Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Strangers on a Train

Typing this morning from LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I'm here to speak tonight at the town's annual Knit in Public Day. As the place is just close enough to Chicago to make it practicable, I came up by train.

Barring bandits or cows on the track, the trip is about five hours. We chugged along smoothly and I got a shocking amount of work done. Of course, there's not a lot to look at on a train and so five or six passengers, in passing by, stopped to ask about my knitting.

The most interesting conversation was with a woman who looked to be in her early twenties, and who began our dialogue in the usual manner.

"I've never seen a man knitting before."

To which I gave my standard reply, which I always deliver with wide-eyed surprise.

"You haven't? How odd."

She blinked. "Well, no. I mean, it's something women do, right?"

I smiled. "Not in my house."

"Oh," she said. "Well, I was brought up old-fashioned."

"So was I."

"Well, it's just surprising that you would do it in a public place."

I opened my mouth to say that, by coincidence, I was en route to an entire assembly of public knitters, but she went on.

"Don't you think about how it might look to the kids?" She indicated a few who were seated nearby in the coach.

"I don't follow you."

"Well, it might confuse them. The boys especially. A man doing something a woman does."

"I don't follow you."

She laughed. "Forgive me," she said. "I'm in the ministry, so it's second nature to me to minister. I'm always thinking about setting a good example for the young people."

I wondered if the window next to my seat could open, and if I could throw myself out of it.

"And you know,"she continued, "I have seen for myself that young boys need grown men to be role models of strength."

We were, figuratively speaking, at a crossroads. I could a) ask her why she felt a man peacefully doing something creative was not a strong role model, or b) feign narcolepsy and hope she'd go minister to the lady across the aisle.

Before I could do either, she asked, "Do you ever stop and talk to Jesus, and ask what He would want you to do?"

"I'm a Buddhist," I said. "Jesus and I don't usually go to the same cocktail parties."

"Oh," she said, stiffening. "Well, I guess there's nothing I can say to you then, is there? Have a good trip."

And she walked away.

Now, before some of you (you know who you are) start kvetching about Christian missionaries, let me ask you (firmly) please to not do that. We don't bash anybody's religion in here.

And as it happens, I have been just as annoyed on many occasions by Buddha-pushers who feel I am insufficiently Bodhi-fied because my practice is Zen and not Tibetan or Vipassana, or because I eat meat, or because I reflexively say "God bless you," when somebody sneezes. No single theology holds the monopoly on faith-based douchebaggery.

No. I wrote this conversation down because lately I worry (as you well may) about how we're ever going to climb out of the mess the world's in if folks won't talk to each other. Or rather, if folks won't listen to each other. Here was a textbook example of this large problem, shrunk to fit two people.

Missionary Lady and I had quite a chat but in the end, she didn't want to hear from me and I didn't want to hear from her. If we had kept talking, I doubt I would have been able to keep my cool well enough to be persuasive rather than combative. The end result: stalemate. If she and I can't speak and listen, how are opposing politicians and entire countries going to reach accord?

I hope you're not expecting a tidy wrap-up to this post, kids, because the heck if I can figure it out.

On the other hand, I did finish the knitting. So that's something.

459 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   401 – 459 of 459
=Tamar said...

Vikings with knitted sails? Was that comment left on April 1?

Franklin, where are you? I hope you are well and just busy. Close the comments if you will, but do come back.

Anonymous said...

Question: Other than preventing you from returning to prison, where, as we all know, you learned to knit, what - honestly - was the value of a peaceful response? Don't you think knitting needles could serve *many* productive purposes? Next time you encounter one of these androids tell them, quite sincerely, that you have an acquaintance that they are very fortunate not to have met. And - what were you knitting???

alfalfacats said...

Franklin, thank-you...

"I wrote this conversation down because lately I worry (as you well may) about how we're ever going to climb out of the mess the world's in if folks won't talk to each other. Or rather, if folks won't listen to each other."

Eloquent.

That brought tears to my eyes; words fail me beyond that tonight, so, I simply say thank-you for that.

alfalfacats

Kaje said...

Where's Franklin?---seriously hope you are ok wherever life is tatking you these days.

Mortaine said...

