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To Be or not to Be, Part II by Anonymous

Part II of personal reflections from Women's Secretariat

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

16th December 2011 15:11

Alessia Valenza

 To Be or not to be – Part II, by Anonymous

Life is a teacher definitely, sexuality is fluid and it’s
nice to find people’s partners are embracing that.

I love when life surprises me. It is definitely interesting
though a little rocky initially each time. I am therefore
a little addicted to being open. (PS don’t go to the gutter).
I loved Ben Okri’s book Starbook and when I heard he was in
town I couldn’t let the opportunity to hear him in person pass.
One of the things that stood out for me at his session at the
hay festival was something he said in a discussion about his
book ‘The Famished road.’ A number of people at the session
said that they found the book difficult to get through, some
even didn’t manage to get through it. In response, he said
he met an eight year old once and she said she was up all night
finishing the same book, the famished road. He said he thought
that the reason many people found the book difficult is that they
have set expectations when they open a book and it is more
difficult to be open the older you get. When we get older, we
celebrate being more comfortable in our skin and it comes with
being closed to certain things because you are certain you don’t
like them or don’t believe them. He said it is worth trying to
stay open even as we grow older.

I have actually forgotten why I went down this story and how it
is connected to fluidity. I am very tempted by a set life at the
moment. I have that ‘I want to settle’ feeling. I am not sure
if it’s a mid life crisis that is hitting or it’s just trying to
live up to the expectations of someone my age or it’s actually
what I want. Now this love of being open and my history of sexual
fluidity is a spanner in the machine of settling. First I am not
sure I want to settle with a man or a woman. Then there is this
fear that despite my best intentions at being settled, life is
going to hit me with one of her surprises again that will throw
my best laid plans to the wind. Discipline is not natural and
also I agree with Leila Ali when she said something like ‘I don’t
trust discipline because at that crucial moment it will let you down’.
She contrasted discipline and love in the quote if I remember

Another thing that came to mind when I went for the SOS outreach
session that MWA had organized, I couldn’t help talking a lot but
I know I hesitated to say and didn’t say that sexuality is fluid.
It crossed my mind. I don’t know if it came up after I left since
I left before it was over. I didn’t like that hesitation. I
thought they just wouldn’t understand and may jump on the idea
to say that you have a choice and so why don’t you choose men
if you’re a woman and women if you’re a man. And then they may
view our choices as irresponsibility and indiscipline. I thought
it might be seen also to contradict that line of argument that
people have been born queer since the predominant view is that
things one is born with are unchanging. Maybe they would have
understood. Next time I am in such a space I’ll bring it up and
see what happens.

But now I think, this issue of fluidity, do I approach it with
openness or discipline? Discipline is at the root of
‘civilization’. I watched this movie on how man has made images
of himself throughout millennia, from the oldest known
sculpture to cave paintings, to Egyptian images to Greek
sculptures to current advertising images. One interesting
thing is that the human image has never been presented
realistically – that includes those real looking Greek sculptures.
Back to my point. With the Egyptians, the images were very
ordered (read discipline). The ratios of the dimensions were
constant. Egypt is recorded as the first at least one of the
first civilizations. In yesterday’s paper, Sunday Nation page 14,
they are reviewing a book by a young doctor and in the book, he
quoted Harry Truman who said “In reading the lives of great men,
I found that the first victory they won was over themselves….
self-discipline with all of them came first”. So in society there
is all this push towards discipline in all sorts of ways. There
is time discipline, you have to be at work at eight, you have to
submit your paper at a certain set time etc. An interesting story
I came across recently is that some colonialists recorded how
difficult it was inculcate discipline. Part of the strategy was
take the land so that people would then have to work for food
but even then they found guys would come one day, disappear the
next or come two days and then not come for the rest of the week
etc. This discipline is the root of a lot of achievements and
also the root of a lot of discontent. It’s alienating since by
disciplining you are going against your inclination or choice.
This sounds a lot like the Christian encouragement to deny thy
flesh, mortify your body etc.

For some people indiscipline comes with the threat of anarchy
or hell. It threatens to disturb peace and bring back big doses
of uncertainty and fear. So then comes me and I tell such a
person that my sexuality is fluid. And I am going with the flow.
I want to be open to me and everything that I am. What I am
trying to say again is that I think this fight is a cultural fight.
What do you think? It’s a fight over what life is all about or
should be about. Is it about discipline and order, is it about
being in the middle of a fight between Satan and God or what is
it about? Okot p’bitek said that life is about meaning. And
meaning is broader than true or false. It’s about how good the
dance is. Which brings me back to Ben Okri. In his book “Starbook”
he tells the story of this community where the most celebrated
gift or skill was the one of art. People become elders because of
their art, women were seduced with art etc. For them life was
about experiencing the beauty of art, honing the skill, honoring
it and celebrating it.

I must say that this discipline thing is connected to so many
things it also made me think of this story of a baker. He loves
baking, the smells, the mixing, and the taste afterwards etc.
He decides that he loves it so much, it would be a joy to do
it as a business. But what he finds when he gets into business
is that the joy of baking is taken away little by little and
replaced with the pressure to make sales and meet orders so that
he can make a living. His activities are now disciplined by the
market. He has to bake even when he doesn’t want to. There is no
time to put love in a cake. And should he managed to put some
love in a cake it may not be appreciated, it may still be
haggled down like any other cake.

Let me stop here. If you feel the love of God like I do. Which
side do you think God is on. On the side of being open or
being disciplined? Could he be on the side of discipline maybe
or maybe he is really be on the side of open? Or if you’d
rather a fluidity or continuum of openness and discipline,
where do you think God is on it?

Too long. I know. Apologes.