only to discover that police are not equipped to deal with domestic abuse and instead treat everyone as a suspect. Best case scenario would have been removing us children from the home and putting us in the horrific American foster care system where more abuse would be sure to happen.

My teachers and friends must have seen the signs when I was younger - I wore long sleeved shirts, even when it was hot out; I never wore skirts or dresses, rarely bathed, and had a clear lack of social skills.

No one did a thing. Maybe it wasn't because they didn't suspect anything, but because it is very, VERY hard to know what to do. We are taught to say no to strangers; we are taught to follow rules and laws. We are never, ever taught what to do if we see a man hit his wife in public or if we see a mother hurt her child.

It is never, ever, simple, and I truly believe that humanity's inclination to help stops when it starts to get complicated. It's easy enough to say we want to help, let's send money over to Random Country after an earthquake; much harder to say, let's help, this might get complicated and weird and be uncomfortable for everyone.

People just don't risk being uncomfortable to help others anymore. Because, and I'm in danger of breaking off into a tangent but it's true, if they did feel comfortable getting into unpredictable circumstances a lot more homeless people would be helped in addition to battered children and wives.

R.H. said...

My golly -well said Phoenix.

Elisabeth said...

You add to these stories with another terrible story, Reader Will. It's not easy hearing about these things, but thank you for your thoughts.

You're right, murderous behviour has been with us since the dawn of time. It emerges out of such things as war, poverty, deprivation and despair alongside trauma .

To get some sort of change in place we need to change all sorts of things at a macro level and that's probably not going to happen in the short term but it doesn't mean we should not keep trying.

Elisabeth said...

Thank you, Phoenix, for your heartfelt response. I'm sorry to read about the horrors of your childhood.

Domestic violence is such a terrible problem, and violence agaonst children is perennial. I admire your ability to write about it here and elsewhere. We need more of this writing. We need to face these thongs more.

And I agree with you that often times it seems just too hard to acknowledge these abuses even when they are staring us in the face.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for commenting, RH. I agree with you. Phoenix expresses herself very well. Her blog is especially enlightening.

swallowtail said...

A rich world, here... your writing, and that of your readers. I appreciate the depth of the post, and the comments in response.

This is one of the topics which appears to have no end, infinite in time, horror, and reflection. No answers appear; answers to the dilemma of the human mind's workings and the subsequent action/inaction.

Silence is the greatest crime and yet (often, mostly etc) our lips remain sealed.

Perhaps healing for the entire human race rests in the unsealing of the lips/typing-fingers.

Two books I am currently reading shed some light here: "The Hidden Brain," by Shankar Vedantam and "Blink," by Malcolm Gladwell.

I grew up on a ranch. Now and then, a "new mother" cow, with her first calf, would committ an unspeakable act and kill her newborn. The other cows would circle her and the mangled death, or if they could not reach her, they would line up along the fence. They all voiced their (sorrow, horror, support, understanding) connection with/of her. Of course, we do not all subscribe to cow-thinking, but I believe that our horror connects us... yes, to the perpertrator, the victim, the incident.

Well, it is foggy and cold here in sunny California.

Meri said...

It is a grim post. But life is often grim, unfathomable, isn't it? I ventured to Lynn's site. What power there in words, too.

Alberto Oliver said...

Definetively, honesty sometimes wear the clothes of agressiveness. For having a whole panorama of the world in where we live it is necessary to pay attention to al the components. How could we improve our lives or the world in where we live of we only pay attention to what is nice and sweety, and close the eyes to someone else´s suffering. We need to write, we need to expose what is wrong, we need to prompt the debate, if not, such atrocities will continue. Elisabeth, silence is the greatest crime of all, self censorship the most coward thing, we need to raise our voices, by writing about it all, you have did it, the world needs more of this honesty and less of a political correct attitude.

Elisabeth said...

I shall check out those two books you mention, Swallowtail and I especially want to thank you for your story about the mother cow who seemingly randomly kills her young one.

I agree we can't extrapolate from animal behaviour too readily and yet there is such resonance here especially the way you describe the other cows milling around the murderous mother cow, trying to reach her or if unable to do so lining the edge of the fence. It's a haunting image.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness, Swallowtail.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Meri. I'm glad you visited Lynn Behrendt's blog. Her work is important.

Elisabeth said...

I do seem to touch on awful subjects much of the time, Alberto.

I don't always intend to do so but when it comes to my mind, it seems important as you say not to overlook the difficult and cruel aspects of life, much as you do in your wonderful blog.

Thanks for your generous comments here, Alberto.

I'm grateful that there are many others like you who do not want to get into the politically correct and censor that which is distressing.

If we all remained silent, then we would learn nothing new and the best learning most often comes out of our mistakes.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a sad story.

Every art form is autobiography, don't you think?

Robert the Skeptic said...

My wife was a caseworker with child protective services for many years. Sometimes a case was so gruesome that it made it into the news. What was always interesting to me were the "facts" as the news told it versus the facts that were not allowed to be made public. Villains were cast based on what the news presented; minds made up and people tried in the court of public opinion. Yet sometimes the real facts, the undisclosed facts, presented an entirely different picture. These experiences have since made me skeptical of what I hear in the media... but then I already am a skeptic, am I not.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks Reya. I agree about art forms at autobiography. Here's a quote from an academic, not so much about art as about theory.

Paul Velery writes: ‘I apologise for thus revealing myself to you; but in my opinion it is more useful to speak of what one has experienced than to pretend to a knowledge that is entirely impersonal, an observation with no observer. In fact, there is no theory that is not a fragment, carefully prepared, of some autobiography.’

Thanks, Reya.

Elisabeth said...

You have good cause to be skeptical Robert, especially in relation the media's reporting of child abuse cases.

There are so many layers to these stories, so many things we do not know about and yet we tend to be quick to judge, one way or another depending in large part on our own experience.

Thanks for your thoughts here, Robert.

Maggie May said...

Fascinating blog post which I will read again. Thank you for the link to the poet

Elisabeth said...

I haven't heard of Bridget Brandon, Steve, but I'm a Melbournian. She's from Sydney, I see. Her work sounds fascinating though and if she lived her I'd check her out.

I'm interested in your thought that once something is out of sight it's out of mind - not your words exactly.

I think we tend to operate in this way because there is just too much to hold onto otherwise.

Imagine the shock a person might receive when someone years after an event draws attention to something now perhaps controversial that the person had written and then forgotten. It happens.

Whenever I go back to re-read old writing of mine, I get a bit of a shock. I forget what I have written sometimes within minutes of writing it.

I remeber once at a writers' festival someone asked Tim Winton a qestion about a chaacter from his book, Cloud Street. He hesitated in answering Winton said because he had written that book so long ago he'd forgotten much of the detail.

It's human to forget, otherwise we'd be top heavy with thoughts and ideas and could not move.

Thanks for visiting Steve/Little Hat.