The Ever-Processing Machine

I can’t find my incense. I don’t want to write. I desperately want nothing more than to write. For ever. So then, perhaps I’m just a stymied masochist at heart(less), doomed to miserable inaction for the rest of my days.

I do not dedicate myself as I should, as I need. . .

There’s a llama on my printer. A small one. A wedding gift, eight years and counting, staring me blackly in the eye. It knows. Trying to escape, my eye rests upon a small picture sat beneath my computer. It is my own babyface peering out with merrily blank baby eyes. The photo is overlaid with the thick shadow of a chain-link fence. This is me. Trapped by a shadow. Waiting for the world to do something. Trying to grasp the significance of the strange, cold eye that trains itself on me so often and aloofly clicks.


There’s so much crammed into this tiny office I could cry. I used to think I would write always and anywhere — give me a closet and a cardboard box, set me free with charcoal under a bridge and I would be unable to refrain from wordplay, perpetual swordplay with man and nature alike, taking the measure of everything by means of soul, squished then through a kind of linguistic strainer until all I had left was the juice, the essence, the concentrated taste of experience in this undeniably awkward universe.

Now that belief has shattered. It may have been true once, but I have lived into a future where I hide from myself — and everyone else — quite effectively. So here is a journal that is lacking all pretence, simply my words, simply me, all my flaws on my sleeve.


Can you see the chainlink fence?

I can. It’s all the mouldering critique in my soul. Surely if I put organic stuff in there it would become mulch instead of poison. Perhaps I am now more than part machine, and the organic materials cannot breathe. If I lived for aeons, my mouldering mulch would become the solid stuff of the planet, sandstone, limestone, volcanic rock jutting out of soft soil at awkward angles, baring its bones to escape unfathomable pressure. But I don’t want to be the solid stuff of earth, I want to grow. Become green in the sunlight, swing in gusts of wind, evaporate through expanding skin and rise to join the clouds, journeying towards a body of water and aching for the ocean deeps. Even the rocky shore submits to the tireless ministrations of moisture.


The cold, cyclopian eye is back. I think it wants to eat me. It’s everywhere, and I fear if I pay too much attention to it it might just absorb my essence. Like native people distrust photos, I distrust the all-seeing Eye with a maggoty, crawling kind of fear. I am sure it can erase my life, my futures, my Being in a moment’s time. How does one go about retrieving one’s essence from the maw of the beast? Can it ever regain its form? Its motivation? Its mind? I am not sure, but I will fight.



A New Proposition

“Faith is not being sure. It is not being sure, but betting with your last cent… Faith is not a series of gilt-edged propositions that you sit down to figure out, and if you follow all the logic and accept all the conclusions, then you have it. It is crumpling and throwing away everything, proposition by proposition, until nothing is left, and then writing a new proposition, your very own, to throw in the teeth of despair…

Faith is not making religious-sounding noises in the daytime. It is asking your inmost self questions at night and then getting up and going to work…

Faith is thinking thoughts and singing songs and making poems in the lap of death.”

–Mary Jean Irion, 1970

Gender in Greek Mythology

Gender in Greek Mythology

Greek mythology has been thought of as entirely patriarchal and denigrating to women. It is easy to see why. Many of the most famous male characters (like Zeus with his lightning bolts and his power over all the gods) are dominant, whereas the best known female deities are typically ‘woman-ish’ and associated with women’s roles. But to dismiss the matter there and call for no more thorough examination is a mistake. Greek mythology is much more complex when it comes to gender roles than most people might think at first. In this paper I would like to shatter stereotypical gender-roles in Greek myth by looking at two of the most evolved and favored deities: Prometheus and Athena. My suggestion is that we build a newly partitioned lens through which to see the men and women in these tales, a lens partitioned into bounded power, preservation and creativity on the one hand, and free-lashing chaos and destruction on the other.

When most people think of mythology these days, they are likely to think of Zeus and Hera. The spite and infidelity involved in the popular depiction of this marriage are so overwhelming that it is difficult to look beyond it. But really, it is not particularly surprising that the central and most powerful of immortal marriages would mirror the evils present in Greek society’s marriages at the time. There must be some point of connection between the mythical characters and their audience, and the problems represented in this marriage had wider (and deeper) ranging effects than the populace probably noticed. If you can look through the painfully abusive relationship these two had, there are plenty of examples of deities who do not fit their role in a patriarchal picture quite as neatly as they ‘ought’.

In the creation myths we see in the older generations of gods and goddesses examples of men who, while powerful, have bitty brains and do not understand what the consequences of their actions are or why they are doing what they are doing. Uranus hides his children from the light, keeping them trapped in the earth, their mother, and Gaea is driven to plan injury to him in order to free her children. Cronus devours his children as soon as they are born (an evil which his wife Rhea attempts to trick him out of), and his first surviving son eats his first daughter. These immortal men possess no wisdom, working only by what their momentary passions tell them. Aphrodite is not your typical submissive woman either. As opposed to being a mother-figure or a sweet celibate girl, Aphrodite is wild, wily and dangerous in her beauty, able to deceive everyone on mount Olympus. In fact, almost none of the female deities were sweet and celibate. They wield power over men just as men wield power over them; Aphrodite is just a glaring example who also happens to be absolutely conniving. Each gender has characters that are unthinking, violent, powerful and destructive.

There are other deities who depart from the popular conception of their given role in unexpected ways. A few of each gender are constructive, thoughtful, and peaceful as well; protectors of progress, creativity, and culture. I think possession of this quality is what matters: not power play. Not who can kill—who can create! Rhea’s hiding of Zeus began this trend toward preservation, and it seems as though the trait is learned by succeeding generations. ‘Male’ and ‘female’ qualities seem to merge over time until we see two deities in particular to represent a group who appear to be somewhat balanced: Prometheus and Athena. The deities in this group are all over the map and are rather mysterious when viewed through a gender-role lens; they don’t fit entirely on one side or the other. The men have instincts to nurture and the ability to create and selflessly give. The women have courage and strength and the desire to fight and protect and tame.

Prometheus, or ‘Forethinker’, is credited with the creation of men in some myths. In any case, Prometheus loved humans. He tells of how much he carefully taught them in Prometheus Bound, explaining that they were almost inert beings before he did so, with “eyes that blankly gazed, ears hearing empty sound. Shapes in a dream, they blundered through long years… I taught them mathematics,
“wisdom’s lore, and words in letters, of all things remembrancer, mother and servant of the arts… Until my time, whenever man fell ill there was no diet, potion, ointment, or draft; men simply shriveled up and died for lack of drugs. I showed them gentle compounds, remedies for all disease” (Powell, 111).

It is obvious from this text that Prometheus is a god of creativity and preservation. He is a God who nurtures potential and fills emptiness with good things. When once as a result of a prank Zeus became angered, he struck at the prankster’s favorites, depriving them of the fire they needed to cook their food. Prometheus promptly stole fire from heaven and brought it back down to the humans because he didn’t want them to starve. It’s almost as if they were his children. You could almost see him as maternal in some instances, willing to undergo endless torture by order of Zeus in order to help his little ones manage on earth.

Athena is a goddess with a lot of mystery attached to her as well. She is one of the only virgin goddesses, and the Parthenon was built in honor of that. The Greeks clearly respected her as a moral woman. Her ability to create and sustain life is made obvious in the story about her contest with Poseidon over who Athens was to be dedicated to. She grew an olive tree out of the ground and he burst a spring of useless salt water out of a rock. Because of its usefulness, the olive tree was chosen, and she became the protector of Athens. She is patron of the arts in Athens, presiding over things like weaving as well as carpentry. She tames power, channeling it and using it by creating things like the harness and the ship. She is often seen preparing maidens for their weddings and giving them advice, or perhaps simply giving them warning that the day is on the way, but she is also the goddess of war. She is always seen wearing armor, and she is the protector of heroes on the road, as is seen with Odysseus. Homer depicts her in battle, saying “and with them went Athena,
“she of the steel-gray eyes, wearing the dreaded aegis, shield which is ageless, immortal. From it a hundred tassels, all woven of gold, hang free, each worth a hundred oxen. Sparkling, bright with its gleam, Athena marched down the ranks, arousing their will to attack. In every heart she injected new courage to fight till the end…” (Powell, 211).

