Christmas Day: 2013


You know something I have never liked about Christmas? The emphasis on nostalgia.

Where is the gratitude for the present (such as has been robbed of Thanksgiving), or attention towards the future (equally robbed of New Year’s day)?

Should this not be a time when families appreciate just seeing one another show up,  and congratulate one another for surviving yet another exhaustive year? If so, why do we spend so much time adding insult to injury?

Life is hard, especially if you are an adult, out on your own. And I imagine that, in a modern, first-world country—with a society divided at its very core through its celebration of independence of and hyper expression of individuality—this nation-sanctioned coming together that we do on Christmas day should be something of a morale boost, or a pep rally. Not a time to go around cutting one another down, or whining about why things cannot be like they were back in the “good old days”. We don’t live in the good old days. The “good old days” were never the good old days, for we whined about “the good old days” even back then. (Good and loyal consumers that we are, we can never be satisfied with what we have. Hah!)

No, let me explain to you just what the “good old days” really are:

Put plainly, they are little more than mental photographs of our lives suspended in our minds’ eye; still images that we photo shop; adding or exaggerating pleasantries;  enhancing with impossible lighting; blurring out the petty fights; filtering out the inconvenient noise; cropping out those we no longer talk about; framing everything just so. But that is not reality.

Reality is often ugly. But accepting that allows us to deal with it. And if we deal with it can be build onto it; make something better of it. Forgive me for using another metaphor so soon but, I think it is better that we should consider ourselves as marble stone. And, like marble, life weathers us and wears us down. Yet we are also artists, and we can sculpt ourselves and one another. And since we cannot replace stone that has already been chipped away, it is best not to dwell on this loss, but to make the most of what remains. Likewise, even if the “good old days” really were so grand, they are gone now, and all that we can do is adapt. And sometimes we can make up for those gaps, and sometimes we can’t. The point is, we shouldn’t be tearing one another down. Life already does that to us anyway.

Anyways, I think you get my point even if these are poor metaphors. I hope yours is a happy Christmas. And it would please me if we all made it through the jump into the New Year.

Love always,

-J.I.A.


Call of Scarface


Stress shoot builds Soldiers’ readiness [Image...

Stress shoot builds Soldiers’ readiness [Image 1 of 2] (Photo credit: DVIDSHUB)

 

Hollywood is great at inspiring cold, heartless killers. It’s been doing so for ages. And in most cases, we think nothing of it, but congratulate our little minions for having made something of themselves, as they don their new camos and crew cuts and march with pride into the face of evil that is everything that America isn’t (whatever that may be).

But what happens if our kiddos don’t want to play in the sandbox, yet instead want to play soldier in our own backyard? Would Hollywood, an entity (as a whole) that takes credit for being a “culture creator”, accept responsibility for the influence they had on our children’s behaviour, or would they shift the blame elsewhere?

Ah. I see. Question answered. The spineless cowards that they are. Fortunately, there is another video that calls them out on this hypocrisy:

It seems that gun violence is okay, as long as it’s in a designated area, e.g. Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran (pretty much the litter/sandbox of the Middle East). Out of sight, out of mind? Or perhaps we just don’t give a flip, as long as it’s not happening to us. What you do behind closed doors…er…I mean, in another country…ahem! Hooray American imperialism! Let that freedom just gush right out!

And never mind the violations of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, and the fact that in order for one to commit such violations, one must first learn to suppress that pestering echo of the human spirit, otherwise known as our sense of empathy, either! No, none of that matters as long as that is not happening to us, here, on our soil. Once it does, that’s not Hollywood’s fault, that’s not the parent’s fault, and it’s definitely not society’s fault for embracing a culture of fear, cruelty and violence. No, it’s the fact that we, as ordinary citizens, are allowed to have guns. Now let’s go around and collect those right away. (Nasty little things!)

What’s that you say about leverage against a tyrannical government? What tyrannical government? It’s doing just fine looking after our interests, keeping us safe from harm. Now enough with these rebellious ideas!

You say you need your pistol for self-defence? Well what do you need that for when we have the police? That’s what they’re there for! Dial them up (any time, day or night), explain your squabble, and they’ll sort out your problems in jiffy! Now isn’t that convenient?

