My father and Beloved Husband both attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- Dad, many many years ago, and Beloved Husband, merely many years ago. I have a great warmth for the school, and admire not only the institution, but also the multitude of talented minds that have graced its halls.
And so, I present to you, the message from the current President of MIT. It is eloquent, and speaks to me, and speaks for me.
To the members of the MIT community, For those of you who have been following the developments at MIT since Friday, I was hoping to write to you today with some uplifting news. Yet, as I write, we continue to push hard to bring back to MIT those members of our community, including two undergraduates, who were barred from the US because of the January 27 Executive Order on immigration. We are working personally with all the affected individuals we are aware of. If you know of other students, faculty or staff who are directly affected, please inform us immediately so we can try to help: International Students Office, David Elwell [firstname.lastname@example.org] International Scholars Office, Penny Rosser [email@example.com] Over and over since the order was issued, I have been moved by the outpouring of support from hundreds across our community. I could not be more proud, and I am certain that you join me in thanking everyone inside and outside of MIT whose extraordinary efforts have helped us address this difficult situation. We hope we can welcome everyone back to MIT very soon.
MIT, the nation and the world I found the events of the past few days deeply disturbing. The difficulty we have encountered in seeking to help the individuals from our community heightens our overall sense of concern. I would like to reflect on the situation we find ourselves in, as an institution and as a country.
MIT is profoundly American. The Institute was founded deliberately to accelerate the nation’s industrial revolution. With classic American ingenuity and drive, our graduates have invented fundamental technologies, launched new industries and created millions of American jobs. Our history of national service stretches back to World War I; especially through the work of Lincoln Lab, we are engaged every day in keeping America safe. We embody the American passion for boldness, big ideas, hard work and hands-on problem-solving. Our students come to us from every faith, culture and background and from all fifty states. And, like other institutions rooted in science and engineering, we are proud that, for many of our students, MIT supplies their ladder to the middle class, and sometimes beyond. We are as American as the flag on the Moon.
At the same time, and without the slightest sense of contradiction, MIT is profoundly global. Like the United States, and thanks to the United States, MIT gains tremendous strength by being a magnet for talent from around the world. More than 40% of our faculty, 40% of our graduate students and 10% of our undergraduates are international. Faculty, students, post-docs and staff from 134 other nations join us here because they love our mission, our values and our community. And – as I have – a great many stay in this country for life, repaying the American promise of freedom with their energy and their ideas. Together, through teaching, research, and innovation, MIT’s magnificently global, absolutely American community pursues its mission of service to the nation and the world.
What the moment demands of us The Executive Order on Friday appeared to me a stunning violation of our deepest American values, the values of a nation of immigrants: fairness, equality, openness, generosity, courage. The Statue of Liberty is the “Mother of Exiles”; how can we slam the door on desperate refugees? Religious liberty is a founding American value; how can our government discriminate against people of any religion? In a nation made rich by immigrants, why would we signal to the world that we no longer welcome new talent? In a nation of laws, how can we reject students and others who have established legal rights to be here? And if we accept this injustice, where will it end? Which group will be singled out for suspicion tomorrow?
On Sunday, many members of our campus community joined a protest in Boston to make plain their rejection of these policies and their support for our Muslim friends and colleagues. As an immigrant and the child of refugees, I join them, with deep feeling, in believing that the policies announced Friday tear at the very fabric of our society.
I encourage anyone who shares that view to work constructively to improve the situation. Institutionally, though we may not be vocal in every instance, you can be confident we are paying attention; as we strive to protect our community, sustain our mission and advance our shared values, we will speak and act when and where we judge we can be most effective.
Yet I would like us to think seriously about the fact that both within the MIT community and the nation at large, there are people of goodwill who see the measures in the Executive Order as a reasonable path to make the country safer. We would all like our nation to be safe. I am convinced that the Executive Order will make us less safe. Yet all of us, across the spectrum of opinion, are Americans.
In this heated moment, I urge every one of us to avoid with all our might the forces that are driving America into two camps. If we love America, and if we believe in America, we cannot allow those divisions to grow worse. We need to imagine a shared future together, if we hope to have one. I am certain our community can help work on this great problem, too, by starting right here at home.
I had my hair done today. (Must cover those grey roots. Not aging gracefully.) And today, as with every visit to the salon, I am vaguely self-conscious throughout the appointment: those who work there are all hip, thin and glamorous, young people. I am none of those things. When the stylist finishes blow drying and ruffles my coiffure into position with a flourish, and I put on my glasses, I feel just a tiny bit of despair as I look in that mirror. My hair looks nice. The rest of me is... alas. I am not sure what I wish: younger? Prettier? Different? And I am perhaps just a little sad that my youth seems so very far away now.
I wonder, too -- do they look at me as an Old Person, fruitlessly fighting a losing battle against Father Time? Am I silly? Foolish? Or just old? And I want to shrink into myself and become invisible.
I am, now more than ever, aware of a sad little need that dwells deep within: a need for approval, for reassurance of attractiveness, for belonging. It's the kind of desire that flourishes in teen years, and lies dormant oftentimes in adulthood, sprouting only occasionally for reasons mysterious (or perhaps obvious yet not admittable). Am I pretty? Am I liked? Am I worth someone else's time? Do I have value?
Why do these things matter? They should not. Value should lie within, not in the approbation of others.
Even as I try to engage in conversation with people, though, I hear (or see) my words, and I cringe a little bit. Am I trying too hard? Is my need so very obvious? Will it drive others away?
Why am I so very needy right now? It is nearly embarrassing.
Again, I want to shrink into myself and become invisible. Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it.
Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe. - Albus Dumbledore, in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling)
I will, however, say the following: I am a little concerned about his wife.
