in a Woman's
By Lynette Abel
It was 1933 and America was in
the midst of the
Great Depression--over 13 million people were unemployed,
had lost their homes. There were hundreds of thousands of men
the country for work, people standing on long bread lines. President
Franklin Roosevelt had asked Frances Perkins to be his Secretary of
the first woman to hold a cabinet post. She said yes, but only if he
to all the legislation she wanted, which was to become the basis for
New Deal program, including federal aid to states for unemployment
public works to provide jobs, abolition of child labor, establishing
hours of work, minimum wages, and social security. Frances
had a great awareness of what was needed to bring immediate relief to
Americans, and what would protect their future.
Tonight I'll comment on aspects of her life, and what I learned about
Fight between Boredom and Awareness in a Woman's Mind."
Where Does This Fight Begin?
In his preface to Self and
This fight corresponds to
Realism shows is the large fight in everyone: between our desire to
the world, see meaning in it, and another desire which dulls and
our minds, to have contempt, to look down on other people.
To be bored
by the world is
wearisome, but…it is a victory for the individual. We are in a
between being bored and being aroused. Being bored is a victory
ubiquitous contempt. Interest is on the side of respect as one’s
As a child, I was excited about taking dance lessons, and because I
decide which interested me more, I got to take both tap and
I loved listening to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and each time I
it, I became aware of new things--how violins and oboes could produce
enabling you to visualize a duck, a wolf, a boy, and his
But I remember too, often feeling painfully bored with everything,
my mother over and over, “What can I do?” and quickly dismissing
Growing up with 3 brothers and 2 sisters, I was competitive with them
to most everything: who got to ride in the front seat of the car, who
to see their television show, who got the remains of the fudge pan,
feeling the big thing was what was coming to me. I was making
between wanting to have a keen awareness of things and what they
and wanting to dull things over and see myself as the only thing of
In the 6th grade before a holiday, each student exchanged names with
and was to buy a $2 gift. I bought a box of 8 rolls of lifesavers for
I thought she would love. Joan could not afford to buy me anything, and
gave me her beloved baton. I soon became aware she felt awful about
with it, and I insisted she take it back. I hadn’t really known
then, that some people were so poor they couldn’t even afford $2.
This experience made me deeper, more thoughtful.
But I also could be contemptuously unaware of the feelings of others.
is a mix-up, because we want to see things and we want to protect
from seeing,” Mr. Siegel said in his lecture on awareness, “People do
awareness not to be aware: that is, they watch out not to see too
When I'd drive through an impoverished area of Alexandria, Virginia,
see dilapidated shacks, instead of feeling compassion for the people
in them, and outrage at this injustice, I callous-ly thought, "Why
they get a job." My desire "not to see too much," to be superior to
had big repercussions. I became increasingly immured in myself,
fearful around other people. Once, while at the Mt.
Club, I wanted everyone to be aware of me. Wearing a colorful,
moo moo over my bathing suit, I thought it would be charming to spring
off the diving board with it on. But after jumping in, the moo
enveloped my head and I couldn’t breathe. Frantically struggling with
I finally ripped it off gasping for air—I almost drowned. Embarrassed
shook up, I hadn't been aware of this consequence.
In High School, though I liked French, when I found I needed to study
interest waned. And just weeks after I began taking chemistry, I
felt “What could I possibly need it for?” More and more things I
I’d like, I was deciding I didn’t need. In an Aesthetic Realism
years later, Eli Siegel explained:
Every person has a
to be bored. Being bored is the same thing as trying to prove
has done one any good. To be bored is to be a conqueror….Contempt
has been the key to many a dreary door.