What? Don’t be silly, of course they would never turn on us! It’s not like they’re human beings, susceptible to human weaknesses, and prone to human error. They’re completely impervious to any form of coercion or corruption! They swore an oath, after all!

Incidentally, I do take the conservative position when it comes to gun rights. I believe that if you take away the guns from law-abiding citizens, the only ones carrying guns will be the crooks and the cops (often the two are one and the same), and the soldiers (Hollywood says, ‘you’re welcome’, by the way).

Now, I will concede, I wouldn’t mind as much, if we fixed our economy (thereby lowering the incentive and opportunities to commit gun crimes), and down-sized our military, and disarmed our constables; because then would I feel safer. But instead, we’re not aiming for mutual disarmament, yet the matter is entirely one-sided, both socially and politically. And so I have to take a stand and defend our Second Amendment rights (though I fear such efforts might still be in vain), hence the point of this whole article.


♥ The Love–Glue Analogy ♥


I believe there is a difference between Love and Infatuation: Love is permanent while Infatuation is temporary; yet the two really only differ insomuch as their states. That is, Love is Infatuation that merely hasn’t finished bonding (also known as curing), such as glue or otherwise adhesive.

There is no doubt that Infatuation is wonderfully intoxicating and even elevating, yet it is also mesmerising, disorienting, and deceptive—often ridden with an over-whelming sense of complacency. To put it another way: It presents itself as the destination when, in fact, it hasn’t even gotten in the cab.

Returning to the glue analogy, imagine that you’ve just heard about Love; about what it is, what it does, what creates for you. And what you’ve learned is, this magic goop allows you to build and shape previously unimaginable wonders; erecting magnificent, monumental works of art in a marriage of form and function that seem to defy the laws of physics itself!

So you hit the books, you discuss the subject with your peers, and you engulf yourself in your (borderline obsessive) research, as you wrap your mind around various conceptual designs and models, and eventually come up with your own; one that will not only stand out amongst the crowd, but withstand the tests of time. It’s then that you start collecting all the pieces you’ll need, with exception of that one, which you will get from that special someone. And then you find it.

Now, imagine you have stayed up all night, tinkering and assembling this magnificent artifact. And the final stage, right before employing this artifact is gluing all the pieces together. Now, the glue might need to cure for a few hours, possibly even days. Yet, for some reason, you are either too impatient or otherwise unaware of how long it takes for glue to finish curing (in your defense, it’s not as though the instructions were written on the tube or package) so you put your artifact right to work. And, for a few short moments, it works splendidly—better than you’d hoped or imagined! But then, all of a sudden, for reasons beyond your comprehension, your design appears to have failed as it falls into pieces right before your very eyes. (The horror and dismay that befalls you!)

And, to add insult to injury, as they say, now it’s not only all over the floor, it’s all over you. And worse, you can’t seem to shake it off. Yet, instead, with great grief, you have to try and rip it off; dried remnants of glue, stuck all over you, that lasts for days.

Later, after you have collected yourself, you may try again, reusing many of the same pieces from before, except that the old glue is still there. You try scraping it off, but you dare not try too hard, because you want to minimise any obvious scratches, and you still want this model to be perfect. So you try applying a fresh, wet layer over the dry one, but it just doesn’t fit as well.

I suppose what I am trying to say is, because we are so eager and impatient to put our creations to work before they have finished bonding, we have the tendency to make a mess of ourselves. And it’s tragic because, when we first learn of Love, we don’t learn about its properties and how to work with it, but how to work it; what we can do with it. This is a hard lesson I have had to learn for myself, but I hope that perhaps, my words here might be echoed, that others learn better and avoid making hasty decisions with love; saving themselves both time and grief.


Ego vs Conscience


Lately I have found myself struggling with individuality. Not mine, per se, but of others. Now, allow me to quickly dispel any notion that I’ve gone Communist on you, and explain myself, for a moment. You see, it’s not so much as individuality, as it is Individualism that I have a problem with: Individualism taken to an extreme, mutating into a cop-out philosophy of relativism that defends one’s selfishness as an expression of one’s being. That, now that is what I have problem with. And why? Because it writes off its opponents as “haters” (deeming them the immoral ones) for attacking  their (the Individualists’) freedom of expression.

