Saturday, May 31, 2014

For the Love of Writing

"Ne te quaesiveris extra."
Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.

Honest Man's Fortune

I heard the other day (for the umteenth time) that blogging was not writing, and that bloggers were not writers, at least not in the conventional way. A writer always hears an admonition in such claims, let the truth be what it may. The sentiment this idea instills is of more value than any thought intended to reinforce it. To believe one is not a writer when one indeed writes, to believe that only published authors are writers - that is ridiculous. True, published authors are perceived as being more credible. Publishing is a professional activity and thus one is correct in attributing credibility to the enterprise. But, publishing is just that: an enterprise. Publishing and writing, as I have discussed in prior posts, are not the same thing. 

When we speak to that portion of our brain that holds latent convictions, which eventually become adopted as a sort of universal sense, we find that these convictions eventually make their way into our future belief systems. Our first thought often times renders our latter ones by trumpets of the Last Judgment. Until such beliefs are examined under new light, against new paradigms, they are just that: judgments: unexamined beliefs without merit, though we may ascribe them to be the highest when the moment to defend them arises. 

Writers benefit from recognizing commonality, by relating on a more universal level as being "writers" - individuals whose inner compulsion requires that they express themselves through the medium of the written word. 

"There is no other way to silence the voices, but to write," a fellow writer friend of mine told me, and I couldn't agree more. 

Writers write for many reasons, but one reason the majority of writers write is that the act of writing is soothing. It not only quiets the voices, it brings them together in a harmonious resonance that can be enjoyed. This is where the love of writing arises for me, in the enjoyment I experience when all the thoughts line up, organize, and come together in a coherent whole. This is not to say that stray thoughts are not lurking around the coherent campfire, but for the moment they are the distant voices of wolves howling in the jungle, deep in the recesses of my subconscious, while I am nestled and content, here with myself, sitting by the warmth and glow of a coherent moment. 

However coherency is found, it is something humans seek - be it through writing, through art, through music, or through one's professional accomplishments. We all need those moments when we can sit back and take a much-needed breath, and then exhale. The finished product, be it a book or a blog post, is akin to an exhalation: the culmination of thoughts and ideas that made their way into letters and words which form sentences and paragraphs and content and meaning. Whether anyone else derives meaning from the enterprise is a secondary aspect of the endeavor. 

Great works of self-expression have no more affecting lesson that this. They teach us to abide by our truest nature with good-humor and understanding that the voices that drove us to do so are the voices that bring coherency with them once understood and organized. Whether we write or paint or sing or dance or invent new products, the fact that we do so is primarily about transforming the faint and inaudible voices we hear in our heads, bringing them to life so that they may exist in the world. 

It is as if we are conduits for existence, allowing what resonates with us to pass through us. Our only responsibility is to organize the flow. Should we desire to make a profession of that activity, should we desire to profit from it, we have the opportunity to create, package, and sell those experiences. But not selling these experiences does not diminish the enterprise. It merely means that our needs are met elsewhere.  

Much of what we call "culture" is the organization of whatever it is that is flowing through the universe wishing to be seen, heard, experienced, and potentially understood. Society has joint-stock in bringing aspects of existence to life. Thinking may be a private affair, but the moment we transform those thoughts to words, images, sound, or to invention, is the moment those thoughts interest others. 

Until comes the moment when I actually write, until the words escape, until my paintbrush starts moving, do I know what will emerge. As I write, as I paint, I am experiencing the organization first-hand. All creation feels this way for me, whether I created it or not. Hence, I do not feel an inner compulsion to protect that which I create. I dare say it was never mine to begin with. I may have a hand in organizing it, which allows me to stamp my name on it, but I have often found that the most difficult part of creating a painting is signing my name to it. Somehow it is the only part that doesn't need to be there. 

Traditional publishing is an unnecessary aspect of writing for me. As with my painting, I write for the love of writing. 

I simply enjoy the experience. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Naqada Mother and Child

Inspired by the simple, nearly to the point of abstraction, mourning figures from the Naqada II Period (c. 3500-3100 BCE), the torso is triangular, although this is somewhat masked by the raised arms and decorative "doodle." The narrow waist swells to broad hips; the whole of the lower part tapers, with the legs left to one's imagination. The arms sweep upwards and bend slightly backwards, taper, and then are flattened into hands, emphasizing their importance. The head, usually described as 'birdlike', is a simple bent and angled extension of the long neck. Doodled along the back side of the head and neck are curls, alluding to the fact that the originals might have once had hair attached. 

The original figures were covered with red ochre, with a full-length white skirt painted below the waist. Like with my "Tall-i-Bukan Doodle," I like to imagine a bored child doodling these pieces in their parent's workshop at the same time the originals were being crafted. 

The posture, also found in the painted decoration of a wide range of pottery vessels, suggests that this is a dancing or mourning figure, or that it has some association with resurrection. This doodle was modelled after one of two found in Burian 2 at el-Mamariya, the only figurines of this type from an excavated context.

Like many of these early painted terracotta figures, the feet are not modelled. The original so called "Mourning Figure" can be seen in the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, while the "doodle" can be seen right here. 

Tall-i-Bakun Doodle

Inspired by the figurative motifs of south and southwest Iran during the fifth millennium BCE, vivid and well-balanced compositions that integrated abstract and figurative elements, this "Doodled" version of the rich ceramic tradition reflects the variety that might have existed in the textile production, though no textiles survive. 

While the majority of figurative motifs in Iranian ceramics depict animal, bird and plant forms, I like to think of some artistically bored child doodling away human figures, though these were rare. In Chalcolithic (c. 5000 - 3500 BCE) Iranian pottery, human bodies are portrayed with bird-like heads, as is this doodle, a rendition of a ritual bowl at the British Museum in London. 

In this faithful, yet artistically liberal rendition of a bowl from Tall-i-Bakun (southern Iran), the elongated arms and shortened legs are perhaps a transitory state between human and bird. The ritual and religious implications of this interpretation are tantalizing, but as to whom this figure represents we will perhaps never know as no further records shed light on the figure's identity. 

What is clear is that the human figure leaps off the bowl in this doodle. A testament to the ingenuity of the artist who patterned the original bowl. 

The Dawn (A Poem)

The dawn on the other side of my door,
With its alluring ivory blue veil,
Slowly fades, evaporating
As the Sun obligingly returns.

Even the bushes are sleeping,
Still and calm from the night,
And the bright light of Day,
Destined for roses, obliterates all in its way.

It is the hour, let us remember
Our garden before it disappears from our visage.
Observe while you can,
For the roses impatiently await.

En Français

L'aube de l'autre côté de ma porte, 
Avec sa séduisante voile bleu ivoire, 
S'estompe lentement, évaporation 
Comme le soleil revient obligeamment. 

Même les buissons dorment, 
Encore et calme de la nuit, 
Et la lumière du jour, 
Destiné aux roses, oblitère tout sur ​​son passage. 

C'est l'heure, rappelons-nous 
Notre jardin avant qu'il ne disparaisse de notre visage. 
Observez alors que vous pouvez, 
Pour les roses attendent avec impatience.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Living Creatively

Living creatively does not merely apply to the arts, but to an attitude about what is possible. We cannot calculate the creativity of an individual who paints, dances, or plays music. It is possible to do all these things by rote, without any creativity at all. Instead, we turn our gaze inward, back toward our own self, toward our thinking mind so that we might engage our creative self to imagine new ways in which to approach life.

Take, for example, stress. Often times stress is exacerbated by a continuous internal dialogue, forever parenting the mind. "Don't forget to do this," "You better do that," and "You need to do this, too." Just reading the words are enough to make a healthy person feel ill.

How does one correct or silence this perpetual know-it-all? Simple, give it what it wants. Keep a notepad with you, or utilize your Smartphone in one of the many ways it was designed: to store information. When your "know-it-all" brain starts telling you what to do:
  1. Assess the importance of the information
  2. If the information is important, make a voice memo or write it down. 
  3. Assign a due date to the activity. 
This simple act soothes the anxious brain. Meeting anxiety with organization and confidence tells the brain that everything will be "okay" ~ that there is nothing to worry about. This frees the mind to think about more pleasant things like painting, dancing, or playing music. It also allows the mind that does not wish to engage in aesthetic pursuits the freedom to be creative in how it manages its life. 

