I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dystopian future and Wonder Woman

Front porch petunias
I took this picture to show the nice lady at the Farmers' Market who makes these delightful displays how it has begun to bloom. I bought it just before Mother's Day and there were no blooms at all. She says she plants her boxes with seeds that will bloom all summer long. There are also some purple petunias beginning to open. I've seen the woman, Pat, every Saturday for a decade now; she also brings in plenty of eggs from her chickens, which people line up to buy from her. I should get a picture of her and introduce you one of these days.

Unfortunately, we didn't make it to the Saturday market yesterday because I had made arrangements to go to the movies early in the day with my friend Judy, and I couldn't linger long after our walk with the ladies, although Lily and I had a nice breakfast afterwards. I figured I'd better eat something because the movie started at 11:30, meaning I'd miss lunch otherwise.

It all worked out just fine, and I met Judy at the theater in plenty of time to watch the interminable run of trailers from other movies before we settled in to see Wonder Woman. This link takes you to a review written by Caroline Framke of Vox and reflects my own take on the movie. Yes, it's a superhero movie and could have been really bad, but it shows a woman who knows her own worth in a world set in the early 1900s (World War I, to be exact), and she is raised on an idyllic island by Amazons without any men. I loved seeing those Amazon warrior women portrayed so well (the movie's director is a woman, Patty Jenkins) and I flashed back on all those Wonder Woman comic books I devoured when I was a young girl myself. The movie is just a bit long for my taste, and the last part could have been dialed back a little (I tire of all those CGI-driven battle scenes). Otherwise, I enjoyed it very much.

Then I came home and, after puttering in the lovely garden, I settled down to watch the last episode of The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu. What a contrast! I don't know if you're familiar with the story, so I'll give you just a little background. Margaret Atwood, a favorite author, wrote a book by that name in 1985, which I read back then and was profoundly affected by it. It portrays a dystopian future of a United States that has become the Republic of Gilead. From that link above, written by Sister Rose, a Catholic nun:
What is "The Handmaid's Tale" about? It's about personhood, identity, freedom, abuse of power and oppression. It's about the meaning of the ever-present violence, human dignity, community, family, children, the body and leadership run amok. Democracy is a thing of the past but power for the powerful is in full force. The men have the guns but they don't really win in this brave new world; their dignity is denigrated as well. The difference is — they are in charge. Or they think they are.
The series is ten episodes long, and I've seen the first nine of them; next week will be the final episode of Season 1. Elizabeth Moss plays Offred ("Of Fred") and we get to see plenty of her backstory in flashbacks. The main difference between the book and the series is that it's been reimagined to be set in current time. That makes it even more scary, thinking of how horrible it would be to suddenly lose the privileges and freedom I've taken for granted my entire life. Of course, women growing up in Saudi Arabia, for example, have always been without power, making me wonder how they might interpret the series.

So those two very different views of female power and powerlessness just happened to be combined in one day's entertainment, and it has got me thinking. Remembering that idyllic island where Diana (Wonder Woman) was raised, and the world of Giliad where anyone who does not fit into the brutal power system is hanged and left for others to see as a warning, these are both possibilities of existence that are polar opposites of one another.

I believe in the power of love to overcome many obstacles in life, but our political surroundings also make a huge difference in how we are able to express that love. I have been scarred by eight decades of being alive, and although I live in a place where I can express myself in myriad avenues, I don't stand up and take public stands that might put me at risk of being ridiculed and even bullied by others who don't believe as I do. I don't talk about politics on my blogs (well, occasionally) and that is partly to honor those who see the world differently, but it's also because I know that some people troll the internet looking for people to harass. It's hard enough being as "out there" as I am with this personal blog, and I try very hard to be honest and relevant in my writings, but it's fraught with potential risk. There are people who delight in hurting others.

* * *

My virtual friend Ronni Bennet, the woman who writes Time Goes By and has been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, has written about the constraints she deals with in her blog, which is mostly about what it's like to grow old, but she has allowed those of us who follow her to care very much about her well-being. I have been pleased to see how many of her followers (I'm one) who have let her know that we want to help, and the only way we can is to support her with our thoughts and prayers as she goes through this terrible time. She will undergo surgery on June 20th to remove the cancerous tumor in order to gain a possible 25 to 30 percent chance of survival. Without the surgery, her doctors have told her she would be dead within a year.

One of the things she has written about recently is how different the world appears to her since her diagnosis. Before, she would feel the passage of time as being incredibly rapid. A day, a week would pass in record time, and I know exactly what she means. But after the diagnosis, everything has slowed to a crawl. Days are much longer and filled with meaning. Now I realize it's because nothing is taken for granted, not even sitting down to read a book. Everything takes on a different hue, because she has been reminded of her mortality in a way she can't turn away from.

We are all in the same boat, we just don't realize it in the same sense. I know that my days are numbered, but so much of the time I'm on autopilot and forget to take in the moment. Maybe a cancer diagnosis has an upside. Well, maybe. In any event, I am very much attuned to her at the moment and think of her often during my day's activities. It's still strange to me how much I get attached to people I've never met. Many of you who read my blogs fall in that category. Remember when this whole idea of virtual community felt like science fiction? And here we are, connected and hopefully enjoying the whole thing.

