Monday, November 27, 2006

The Ilka Files, Final Chapter

.....................For now, as I also bought her book & may share parts of it now & then. Today will finish the 3 part series comprising an excerpt from a lecture she gave in 1941, published in Vogue magazine. See the last several entries to get the whole picture.

Ilka Chase, the Philosophy of Being a Woman, 1941

"Of course, I don't mean that we should make no effort to improve our taste- there is an enjoyment that is to be derived from the best, that nothing else equals- I just mean not to say "yes, yes" to what we don't care for through snobbishness & timidity. But it is just as unwise to condemn something on first sight or hearing it as it is to gush over it. We sometimes dislike things because we don't understand them; whereas, if we would take the trouble to see the creator's viewpoint, it might open up a whole new horizon.

And, if instead of always playing a passive role, we can create something ourselves, so much the better. It is obvious most of the stuff we do will not be very good, but the important thing, it seems to me, is to do it. Naturally, there are authors, inventors, scientists, in whom the creative urge still flourishes, but I feel there's a slowing down of that force in average people, the civilian population, so to speak. We aren't productive enough. We accept everything without trying to achieve anything ourselves.

We are eternally on the receiving end. We don't write a book, we read it. We don't compose music, we listed to it. We don't paint the pictures, we look at them. It's the same with our food- we eat it, but we don't grow it. Some of us, myself for instance, though I hate to admit it, can't even cook it. We buy our clothes instead of making them. We don't take a walk, we ride to the village. God help us when we find a subsitute for bearing our children or loving our men. It's not that all the time-saving devices aren't miraculous, but what are we going to do with the time we save? Don't let's atrophy like those forests of the West.

And there's another point, which, as we are women, we would do well not to overlook. Namely, nothing is so encouraging to a man as a little bright eyed interest in his work. We can bluff just so long, and, of course, while "Oh, isn't that wonderful" is not to be disregarded as a conversational winner, an intelligent question slyly inserted from time to time will do a great deal to boost our reputation of being a sympathetic and charming person.

And let us not forget that though they are sometimes overlooked in the rush, sympathy and charm are still the great feminine standbys. Goodness knows I don't mean to endorse that dreadful phony kind, the gushing, overflowing woman who says "Oh, my dear, tell me about yourself. I know what you must be going through. When I think what I suffered-". That aint good; or the charm girls with the rippling laughter, "Ha, ha, ha". We've all suffered from them. Thats not what I mean, and though we all have our own definition of charm, I sometimes think iit largely in taking time. Time to do the gracious, simple, kindly thing. To send the flowers to the hospital, to call on a newcomer in your neighbourhood, to write a gay and entertaining letter. That gentle art, alas, is nearly dead. We either telephone, or we send rude, abrupt telegrams. An invitation these days is almost an insult: "Stephensons coming to town Stop Will you dine Tuesday Stop Bring children Stop Jack's mother here so can't ask you to stop Stop Regards" Stop Stop Stop. Oh its terrible. Let us take just a little time."

That's how it ends, abruptly as the telegram she's just mentioned. I think there's a lot to consider in this article....a lot that applies, in many cases more so, today as much as it did in 1941. I do think we all assume that because we are not "officially" an author, painter, or chef, that we cannot do those things well. And we believe if we cannot do them well we ought not do them. And thats truly sad. I believe our society has become so inundated with professionals at absolutely everything that we've become accustomed to assuming someone does everything better than we do.

But creating is not about doing it well. I used to write.....wrote poetry, mostly. Poetry is hardly a way to make a living, and somehow I got it in my head that because I'd never be good enough to be a well paid poet (yeah, because those exist), I wasn't GOOD at it. My poetry was me. Why would I tell allow myself to believe that my feelings, thoughts & dreams weren't GOOD enough?

Whether or not I revisit poetry as a means of creative escape remains to be seen. I'll write here, and it matter who reads it. But I hope if anyone DOES read this, that maybe they will come away with a little inspiration from this 60-some year old lecture.....and remember what they used to do that made them happy before they let the world tell them they weren't good enough at it to do it at ALL anymore.

Do it anyway! Be horrible at it, be mediocre at it......don't let anyone see/hear/experience what you do if doing so makes you feel inadequate. But do it. And if you have children....encourage them to do it too. Never tell them they're not good at something they love doing. I know what things I'm good at, and I ended up lucky enough to do that for a living. But I'm going to spend some time finding out what I'm NOT good at, that I like doing anyway. Like singing. Ang

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