DCIB Book Club: Thinky Things Not By Me! Prayer by Anne Lamott, Picture by Edward Hopper, Taylor Swift Song, Discuss!

I can feel my brain melting, so I need to read and talk about thinky things. DCIB Book Club this week, short stuff to consume, big things to think. You can put your thoughts down now, or later. I will keep this post pinned to the top of the page until Monday.

Thoughts on Prayer by Anne Lamott. Excerpt from her book:

https://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/read-an-excerpt-of-anne-lamotts-help-thanks-wow

And NPR interview with her:

https://www.npr.org/2012/11/19/164814269/anne-lamott-distills-prayer-into-help-thanks-wow

This is my favorite Edward Hopper picture. It’s about the experience of seeing a movie in a theater, in a lot of complicated layers and I want to talk about what each of us gets from it:

Les belles heures - Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

And final thing to think about, this Taylor Swift song. It’s something about class and wealth and gender and it’s also based on a real person and I don’t know what all and I want to know your reactions to it:

18 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: Thinky Things Not By Me! Prayer by Anne Lamott, Picture by Edward Hopper, Taylor Swift Song, Discuss!

  1. I’ll start! With the Hopper painting, because I have been staring at it for over a decade in the postcard I keep tacked up somewhere in my apartment at all times.

    I love the painting because I think it captures the unique way that watching a movie in a theater is both shared and isolated, and that is in your control. When watching live theater, there is a contract between the audience and the performers. You can’t look away, you can’t ignore, you can’t leave. But in a movie theater, your only contract is with your fellow audience members. You can choose to join in a convivial experience of shared laughter and emotions. Or, you can remove yourself, stand by the door, flow out of the shared community.

    That’s what I get from it. It reminds me of the many times I have been watching a film in a theater and, for whatever reason, just got overwhelmed and stood up and stood by the door. Somehow that small amount of physical remove made me feel less connected to those around me, more alone with my own emotions instead of sharing theirs.

    (yes, I know if is a painting of an usherette. So it is about more than just removing from the audience, there is class and workplace versus place of enjoyment and all kinds of things. But the above is what I get most out of it)

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    • I’m really glad you started, and that you started with the painting because I didn’t get it. However, perhaps I didn’t get it because I have never gotten overwhelmed and stood up and stood by the door in a movie theater. I’ve closed my eyes, but like a live audience, I’ve always maintained a contract with the screen. I’m paying to see it, so I watch it. So the painting and the sense it is conveying is something I’m not clued into.

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      • It also speaks to me because I worked at a movie theater for 2 years. and there is an odd sensation of all these people coming here for fun, and I am at work. So it also shows that divide, the usherette is removed from the mass audience, because this is her job space while for them it is an entertainment space.

        On Wed, Nov 3, 2021 at 11:06 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I’ll talk about the song. The main thing I get from the song is that Holiday House must be awesome! Because the widow had the funds to move anywhere she wanted, and yet she stayed in that town full of people who hated her. That house must be killer. Great beaches, great weather, great vibe. But filling a swimming pool with champagne is really stupid. Why not just burn money, oh wait, they did that at parties in the past too.

    Musically I found the song charming and simple. However, Wikipedia and other tell me it is super popular and complex. And if this song is complex I wonder how the other stuff I listen to would be described.

    I’m curious how the town is now. I feel my town is culturally dying and slowly rebuilding itself (in an image disagreeable to some). But then often humans externalize things. Perhaps it isn’t the town, but my own relationship to it that is slowly rebuilding itself. Taylor Swift really wants to have a marvelous time ruining everything. I was going to write that she isn’t really scandalous, but that is not true, she is. She stands up forherself in a world where men run the show and that is scandalous. And she writes about her exboyfriends. She may be more scandalous than the woman who used to own her house.

