Gaining access into the enigmatic world of Japan's modern-day geishas is no easy task, but award-winning French photographer Philippe Marinig has managed to pull off just that. By Tamara Hardingham-Gill
His new book, "Secret Moments of Maikos: The Grace, Beauty and Mystery of Apprentice Geishas," is an impressive 80-image glance into the lives of maikos, young women training to be geishas, in Kyoto's Gion Quarter.
The photographs capture the apprentices during unguarded moments as they train in the art, which was established more than 300 years ago. This project has been a four-year labor of love for Marinig, who traveled back and forth to Kyoto around 10 times during the process.
Although he struggled to break ground during his first visit, his persistence in going to Japan paid off over time and he was able to gain the trust of key members of the geisha community.
"I'm a man who likes a challenge. I think they saw me in a different light when I kept coming back," he says. "It wasn't only about the photography. I maybe used photography as an excuse to be part of their world for a moment."
In one image from the collection, a maiko is seen shyly glancing toward the camera as she prepares for a performance, while another shows a group of young apprentices chatting in a taxi as they make their way to meet with clients.
Marinig opted to focus on more natural instances in the maikos lives as, "they are on stage all the time, even when they're in the street."
"My main goal is to produce real images and show the most honest perception of my subject in the way they live and perform," he says.
The difference between maiko and geisha
While the life of a geisha is depicted as glamorous, the route to becoming one is very rigorous. Usually aged around 15 to 20 years old, a maiko will train for at least five years before she's considered accomplished enough to make the transition.
There are some simple ways to differentiate between maiko and geisha. A maiko will have decorations such as flowers in her hair; a geisha will not. The maiko's obi (kimono belt) will hang nearly to the floor while the geisha's is folded into a square shape on her back.
Also, maiko will often wear high platform wooden okobo (slippers) while geiko always wear flat ones, called zori. "It took me quite some time to recognize maiko," says Marinig.
Where to see a maiko
Former imperial capital Kyoto (794-1869) is considered the birthplace of geisha culture, and Gion is its most famous geisha district.
The area is home to two hanamachi (Japanese geisha districts): Gion Higashi and Gion Kobu. While maikos can be spotted all over Kyoto, this is where you're most likely to see one.
You can sometimes catch a glimpse of maikos leaving their okiya (lodging house) to go to an ochaya (tea house) at around 5 to 6 p.m. in the evening. Ichiriki Chaya on Hanami-koji street is the most famous geisha tea house in Kyoto. While access is invitation-only, there's a chance you'll spot maiko entering for a party if you position yourself outside.
When you do come to face to face with one, avoid crowding her or shoving cameras in her face.
"The Japanese are very respectful and will not bother them [maikos] when they see them in the street, but so many foreigners are interested in them now," says Philippe. "They get scared when tourists try to touch them."
Where to watch them perform
f you want a guaranteed sighting, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto hosts weekly maiko performances between 6 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, which sees a geisha perform a dance and play drinking games with guests.
You can also see maiko in action at one of the annual dance performances put on by each hanamachi, four of which are held in April or May. The largest is Miyako Odori, which features geisha and maiko from the Gion district and is usually held daily throughout April.
There are also a few studios in Kyoto that provide full geisha and maiko makeovers.
For example, Aya Studio in Gion offers a variety of packages ranging in price starting at 12,340 yen ($112), depending on how many photographs you want taken. The full experience at Maiko Henshin lasts about four hours and costs around 40,000 yen ($362) and includes photos in a garden, studio, tea room and rickshaw.
"Secret Moments of Maikos: The Grace, Beauty and Mystery of Apprentice Geishas" is available via the online store at Gatehouse Publishing.
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American society is dominated by an elite 20% that ruthlessly protects its own interests By Richard Reeves
When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes threaten my brother and me with electrocution. Well, that’s not quite right. In fact, the threat was of lessons in elocution, but we – wittily, we thought – renamed them.
