Saturday, 10 August 2013

Gods and invisible authors

Imagine this exchange:

'I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."'
Part of a speech made recently by Oprah Winfrey

No no, she was quoting Martin Luther King, who quoted Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

Whatever.  It's a great quote whoever said it.

I imagine that most people would think this mistake was elementary and many Americans might find it insulting.

Let's consider a concrete example from the last few years:

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."     

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela did indeed utter these words and the whole of a section of a book from which this came.  He is not the author of these words.  

If I stand up and say "To be or not to be, that is the question, whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?.."  no one would claim that I wrote 'Hamlet' or forget that Shakespeare wrote the play.  Perhaps people prefer to think the fear speech comes from a known person, rather than an author and speaker in New Age circles.  I see the same process on the internet, where quotes are regularly ascribed to the Dalai Lama, Einstein and a host of other (male) eminent people who did not utter the words originally.

What bemuses me is the reaction of people when corrected.  Groups of people have tried to shout me down, not wishing to believe that Mandela did not author the wise words he spoke, which so fit his stature as demi-God elder statesmen.  Others seem uninterested in Marianne Williamson and dismiss the importance of the author.  I'm willing to bet they'll have forgotten her name and continue to ascribe her words to Mandela for the rest of time.

If a singer records a song written by another performer, the author gets the royalties.  Books can be plundered and the authors loses out.

What if I claimed that Mandela said from his hospital bed:  "Kiss me Hardy!"  I'd hardly close my mouth before people would tell me it was Horatio Nelson on his deathbed, not Nelson Mandela, voices dripping with sarcasm.

I write this post at a time when women are sent anonymous rape and death threats for being outspoken and high profile on social media sites.  Comedians deliver a relentless stream of frigid/horse face jokes about older high profile women such as Hilary Clinton and Camilla Parker Bowles. 

What makes it so difficult for us to accept and feel comfortable with wisdom uttered by women?

Here's the part that Mandela quoted:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

----from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.

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