"Yes, ma'am, but they wouldn't let me in to shovel coal into the engines, so here I am...."

What would surprise you is that she won't be able to shake the image of you knitting. Given enough time, the idea will keep coming back to her, and the more she sees men knitting, the more she will start to accept it in her mind as something that men do, in fact, do. Someday, a male friend of hers will sit down and knit in her presence, and it will shake her, certainly, but she'll remember the nice polite man on the train, and it will not shock her as much. Someday, far in the future perhaps, she will have a knitter who wants to teach at her youth group meeting, and the parents of one of the boys will say "Jacob's allowed to come, too, right?" and she'll just smile and say "of course." Because her own resistance will have been eroded, like a stone in water, by the gentle nudgings of a stranger on a train, a friend, an image here, a moment there.

At least, that's what I think when I have moments like the one you describe on the train. I think that people need to encounter new ideas more than twice before they can adjust and accept them.

AuntieAnn said...

Franklin, was that you in the pictures of the knitters presenting Mo Rocca with a non-itchy sweater? I like to think it was.

As always, thank you for this beautiful blog post.

noricum said...

Um... aren't ministers normally male? She seems to be an odd one to champion traditional gender roles...

Anonymous said...

Hey Franklin......
You didn't let that closed minded.........scare you away, did you?
Miss your blogs.

Susanne said...

Where are you????????????????

Nancy said...

Hey! Where is ya? (as my grandmother used to say)

Lumous said...

Well my my, what can I say? I am most inspired when I see anyone knitting.
My grandmother taught my mom & me how to knit, and I have taught my son (who is now 7), he (my son) also sews his own clothes. I don't think there is anything wrong with girls playing with trucks & trains or boys learning to knit or sew. North American Society can be so very convoluted. My grandmother remembers her grandfather knitting, during his lunch breaks at the Tin Mines. How a little history might have helped that missionary!
Kodos on keeping your temper.

floatingink said...

Are you okay? You're awfully quiet out there and we miss you.

Kayten said...

Franklin, have you fallen off a turnip truck? I miss you. Perhaps you're visiting the marvelous Abigail for the holiday and we will be treated to more photos!
Spring is finally here today! And my taxes are done a day early!

cordeliaknits said...

Oh Dear. Speaking as a twenty-something woman also "in the ministry," I say a knitting man is the BEST kind of role model for young boys!

Obviously, if we're reading your blog we all probably already agree with this. What irks me about this gal's conversation with you is that she seems to have mistaken 'ministering' with something more like telling people how to act just like she thinks they should, whether she's ever given any thought to the situation or not.

Aargh. Sorry you had such a bizarre and frustrating (though thought-provoking) interaction, and more sorry that she didn't seem to learn anything!

Yvonne said...

Franklin - It's been awhile since your last post and I'm just a bit concerned. Hoping that you haven't been incarcerated for assault & battery with pointy sticks, on that poor, misguided missionary lady. Hope all is well.

Sarah said...

Hellllooo! Are you OK out there? Just adding to the worried voices.

I think you have proved my long held belief that the problem with doing anything in public is you become a complete nutter magnet. I'm not sure it's gender related, it's more that there's always some idiot who think you need the benefit of their (unsolicited) comments.

Sarah x

s.kate said...

Hmm... You've been arrested and there is a gag order on the proceedings as Dolores took it upon herself to defend your honor and "educate" the lady minister about... well we might never find out if you've been sworn to secrecy.

Hope all is well and you are able to make your return safe and sound from where ever you may be.

Eileen said...

We do miss you, Franklin; please let us know how you are!

Oh, and for the record, my sister (who lives presently in TX) was told that her oldest would make a good football player, and she said, "Yes. Or ballet dancer."

The person she was talking to just gibbered and walked away. Some folks can't live outside their own little comfort zone.

Neither is Patrick's style, by the way. He'll probably be a trial lawyer. With an art studio on the side. The mathematics of knitting fascinate, him, though.

Terri said...

Wow! Where's the love?

Tracy in Qatar said...

Too many comments already, but....

Jesus probably would have appreciated a nice, handknit shawl.

Helen said...

Franklin

Come back! I promise to keep the scary peoples away!