Growing up in a very ordinary town just north of London and attending a very ordinary high school, one of our several linguistic atrocities was failing to pronounce the “t” in certain words. My mother, who was raised in rural north Wales and left school at 16, did not want us to find doors closed in a class-sensitive society simply because we didn’t speak what is still called “the Queen’s English”. I will never forget the look on her face when I managed to say the word computer with neither a “p” nor a “t”.
Still, the lessons never materialised. Any lingering working-class traces in my own accent were wiped away by three disinfectant years at Oxford University. (My wife claims the adolescent accent resurfaces when I drink, but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about – she’s American.) We also had to learn how to waltz. My mother didn’t want us to put a foot wrong there either.
In fact, we did just fine, in no small part because of the stable, loving home in which we were raised. But I have always been acutely sensitive to class distinctions and their role in perpetuating inequality. In fact, one of the reasons I came to the United States was to escape the cramped feeling of living in a nation still so dominated by class. I knew enough not to think I was moving to a socially mobile utopia: I’d read some of the research. It has nonetheless come as something of a shock to discover that, in some important respects, the American class system is functioning more ruthlessly than the British one I escaped.
In the upper-middle-class America I now inhabit, I witness extraordinary efforts by parents to secure an elite future status for their children: tutors, coaches and weekend lessons in everything from French to fencing. But I have never heard any of my peers try to change the way their children speak. Perhaps this is simply because they know they are surrounded by other upper-middle-class kids, so there is nothing to worry about. Perhaps it is a regional thing.
The way to secure a higher status in a market meritocracy is by acquiring lots of “merit” and ensuring that our kids do, too. “What one’s parents are like is entirely a matter of luck,” points out the philosopher Adam Swift. But he adds: “What one’s children are like is not.” Children raised in upper-middle-class families do well in life. As a result, there is a lot of intergenerational “stickiness” at the top of the American income distribution – more, in fact, than at the bottom – with upper-middle-class status passed from one generation to the next.
Drawing class distinctions feels almost un-American. The nation’s self-image is of a classless society, one in which every individual is of equal moral worth, regardless of his or her economic status. This has been how the world sees the United States, too. Historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the early 19th century that Americans were “seen to be more equal in fortune and intelligence – more equally strong, in other words – than they were in any other country, or were at any other time in recorded history”. So different to the countries of old Europe, still weighed down by the legacies of feudalism.
British politicians have often felt the need to urge the creation of a “classless” society, looking to America for inspiration as, what historian David Cannadine once called it, “the pioneering and prototypical classless society”. European progressives have long looked enviously at social relations in the New World. George Orwell noted the lack of “servile tradition” in America; the German socialist Werner Sombart noticed that “the bowing and scraping before the ‘upper classes’, which produces such an unpleasant impression in Europe, is completely unknown”.
This is one of many reasons socialist politics struggled to take root in the United States. A key attraction of socialist systems – the main one, according to Orwell – is the eradication of class distinctions. There were few to eradicate in America. I am sure that one reason Downton Abbey and The Crown so delight American audiences is their depictions of an alien world of class-based status. One reason class distinctions are less obvious in America is that pretty much everyone defines themselves as a member of the same class: the one in the middle. Nine in ten adults select the label “middle class”, exactly the same proportion as in 1939, according to the pollsters Gallup. No wonder that politicians have always fallen over each other to be on their side.
But in recent decades Americans at the top of the ladder have been entrenching their class position. The convenient fiction that the “middle” class can stretch up that far has become a difficult one to sustain. As a result, the modifications “upper” or “lower” to the general “middle class” category have become more important.
Class is not just about money, though it is about that. The class gap can be seen from every angle: education, security, family, health, you name it. There will also be inequalities on each of these dimensions, of course. But inequality becomes class division when all these varied elements – money, education, wealth, occupation – cluster together so tightly that, in practice, almost any one of them will suffice for the purposes of class definition. Class division becomes class stratification when these advantages – and thus status – endure across generations. In fact, upper-middle-class status is passed down to the next generation more effectively than in the past, and in the United States more than in other countries.
One benefit of the multidimensional nature of this separation is that it has reduced interdisciplinary bickering over how to define class. While economists typically focus on categorisation by income and wealth, and sociologists tend more towards occupational status and education, and anthropologists are typically more interested in culture and norms, right now it doesn’t really matter, because all the trends are going the same way.
This is quite similar to the estimates of class size generated by most sociologists, who tend to define the upper middle class as one composed of professionals and managers, or around 15% to 20% of the working-age population
As David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation writes: “There is little appetite in America for policies that significantly restrict the ability of parents to do all they can, within the bounds of the law, to give their children every advantage in life.” That is certainly true. But then Azerrad has also mis-stated the problem. No one sensible is in favour of new policies that block parents from doing the best they can for their children. Even in France the suggestion floated by the former president, François Hollande, to “restore equality” by banning homework, on the grounds that parents differ in their ability and willingness to help out, was laughed out of court. But we should want to get rid of policies that allow parents to give their children an unfair advantage and in the process restrict the opportunities of others.
Most of us want to do our best for our children. “Wanting one’s children’s life to go well is part of what it means to love them,” write philosophers Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift in their 2014 book Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships. But our natural preference for the welfare and prospects of our own children does not automatically eclipse other moral claims. We would look kindly on a father who helps his son get picked as starting pitcher for his school baseball team by practising with him every day after work. But we would probably feel differently about a father who secures the slot for his son by bribing the coach. Why? After all, each father has sacrificed something, time in one case, money in the other, to advance his child. The difference is team selection should be based on merit, not money. A principle of fairness is at stake.
So, where is the line drawn? The best philosophical treatment of this question I have found is the one by Swift and Brighouse. Their suggestion is that, while parents have every right to act in ways that will help their children’s lives go well, they do not have the right to confer on them a competitive advantage – in other words, to ensure not just that they do well but that they do better than others. This is because, in a society with finite rewards, improving the situation of one child necessarily worsens that of another, at least in relative terms: “Whatever parents do to confer competitive advantage is not neutral in its effects on other children – it does not leave untouched, but rather is detrimental to, those other children’s prospects in the competition for jobs and associated rewards.”
The trouble is that in the real world this seems like a distinction without a difference. What they call “competitive advantage-conferring” parental activities will almost always be also “helping-your-kid-flourish” parental activities. If I read bedtime stories to my son, he will develop a richer vocabulary and may learn to love reading and have a more interesting and fulfilling life. But it could also help him get better grades than his classmates, giving him a competitive advantage in college admissions. Swift and Brighouse suggest a parent should not even aim to give their child a competitive advantage: “It would be a little odd, perhaps even a little creepy, if the ultimate aim of her endeavours were that her child is better off than others.”
I think this is too harsh. In a society with a largely open, competitive labour market, it is not “creepy” to want your children to end up higher on the earnings ladder than others. Not only will this bring them a higher income, and all the accompanying choices and security, it is also likely to bring them safer and more interesting work. Relative position matters – it is one reason, after all, that relative mobility is of such concern to policymakers. Although I think Brighouse and Swift go too far, they are on to something important with their distinction between the kind of parental behaviour that merely helps your own children and the kind that is “detrimental” to others. That’s what I call “opportunity hoarding”.
Opportunity hoarding does not result from the workings of a large machine but from the cumulative effect of individual choices and preferences. Taken in isolation, they may feel trivial: nudging your daughter into a better college with a legacy preference [giving applicants places on the basis of being related to alumni of the college]; helping the son of a professional contact to an internship; a single vote on a municipal council to retain low-density zoning restrictions. But, like many “micro-preferences”, to borrow a term from economist Thomas Schelling, they can have strong effects on overall culture and collective outcomes.
Over recent decades, institutions that once primarily served racist goals – legacy admissions to keep out Jewish students, zoning laws to keep out black families – have not been abandoned but have been softened, normalised and subtly re-purposed to help us sustain the upper-middle-class status. They remain, then, barriers to a more open, more genuinely competitive and fairer society. I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending there are no costs here. By definition, reducing opportunity hoarding will mean some losses for the upper middle class.
But they will be small. Our neighbourhoods will be a little less upmarket – but also less boring. Our kids will rub shoulders with some poorer kids in the school corridor. They might not squeak into an Ivy League college, and they may have to be content going to an excellent public university. But if we aren’t willing to entertain even these sacrifices, there is little hope. There will be some material costs, too. The big challenge is to equalise opportunities to acquire human capital and therefore increase the number of true competitors in the labour market. This will require, among other things, some increased public investment. Where will the money come from? It can’t all come from the super-rich. Much of it will have to come from the upper middle class. From me – and you.
This is an extract from Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What To Do About It by Richard V Reeves (Brookings Institution Press, 2017)
HOW TO STAY AHEAD - OR PLAY FAIR
As parents, we naturally want our children to flourish. But that laudable desire slides into “opportunity hoarding” when we use our money, power or position to give our own children exclusive access to certain goods or chances. The effect is to strengthen class barriers.
1. Fix an internship using our networks. Internships are becoming more important – but are too often stitched up privately. It’s worse if they’re unpaid. Instead: insist on paid internships, openly recruited.
2. Take our own kids to work for the day. Children learn what “work” is from adults. Instead: try bringing somebody else’s kid to work, perhaps by partnering with local charities.
3. Be a Nimby. By shutting out low-income housing from our neighbourhoods with planning restrictions, we keep less affluent kids away from our local schools and communities. Instead: be a Yimby, vote and argue for more mixed housing in your area.
4. Write cheques to PTA funds. Many of us want to support the school our children attend. This tilts the playing field, however, since other schools can’t do the same. Instead: get your PTA to give half the
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The Vow - I took the Vow of Silence of Prayer - Meditation - Palms up Palms down - Vow of Prosperity
I wear promise ring. I promised to wait - Celibacy koko teddy ranybow
'Palms Up' 'Palms Down'
My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. Psalm 49:3
Praying effectively is a good habit to have. The 'palms ups' and 'palms down' is a way of meditating to receive guidance from GOD.
The idea is find a quiet place in midst of the storm or at war.
A place where you cover yourself with a blanket.
Wear comfortable socks
Focus on your breathing
Put your palms face up so you are giving the time an offering
You turn palms down and pray your needs to Most High
When you have told God your needs turn your palms upwards to receive his word over your life.
David meditated day and night. The Psalms are good place to start
I took the Vow of Silence 22/07/14 Freedom 22/07/15
The Vow of Prosperity: Spiritual Solutions to Financial Freedom 20/06/17
There’s no scientific consensus that meditation can cure your mind, body or soul - so don’t swallow By Catherine Wikholm the idea that there is a Buddha Pill
Meditation is becoming increasingly popular, and in recent years there have been calls for mindfulness (a meditative practice with Buddhist roots) to be more widely available on the NHS. Often promoted as a sure-fire way to reduce stress, it’s also being increasingly offered in schools, universities and businesses.
For the secularised mind, meditation fills a spiritual vacuum; it brings the hope of becoming a better, happier individual in a more peaceful world. However, the fact that meditation was primarily designed not to make us happier, but to destroy our sense of individual self – who we feel and think we are most of the time – is often overlooked in the science and media stories about it, which focus almost exclusively on the benefits practitioners can expect.
If you’re considering it, here are seven common beliefs about meditation that are not supported by scientific evidence.
Myth 1: Meditation never has adverse or negative effects. It will change you for the better (and only the better)
Fact 1: It’s easy to see why this myth might spring up. After all, sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing would seem like a fairly innocuous activity with little potential for harm. But when you consider how many of us, when worried or facing difficult circumstances, cope by keeping ourselves very busy and with little time to think, it isn’t that much of a surprise to find that sitting without distractions, with only ourselves, might lead to disturbing emotions rising to the surface.
However, many scientists have turned a blind eye to the potential unexpected or harmful consequences of meditation. With Transcendental Meditation, this is probably because many of those who have researched it have also been personally involved in the movement; with mindfulness, the reasons are less clear, because it is presented as a secular technique. Nevertheless, there is emerging scientific evidence from case studies, surveys of meditators’ experience and historical studies to show that meditation can be associated with stress, negative effectsand mental health problems. For example, one study found that mindfulness meditation led to increased cortisol, a biological marker of stress, despite the fact that participants subjectively reported feeling less stressed.
Myth 2: Meditation can benefit everyone
Fact 2: The idea that meditation is a cure-all for all lacks scientific basis. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” the psychologist Arnold Lazarus reminded us in his writings about meditation. Although there has been relatively little research into how individual circumstances – such as age, gender, or personality type – might play a role in the value of meditation, there is a growing awareness that meditation works differently for each individual.
For example, it may provide an effective stress-relief technique for individuals facing serious problems (such as being unemployed), but have little value for low-stressed individuals. Or it may benefit depressed individuals who suffered trauma and abuse in their childhood, but not other depressed people. There is also some evidence that – along with yoga – it can be of particular use to prisoners, for whom it improves psychological wellbeing and, perhaps more importantly, encourages better control over impulsivity. We shouldn’t be surprised about meditation having variable benefits from person to person. After all, the practice wasn’t intended to make us happier or less stressed, but to assist us in diving deep within and challenging who we believe we are.
Myth 3: If everyone meditated the world would be a much better place
Fact 3: All global religions share the belief that following their particular practices and ideals will make us better individuals. So far, there is no clear scientific evidence that meditation is more effective at making us, for example, more compassionate than other spiritual or psychological practices. Research on this topic has serious methodological and theoretical limitations and biases. Most of the studies have no adequate control groups and generally fail to assess the expectations of participants (ie, if we expect to benefit from something, we may be more likely to report benefits).
Myth 4: If you’re seeking personal change and growth, meditating is as efficient – or more – than having therapy
Fact 4: There is very little evidence that an eight-week mindfulness-based group programme has the same benefits as of being in conventional psychological therapy – most studies compare mindfulness to “treatment as usual” (such as seeing your GP), rather than one-to-one therapy. Although mindfulness interventions are group-based and most psychological therapy is conducted on a one-to-one basis, both approaches involve developing an increased awareness of our thoughts, emotions and way of relating to others. But the levels of awareness probably differ. A therapist can encourage us to examine conscious or unconscious patterns within ourselves, whereas these might be difficult to access in a one-size-fits-all group course, or if we were meditating on our own.
Myth 5: Meditation produces a unique state of consciousness that we can measure scientifically
Fact 5: Meditation produces states of consciousness that we can indeed measure using various scientific instruments. However, the overall evidence is that these states are not physiologically unique. Furthermore, although different kinds of meditation may have diverse effects on consciousness (and on the brain), there is no scientific consensus about what these effects are.
Myth 6: We can practise meditation as a purely scientific technique with no religious or spiritual leanings
Fact 6: In principle, it’s perfectly possible to meditate and be uninterested in the spiritual background to the practice. However, research shows that meditation leads us to become more spiritual, and that this increase in spirituality is partly responsible for the practice’s positive effects. So, even if we set out to ignore meditation’s spiritual roots, those roots may nonetheless envelop us, to a greater or lesser degree. Overall, it is unclear whether secular models of mindfulness meditation are fully secular.
Myth 7: Science has unequivocally shown how meditation can change us and why
Fact 7: Meta-analyses show there is moderate evidence that meditation affects us in various ways, such as increasing positive emotions and reducing anxiety. However, it is less clear how powerful and long-lasting these changes are.
Some studies show that meditating can have a greater impact than physical relaxation, although other research using a placebo meditation contradicts this finding. We need better studies but, perhaps as important, we also need models that explain how meditation works. For example, with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), we still can’t be sure of the “active” ingredient. Is it the meditation itself that causes positive effects, or is it the fact that the participant learns to step back and become aware of his or her thoughts and feelings in a supportive group environment?
There simply is no cohesive, overarching attempt to describe the various psychobiological processes that meditation sets in motion. Unless we can clearly map the effects of meditation – both the positive and the negative – and identify the processes underpinning the practice, our scientific understanding of meditation is precarious and can easily lead to exaggeration and misinterpretation.
• Catherine Wikholm is the co-author, with Dr Miguel Farias, of The Buddha Pill
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Becoming a Sister or Nun Religious Life
The terms "nun" and "sister" are often used interchangeably. However within Roman Catholicism, there is a difference between the two. Here's a simple summary of the differences.
A Catholic nun is a woman who lives as a contemplative life in a monastery which is usually cloistered (or enclosed) or semi-cloistered. Her ministry and prayer life is centered within and around the monastery for the good of the world. She professes the perpetual solemn vows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Check out the Carmelite Nuns of Baltimore for example.
A Catholic sister is a woman who lives, ministers, and prays within the world. A sister's life is often called "active" or "apostolic" because she is engaged in the works of mercy and other ministries that take the Gospel to others where they are. She professes perpetual simple vows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Check out the IHM Sisters of Monroe, Michigan for example.
Because both nuns and sisters belong to the church life form of Religious Life, they can also be called "women religious."
As you might have noticed, there is a difference in the type of vows, solemn vs. simple. The New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law explains the distinction this way:
"The older religious orders (monastic, canon regulars, mendicants, Jesuits) have perpetual solemn vows, and the more recent apostolic congregations have perpetual simple vows. The chief juridical difference between the two is that religious who profess a solemn vow of poverty renounce ownership of all their temporal goods, whereas religious who profess a simple vow of poverty have a right to retain ownership of their patrimony (an estate, endowment or anything inherited from one's parents or ancestors) but must give up its use and any revenue."
In ordinary conversation, the terms "nun" and "sister" are used interchangeably. Both nuns and sisters are addressed as "Sister."
In popular culture, the term "nun" is often more widely accessible and immediately understood to refer to women who have professed the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Read More anunslife.org/
by koko & Teddy
In Honour of 18 August Jupiter and Venus Conjuncture
A father who the stars to his daughter #Fairytale,myths that become legend. Venus was the goddess of Love and her father Jupiter was good of War. Jupiter was a role model for his daughter, a god of prowess. He gave offerings to his daughter so she should pray for his warriors before battle, and so married warriors. She was an intercessor to the God of the Universe Zeus. Yahweh Allah as we now know him. God maintains order in the stars.
The universal is ever expanding with us and we are evolving as it expands. We make pieces of art to capture its beauty. ISECUTE has captured a glimpse of hope in the ever growing darkness to light the way. The night sky is a perfect a masterpiece of creation captured in the ring above.
The ring captures our humanity, we look to night sky, to the stars at nights to dream of fairy tales, which become legends like Orion's belt. A belt of that leads us home to God in the heavens. Our is reality shaped with hope from the bright skies. We built pyramids using mathematics from the stars. We tell time by stars in our galaxy a small part of of universe.
These rings are a masterpiece of HOPE in our universe by June
copyright Koko&Teddy® all rights reserved
Most of us speak first, then think; or we omit the thinking altogether and just burble on, convinced that what we have to say is worth saying, or, at any rate, not doing any harm to anyone. We have become, quite literally, careless about our use of speech.
St Benedict is not particularly novel in his teaching about speech. He urges restraint, as one might expect, but he doesn’t expect the monk to inhabit an entirely silent world. In the ninth step of humility he warns against letting our tongues run away with us and suggests we ought to be sparing in our use of words, waiting for the superior to invite us to speak, or so I take his usque ad interrogationem, ‘until spoken to,’ with its echoes of the rather more severe stance of the Rule of the Master.
But he doesn't really have anything very profound to say on the subject. The next two steps of humility will also be concerned with speech and laughter, and I think it is clear that Benedict is primarily concerned with the way in which humility is manifested exteriorly. We give ourselves away by what we say and how we say it, so the monk must be aware of the importance of guarding his tongue.
I daresay we can all think of occasions when we have spoken or written something we later regretted, or when we have judged someone harshly because of what they said or their manner of speaking. Language has enormous power and we are very quick to register when something is not quite right, when a false note is sounded or words and deeds are in opposition. I read this ninth step of humility as an invitation to integrity, to a consistency of purpose and action which goes beyond words. It may not be very novel or very profound, but it certainly challenges me.
By Crown Cardinal Issy
An American Prophet By David Cloutier Liturgical Press
When I read Dorothy Day’s journals, I am struck by something different: a relentless dedication in the face of every challenge — a total refusal to retreat and a remarkable lack of bitterness. Nearly every page of her journals testifies to her commitment to live the Gospel where she already is, and to discover joy there.
This juxtaposition of personalities is appropriate, because one of Day’s great gifts — and one of the best things about Patrick Jordan’s new biography of her, in Liturgical Press’ People of God series — is her unexpected and ever-challenging personality. Jordan, a longtime Commonweal editor, writes as one who knew her well, and so the book is able to convey a vivid sense of Day as a person. The Day we meet had a remarkable ability to be attentive to everyone she met and to the beauty appearing in ordinary life. Yet she could also be “short, overbearing or even cantankerous.” She possessed a kind of worldliness that enabled her to accept all things with mercy and love, but also a severity of perspective, never more severe than when she trained it on herself. She was a person who loved as few have loved, and yet, Jordan writes, “in a very real sense, she remained a single, solitary figure.”
Jordan brings an ease to his subject that comes from genuine friendship — it has the honesty of a companion, not that of a reporter. His book is not hagiography, but neither does it pretend to an objective distance. He remarks on the first page, “She was delightfully down-to-earth and a pleasure to be with — most of the time.” Such a remark, combining knowing and heartfelt praise with a gentle poke, typifies the book.
It isn’t only Jordan’s tone that hits the mark. Instead of offering a chronological narrative, he weaves together his living sense of Day’s personality with some of the major themes of her work. The result is illuminating, even for those who already know a lot about Day. Jordan includes not only what you might call “Day’s Greatest Hits” but a wide set of lesser-known insights and episodes from her diaries, letters, archives, and acquaintances. Still, the book’s very brevity requires him to focus on the essential — on what mattered most to her, and about her.
And what was that? In a closing chapter on Day’s candidacy for sainthood, Jordan calls her “a complex, compelling, and sometimes contradictory person,” and these qualities made her a “real” rather than a “plaster” saint. Jordan’s biography draws attention to three aspects of Day’s life that, taken together, make it impossible to understand her either as a standard-issue social-justice activist or as just another libertine-turned-ascetic on the model of St. Augustine. She was not reducible to any Catholic stereotype.
First, Day’s love of others, the poor, and the church was remarkably lacking in sentimentality. Jordan quotes her saying she “cannot bear the religious romantics,” preferring a realism that “prays to see things as they are and to do something about it.” Too often, we are presented with a false choice between a tug on the heartstrings and a presumably hard-nosed realism. Tough and tender are treated as opposites, even in terms of ecclesial style — for example, in the frequently drawn contrast between Popes Benedict and Francis. Day combined toughness and tenderness, giving us a compelling example of the challenges of real mercy. Her toughness began with a stringent self-awareness: “I see only too clearly how bad people are,” she said. “I wish I did not see it. It is my own sins that give me such clarity.” Jordan writes that Day was “the most self-reflective and consistently self-aware person I have known.”
The same lack of sentimentality was related to a second unusual quality: Day’s ability to communicate love and attention to all, even to those with whom she had clear disagreements. Jordan often describes Day as “inclusive” and illustrates this quality with a story of a Catholic Worker who enlisted in World War II, fought bravely, and — despite Day’s consistent pacifism — was encouraged to rejoin the Catholic Worker community afterward.
He went on to become “a mainstay of the movement” before becoming a Trappist monk. The story is remarkable in an age of blog and Twitter “flamewars,” in which strong commitments like Day’s pacifism invariably come with a desire to castigate and expel those who are unfaithful to the cause. Too often, being “inclusive” can seem to require an abandonment of strong principle. For Day, it did not. Jordan emphasizes her principled respect for conscience, but she also seems to have been able to imagine a Catholic Church in which forthright disagreement did not require anathemas or schisms — a characteristic especially apparent in her ability to combine both charitable respect for bishops and vocal disagreement with them.
That brings us to a third remarkable trait: Day’s life was guided by firm principle and animated by an extraordinarily deep passion. As a 1969 profile of Day put it, her daily life embodied “the truth of a love that categorically refused to deny the irreducible humanity in every talking creature.” This makes it sound like a bloodless doctrine, but Jordan notes a diary entry from the same year in which Day compares her experiences at the Catholic Worker to “falling in love,” a “quality of in-loveness that may brush like a sweet fragrance,” a feeling that “may be an intuition of immortality.” Many of the stories about Day in this book reflect a level of Catholic learning that is almost miraculous, given her lack of any formal Catholic education and her lifetime of daily activism.
Where did she learn all this spiritual wisdom? More to the point, how did she manage to embody it with a practical immediacy most of us can’t match? In another remarkable diary entry, Day attempts to sum up the Catholic Worker, noting that some say it is about peace, while others “go deeper” and see the mystery of voluntary poverty and still others move beyond that to a recognition of the profound trust in Providence that voluntary poverty requires. But finally, she says, “love is the reason for it all.” There is a simplicity and a fierceness about this passage that almost embarrasses me as an academic theologian. In Day, piercing intellect and passionate practicality build on each other.
Such a sense of stability looks more and more remarkable in the context of a culture that celebrates, or at least accepts, perpetual transition. In an era when people are expected to cycle through many careers and even many selves, Day’s example is compelling precisely because, once she found her calling, she stuck to it, even as many others in the Catholic Worker movement came and went. Day thus exemplifies the virtue of “sobriety” as Pope Francis describes it in Laudato si’: people with this kind of spiritual sobriety are not “dipping here and there, always on the lookout for what they do not have”; instead, they live out the conviction that “less is more” and “experience what it means to appreciate each person and each thing.”
Day’s own ideas, grounded both in her activist background and in the “personalist communitarianism” of Peter Maurin, continue to challenge the tendencies of both conservative and progressive Catholics. She was critical of usury, pacifist even during “the good war,” skeptical of government welfare programs, averse to institutionalizing the Catholic Worker, and insistent on the importance of personal responsibility. Jordan quotes something she wrote in 1969: “Necessary for people to change. Quit worrying about popes, cardinals, bishops, structures, institutions.” The statement “we begin with ourselves” appears twice in the book.
Jordan, whose voice remains admirably muted throughout, concludes by suggesting that Day be seen as an “American prophet” — with prophecy understood not only as offering an urgent message but also as embodying a whole “way of being in the world.” Day’s prophetic message, Jordan writes, sought “a closing of the gap between private and public morality… and questioned both our materialism and militarism.” She was, he concludes, “someone who kept pushing us.”
But Jordan’s biography also suggests why Dorothy’s significance is not reducible to the Catholic Worker program: she succeeds in pushing even those whom she does not entirely persuade. Her real significance is to challenge us at a level more fundamental than policy. One is tempted to call it “holiness” even though that word, so easily misunderstood, may make her sound like a “sacristry Christian.” It should instead indicate her willingness to treat as a daily imperative what most of us treat as a noble but impractical ideal: seeing Christ in all others, affirming their dignity with every fiber of one’s being, and living totally for God.
Jordan’s book is a very fine introduction to Day’s life and work, and an outstanding reminder of the challenge she still poses to Catholics everywhere. It helps us understand why she was one of the two American Catholics Pope Francis cited last year in his address to Congress. The other? Thomas Merton.
David Cloutier is associate professor of theology at Mount St. Mary’s University.
We all went to the mountain with our holy scrips to chant Praises.
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