Finally, Athena represents law and order, finally found amidst chaos and every-man-for-himself; she is Wisdom and channeled power, which creates the possibility for constructive civilization.

I’ve tried to break the traditional concept of gender roles here and form it into a new idea, bringing in things that are more important than who is passive and who is domineering, who cleans and cooks and who hunts and makes decisions. In this paper I’ve tried to build a new lens through which to see that healthy, balanced individuals of both sexes do exist in Greek mythology and that perhaps the dysfunction between sexes seen in the myths is simply a reflection of fallen culture. If we can focus on the things that matter, like creativity and preservation, healing and culture, then we will see the myths as they were most probably seen in Ancient Greece by people more like you and me than we might know.

Katie Huffman (married, Gough) / Classics 231 Paper 1 / Prof. Winkle 11/20/02

c. Mary Kathryn Gough


~Free-Write Response to Toni Morrison’s Beloved~

Red. The Hated. Manifestation of Desire. Passion which pulls so many into its pool: helpless, raging, drowning, dying. . . Rememory refusing its offering again and again, finding healing in grey, in brown, in blue, and black, black-and-blue— Pain: my salvation (long, dark corridor to ressurrection!).
Our every carmine heart is hidden. Hidden for a reason. You can’t put your finger on it, can’t but wave with absent conviction at a swirl of smoke, of dust, and say there, there it lies. Beneath, around, *within*. . . Substance barely there. But there, nonetheless. . . What hides it, I wonder? Could we be thwarting ourselves?

When I was a teenager, my mother tried to bring me out of my shell by dressing me in beautiful, rich folds of Red fabric. She loved the way it looked against my pale skin and golden hair, the way it made my eyes (with their deeply blue rootedness– in something, somewhere back behind me) jump out and bite you. She had a dress made of this soft, dewy, carmine velvet, a dress most girls would have killed for, and people who saw it said most guys would have killed to see me in it. But it hung in my closet for years, learning the shape of its thin, hard, bare hanger, abandoned and lonely– and I know my mother shed tears over the waste. Over the rejection– the split she saw happening within me.

I walked through Junior High and High School, proudly, invisibly– velvet myself, such that people’s vision blurred when they looked at me, and their memories covered over the blurs or ignored them. I made them work *hard* to rememory me. Faded, I wore tan, brown, grey, blues– and on bold days, black. Unobtrusive and obscure, I made myself scarce, and lived in an inner world haunted by my past and my pain. No one else need know about my struggle. I walked about, proudly. Invisibly. Separate.

I did not know the color Green, did not understand growing things, or why one drinks water.

You cannot truly appreciate Green until you know Red, in all its glory, power, and love. Until you learn to love your heart: glory and power– manifest the hands and feet of the Son of Man on Earth. Love in the Flesh: Divine Truth. You cannot effectively, knowingly foster the tendriling vines in your life until you’ve grown to be old friends with Red: red of the heart, of the blood, and of the rose, of the desire for Life that keeps us beating, beating at the obstacles in our path and at the unform-ed-ness of our Selves. At the Hated: the Hate that beats us back and swallows us up. In loneliness. In self-contempt.

It took me a long long while, most of my life, to realize that all the helpless, raging, drowning, dying happens in the echo-empty un-self *around* the carmine borders of the heart, as we try (and die like flies) to reach it. I find I must tell myself every day that the answer to all our fears is Red, slick and juicy-cunning: full-of-Life. Do we dare embrace such a bold and daring color? Such a color as anyone, improperly informed, can slip from, off the wrong side, into an abyss of Nothingnes, no-self? Do we dare risk drowning to learn our Selves and thereby reach and grasp again to claim our Red, Red Hearts?

For it is only after we have made this journey,
and staked our claim,
that we can give
Red we know is truly

c. Mary Kathryn Gough, 10/27/05 2.20 am

picture: PS edit of stock photo at deviantart website: deviant *Harpiai