I love history, philosophy; people. Looking to the past to find potential in the present.
The book in the center I bought, skimmed lightly, and gave away. The woman I gave it to, gave it back and insisted I read it. I read more of it, then gave it away again. It came back to me; I gave it away again. I asked for it back. The book profiles famous women seductresses from Cleopatra to Gloria Steinem, from adventurers and artists to queens. Through their examples, the author, Betsy Prioleau, examines the role of women as visionaries and change agents.
Last Tuesday, it occurred to me to look at the book again. Sure enough, under scholar-sirens, I found a profile of Madame Germaine de Staël. Of course the book kept returning.
Prioleau writes that Germaine fused brains and eros, exalting women and feelings. “Her two fictional characters, modeled on herself, introduced a revolutionary new woman to Western culture: a rebellious, autonomous, high-souled queen of thought who seduces men with her brains and conversation.” Germaine believed that the “governing sensibility of society should be liberal, imaginative, and passionate.” Dedicating her life to the struggle for liberty, she defined freedom as the right of the human spirit to progress. Influencing a who’s who of great men of her time, she molded public opinion in politics, philosophy, literature and gender relations.
Scheduled to attend a book talk by Judy Wicks, co-founder of BALLE, later that evening, I found myself wondering what Germaine would say about the BALLE conference. The organization’s vision? The need for it? She witnessed the birth of our country and championed the same ideals for France. She defied public opinion, repeatedly risked her life, used her great wealth for the welfare of her allies and boldly challenged Napoleon when a continent cowered. She put country before comfort.
We don’t do that today. I know I don’t. I think in terms of community, yes; but country has become a concept too unwieldy to conceive of changing. Discouraged before I begin, I concede my place at the political table to hoe my own garden and look out for my neighbors.
I’m not certain that’s enough, and I’m not convinced it isn’t. With that question in mind, I invite Germaine to shadow me throughout the BALLE conference and hope that later we can confer.