Also I now have a badge on my bag which says "I learned to knit in prison" I hope you don't mind...it's to address the people on the train who stare at me like I'm picking my nose. And I'm female. *sigh*

mary e said...

Franklin, come back. We all worry about and miss you I think what you had encountered was not a person, but some sort of force of negativity that had to fasten on you and feed off your reaction... a type of psychic vampire. Hope you're okay - sending cyber hugs and hot mugs of tea your way.

coastofcalifornia said...

We are bereft.

Please come back to us.

My Darn Yarn said...

If this she-male minister really thinks that men have no place in what she thinks are "things women do", then she should just leave the ministry because...
1) "Well, I was brought up old-fashioned." - Women were never in the ministry in the 'old-days'.
2) "I have seen for myself that young boys need grown men to be role models of strength." - John 14:27a 'PEACE I leave with you...' Not 'gruffness' or 'being tough I leave with you...'
3) "Do you ever stop and talk to Jesus, and ask what He would want you to do?" - The church I go to, women are not allowed in the possession of pastor/minister because of what Jesus taught: 1Cor 14:34 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak"
So, even if we throw out number 3 (that is just what is taught in my church and my personal belief, I have no problem with women ministers) she is braking all of her own rules! Talk about a double stranded!
I know you know what I'm talking about, Franklin. Am I right?
By the way, it takes (yarn and the not yarn-y) balls to be a guy knitter. You and my hubby should have a SnB sometime. Rock on!

Anonymous said...

Where is Franklin? I've been checking for practically a month...it's kinda sad isn't it?

shell said...

from Shell:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We enjoyed an absolutely entertaining evening with Franklin in scenic La Crosse weeks ago,...........
* great stories *
* amazing knitting *
* terrific humour *

BUT NOW,

***** WHERE ART THOU FRANKLIN ?? *****

seriously missing you.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Anonymous said...

Worried. We are about you.

Betsy said...

I'd like to add my voice...hope you are ok...miss you...

maryknitter67 said...

Please realize that this woman is not representative of ALL Christians.

Jesus would have sat down, had some wine with you, then multiplied your yarn to clothe thousands...

Anonymous said...

Franklin....
I'm beginning to think you weren't on the train to Eau Claire--but instead were/are on the MTA ("oh he never returned, oh he never returned--and his fate is still unlearned--he may ride forever...)
I'm now going into withdrawal due to being unable to read your great postings....missing you....
Martha

winged unicorn said...

FRANKLIN, YOU ARE SCARING YOUR READERS. where are you???

Anonymous said...

I will add my wishes for your health and prosperity. I am suspecting you are attempting to read all the e-mails before posting again. I hope Deloris hasn't embroiled you in anything.

Leah

Lindy in Australia said...

Franklin, we're worried. Everything o.k?

Anonymous said...

there are just way to many posts, to read them all but i read enough to get the gist of the rest ,my grandson plays baseball and football. runs track and swims, he also sews a mean 1/4 inch seam and knits scarfs, you see he is only 8 yrs old, his sisters are 3 and 5 the both knit too, we are a diverse craft family, the young lady on the train is missing facts in history, the arran sweater came from the need to be doing something at sea, pretty rugged men on those fishing boats, i hear the women made up the patterns and the men knitted the sweaters while on their way too or from the fishing grounds, my uncle knitted all his own socks said he couldnt find any to fit so well in the stores

tasha. said...

Bah humbug to her.

I knit on on the bus to and from downtown Chicago on a regular basis. The only other knitter I've regularly encountered on my commute is a man, in about his 60s. Gosh goly, a MAN! Who'd have thunk it.

Astrid said...

Well, I won't even go into the religious issues on this except to say the only thing good about any type of missionary is their own dedication to their own beliefs.

However, I am really urked and completely dissappointed about the male stereotyping. I parent with pride a son, who has a well developed emotional side, a creative bent, a well developed analytical side, and is a strong physical kid as well. My personal aim was a balanced human being. I am not done yet, he's 14. I am sick of people who look down on male creativity or an ability to be tender and loving. The world is as it is due to imbalance. Perhaps she might have the seed of a small change in her at least in as much as Men do knit. I'm not saying there aren't things that come across as male or female, but that we have to give people a chance to be themselves. Wow, what a soap box.
Thanks

Linda said...

