Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bitter Milk

There's been a book on the table where I'm staying called Bitter Milk.  I've been trying to imagine what it might mean.  Think about it.  What is bitter milk?  Why would it be the title of a book on women and teaching?   Pause a bit and think about it.  I know.  Today we just want the answers.  So most of you are going to rush ahead to see without stopping to think about it.  But such brain exercises are important to keep our grey muscle agile.  But the instant gratification google offers us is making us forgot to take those pauses and let our brains do the thinking.  So look at the clock on your computer screen - better yet if you have a timer set it for 30 seconds - then shut your eyes and think about bitter milk for half a minute.  Yes, you do have 30 seconds to spare.  That's all I ask. 

OK.  That was kind of nice, to close your eyes and think for 30 seconds, wasn't it?  Here's what the author says in the preface:

In Sri Lanka, young women sometimes experience psychotic responses to adolescence as they struggle with the ambivalence provoked by the separation from their families.  In Medusa's Hair the anthropologist Gananath Obeyeskere tells us that these periods of distress are called "dark night of the soul" experiences.  He describes a ritual tonic that the afflicted girls drink to release them from their trouble.  It is called bitter milk and is a mixture of milk and crushed margosa leaves, the same bitter potion that mothers apply to their nipples when they wish to wean their babies.

 I can imagine author Grumet sipping bitter milk and swishing it gently in her mouth as she tastes and feels its meaning:
Bitter milk, fluid of contradictions, love and rejection, sustenance and abstinence, nurturance and denial.
She then goes on to say that these are the contradictions of teaching and her book explores these contradictions as she tries to understand what teaching means to women.  

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Steve, exactly why I returned to university in my 50s. It doesn't much make economic sense, really. But it does to make time to reflect on things again after years of reading for my work, for the advantages of ideas in a competitive field.

    But what have I found? University as factory. Reading for assessment, the tools of metrics.

    So I do the 'work' of university for the degree and habor time to learn privately -- I build my library on and off line; I attend lectures and places of conversation. I guess it's why I'm attending Quakers here. It's that place, in group silence, to roll ideas over the tongue and really taste ideas I encounter.

    There is so much hurry. Slowing to think is a precious, deliberate activity for me -- and I believe, for so many others.

    What do I know? A bit more, a bit at a time.


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