Made by Monica

One time, about 1989, my fifth grade teacher’s mom got “the sugars, “ which is another way of saying “diabetic seizures,” and she had to take a month off school to travel home to take care of things. Long-term subs were hard to get so they hired the father of one of my fellow students, Mr. Ocwat, to take her place. I don’t recall why they chose a man with zero teaching experience who had been laid off from his job at the rendering plant, but I think because he had some military experience they figured he could handle a room full of kids. Because that made a lot of sense.

So. Anyway. Three days in, he got tired of teaching the traditional curriculum and decided to teach what he called, “Ocwat Life Lessons,” which included things like using pennies to whittle sticks into spears, beer can archery, auto part dissection, and one time he got the local grocer to give us a pile of too-old-to-sell cantaloupes so we could play what he called, “a real man’s dodge ball.”

So that was fun.

On a rainy Tuesday, after he skipped the pledge of allegiance to karaoke the pants off Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire, Mr. Ocwat rolled in the TV cart and explained to us that we would learn about ancient Rome by experiencing the greatest film that was ever made. A movie, “So true in heart, even Jesus would weep his own blood upon the cross thinking of this man’s journey.”

The movie was Stanley Kubrick’s 1960, Spartacus.

Now, I don’t know if you have seen this movie, or maybe you saw one of the remakes, or the televison show, or the video game, or some clips on Youtube, so I’m going to give you the recap (*spoiler alert ahead*):

Dude is born a slave and gets sold to a gladiator trainer.
Lots of blood and death.
Dude gets good at gladiatoring and killing people and turns on trainer.
More blood and death.
Dude frees slaves.
Not so much blood for a while.
Dude and slaves run.
Big blood and death.
The end.

In general, gladiator movies are wildly inappropriate to show to classroom of fifth graders, but I’ll admit there is something to be said for the learning curve. I would tell you it’s a hero’s story of survival, but the hero ends up dead. So yeah. Not so great on the survival front.

There is a famous scene at the end when Kurt Douglas has to reveal his identity and essentially volunteer to get his white butt killed, so he regretfully steps forward and is all, “I am Spartacus” and then one by one all the slaves stand up in their dirty chains and say “I am Spartacus.” “No, I AM SPARTICUS!” “No dude, I am Spartacus!” and it goes on an on until all of them all join in. It’s VERY emotional. And even as a 10-year-old, I totally cried at this moving gesture of loyalty. Oh my lord, did I cry an ugly thing. That movie may have been the first time I cried at a movie for something other than a dog dying or a horse getting swallowed by mud (HOLY CRAP WAS THAT MOVIE TRAUMATIZING). Anyway. I have a point here. Thing is, Spartacus, the movie, starts with scene after scene of gruesome violence and death for sport, and it ends in violence and death for kindness. The contrast is staggering. There is a very clear moral divide between the good people and the bad people and that divide is what drives the story. It’s probably what drives most stories, but I digress.

My 10-year-old takeaway on that movie was this: Only bad people enjoy watching others in pain and struggling; only good people do not enjoy seeing others in pain and will always, always, defend those when they are most vulnerable.

Ever since that movie, I have assumed I was a good person. I would never expect another person to suffer for my entertainment and I would look down on those who did not know better. Even as a child, I watched the gladiator arena spectators and wondered who in their right mind would find entertainment in watching another human being torn apart? Who are these idiots? Why would people seek this out? Who would ever volunteer to be a participating audience member to something so merciless, painful and mortifying?

Who are these people?

sparticus-lewinsky

Fast-forward 26 years to today. This afternoon. After just now watching Monica Lewinsky’s Ted talk and I realize the horrifying truth: I am these people.

Look, Monica Lewinsky is many things, and I don’t pretend to know all of them, but I do know that she is arguably the first person to have her life ruined by the internet.

And I contributed to that.

Back in 1998, when she was all over the news, I spectated with everyone else. I made fun of her. I made fun of her dress. I blamed her for giving interns a bad name. I scorned her for capitalizing on her infamous name by writing a book and becoming a spokesperson. I don’t think I ever blamed her for what my then-roommate Lena called, “Bringing the whole damn country down. That b*itch should to be tried for treason!” but I didn’t vocally disagree with Lena either.

Deep down I think I always felt a certain kinship for Monica Lewinsky. As someone around the same age, and as a fellow member of Team Chubby Girl, and as someone who had skeletons in her closet from a too-early age, I felt something for her. Also, she had really good hair. Even with that, I felt sorry for her, but not sorry enough to back off. Watching that woman being humiliated was a blood sport, and back then, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Knowing what I now know about humanity, it is wonder – no, a miracle – that she survived.

If you have not watched Monica’s Ted Talk, I would encourage you to schedule 20 minutes this week to do so. If you can watch it with a young person, even better. I don’t care where you stand on the political spectrum, but if you are anything like me, you’ll find yourself at least a little bit humbled. It is funny that her speech is self-refrencially titled The Price of Shame, and here I am the one who is feeling shameful.