There are small stories, brief videos, here and there and everywhere: how she and Donald Trump do not actually touch when they kiss; how he left her alone by the car rather than waiting for her to move forward with him to greet Barack and Michelle Obama; how their dancing at the inaugural ball was stilted and uncomfortable.
What a terrible thing, to have one's most important and intimate relationship so closely scrutinized by millions of people.
There is one film clip, though, that gave me a little bit of pause. It is shown here, for example. (And you can no doubt find it through any search engine.) He turns to her, she smiles broadly; he says something and then turns back again. Look how her face crumples as he turns away.
It's painful. And sad. What happened there? We do not know. We cannot even guess. It is clearly a difficult moment for her, though.
I know nothing about her or her relationship with her husband. All the same, I think that she probably did not expect them to be where they are now. And I suspect it is much more than she ever bargained for.
Scrabble is always entertaining, even when I have nothing but vowels.
Whether I win or lose (and in fact, I almost always lose), I do enjoy the game: the thrill of finding an especially interesting word hidden within the letters, or identifying a clever position for a word on the board; the pleasure of watching my competitor contemplate the tiles and somehow, miraculously, succeed in performing some lengthy or point-laden move that jolts me out of my temporary position as point leader. Good times.
I do love words.
Yes, those were my letters at one point this weekend.
“In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.
And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.
"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.
"Certainly," said man.
"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.
If I could, I would Raise a fortress to the sky -- A stronghold of words, Each one carefully chosen For your protection So no harm would come to you: No slings, no arrows. If, by chance, you were wounded, The words would be balm, As healing as phoenix tears. And thus, it would be -- My love of words, and of you Entwining, always.
I have tried to avoid politics, for So Many Reasons. Yet, because it is Not Quite Politics, I did watch a Tonight Show clip in which various Americans recorded "thank you" messages for Michelle Obama, and then were be surprised by an appearance by Michelle herself.
What a lovely, heartwarming, and heartfelt video. How wonderful for these people to have an opportunity to meet the woman who has inspired them in so many ways; and how wonderful for Michelle, too, to feel appreciated and valued. She has done good, indeed.
This is the kind of Friend You are - Without making me realize My soul's anguished history, You slip into my house at night, And while I am sleeping, You silently carry off All my suffering and sordid past In your beautiful Hands.
There are some sentiments, deep and unparseable, that need a precise word -- for only by naming what it is that we feel, can we understand ourselves.
Sometimes, there are questions within: wonderings, longings, with a sense of uncertainty. How did I get here? Was this the 'right' road? How am I to judge the road behind me? What am I to think of the spot where I now stand? Does that change how I look at the road ahead of me? Where do I go from here?
Interspersed with these reflections, is a sense of nostalgia: a subtle yearning for the times when we forged ahead, not knowing what lay before us, but trusting in our choices and hoping for the best.
There is a small temptation, as well, to second-guess ourselves (as there always is with 20/20 hindsight): how might things have been different, had our choices been different? That is a dark and rocky road, perhaps best left untraveled -- for we are here, now, because of where we have been. Onward, ho!
Still, the questions remain.
I present for you this evening, three words: they intersect, and have an undercurrent of similarity. Do they speak to you? Are they the right words? We will keep searching until we find the words we need. And we will move forward, together.
Even though it is rather chilly here in the desert right now, one of the rose bushes is blooming vigorously. It is quite a contrast against the brown grass and leafless trees. Who would've thought that a rose would enjoy the cold?
Love Song, by Rainer Maria Rilke. (Translation, by Stephen Mitchell, found here: http://www.ibizaceremony.com/node/192) How can I keep my soul in me, so that it doesn't touch your soul? How can I raise it high enough, past you, to other things? I would like to shelter it, among remote lost objects, in some dark and silent place that doesn't resonate when your depths resound. Yet everything that touches us, me and you, takes us together like a violin's bow, which draws one voice out of two separate strings. Upon what instrument are we two spanned? And what musician holds us in his hand? Oh sweetest song.
I organized cabinets; scrubbed the stove; repotted a plant; denuded, disassembled, and put away the Christmas tree and all its accoutrements; rearranged the furniture in the front room back to its ordinary, Christmas-tree-less layout; made chili; fixed the vacuum with the help of a screwdriver and a bit of luck; prepared Offspring the Third's favorite lemon chicken; washed, folded, and put away five loads of laundry; cleaned a bathroom; scrubbed Rocky the hamster's habitat; made lunches for tomorrow; prepared a muffin mix for the morning; and made a quick run to the grocery store for additional supplies for the week. I think that's all.
There are still More Things To Do. Nevertheless, I feel as though I have made a Good Start. And as an added bonus, there was a lovely sunset this evening.
I spent much of my day today the way I spend many other days -- taking care of Stuff. I went to this store for something for Offspring the Second, to that place for something for Offspring the Third, and to the bank and the grocery store. I put dinner in the crock pot. I made meals for the small dogs. I ran some laundry.
I do not mind doing these things; in fact, I derive a bit of satisfaction from ensuring chores are done, errands are completed, and everyone is content and well tended. My inner house elf is pleased.
Nevertheless, I have a single resolution for this year: to include myself in the list of People Of Whom I Take Care.
It is very easy to put my own needs last. Yet if I do not take care of myself, I run the risk of giving away too much without replenishing -- and as the saying goes, "you cannot fill from an empty vessel." So this year, I will make myself food; exercise more regularly; do things on occasion that gladden my heart; and take time for myself as needed.
It seems weirdly selfish. But it is the right thing to do.
Small dog puts her own comfort first.
Perhaps we should, on occasion, follow her example.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains solely a minuscule middle aged chihuahua and a lovely red fish named Ruth Betta Finsburg. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.