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    • A few years ago, my sister and I took a trip to Newport (the area Holiday House is located in). It’s an odd combo place. It is stunningly beautiful, there are real natural elements that cannot be denied. But because of that beauty, it became a status spot, a place where the rich and powerful built houses. So do you keep your house in this beautiful place even though you are surrounded by snobs obsessed with status and their insular world? Or do you give up your beautiful house to avoid the people? The real life person really did everything said in the song. She was a divorcee from the Midwest who married into old East Coast money, after her husband died she founded her own ballet company and burned through her inheritance on parties and fun. It’s not what the neighbors liked, and it was a “waste” of money, but was it more of a waste than just sitting on generational wealth and being stuffy?

      And would she have been so over the top if she hadn’t been surrounded by people who kept criticizing her and being shocked at her actions?

      And then comparing her with Taylor, in the present day Taylor has options to express her rebellion beyond big parties. She can have a career, she can give interviews, she can try to change things, she isn’t locked into “scandalous divorcee” land forever.

      And I suspect that first conflict I mention is what you are dealing with? You live somewhere stunningly beautiful, which attracts a lot of people. Do you stay for the beauty even if the people around you are changing?

      On Wed, Nov 3, 2021 at 11:17 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I am the change that the people around me don’t like. Before my kids were in the school system it didn’t matter so much, right now it is kinda rough. I’ve lived here since 2004, you don’t count as a local unless you went to high school here. I don’t know if all small towns are stuck in high school, or just this one. Perhaps Newport is like the Philadelphia line with it’s social register, it’s own permanent rich boarding school of families. It doesn’t matter what the former owner did, the fact that she was simply there was a scandal in and of itself.

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          • I voted for Biden… AND I didn’t go to high school here. And yet if you look at my family’s choices we are very conservative. The current labels society has are useless.

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  3. That picture is interesting. The usherette seems like the only real person in the room, standing in the light like that. She might as well be the star of the piece, waiting for a Q&A session. She even has an appropriately bored look.

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    • Oh, that’s another interesting way to think of it! The audience has become non-people, they are swept away into a fictional landscape, living in a land of shadow and dark. The usherette is the only one still in the harsh light of the real world, seeing things as they truly are.

      I love Hopper so much.

      On Thu, Nov 4, 2021 at 11:38 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. No one has discussed the Anne Lamott essays yet, so I’m gonna dig into them. She posits that prayer is a natural human reaction, for instance when you get shockingly good news (your cancer is in remission, for instance), you say automatically hang up the phone and say “thank you thank you thank you”.

    Who are you thanking? Does that even matter? Why is it that our natural human response to good news is to say “thank you”? Is that because God exists and so we thank him? Or because there is somethiing in how our brain is designed that leads us to believe in a separate higher power? Or is it because God designed our brain that way? Or because evolution favored those who have a sense of some higher something in their heads because it is a good survival mechanism?

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    • I can only believe in the last explanation, evolution. But to me that doesn’t rule out that there might be a higher power behind the physical universe we can observe – one that’s pretty benevolent to let us have that psychological power of prayer.

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      • I’ve landed on if it is an evolutionary tool, then it is something I should be using. It must be useful, not destructive, or else it would have been evolved away. So I’m gonna keep praying, even if all it does is make me feel better.

        On Thu, Nov 4, 2021 at 3:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Anything that makes you feel better is always something you should be using – especially if it does so without even inconveniencing others.

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    • hmmm. I’m gonna say that humans instinctively thank because there is something to thank. You can call that something God, or a universal spirit, or Ram, or Mother Earth, or Zeus, or your Ancestor Uncle Jim. I kinda trust humans, if we instinctively think there is something to thank, then I think there is something to thank. But of course, I am human, so naturally I would think so.

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      • Yeah, at a certain point neuroscience makes my head hurt. We all think this thing is true, but here is a actual picture of our brain showing why we all think this thing. But does that change the fact that we all think that thing?

        On Fri, Nov 5, 2021 at 10:46 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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