Archive for January, 2015

19
Jan
15

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

– Martin Luther King, Jr.,  A Testament Of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches 

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last work was to support the sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee. The following is an excerpt from a documentary on their story and excerps from King’s speeches in support of their efforts.

 

12
Jan
15

Day by day by day … je suis humaine

Day by day by day … je suis humaine

Summer 2014, Harrison, Maine. Photo: Malissa Smith

I’ve been attempting to work through the recent terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newsweekly—and thereby attempt, in some small way to write about it.

For the French, the three days of carnage beginning with the horrific murder of 12 staff members, including four renowned cartoonists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, by Said and Cherif Kouachi, has been an agonizing period of anxiety and pain. In all, 17 people were horribly murdered including a young policewoman, a jogger and four shoppers in a Kosher supermarket who were all apparently gunned down by another in the Kouachi brother’s “terrorist cell,” Amedy Coulibaly.

For those of us in New York who lived through the experience of the World Trade Center terror attack on September 11, 2001, there is an acute understanding of the almost out-of-body dissociation one can feel living through the moment-by-moment experiences of that sort of horror. We are, after all, merely ordinary, perhaps showing courage in our daily lives, and perhaps not, but certainly not prepared for the kind of terror that a Kalashnikov wielding “crazy” brings.

New York City street sceneIf I am being disingenuous at all, it is in the sense that we people who live in cities do come to understand that there are those intangibles: Cars that suddenly veer off and cause havoc and death in a restaurant storefront, or the running gun play of teens that may careen in through a window, putting a small child in harms way. Not to mention, the daily violence in families that spill out into “social services” pretty much unnoticed except for the truly horrific ones that end up on the covers of the tabloids. Still, those truly terrifying experiences do not seem to equate with the other kind of sudden violence in the cocoon of our western democracies—and go against our sense of decency, right and wrong, and collectively at least, if not individually, our sense that such things as cartoons that satirize religion and politics, are just this side of “okay” in the scheme of things, even if they tend to be on the edge or even over the line of distasteful. What they are not, are killing offenses by self-proclaimed executioners in the name of one ideological or religious belief or another.

What I keep asking myself is this. Are our beliefs really that tenuous? Are they that uncertain, that a cartoon, really, a cartoon can be so offensive as to warrant the murder of 12 people?

I write that having figured that if what I believe is strong and certain, I, me, the individual, can well afford to be magnanimous in accepting that others may not agree or share my point of view. Thus I would never consider that the words of another would so shake me to the core of my being that I would jump at the chance to “right” the perceived “wrong” by choosing to kill as many nonbelievers as I could as I made my way to whatever Valhalla I figured I was entitled to for my “acts.”

The giant, “ugh” aside—at any given moment on our beautiful earth, just such things occur day by day by day in both religious and sectarian struggles all the in the name of a greater something or other. Or, to bring down to the ground, even to the level of a power struggle between two partners where one feels the right to bash the other senseless in the name of being “right.”

Paris march, January 11, 2015, Credit: Time MagazineAnd while it was heartening to know that 3.7 million persons marched in Paris yesterday in solidarity to reaffirm the principles of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Freedom and Fraternity), I am fearful of the backlash to terrorism that can just as easily sweep through to give us yet more examples of the ugliness of revenge on the ordinary, the “us” that is not quite us that devolves into further violence and extremism.

It is the misadventure of well-intentioned reactions that scares me just as much as the acts of terrorism themselves. And having lived through the daily miasma of misery inflicted on ordinary citizens caught in the cross fire of acts for and against terrorism, I remain fearful—and perhaps the tiniest bit cynical about what the future will bring.

My best self, however, knows that just such ideals as freedom and peace and love live on anyway.

After all, in the midst of acts of terror the world over, two-alarm fires, police slowdowns, and the kind of cold that almost demands that one turn over after the alarm goes off to burrow that much deeper under the covers, by 10:30 AM this past Saturday morning, Gleason’s Gym was full of men and women in varying stages of their workouts. A quick glance showed the Give A Kid A Dream youngsters shadowboxing alongside boxing professionals in front of the mirror, amateur fighters putting in rounds ahead of the Golden Gloves, and fighters sparring in all of Gleason’s four boxing rings.

For me, sweaty from five great rounds sparring with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore, the scary fever dreams of terror were suitably buried in one recess of my mind or another. And while I have shed tears for the victims, and will likely go to Synagogue this Friday in solidarity with the French victims at the kosher supermarket in Paris, I will try hard to push forward with a smile, with little thought given to the crazies with Kalashnikovs. They are, despite their seeming out-sized appearances, a really, really tiny portion of the world, which is mostly occupied by persons going about their day in the struggles that define us.

Leastways, that is what I hope for, even if the blue meanies hit me square in the nose sometimes with darker thoughts. Oh well. Je suis humaine.

 

01
Jan
15

A Thousand Strikes

A Thousand Strikes

women-boxing

 

Having been nursing a miserable cold over the last week that has left me a sniffling, sneezing, foggy-headed wreck, I’d almost lost sight of the looming New Year. Sure, I’ve been aware of it—and have even felt myself in an interregnum of sorts eschewing anything particularly new, or when it comes to writing, even engaging in anything more rigorous than pithy “all my best wishes of the season” notes on holiday cards.

Now that the first day of 2015 has arrived, I can certainly say that I have been busy for a good portion of it taking care of chores (laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, and attending to social media), making New Year’s Hoppin’ John (the vegetarian version—an anathema, I’m sure, to the memory of my mother-in-law, and anyone with southern roots for that matter, who’d have surely had a fair amount of fat back added to it), continuing to nurse my cold (finally, seemingly, on the mend, though I’m still pretty foggy), and even catching a bit of a bowl game with my husband.

With all of that done, along with a few naps, it’s time to tackle the real part of my day—which is to ponder the boldness that a new year can bring to one’s life, along with the grand gestures that can punctuate one’s entry into them.

A Thousand Bokken Strikes on Rockaway Beach 01012015Whether it’s a thousand word blog post, a thousand strikes with a Japanese wooden bokken on Rockaway Beach, a thousand folded paper cranes to commemorate peace, a thousand jabs to start off a trip back to the boxing gym, or a thousand crisp cramp rolls on a tap dancing board, embracing the things one loves, by doing it to the count of one thousand is a brilliant way to begin or reaffirm one’s commitment to it.

Let’s face it, our lives get away from us and with rare exception most of us are at least tripled up with commitments at any given moment—not to mention our feelings of disappointment, angst, grief, anger and guilt at our inability to put the time in to the things that we consider are at the heart of what’s important to us.

Given the year I’ve just had, which was nothing short of miraculous when I consider that I published a book on the sport of women’s boxing, not to mention having reengaged in my own boxing pretty much every week all year—oh, and taken up tap dancing too—there were still the bits that I hadn’t done, such as blog regularly, work consistently on my next book and ensure that my family is taken care of in the way they should be.

With the New Year though, I have the opportunity to sort through those things that have meaning and the things that can be jettisoned, and having distilled it down—my thousand “somethings” are the thousand words of this post which constitute my way of saying writing’s the thing.

Blog posts about women’s boxing and whatever else catches my fancy, poems, essays, diatribes, and yep, “the book” are the purview of my reaffirmation to wordsmithing. And not just writing, but also finding the fun in writing and dare I say it, the joy of writing because, yes, it is a joy. A tremendous I-can-say-anything-I-want, action of plucking goodness knows what out of my thought processes and having it translated onto the page through fingers that dance and clickety-clack over the keys of my laptop.

Yes, JOY damn it! Writing can be joy—not a chore, not working to a deadline, not what the editor says or wants—but writing for the sake of it, because one can, because words can bring out ideas one never knew one had, because words have a magic and are, in my estimation as potent as anything an alchemist can conjure up. And importantly, because this year I am sixty, and if I can’t embrace the go-where-my-mind-wants-to-take-me journey that writing can be now—then when?

And, at least for me—and perhaps for all of us—that is the point, isn’t it? If not now, then when, whatever one’s passion, be it pottery, politics, winning a world championship belt (the way Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis did this past year) or being the best-damned cramp roller in the world.

All of these things amount to wonderful journeys—akin in some ways to the great pilgrimages. One sets out on a journey from point A to point B and through that process one can experience each point along the arc of A to B as transformative. Perform a jab a thousand times, and one begins to feel what it is like to really throw a jab. One will also have the chance to notice that jab number 10 will be different than jab number 860—tiredness aside, one will have a fluidity of action, an ease, a sense of accomplishment and the momentum to carry on forward to one’s goal.

For each one thousand “somethings,” one can journey on to the next one thousand or to whatever constituent sets one decides upon, but one will have already made one’s start, one’s leap into the thing that gives energy and joy and a myriad of other emotions and feelings that commitment can bring.

One can also find how those things tie in together. For me while writing is the thing, boxing and tap dancing are the physical embodiments of letting words unfold on the keyboard. By learning to maneuver in the ring with my trainer, Lennox Blackmoore, or by learning new tap dance sequences and steps from Michaela Marino-Lerman, I’m enacting ways to trust my instincts and my ability to do so with fluidity—all of a piece when I think about it, because for me writing is an exercise in being bold, brave and fearless without which, the writing process ends up being a lot like cheating at solitaire.

If I can offer anything, it is to say that if one possibly can, do attempt to embrace the things that have meaning, and then do it a thousand times!




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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