Inspired by Christine DePizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), as translated by Earl Jeffrey Richards.
How is it that so many of them––learned, too––seem to speak from the same mouth, painting us with every vice they wish to wash from themselves, and why? This was my question.
Then came three women and the first among them said, Daughter, build a city. Make it of lasting beauty, and you will draw forth waters from the heavens.
I considered the births of other divinely inspired cities: Troy, Thebes. I recalled their ruin and said so. But the women insisted: This one would not be taken or conquered. Lay a strong foundation, they insisted. Set it deep. Get up, daughter. Go where earth abounds. We will help you carry it.
I asked, why do they revile us? She told me only, carry dirt. Then she added, no justice can come from their ignorance.
They explained that some derive pleasure from slander of what mystifies them. Others are moved by awareness of their own defects, and others by jealousy of anything they cannot own. Leave them, they told me, and avoid attachment to their tools.
Look closely, they insisted. They explained: these opinions only pretend to be based in reason. By claiming to own reason, they deny its essence with the same breath by which they mean to deny you access to their ill-begotten power.
The path to what is true may be narrow, but it leads to such abundance that no one who follows it to its natural end could ever consider keeping it to themselves, since such innate greed of purpose would naturally bar them from their destination.
No one can take away what nature has given, but many will deny what she is, attempting to hoard her abundance for themselves, by creating the dragon’s lairs that are their own demise.
I had more questions, but they became impatient with my need to know. Don’t be as they are, they insisted. Get up. Carry dirt. Go.
The above meditation was inspired by this morning’s reading of DePizan’s excellent theological critique of misogyny. I borrow some phrases from the original (translation), but rely more heavily on impressions, blurring the lines slightly to create a more encompassing critique (to include not only overt misogynists but anyone attempting to hoard access to truth and power by demeaning any other living group, including the non-human species of the earth), and to heighten the call to recognition of the vital flaw at the heart of this life-killing move while attempting to magnify the resonance of its answer, a call to return to a holistic, generous sense of logic, justice, and development rooted in a sense of abundance (rooted in an understanding of life) rather than scarcity (which has its roots in fear of the unknown/ death).