Hmmm...

Reminds me of the neighbor who was worried our son might 'become homosexual' because of his pink doll carriage...

Personally, I'd say a man who whacks another one over the head or scratches his groin in public sets a bad example.

CraftyPretender said...

My (hunky) husband knows how to crochet... and he taught me how to knit.
I've been Buddhist since birth, and I try to practise zen (I'm a female tattoo artist, and while I work with different kinds of needles, I also stitch and knit at home)... but reading what that woman said wanted me to rip off her head and ... well, the rest is not fit for public eyes!

mbp said...

Great Post Franklin and one that made me think.

At first I was inclined to completely write off that young lady as a foolish youngster (early twenties is barely more than a child when you think about it) but one thing she said caught my attention:

"And you know,"she continued, "I have seen for myself that young boys need grown men to be role models of strength."Perhaps this young lady had some experience in her young life that made her think that there is something wrong with gentle creative men. I wonder what that experience might have been.

We can only hope that a few more years of life experience will help her to overcome her prejudices and broaden her outlook. How does someone that young get to be a minster anyway?

Cora said...

I grew up in a household, before the feminist era, that just had us do what we do, regardless of gender.

My brother took our public school to the human rights commission because of the gender roles. Boys had to do shop and girls home economics. His reasoning? Well I want to go to university and why should I have to depend on my mom or a wife to do my cooking, sewing cleaning and other "wifely duties"? He won, the next year everything was co-ed.

You see we did what ever chores need to be done to run the house. Dad the dishes, mom fixed the toilet, you get the idea. I remember my landlord being shocked when I replaced a fuse in the fuse box.

Wow, still amazing that gender roles are still out there.

Cora

Anonymous said...

Have you REALLY asked yourself what Jesus would think?

Um.

Does she realise that Jesus was a non-conformist of the direst type, rebelling against the outdated and corrupted behaviours of the religion of his fathers, and encouraging others to do likewise, even when the consequences would obviously be serious. And ESPECIALLY when he annoyed the guys in power.

Surely she realises that Jesus stood for loving thy brother - even IF he is a Samaritan (a dangerous foreigner, for those who automatically associate "Samaritan" with "Good" and don't realise the term "Good Samaratan" was the DEFINITIVE contradiction in terms back in the day), a tax-collector, or Gods forbids, knits!

AlisonH said...

I would have sat there just stunned, mouth hanging open. Matter of fact, I was, just from reading that. She needed someone who could handle her as well as you did--maybe she'll remember, and you just may have been the nudge she needed to help, at some point later, to open up her eyes.

One can only hope.

TheElementary said...

Goodness, how rude of her. And for no reason at all. Sounds to me like she was angling for an argument and dragged that from nowhere.
But I really like how you turned it around and wrote this. I sometimes wonder about the curious people we meet- how they might see themselves if they could view the encounter in words. She, for example, might be shocked that she came across that way to a stranger.
Happy knitting!

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Roiana said...

I have been slowly working my way up from the first posts, and I know this one is over a year old (and leaving a comment is probably a pointless thing to do)but after this post I HAVE to just finally say it -

Franklin, my dear, you are AWESOME - and someone should tell you that every day of your life.

Okay, I'm done now - back to reading ;)

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Kurt And Michele Weber said...

Interesting choice of the word "panopticon..." do you mean it in the same sense as Jeremy Bentham?

Cheers!

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Ferret said...

What upsets me is the lack of education, if anything men knit not women. It also upsets me that she uses her religion as an excuse for a lack of knowledge and a reason to judge others.

Keep up the good work, and maybe some people will learn more about knitting.

Sazji said...

Well this post certainly did get a response! I knit in public here in Turkey fairly often and aside from a couple of tittering high schoolers, I have never gotten more than a stare. But Amerucans have an interesting, if generally "well-meaning approach to religion. They do like to share... ;-). Strange she would bring religion into it though! On the other hand, she showed the sense to walk away; just think where it could have gone from there! (İmagining a heartfelt attempt to "save" the godless Buddhist...)

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