On Learning to Fly

(My first promotion — cause I’d sure like to learn to fly! – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Here’s an interesting take on the history of black/white relations in the US from Ampersand at Alas! A Blog.

I think this cartoon makes a powerful statement about how the game is played these days. But its all about climbing over each other to get to some destination where the table has already been set by the guys in charge. I was reminded of all this by a comment keres made in a diary at Booman Tribune.Here’s what she said:

And I would argue that to dismantle partriarchy you would need to dismantle society in it’s totality, and start over. It’s no good just letting women in as “pseudo men” to societal structures so long formed by and to men’s wants and desires.

Our societies are not “OK”, except for the sexism, racism, heterosexism, ablism, etc. Our societies are intrinsically those things – they cannot be removed without a complete revisioning of the social compact. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, in an apartriachal society would look, sound, or feel even remotely the same as to what we have now.

Thinking about all of this today took me back to a book I’ve had on my shelf for years. Its one of those things that I read a long time ago, and as I read it again this morning, the meaning went to a whole other level because of the things I’ve learned lately. The book is hope for the flowers by Trina Paulus. It is formatted like a children’s picture book, but the message is aimed at all of us who are beginning to realize that there must be another way. Here’s the publishers synopsis:

“Hope for the Flowers” is an inspiring allegory about the realization of one’s true destiny as told through the lives of caterpillars Stripe and Yellow, who struggle to “climb to the top” before understanding that they are meant to fly.

In the story, Stripe and Yellow see all the other caterpillars climbing to get up to the top of the caterpillar pillar. So, reluctantly, they join in. First they learn that its hard to step on and over others if you’ve actually looked them in the eye or (heaven forbid) talked to them. Then they learn that at the top, there’s actually nothing “there.” As you can imagine, they finally realize that their destiny is to leave the climb, make themselves a cocoon, and become butterflies.

So as we continue to hear solutions to the “isms” of our day, let’s evaluate whether they are simply tools for teaching “others” how to climb, or if what they are really talking about is learning how to fly. Here’s Paulus’ tag line on her book:

a tale – about life partly about revolution and lots about hope.

Crossposted at Smartypants


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  1. Except for communities of clones, there is universal tension between individual and community – rights, responsibilities, ownership, territory, etc. Compromise is always in play to try to moderate and balance the needs and desires of the individual and the group.

    You touch upon the essential core of examining the constructed – not inherent – rules of determining societal norms. Who benefits? How much? Why?

    The closer the answers come to universal benefit without undue sacrifice/oppression, the “greater” the society.

    When society careers to the extremes of individual to the exclusion of community good or its reverse, community (corporation/government) over the individual’s welfare, it tips the balance and creates distress, unrest and ultimately unsustainability.

    I like the analogy of the caterpillars seeking the wrong goal of climbing to the top instead of preparing to fly.

    Thanks for writing this.

  2. I used to be a debater in high school and for my first year of college.

    One of the “rules” we learned about was showing there was an “inherent” problem in what we were debating, if we were on the affirmative side, the side arguing for change.

    We had to show the problem we were trying to solve had inherent obstacles that precluded the kind of change needed to solve that problem.  That simple reform wasn’t enough, but real change was required.  And we’d all argue from there.

    I think this essay goes a long way in showing that the problems in our society are inherent and that cosmetic retouching isn’t going to help.

    The cartoon really says it all.  And the notion that we’re climbing when we’re meant to fly … ah, that hit the spot.  Thanks for this.

    • pico on September 10, 2007 at 00:00

    of one my brother’s friends, a kid from a well-to-do family who’s gotten various jobs through connections and now is doing pretty well, even as a college student.  He’s also strongly conservative, and feels that everyone should have to pull themselves up on their own.  The irony of this is completely lost on him.

  3. Test

    • Robyn on December 16, 2007 at 00:32

    • Edger on February 15, 2008 at 23:22

    I never saw this. Thanks for linking to it. I have to go to work shortly, so I’ll leave it open to read when I get home…

    • Edger on February 16, 2008 at 15:33

    you had to already be soaring to be able to write this one, NL. No? 🙂

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