Sunday, March 6, 2016

Birthday Gifts I

I. The Mongolian Sparrow

I spent my 55th birthday afternoon yesterday at the Third Annual Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the downtown library--
part of a national push to recruit more female editors and to get more women artists in the encyclopedia.
So fun! so great!

Oh--hey, I just searched to see if there are any pictures up---and here I am, signing in, on the Twitter of Amy KH [I don't know her]:

(Gee, my short haircut looks better than I thought. This is a very "me" picture, chatting with the registrants.)

I'd started editing already existing wiki entries last month, you know, but it was super helpful to have face-to-face help with starting a new entry from scratch.

At the end of the afternoon, I went up to the three editing volunteers--typical Wikipedians--that is, geeky young men--and thanked them.

"You've all been editing for years," I said, "so I guess maybe you don't feel so moved anymore… but this is so moving to work on. It's like stone soup, you know---where everyone contributes whatever they have, and you end up with this great thing that shouldn't even work, but it does."
"No, it still can be moving," one of the guys said.
"I'm always moved when something I write gets translated."

The other editors nodded in agreement. "That's amazing when that happens."

"I was really moved the other day," he continued. "Someone had translated my entry on a Mongolian sparrow into Mongolian."

…No, humanity is not all bad, not at all.

II. Gyokuran and the Gift

This rush of disinterested but well-meaning connection---
it feels like being in love. 
The Internet has made possible this enormous gift economy.
Connecting with strangers, from our best selves---the part of us that wants to freely share what we love--that's behind the thrill of fandom too, at least in part. 

And the strangers don't even need to be alive to feel that connection.
I wrote a new entry on a Japanese woman painter, poet, and calligrapher, Ike Gyokuran (1707-1758) 
[note: page still under construction]. 

I chose her from a list of women artists not yet in Wikipedia complied by local art librarians, who'd prepared files of xeroxed reference material for each artist. 

(I chose Gyokoran because I'd studied Japanese history for a couple years at the U---one of the many branch lines of my education....)

She's been dead 242 years, but after I wrote about her, my fingers on the keyboard, I felt I'd met her ---here, in Gyokuran's own handwriting, her poems "Two Autumn Poems" she wrote in her brush-and-ink:

Ah--here's a picture of that sense of connection I'm talking about--
from this weekend's editathon in Paris.  > > 

The feeling reminds me of when I saw Charlotte Bronte's handwritten draft of Jane Eyre at the British Library--
--this shock that this woman had existed, physically in space, just like me.

Gyokuran's calligraphy piece is actually at the art institute a few blocks from me. It's not on display, but maybe I could convince a curator to let me see it in storage.

Art+ Feminism Tumblr 

I may act like an extrovert in public---like in that photo of me, up top, and the way I went around talking to other participants---but I feel socially overwhelmed afterward.  

Lucikly, I'd decided not to gather a group of friends afterward (as I was originally going to do)---I just went out for a cocktail with my sister, her wife, & bink.

I was still so wired when I got home, though, I still couldn't fall asleep for hours.
What a great birthday!


The Crow said...

I'm so glad you had a great day!

Fresca said...

Thanks, Crow---it was somewhat unexpected.
I'd actually been feeling a little sad the past couple days, but I decided to go ahead and do my plans, and they all worked out so well! I'm grateful.

Zhoen said...

Amazing how powerful it is when we humans connect, across time and space. And on a good hair day, too!

Frex said...

ZHOEN: Right!

ArtSparker said...

Sweeeet. Waiting for my neighbor to finish reading something so I can send it along.