We have had some great discussions about the first three chapters of Gloria Steinem’s book My Life on the Road. See our previous post with some insights on why we picked this book. We have three main topics for the first 100 pages of the book we would like to share: thoughts on how our past is and isn’t our present, talking circles and collaboration strategies, and our favorite taxi story (the “entrepreneurs of the road”).
We are happy to listen to your thoughts in person or in the comment section below.
Tina & Laura
“More reliably than anything else on earth, the road will force you to live in the present”
– Gloria Steinem (introduction xxiii)
We both thought this was a poignant quote because it relates back to our previous book club selection Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn. Often when we travel we think of going from A to B rather than being fully present in the unexpected (which often happens with travel). During our upcoming trip together this is what we will be paying attention to.
THOUGHTS ON HOW OUR PAST IS AND ISN’T OUR PRESENT
“I sometimes wonder if I am crisscrossing my father’s ghostly paths and we are entering the same towns or roadside diners or the black ribbons of highways that gleam in the night rain, as if were were images in a time-lapse photograph.” page 29
Gloria goes into detail about her father’s nomadic lifestyle and her mother’s dwindling dreams because of the expected domestic role of women in the 1950’s. This clarified why she has such passion for advocating for women as well as a life well lived on the road. This made us wonder at our own upbringings and how these experiences have shaped us today. That could be a whole book all in itself! However, we discussed how we might be more compassionate for the people we interact with every day. When we don’t understand someone and their actions, it is usually because we don’t know what “road” they have traveled on. It is with compassion (like Gandhi and Dalai Lama) that we can remember this every time we talk with another person. We can never know all they are carrying with them. We also recognize this is much harder in practice than in reality!
As Gloria shows us in this chapter, these past experiences can be our teachers of who we do and do not want to be.
TALKING CIRCLES & COLLABORATION
“It was the first time I witnessed the ancient and modern magic of groups in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time. I had no idea that such talking circles had been a common form of governance for most of human history.” page 36
Gloria speaks of the “revolutionary act of listening”. How about that? We were heartened to read about the airplane stewardess who told Gloria she resented feminists for saying that men could do her job, and that women could be pilots…only to change her mind many years later (read the whole story on page 93). We are inspired how she explained how all movements for the better (equal rights, treatment, fairness, abuse, etc.) started with people talking to one another.
“If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them. If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live. If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye-to-eye.” (page 37).
She approached this listening through collaboration. Since Gloria was nervous about speaking alone, she always invited a colleague to help out. We also suspect she did this to keep in line with these talking circles vs. a lecture. She had wonderful partnerships with Brenda Feigan (early on, but that relationship became strained as time went on), Margaret Sloan, and Flo Kennedy.
“Had I been isolated in a car, this talking circle would never have happened.” page 34
This is what we know about collaboration:
- Collaboration is lead by all- everyone has an equal voice.
- Collaboration sometimes needs a neutral moderator that can objectively summarize ideas, find common threads, and encourage positive interaction.
- Collaboration is thoughtfully considering all ideas brought to the table.
- Collaboration is an equal division of work.
- Collaboration is judgment free (or if you do judge, just explain yourself).
- Collaboration is built on respect for one another (this is long term, not just sometimes).
- Collaboration thrives on flexible thinking.
- Collaboration grows when others are acknowledged for their hard work.
- Collaboration flourishes when you play to each other’s strengths.
WHY I DON’T DRIVE: TAXI STORIES
My favorite taxi cab story was the one Gloria shared about meeting the driver who explained that he was a recovering media junkie. He was 8 months into a year long experiment of living without the internet, newspapers, books or video games. He wanted to see America for the first time without being told what he was seeing and found he was just “beginning to believe he existed” (pg. 82). This story made me pause and think about how much time I engage with things outside myself in comparison to listening within and reflecting on what I am seeing. The driver’s s girlfriend made him a drawing of a huge eye that he kept in his car to remind him “to see with his own eyes.” LOVE that!
My favorite taxi cab story was the art studio on wheels. Her driver had “samples of his artwork plastered around his dashboard and on the passenger door”(page 77). He offers to take a picture of her hands, make a drawing of them, and deliver it to her door for thirty dollars. She declines but gives him the money anyway. After refusing, he reconsiders and takes the money to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to study the paintings and their depictions of hands. She says he is one of the happiest people she has ever met. I like this idea of an artist being happy and not running the rat race of the art world. It makes me wonder how many other people are simply creating for the joy not the gallery representation, awards, grants, etc.
UP NEXT: We will be taking notes on chapters 4-6 with quotes and excerpts. We hope you enjoyed our first book club chat!