I just looked at the clock: I guess I've spent longer writing this post than usual, because it's getting late and I need to finish and get on with my day. It's sunny and beautiful out there again, so I'll be hopefully enjoying myself in the garden, along with other activities like meeting my friend John for our shared Sunday bagel. Until we meet again next week, I hope you will be well and will not forget to hug your loved ones.


Rian said...

DJan, I've never been interested in Superhero movies... not that I don't like the concept, just not my thing. However, I may have to see this one.

And while I may not believe that love conquers all... I do believe it has the power to do so... but that mankind doesn't understand this power. So many seem to go for power for power's sake/control. But I do believe that love is a powerful force.

As for your friend who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers. My brother died of this a short time after he was diagnosed. And you are right, the threat of imminent death changes you. There's a song about that... something about we should all live like we were dying (skydiving is part of that type of living too).

Marty said...

I love Margaret Atwood, although I prefer her other writings (Cat's Eye, etc). I fear the Handmaid series would alarm me more than I've already been by happenings in Washington.
You're right about the way cancer can color your world. So far I've been on the winning side, but the first diagnosis opened my eyes to my world and afterwards the "all-clear" signal made me really savor small things.

Linda Reeder said...

I avoid dystopian writing and movies. So much of what is imagined is so evil and negative. Kind of reminds me of old time science fiction where everything encountered out in the universe was evil. Why?
Sure, human nature has its good and bad sides, but it seems to me we should cultivate the good side, sort of like pulling the weeds in your garden so the healthful plants can grow.
A terminal diagnosis would certainly change ones outlook on daily life. I have thought about it, but I guess I can't really know how I would cope.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Your blogging friend is in my thoughts! Everyone handles a bad diagnosis differently it sounds like she in an inspiration.
This week I watched Wild Oats on netflix...parts in the beginning and middle are really funny (especially the phone scene).
It is sunny here, we had rain last night I am off to do some painting or carving :)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Love the Handmaid's Tale as a series. They've done a superb job with Atwood's book and yes, it is definitely scary given our political circumstances now.

Elephant's Child said...

Movies are not for me, but I did enjoy reading The Handmaid's Tale. The parallels to some people's life are starkly evident.
My heart goes out to your blogging friend.
The blogosphere has introduced me to so many people (you included) who have a permanent home in my heart.

SHON said...

Great post! Thanks.

Marie Smith said...

The blogosphere has enriched my life through the people I have met. It does make one vulnerable as you said.

I try to avoid politics too because people have different opinion and rights to them. The area I have difficulty with is climate change. People who deny it have a right to be wrong, but it puts the world in jeopardy. I have a problem with that denial though I don't waste time trying to convince those people otherwise. There are none so blind as...

Red said...

I have tried to read Margaret Atwood but I can't . At some point she just gets weird and I can't see why. I know people like Margaret Atwood and I feel guilty as hell for not reading a prominent Canadian storyteller.

Rita said...

I'm a believer in love, too. I will definitely see Wonder Woman when it becomes available to me. I don't have Hulu so I can't watch Handmaid's Tale.

The change in perspective is why I have always said I was so blessed to have nearly died a few times when I was a kid and to later have had my son, Dagan, who wasn't supposed to live. I actually worry when days slip by on me that I might lose my living-in-the-moment-gratitude-awareness. I never want to take life for granted. It is just too wonderful for words. Life is good.

Enjoy the moments of your day, my cyber-friend. ;)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I had never known about Ronni's blog until reading your posting last week. Now I follow her faithfully. Thank you for sharing her with us. Peace.

Arkansas Patti said...

I have thought about getting the Handmaidens Tale thru Netflix but from what I've read and what you just said, I feel there are a lot of people today who would be pleased to see that happen. Thank goodness, most of my friends are not in that group.
Ever the optimist, I am hoping Ronnie is in the good percentage. I had a friend with that diagnosis that lived for many years after the surgery and that was years ago. They have gotten better at the treatment today. She is in my prayers.

Carole said...

I know just what you mean! I feel like I know you, and all the other kind folks who frequent my blog. How lucky we are to be able to establish this wonderful, caring connections in the blogosphere. My life is enriched because of these connections. Thanks DJan for always writing from the heart. Sending jugs!

Carole said...

I mean sending hugs!

Debra said...

I would like to see Wonder Woman- most likely wait when it comes out on DVD. Handmaidens Tale I can check for now- we subscribe to Netflix! Thanks!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Oddly I never had time for comic except an occasion Arcie from the grocery store shelf. Mararet Atwood sees the world in ways that upset my inner piece. Imwon't attempt watching that series. I'm more of the Crown or Downton Abbey type. Also like you I am learning to watch what words I type as keyword searches may lead to trouble. I also hope for a poitive out come for the blogger.sent her positive vibes. And I look forward to your next post.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I'm late commenting, but just had to say this ... I love the paragraph that begins, "I believe in the power of love ..." Wow, you said exactly the way I feel. I could not have put it into words any better! This is what I love about Eye on the Edge ... You often are able to put into words what I'm thinking which is a powerful reinforcement! Thank you, as always!