It should probably not be surprising that so many of the offerings, musical and oratorial, sounded notes of hope and vision. Hope and vision are qualities we like to associate with the Women’s Center, that we hope others also associate with the Women’s Center, and that we heard last night people do over and over associate with the Women’s Center.
Still, I have my theories. And one is that there is, indeed, a new mood of hope and a new sense of genuine possibility moving in our context. Johanna Bos, in her opening remarks, referred to the congratulations, smiles, and hopeful blessings communicated to her by strangers-become-well-wishers as she returned to the US after a sojourn in Europe, on November 5. It feels like something is happening.
Another (theory, this is) is that we partisans of the Women’s Center actually know what we’re doing, and do a reasonably good job of communicating it. We know that the mission of the Women’s Center (“the equality and dignity of all women, including in religious professions”) is a utopian one, in the best sense of that word, in that it is a call to the prophetic imagination and the hopefulness that energizes it, and we know that all the practical work we do is about communicating the imaginative possibilities of new worlds beyond the conventional, sadly-gender-bound one in which we find ourselves.
On that reading, it is no surprise that Johanna cites Emmanuel Levinas’ formulation “infinite possibilities,” once again, as the horizon towards which the Women’s Center leans. It is no surprise that perspicacious students talk about becoming carriers of the vision, or stretching out like “ribbons in the wind of hope.” [We will try to post some of those remarks here, as they become available. “Why a Women’s Center,” Heather Thiessen]
But I don’t have a theory, really, to account for the precise commentary on that utopian vision provided by the evening’s music. There was Cheri Harper’s and Christine Coy-Fohr’s hilarious send-up of the Femmebot 50’s show tune “I Enjoy Being a Girl” — in case we were in doubt about what we were trying to get beyond. There was Jorge Gonzales’ moving acoustic cover of Brett Dennen’s “Heaven” — in case we needed some images of what we were trying to imagine. There were Loren Townsend’s jazz/blues improvisations, reminding us — if we were paying attention — that there’s always more than one way to play any score. And there was Jorge’s and Claudio Carvalhaes’ duet, of a song Claudio introduced simply as “a love song,” in Portuguese, or Spanish, or both — not languages I know, except for maybe a few words: mi corazon, porque, no se. All I know is that the refrain brought tears to my eyes. Why? I don’t know.
But I have a theory. Because there was another word in it I think I know: La feliz. Happiness.
I could be wrong. But maybe every profound meditation on happiness has the power to bring tears of joy and longing to our eyes. Because as Adorno said, “all happiness is a pledge of what has not yet been . . .”* — the pole star of the infinite possibilities, the direction of the tell-tale ribbons, fluttering on the wind of hope.
[* Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E.B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, 1995), 352.]