I made lots of notes from her talk, but one of the most noticeable is the concept of Upstanders – this is a new term in my vocabulary – people who are the first to demonstrate empathy with those in their moment of humiliation, however unsympathetic the case might be.

And perhaps that is the issue there; sympathy verses empathy. If shame cannot survive empathy, then certainly empathy is what we need to make most. I know you guys come here looking for some DIY-decorative-crafty thing with glue guns, and that’s usually what I’m doing, but sometimes, like today, I need to work on making empathy. I need to work on making compassion. I set up this blog hoping it would be a learning center for woman like me who love to create and share over the internet, but, if there is one thing you ever learn how to make on this site, I hope it will be what I learned today. I hope it will be something made by Monica.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Spring B. says

    Beautiful, funny, thought-provoking post. I love painting coffee filters and putting glitter on all the things, but I’ll happily relinquish my glue gun today to read this post and think these thoughts. Well, done, ma’am.

    • aunt peaches says

      Thanks so much, Spring!

  2. Shayne says

    An excellent post and the video is well worth watching. Your crafts are lovely, but I personally visit your site for these sorts of posts.

  3. Tess says

    Good stuff! You’re right Peaches. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Linda says

    Spot on, thoughtful and thought provoking. Thank you for this Peaches.
    These are the posts that make you my favourite. The nugget from childhood = gold!

    • aunt peaches says

      Thanks Linda. Weird childhoods pay off in good ways 🙂

  5. Rook says

    I think it’s safe to say that we have all done and said things that we are not proud of. But you know, it’s how we learn. We can either feel shame about it for the rest of our lives, or use that as a tool to become better. It’s what life is all about. Have you ever heard of mirror neurons? they are connected with empathy. What it is is that when you do a task, your neurons fire a specific way for that task. If I watch you doing that task, my neurons fire in the same way, as if I am doing the same task as you! So, when I watch a video of you doing something cool with glue and paint, my brain is actually responding in the same way, as if I am actually doing it too! We are all connected, Peaches. We learn from our mistakes. We are all Spartacus! xox

    • aunt peaches says

      You always have such great insight, Rook. I have heard of mirror neurons but I need to read more. It’s weird…For a long time now, Google analytics has told me that 80% of people who come to this site spend around 78 seconds. To my way of thinking, that means I have 78 seconds to expose that person to something visually happy/colorful/sparkly/joyous. Even if they never do anything with it, I’m going after that exposure. That is my contribution. I cannot stop war or famine or cure cancer, but I can be a ready source of visually happy distractions in under 78 seconds. I don’t want to put out things that will encourage people to change their life or spend lots of money, I just want to provide an exposure to something creative and hope that circles back in a bigger way later on. There are thousands of folks on the internet providing that same service for me every day, so it’s a full circle thing really. It’s a reciprocal privilege.

      ANYHOOTERS. On the subject of reflective neurons. That reminds me of the Dr. Emoto experiments. Do you know them? He studied water that was exposed/infused to positive and negative stimuli…water that was infused with love/kindness crystalized into “organized” patterns…water that was exposed to sadness/anger crystalized into scattered fragments. Fascinating. I just googled his name and this little video came up. Facinating stuff. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIOx7i7MkY8

      • says

        Oh yeah! I have his book: The Hidden Messages in Water! We are mostly water, sooooooooo positive/negative effects us similarly, imho of course. But, within the realm of your post, because you think something negative about someone, therefore becoming scattered in a crystalline way, I definitely think that we can change our “shape/form” simply by changing our thought process on whatever matter. So those bad thoughts you had about Monica, have now been changed and they are sparkly, beautiful thoughts! We *can* change. We *can* effect things in a positive way. Simply by being positive! Trust me, your posts (which I read everytime I get one) totally change me every time. Im a glitter bomb waiting to explode. So, Thanks! No, none of us–alone–can change war or famine, etc. BUT as a group, I believe that the more joy we put out, the more things will change for the better. We are literally all (everything) connected, all atoms are intertwined Love Rook xoxo

  6. Cathy says

    This may be my all time favorite post! From hilarious childhood memory to humble self-reflection to valuable life skill. Making Empathy! Genius! (Hope you are feeling better.)

    • aunt peaches says

      That is really sweet of you to say, thanks Cathy!

  7. Madison says

    Only bad people enjoy watching others in pain and struggling; only good people do not enjoy seeing others in pain and will always, always, defend those when they are most vulnerable.

    Damn. That hit me right in the gut. I’ve always tried to live my life this way, but have never quite known how to express it. It reminds me a lot of this Avett Brother’s song:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNkDNy0bDfM

    Thanks, as always, for your wonderful words of wisdom.

  8. Jane says

    Good post! I think your substitute teacher did a pretty good job with his “life lessons”! The cantaloupe dodge ball sounds so funny — can you imagine how he’d have been fired after one day in this era?! I remember seeing Spartacus too – bloody but moving. Anyway, I saw the Monica video a day or two ago and found it also very moving. She’s a remarkable survivor! Your lesson for us today about empathy is an excellent one. Thank you!

