The Triple Goddess Trials
Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
I was a moody twelve year old, but I remember life blooming into full color when SHE walked into my room. Amongst scattered lipgloss containers, soccer balls and stuffed animals, hours with my best girlfriend would melt into minutes.
One time, after biking (my banana-seat and her Schwinn) to our favorite bakery to purchase cream donuts and grape soda, we decided to record some songs on my old beat-up tape recorder. We devised this game with one strict rule. You had to compose a song about the very first thing you saw when you entered the room. That day when I looked up (and she saw me look) I gazed upon the only thing hanging from my stark white ceiling—a lightbulb.
So, we flung our preteen magazines on my bed, flipped our hair in front of our faces and turned our t-shirts into bikini tops—you know by threading the bottom through the top of the shirt. And then having dressed appropriately, the recording session commenced.
I still remember the words I belted out that hot summer afternoon, hips swaying for emphasis, as my girlfriend (a ballerina and jazz dancer) choreographed the moves. “I went down to the lightbulb factoreeeeeeeeeee. Ohhhhh woooooowoooooo, I searched through the whole light bulb factoreeeeeeeee. Fool, fool, fool…How could you leave meeeeeeeeee?” over and over again until we clutched the sides of our stomachs and gasped for breath in between animal-like shrieks of laughter.
Sweet, effervescent bubbles surging up so swiftly past any hurt or trouble, no matter how confusing or dark. I mean, where did I fit in a world that grew infinitely more complex by the second. My mom had just gotten remarried and we were planning to move later that year and I was terrified. Fiercely competitive with my younger brother, it drove me crazy that a mere child beat me weekly in chess (while watching television!). On top of that, almost every night after the lights went out, I would ponder how and where the universe ended (could it end?) in a compulsive trajectory that went something like the following:
If my room was in New Jersey, and New Jersey was in the United States of America and the USA was on the North American continent and the North American continent was on the Earth, and the Earth was in the universe (at which point I’d feel a dizzying rush of delightful fear) exactly where was I and what held it all together? Sadly, my grades in science betrayed my budding interest in cosmology.
APHRODITE’S DIVINE SECRET
Yet, there was one arena where I scored off the charts (though it often landed me in trouble in school). In fact, a magic place existed where I could influence others to collapse into chairs with milk spilling from their noses (one victim included my little brother!) But I really thrived in the company of my best girlfriends, with whom I instinctively laughed myself stupid.
As planned, I moved away later that year and somehow entered my new social terrain with surprising confidence.
In strange new hallways, I navigated less satisfying types of laughter. For example, one winter morning, I got busted passing notes with a “popular” girlfriend in Math class. In mundane adolescent language, I dashed off something about being bored, and my new friend, a gorgeously coiffed brunette, wrote back with a harsh physical description of our teacher. Did it matter that I hadn’t written the words, when the teacher whisked the paper from my desk and my friend laughed silently from across the room? The hurt look in my teacher’s eyes haunted me for weeks and I couldn’t shake the raw, empty feeling at the pit of my stomach. With swift social consequences, I ducked my new friend and her glossy set. Of course, they branded my intense remorse with one word: loser! And at the time, I pretty much agreed with their conclusion (after all I was teetering on thirteen!) but it didn’t matter. I learned my first lesson in the type of amusement that diminished, rather than replenished my spirits, and I knew I would always seek to avoid it.
So, at the end of each day, when I huddled next to my radio, I yearned for the sound of my friend’s voice and the one look from her that would send me into a fit of hysterics. With her (though we pitched up our own little tents of drama) the indecipherable changes within and around me had always faded into insignificance. What I didn’t realize then was that our giggle sessions had equipped me with my greatest source of strength.
THE LAUGHTER-LOVING GODDESS
Ask Aphrodite, the laughter-loving goddess.
Edith Hamilton writes that Aphrodite, born of the tumultuous sea, “laughed sweetly and mockingly at those her wiles had conquered; the irresistible goddess who stole away the wits of the wise.”
I should admit up front that Aphrodite, one manifestation of my beloved Triple Goddess, had her share of unforgivable faults. Her legendary vanity, treachery, and obsession with pleasure shocked Gods and mortals alike. But at this point, let us (with a wink and a nod) turn our backs on the modern sitcom/ sound-byte set, which tolerates only one vantage point (the equivalent of a camera’s flash) for each and every character. In short, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Sometimes even over-indulgent goddesses have volumes to teach. For Aphrodite was not without profound tenderness and compassion. Nor did she lack the vital wisdom of our most primal selves, especially as all the warmth in her soul unfolded in torrents of laughter.
Enough mirth. You might be scratching your head and thinking…Come on now, aren’t there too many things to be taken seriously for such a glib manifesto? War, poverty, injustice, environmental degradation, hunger . . . (to which I say of course, but!). Yes, there are countless moments appropriate only for gravity, circumspection, and obviously grief, but they have rarely been my personal places of strength. And never have they steered me to the too often shaky bridge of understanding between otherwise opposing points of view—as rapidly, as entirely— as a shared belly laugh.
THE SOUND OF GIRLFRIENDS LAUGHING
On the day of my wedding celebration, two of my girlfriends dragged me to the Ladies room and wrestled me to the ground to make sure my underwear looked sexy enough. It didn’t (in their view) and I remember them rolling around, kicking their feet up and down, so intense were their delighted hysterics at my Gap cotton and lace (at me, understand, not with me). Before I knew it, I was snorting on the floor right along with them. These are my friends. But let me confess, our outburst steadied my nerves more quickly than any cup of chamomile tea or lavender infusion ever could that day.
The other night I took a walk with a precious friend. Late summer rain drenched the grass and thick mist rose from the trees. The sound of our voices (and periodic cackles) were easily drowned out by the whiz of cars splashing through the rain. I looked at my dear friend’s shining eyes and her wide impish grin. In them both, I recognized centuries of the kindest (sharpest) understanding.
“Lucky,” she said looking around us. “We’re so lucky.”
And that’s exactly the way I feel.
I am especially thankful for every fine vintage of laughter, for the wide rolling fields and sweet ancient flowers that come to life inside my stomach, for the winds that gust through my lungs and most of all—for every connection without words.
I was just talking on the phone with my oldest friend (think lightbulb), who now lives four hours away from me. I told her about this column, how maybe Aphrodite just had to laugh at the reflection of her own soul, the blemished world, and its unspeakable failings, in order to open her heart where life is most beautiful. And isn’t that the same shade of grace as forgiveness?
Girlfriend was having none of my musings. “Did you mention me?” she asked nervously.
“Well, sort of.” I confessed. “Remember our game and the lightbulb song?”
“No, you didn’t!” she screamed. But, I could still hear her laughing.
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative
First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson