Intellectual Stimulation

Bad HemingwaysThere is nothing like spending time with a large number of smart and passionate human beings with similar interests to give one multiple opportunities for significant intellectual stimulation. So once again this year I went to WisCon.

And once again, I was amply rewarded, to the point that my brain has been turned inside out a couple of times and the only way I know for sure what I learned was that I had the good sense to write some of it down.

Of course, some of it is in a notebook and some of it is on my phone and some of it is on my computer and I hope I find all the bits and pieces of it and go forward.

WisCon was very, very good for me/to me this year.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to present the self defense workshop I’ve been doing – and revising – for many years. This year, I called it No Fear, and focused on what people should and shouldn’t be afraid of, as well as on the five non-fighting skills of self defense and on ways to choose physical self defense or martial arts training.

I drew a small group of attentive and thoughtful people, and learned a great deal in the give and take. One key takeaway was from a person using a wheelchair, who told me that there are movement activists within the disability community who have ideas for addressing physical training for people with disabilities.

I plan to check that out, because while I am sure there are physical things those who use wheelchairs, crutches, or other aids to mobility can do to protect themselves, I don’t have a grasp on how to teach those things. And I want to know that.

I was also fascinated by a bicyclist’s perspective. She rides in a big city and applies urban biking skills, which include claiming an appropriate amount of space. She noted that when she gets off her bike to walk on the sidewalk, she still conveys that presence for a time. Bicycling is another skill to help people project presence and power in the world.

I need to take the urban bicycling class in Oakland, because I am a timid bicyclist. I claim power walking down the sidewalk all the time, but on a bike, I am over-careful.

I walked out of there with my mind full of new thoughts and ways to adapt what I’m doing and went to give a paper on the importance of story in increasing women’s power. I read what I had written, and then we all sat and talked about what I said and related topics. I got ideas about where to take the paper next (I’m working on a longer essay combining it with some earlier work), and found a new set of questions I wanted to pursue.

I had lunch with friends, read some of my daily senryu as part of a poetry reading in the afternoon, and then went to dinner with a friend who is very conversant in economics. Again, she shook up my brain, leaving me with many more ideas to ponder.

Sunday was my day to listen more than talk. Again, my brain got challenged. I went to an academic presentation. Gabiann Marin, an Australian writer and academic, spoke on “The Hidden Goddess: References to and Erasure of the Goddess in DC’s Wonder Woman and Contemporary Superhero Narratives,” pointing out the significant flaws in the Wonder Woman movie that undermined it, both from the perspective of classical mythology and as a feminist statement. Andrea Hairston, one of my favorite authors and a theater professor, spoke on “Women of Wakanda,” making it abundantly clear that Black Panther was not just a superb presentation of Afrofuturism on the screen, but a powerful feminist movie to boot.

Both of them convinced me that my personal reactions to the Wonder Woman and Black Panther movies were dead on. (My reaction to Wonder Woman is here.) But both of them gave the in-depth analysis that showed why Black Panther was astounding while Wonder Woman was deeply disappointing.

The con went on in usual fashion. I heard good readings. I went to a panel on universal basic income. I did a reading with several other Aqueduct Press authors. We called ourselves the Bad Hemingways because of what Ursula K. Le Guin said about that author in one of her essays. It was our way of honoring her memory.

Plus I had a number of other intense conversations in the halls and sitting over drinks, some about martial arts, some about politics, and lots of them about where the world is going in the future and how we should write about it. And, of course, about who’s writing what and which books we should be reading.

In daily life, even if you read good books and have good conversations, life tends to slip into the mundane realities. The mundane necessary realities, like dinner and paying the bills. I know you can’t live on inspiration all the time.

But a good dose of it now and again is what keeps me making the effort to do the things that matter to me.

I tend to think that’s the purpose of life: find the things that matter to you and spend time doing them.

If it’s not the purpose of life – because maybe there isn’t one – it’s still a good way to spend our time.



Intellectual Stimulation — 6 Comments

  1. Your post makes me happy because it conveys so well how stimulating your WisCon was and how much you enjoyed being intellectually challenged — you were excited!

    Yes, getting out of the day-to-day periodically is stimulating and routes our vision in so many productive paths.

  2. I am Lady Limpsalot of Twisty Ankles. Crutches and canes can make quite formidable weapons. You just need one good leg or something to lean on as well as some aiming skill. Swing a cane at the attacker, hit the temple or the bridge of the nose, and he’s going to have some serious movement impairment while you get away and call the police. As most attackers are male, the low approach works as well (hey, you came at me, so clutch your nuts!).

    Canes and crutches work on the lever principle. You do not need serious strength at your end while the other end comes down (or up) much faster and harder. Just think ‘I am Brother Tuck of the merry band of Robin Hood’ and let the criminal have it.

    If you know you cannot stand up, the best way is to lay down on your back in your own good time and manner. Now you can use canes, crutches, and kicks however feeble, against a stumped enemy. You cannot fall while lying down but all your working limbs are free to wreak havoc.

    Your cane or crutch gives you a longer reach than anything the attacker has. Unless he packs a gun. In which case I’d suggest talking him out of it or praying to any Higher Entity you can remember.

    • Thanks for giving us useful details on how this works. You’ve clearly given this a lot of thought. If I may, I will follow up with you, as I’d like to spread the idea that we can all learn ways of defense.

      Guns change the equation for everyone. The only time you should challenge someone with a gun is when you’re sure they’re going to shoot you no matter what. I love what James Shaw Jr. did in that Waffle House attack: he realized that the weapon had jammed and dove in to take it away when the killer couldn’t shoot. If he hadn’t, he and others might have been killed as well, so it was well worth the risk.

      • Sure, the idea is worth spreading.

        BTW, some 10 years ago a Russian man, having just one arm, one leg, and one eye, and old enough to have lost the others in WW II, crutched his way into a bar, got drunk, and beat up a hale young customer. After that he beat up the three cops come to arrest him. Disabled does NOT mean helpless.