sentimentally so


Here I was feeling all warm and fuzzy about my blog and then I saw a description of it as “sentimental prose.”  It was a nice description which included that the blog is “inspiring” too.  (Thank you, Top 50 Buddhist Blogs.)  Of course, being the sensitive, insecure  type, I immediately sought reassurance: Do they mean “sentimental” as in Emily Dickinson?  Or do you suppose they meant “sentimental” as in Jonathon Livingston Seagull?  Because, you know, Emily I can handle… but seagull sentimental… ewww…

This debate is quite timely though.  I’m trying to embody the realization step of the Third Noble Truth: open-handed awareness of non-duality in my life.  “Suffering and happiness are not two,” says Thich Nhat Hanh.  Sentimental, heartfelt, expressive, weakly emotional, mawkish… Emily and Jonathon are not two, I say to myself.

I chuckle too because can’t think of anyone in my life who would see me as sentimental (in the weakly emotional sense).  Definitely not the Kid who exclaimed one day as I tried to help in a mother-ish, subversively-shrink-ish sort of way: How do people find her SOOTHING!?  Definitely not my friends – what straggly few I have – who once looked at a certain character on a TV show and exclaimed: Hey, That’s Lynette!  Definitely not the insurance companies I fight with despite trying to project my intention to advocate for my patients.  Oh, and then there was this one fellow who was obstructing the ambulance at a crash scene and refused to move because I was a woman ordering him around.  I think he growled something about “Mother…ing” to which I replied, “In this parking lot I’m the only Mamma you got so don’t make me do something I won’t regret.”

And yet, and yet…  I was thinking about many things about this blog.  The language notwithstanding,  there is the issue of transparency about who I am.  Barry wrote a post a few days ago about hiding behind a pseudonym and the problem of such anonymity.  That struck a chord, leaving me wondering about my use of “Genju”  and my reluctance to full disclose aspects of my life.  In part, I’m trying to honour my family’s privacy; however, I note I have put Frank “out there.”  I also rationalize that if you really want to find out more, you’d Google for it.  There are certainly enough traces of identity in the blogs.  The other part of “Genju” is my commitment to embodying the dharma name given to me.  And the final point (if anything is final) is that this is a personal space where I get to be a “me” that is different from the hour-by-hour piecework shrinkology I am/do/be everyday.  But yes, I have been thinking about introducing the other parts of me into this process.

I’ve been thinking about the sentiment (argh!) too.   The intent and tone of the writing is something I try to set with each post – expressive but hopefully not mawkish like some sooty, snooty Victorian.  I certainly feel I’m a poor student copyist of my heroes in Literary Prose and Poetry.  But a congealing of the rhythms and cadence of so many influences is hard to avoid.  It’s like my “accent.”  Drives people crazy trying to figure out where I’m from.  Boston?  Egypt?  (Huh?)  Bermuda?  My only response is “TV.”  It’s true.  Like all refugee kids, I spent my language formative years in front of the Tube, which in my day was an unending transmission of Americana.  So I sound like an amalgam of leftover Brit, a Mouseketeer, and Sgt. Saunders from Combat!  It’s scary when I express sentiments of anger.   That being said, I hope this blog expresses an approximation to a mid-range exploration of the Dharma – albeit through my stumbling gait and, to be honest, being non-controversial.  That’s not to say I don’t have strong opinions about things.  I just don’t care to explore them in this venue – much.   That will change in time and I’m in no rush.

So there you have it: the third turning of the Third Noble Truth.  It is the insight that all things can exist simultaneously and without conflict.  It is also realizing – or making real – the variations on a theme of our experiences.  At this moment, it is the twinge about being perceived as writing sentimental prose and it is the contentment in my attempts to convey my feelings as I practice.

Thank you for practising.

Sentimentally & prosaically yours, I remain


16 thoughts on “sentimentally so

  1. Well, I’ll take Emily-sentimental any time. Would that we could all bring that depth of feeling to our writing and our lives.

    Since I wrote about anonymity, I’ve been thinking about how “social” media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – is fundamentally performative. That is, we use these media to construct a simulacrum of ourselves and then turn that fabrication loose to perform its little dance.

    Even though I’ve just though about this notion over the past couple of days, I’m troubled by it, mostly because it seems so true. I don’t yet understand the implications, but they feel profound. Or maybe it’s just the effects of my morning tea.

    • I meant to comment this on your blog last week, but kept forgetting, but your writing about anonymity really helped surface many of my strugglers learning to live in Asia’s “face” society. I’ve begrudgingly fabricated my own little mask to keep people happy and make work more tolerable. But the depth to which these mask affect the people who try to keep them from slipping off their true faces can be upsettig.

    • I got my first taste of this performative media with the old Compuserve Forums. Talk about creating a persona! Yikes! Maybe it’s still like this but I found the whole process was an excuse for venting and attacking people (not ideas) and had little to do with actually cultivating community.

      I like this brand of tea. Little blog fifedoms where I am Queen of the Bloggo-verse in my own! Hah! Take that! And THAT! 😈

  2. it is interesting what public commentary will bring up for us to examine. kind of like a sliver working its way to the surface.

    transparency is really important to me. this is how I learned the most from my teacher, hearing how she worked with my stuff. it is an offering and for sure we choose what we offer. I think we are always doing the best we can and we can do better.

    all that being said I would never have described you as sentimental. I think you do an interesting thing, digging deeply into your own personal stuff, without exposing the details of your personal life. an interesting combo.

    • Thanks, ZDS. You’re a good role model too, my friend.

      I don’t feel reticent to get into details but it’s really not the form of practice, right. The whole point is to let go of the story edge and dive. Where the storyline plays a role in setting the context, it’s fine to use it as such but otherwise it is… drama.

  3. “Sentimental prose”! I’ve always experienced your writing as a perfect blend of Dharma and personal application; heartfelt, witty and authentic; expressive of your “sentiments” regarding Buddhist practice, but never overly revealing or “sentimental”, and never indulging in storyline stuff… And always true to who you are! I have always found your posts helpful, and as you know, many times they have touched my heart – which I see as a good thing! 🙂 C

    • Awww… you’re too kind! It’s funny how we have a reaction to words even if there is a possibility of a supportive meaning. What a great exploration of projections and practice!

  4. Pingback: Unraveling anonymity and identity « on the precipice

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