Anyhow, as this mindset is becoming increasingly more prevalent, I find it necessary to share with you my perspective on the Human Ego. But first, a fable often attributed to various Native American tribes that I believe echoes my sentiments quite well. It goes something like:

“An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…

He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One wolf is evil — he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.

The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed”.”

http://www.turtlezen.com/twowolves.html

Right. Jolly good. Well said. Message received loud and clear. At least….I hope. And, if not, perhaps this explanation will help clear things up a bit. (Or muck it up. I really can’t be sure anymore.) In any case, it makes sense to me, as I wrote it:

It is my belief that the Ego is that remnant that we inherited from our hominid ancestors, prior to evolving into humans through the development of the conscience (i.e. the Human Spirit). Therefore, to cultivate it (the Human Ego) is to grow and develop that part of ourselves that is most beastly in nature. Yet doing so suffocates the Spirit, muffling its cries in the process.

Incidentally, I do not believe that Humanity is a given, but a delicate and slippery goal that we must always strive to grasp. And this can only be achieved by overcoming the compulsions of Ego. Should we abandon this goal, Ego would inevitably take over, and evolution would lead us back to a state of lower comprehension and revert to a beastly form.

And the beast is a short-lived creature, for it does not plan that far ahead—if at all—but satiates himself in the now; living his life on a day by day basis. To feed the Ego is to resign ourselves to this beastly lifestyle. In doing so, we surrender our autonomy as we become creatures of habit, either through routine, or compulsion to seek familiar comforts and pleasures; often with exceeding intensities. Such trains of thought are confining, and are what ultimately limit even similar beasts from attaining our levels of comprehension.

Thus, if we wish to be free, we must abandon the fallacies demanded of the Ego. That is, for those of us who appreciate our humanity for what it is. For those who don’t, please try to keep it down, as you rattle your cages in anxiety and despair? One may only feed you so many times before she or he grows weary of getting bit.

Fin

So, there you have it. My perspective on the Ego and Spirit in a nutshell which just so happens to embrace evolution. But I think it fits, and I hope you do too. Like last time, until next time, please feel free to rate, comment, and share.

Good night, for now!  ^‿^


The Path of Excess


Recently I have begun to notice that many of my friends have embraced the  false-virtue of Individualism as an excuse to justify their excessive lifestyles.

Among them, many have argued that their excessive lifestyles are not immoral, yet are merely the means by which they express the core of their personhood, through which they expect to attain both happiness and fulfillment. Moreover, they consider admonishment toward these lifestyles as affronts on their very being, as they are only “being true to themselves”. It almost sounds like a religion, when you think about it, but I’ll leave that one be, for now. At any rate, this is my reply:

It has been said that “the Path of Excess leads to the Tower of Wisdom”.  I must concede, this is probably so, but only after rendering the exorbitant toll of Regret; thereby depleting one’s treasury of Spirit; leaving one wholly dissatisfied.

Given such a price, it is no wonder that so many are inclined to leap from the top — ‘diving off the deep end’, as it were — in the misguided hopes of ‘just getting it all over with’.

No, to be brutally honest, Humility is the only prudent path: by virtue of  staying on course, one carves out a deeper sense of appreciation within oneself, and ultimately arrives with a greater sense of satisfaction. And the only cost is that of the Ego — of which, we each possess an inexhaustible surplus.

I will post more on my concept of Ego and Spirit in the  next post. Until then, feel free to rate, comment, and share. ^‿^


A Few Brief Observations About Art In General


“….Art cannot be “added” to a useful object, contrary to what Ruskin and his school believed: it is born with it; it is the spirit that animates, or else it does not exist.”

—Régine Pernoud

I am in the middle of reading this author’s, Régine Pernoud’s, book, Those Terrible Middle Ages! And, once again, it has brought up the topic of Art; about what it is, and what it is not. So, at the risk of reiteration, I will say a few more words (since last time) on the subject.

