Wisdom of Women
I had the great good fortune to be raised by a single mother who was in extremely difficult circumstances: she had no education, no money, and received no monthly child support checks. And these were the June Cleaver/Leave It To Beaver years when it was socially unacceptable to be a “divorcée.”
I say it was good fortune because it was by watching my mother that I learned it’s always too soon to panic, life is what you make it, nothing worth having comes easy. You know the Winston Churchill speech, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
I’m pretty sure Churchill got all that from my mom.
Those who know me casually assume I’m a sexist pig because I say things like, “You hit like a girl.” But those who know me better will tell you the big decisions are usually made by Pennie, my wife and partner of 30+ years, and another woman, Corrine Taylor, manages the daily operation of all our enterprises.
We men tend to be impatient and short-sighted. And we show it by what we write.
The male voice in literature is hungry. Climb that mountain. Reach for those stars. Conquer. Subdue. Reproduce. Win.
But the literary voice of a woman is quieter, as though she has eyes that see from a greater distance.
“What is sure, predictable, inevitable – the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?”
“That we shall die.”
“Yes, there's really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer… The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.” – Ursula K. Le Guin, from chapter 5 of The Left Hand of Darkness
You might also recall the following passage from a memo I sent you in February:
We had come home.
We had discussed whether to go out for dinner or eat in.
I said I would build a fire, we could eat in.
I built the fire, I started dinner, I asked John if he wanted a drink.
I got him a Scotch and gave it to him in the living room, where he was reading in the chair by the fire where he habitually sat….
I finished getting dinner, I set the table in the living room where, when we were home alone, we could eat within sight of the fire. I find myself stressing the fire because fires were important to us. I grew up in California, John and I lived there together for twenty-four years, in California we heated our houses by building fires. We built fires even on summer evenings, because the fog came in. Fires said we were home, we had drawn the circle, we were safe through the night. I lit the candles. John asked for a second drink before sitting down. I gave it to him. We sat down. My attention was on mixing the salad.
John was talking, then he wasn't.
– excerpted from The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), Joan Didion's attempt to comprehend her husband's sudden death after 40 years of marriage.
The challenge of a woman is that she's expected to take care of everybody. But who takes care of her?
“Woman's life today is tending more and more toward the state William James describes so well in the German word, 'Zerrissenheit: torn-to-pieces-hood.' She cannot live perpetually in 'Zerrissenheit.' She will be shattered into a thousand pieces. On the contrary, she must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today…. Solitude, says the moon shell. Center-down, say the Quaker saints. To the possession of the self the way is inward, says Plotinus. The cell of self-knowledge is the stall in which the pilgrim must be reborn, says St. Catherine of Siena.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, (1955)
It is in honor of women worldwide that Wizard Academy is building a landmark bell wall. We hope to have it finished in time for the Wizard Academy Alumni Reunion in October. I’m going to ask my famous mother to come and share a few words. She’ll be followed by a performance from one of the hottest female recording artists in America.
Yes, it’s going to be unforgettable.
I hope you can come.
Roy H. Williams