  9. Janet Wilson says

    Wow. That was really good. I’m so thankful that you shared it. Important stuff and moving story.

  10. LeAnne Osburne says

    thanks for saying it right! You should share this with Monica.

  11. Deb in Oklahoma says

    Your lesson today is what the 20-year-old coed working at my office would call “A grown-up adult life lesson”: the realization of something big that changes how she deals with or views the world from this point forward.

    Humans are pretty tenacious and resilient animals. When the Monica scandal first broke, it was appalling how vicious and cruel everything became in the media, by the public, and on the Internet. Perhaps this ignited, in part, the age of bullying we are now dealing with daily–faceless, horrible attitude and opinions voiced loudly for no good reason, It hurts my heart to hear about people who have this inflicted upon them. My questions are always, “What purpose does this behavior serve? Why treat people like this? Is this helping or hurting?” Monica has shown how tough she is and has bounced back to make her place in the world something beyond a public scandal.

    Excellent Friday column, Peaches!

  12. meg says

    peaches, i recently left a similar comment on design*sponge–but it’s equally heartfelt here, too: it’s these kinds of real, open, honest, “i’m a human talking to you as a human” kinds of posts that make me a loyal reader. i love the pretties (glitter!) and the funnies (dance costumes!), but THIS kind of post is what makes me stick around for longer than 78 seconds. blog revenue is a scary world, but please know that even though this kind of post is impossible to tie to some kind of ad or sponsor or direct money, it’s what keeps me coming back again and again and again. thanks for everything–sparkly, funny, and heartfelt–you share in this beautiful corner of the internet.

  13. Amy says

    I love these types of posts as much as ones that include glue guns.

  14. Lisa says

    Peaches, you have a gift for putting into words things that many of us know and are unable to voice in any where as wonderful a way. Like others have said, these thought provoking posts of yours are what makes us such loyal visitors to your world. Keep it up!

  15. LindaSonia says

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Nicole says

    This post is one of the many reasons I actually READ your content and do more than a “drive by”. Keep doing what your doing, by thinking and testing ourselves we are ever evolving to be better humans. Your story reminds me of my favorite teacher, in 6th grade she played the unedited version of Parenthood. Back in 1990 it was quite the scandal and she got in trouble for it, but boy did I have some eye opening lessons from it. 😉

  17. says

    THIS is why I always come back here … the crafts are awesome, but your insights and wisdom are your truest talents, Peaches.

    Thank you for all the giggles AND all the tears.

  18. shanna says

    I’ve always lied this blog, but now I like you.

    • shanna says

      Oops! Liked, not lied.

  19. Heather says

    It’s only good people who understand they sometimes they aren’t as good as they want to be. It’s no easy thing to realize that and forgive ourselves the way we would someone else, especially someone young and trusting.

  20. says

    Preach it, sister!! LOVED this post. Thanks for sharing it so beautifully!

  21. Carol A Jensen says

    I’m glad I signed up the other day for your blog. This post was a real eye-opener; I thought I was alone in my feelings of shame. Thank you.

  22. says

    Thank you for giving what you have felt and thought and understood about yourself. Empathy is the big one. As the Dali Lama tells us, “My religion is kindness”. Everyday, give some.
    Erica

  23. Emily says

    I loved Monica’s talk too, but have to disagree on one point — the pursuit of empathy is problematic, in that it’s often a narcissistic exercise (eg it becomes about the feelings of the empathizer). The Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has written some very interesting and insightful recent articles on this that relate to a book he has coming out, called Against Empathy — well worth a read: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/05/20/the-baby-in-the-well

  24. Nancy says

    Once again, I am reminded of your powerful insights. Loved the post and the inspired encouragement for more empathy. You always bring the best.
    xo,
    N.

  25. Gill Waddington says

    People who stay on Peaches’ blog for 78 seconds…WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? x

  26. Merri says

    Thank you, thank you for sharing this…as well as your own story.You’re so brave and beautiful.

  27. Rhonda says

    I ran across this post from you while browsing Pinterest but I had to stop and read it and watch the video. My daughter was bullied a lot during Jr. High and High school and I have so often wanted to get involved in someway to make things better for these kids that are bullied. Long story short- I shared the Monica video on my FB page and hope that all of you that have watched this video and read aunt Peaches posts will also.
    Thank you Aunt Peaches for being the kind of person I feel REALlY good about following!,

  28. Susan Clements says

    emails weekly please

  29. Linda R says

    I wanted to do a design by making wholes in the eggshells of an egg, but I saw a picture where the memrane was still on the inside of the egg. How do you blow out eggs so that the egg shell will not have the membrane still attacked? I saw someone talking about it before I decided I really wanted to do it myself so I don’t remember what she said to do!!! Anyone how to get rid of the membrane? And does the Mod Podge work when the membrane is still in the egg?

  30. Linda R says

    Sorry–one more question!! What is the best way to get gold or silver on the egg to make it look like gold leaf??? Your eggs above are gorgeous!! Love the gold on those!!

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