When an Artist has succeeded in his method, and has nothing new to discover to complete his project, when his work is a solid answer—leaving neither questions unasked or unanswered—in other words: when one could say—were this any other endeavor— that he has this “down to an art”, it is precisely then that he has, in fact, lost it.

For Art isn’t so much the invention as it is the process of developing that invention; it is a process of learning and adapting. Art asks the questions of how? and why?; and both the questions and the answers can be found within its details. Moreover, Art is moving (or stirring); but not without impedance. Art is flowing; though it does not always need to be graceful. Art is dynamic, organic; Art is alive! It is said that “the state of nature is a constant state of war”. This is true for—as I am so fond of reminding everyone—”if you are not fighting, you are dying”. For this reason, Art will always be diligent, or not at all.

Art also needs a cause. And that cause is the Spirit. If the Spirit is absent, all we have is but a husk; a hollow edifice of potential where life (Art) could have been, yet may never be.

Art can neither be created for its own sake, yet may only be realised in another’s. The most invigorating Art is that which was inspired by another, for another, and freely (without obligation). Such work, created under these circumstances, could easily be misconstrued by others as, in some way, magical, and few would be so inclined to convince them otherwise.

Often I wonder, while drawing (and sometimes even writing) how much I might be imprinting my very thoughts and subconscious into my work, as I can look back at the detail and recall what was going through my mind. It’s sometimes like the lines and strokes are like the etchings in a vinyl record; encoding my thoughts, emotions, my trains of thought into these works; and here I am, giving all of this information freely, and without second thought as to what all of this could mean to another.

At any rate, it’s been a while since I wrote something here. Strangely enough, it’s not that I’ve stopped writing—I haven’t, I mean, I am writing, just not here; Facebook really—I just haven’t had time to devote to the project of jotting down those crucial eight months in the U.S. Air Force that I talked about last time, and so I thought I might wait to post anything until I could. Still it’s been a while, and it’s been getting to me—all this time without a word—so I thought I might share with you this snippet of my life.  You know, her book, Miss Régine Pernoud’s Those Terrible Middle Ages!, is actually quite fascinating and insightful, as it aims to challenge still prevalent misconceptions of the Middle Ages, and puts into perspective the stagnant view of the Classical Arts. My father recommended the read, and I am grateful for it. And so, mere three chapters into it, I find myself recommending this book to you, my audience. Check it out. Let me know what you think. Perhaps we can have a discussion over it and—potentially extracting great material for future blogs.

Until next time, breathe deep and seek peace, my friends.

Sincerely,

T. S. Vandenberg


Depending On Your Answer


The following is a sample of what I am offering. As transgendered woman living in the wrong gender role, I attempted to serve the U.S. Air Force. This is a glimpse into that part of my life. Please be sure to contribute your vote after you’ve finished reading the text?

It all started shortly after arriving at my first tech school. The last six and a half weeks of basic training (B.T.) was a whirlwind of sheer and utter Hell. Every aspect of my life was challenged, as they beat my sense of individuality into submission. I was no longer a person, but a soldier. But now, after only a couple of days, B.T. was a quickly fading memory. Like waking from a hot and formidable nightmare, with each passing hour, the details of it were quickly blurring into subconscious oblivion. Tech school was still stressful, mind you; but, at least, now I could breathe a little more easily.

Needless to say, this change of pace afforded me a luxury that wasn’t available until then: reflection.  And so, after taking a good, long look in the mirror, I began to assess the changes made to this body. And what I saw was a monster; a freak. Naturally, I immediately began to break down. It wasn’t me. I didn’t know who or what it was I was looking at in the mirror, but it surely wasn’t the slender, effeminate being that I knew. Where once there was soft, fair skin, now was coarse, dirty brown leather. Where before there were skinny curves, now there was a bulk of fat and muscle — even in places I never even knew existed! This was something remarkably alien and repulsive, and it scared me. Frightened and angry, I wanted to shed my skin so badly, if only there was a way.  It was then and there that I knew just who I was, and what I wasn’t, and what needed to be done. I would  fight every step of the way to undo all the changes that overcame this body over the last six weeks, or die trying.


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