Being non-productive is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
As I sit here, in between meals, at the dining table of my father in law’s home overlooking the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento, Sicily all I can do is overthink. For many reasons, it’s hard for me to “work” here. I can see three of the largest of these Greek temples sitting in a line parallel to the coast with the blue of the Mediterranean filling in to the horizon. These are the temples of Juno, Heracles, and Concordia. There are several other structures and temples surrounding the area and recently a theater was discovered nearby that is currently being excavated. It’s an incredible experience to walk among these ruins and ponder the story of humanity from both a personal and public perspective. To think of the number of narcissistic politicians, ruthless militants, architects, artists, slaves, fathers, mothers and children that rose before dawn and labored until the last possible moment to erect these monuments to human frailty. These temples desperately beg mercy from the gods – they are symbols of humanity’s perpetual lack of control and power – The stone itself symbolizing the weight of the unknown, the mysteries of the universe, and the cavalier handling of human suffering by the deities.
As I write on my laptop, my daughters are both on iPads – one working on a powerpoint presentation about Italy and the other one using drawing tutorials on youtube to improve her skills at creating Manga characters. Hands are forever impossibly difficult.
Their grandfather is in another room aging.
This morning I watched a video of Jimi Hendrix playing his 12 string guitar and I remembered the feeling of hiding in my room at 16 years old listening to “Little Wing” and thinking there was a chance it was all worth it and I might have something to offer the world if I could just live through the next couple of years. A white suburban girl in Pennsylvania saved by Jimi. I did not understand my place in a racist country, my own feminism, nor the dangerous environmental path humans had blazed. What I had was personal desperation and a need to flee. I had no way of understanding all the complexity in that moment but Jimi gave me hope. Transcendent hope. I’ll take it.
As we enter this time named 2017, I’m thinking about being useful, being productive, pushing boulders up hill, and hope. I’m wondering what I can do to guide these young women into the future with confidence, self-sufficiency and the desire to contribute to change. Though I am discouraged and frustrated about the political future of the United States and the steep climb ahead, I’m also dusting off the listening ears of my teenage self and hanging on to the act of productivity as a life force, guiding principle, and meditation.
Put the iPads away, girls, and go outside and get some Sicilian sun. I’ll be cooking and listening to “Little Wing” on headphones. We’ll figure this out too – how to connect the crumbling past with an invented future. Gods be damned.