Meeting tasks with enthusiasm and good cheer is enough to help us feel creative, to quiet that part of our brain that needs to know that it has been heard and understood. Soothing the savage brain softens our internal voice, resulting in a more natural rhythm with appropriate tonality and relaxed understanding. 

The brain can then project or speak to the mind quietly when needed, serving as a companion and faithful servant to help us remember the important tasks we assign ourselves in order to manage our daily lives without impediment. 

Just as with communicating with others, internal dialogue requires a balance between speaking to oneself and listening to oneself. Writing down necessary tasks, making voice memos, or even performing the action the moment our brain thinks of doing it, tells our brain that we take its advice seriously, that we are grateful for the reminder, and that we appreciate the "heads up." 

Since there is a natural rhythm to our internal dialogue, there is a sense of timing and grace in one's thoughts, activities and movements. When thoughts flow through us with relative ease, without the jerky motions associated with the internal condemnation that follows avoidance and procrastination, we feel happier, relaxed, and confident in our ability to manage our daily life. 

Quieting the constant mental barrage our brains can pour out at us, blow after blow, lightens our mental load and allows us to use our brain as it is intended: to vary, change, rise and fall, go up and down, shift, swing, regulate, modify, alter, reshape, transform, and tweak our thoughts to enjoy each experience with a relaxed sense of freedom and creativity. We are creatures of habit, if we can master our mental experience, we can participate anew in each experience of living. 

The hallmark of true creativity is freedom of mind. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Subtle World of Online Sharing

Online Sharing

For the last three years, I have explored the world of online sharing. Initially, in this blog, then on, then Facebook, then Twitter. As we enter the world of social networks, we enter a paradoxical realm of great subtlety yet powerful influence. We leave behind the balanced middle ground of real life (RL) and reach into the etheric range of nuances that resonate with our voice. The enveloping element of communication still surrounds us, yet we reach beyond it into the unknown ether into the realm of subconscious thoughts and creativity.

We have passed the half way point in our civilization. In the dance between being alone and being connected, we are now leaving independence to focus more heavily on interdependence. We are breaking free from gravity, free from the way things have always been and from the structures and restrictions of the real world. We are becoming more abstract, yet broader in our scope.

In our early history we concerned ourselves with form, movement, activity, and relationships - things that are easily observed. At this point in human evolution, our attention has shifted to the realm of the subconscious, the part of consciousness that is not currently in focal awareness. Given that there is a limit to the amount of information that can be held in conscious focal awareness, the internet becomes the storehouse for our knowledge; this is now the subconscious of the human race. 

One question that is asked over and over with respect to online interactions is: Are People Sharing Too Much Online? As we align ourselves more and more with the virtual world, we enter the symbolic world of the global mind.

Symbols are the building blocks of consciousness, the link between the physical and virtual. Words, images, and thoughts are all symbolic reflections of RL. Each word we use is a symbol for a thing, concept, feeling, process, or relationship. Each image in our mind is a mental symbol for something real and each thought is a combination of these symbols. With symbols, we can do more with less. I can talk about singing, even though I cannot sing very well. I can describe a quark, even though I have never seen one. In the same respect, I can tell you what I know about my online "friends," even though I have never met them. 

Symbols are part of the subconscious essence of what they represent. They are the building blocks of social communication and consciousness. They are like little sugar packets of meaning that can be stored in our online galleries and shared with others, each packet enhancing the consciousness of others. When someone shares a symbol (word, image, thought) that really speaks to us - when it is full of meaning - this is when we say that it "resonates" with us. 


Everything in life has a rhythm. The Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the ocean, even our beating hearts. In the virtual world, each site or server has its own "feel" ... Blogger has a "feel" to it, just as Twitter and Facebook have their own "feel" or vibe. The vibrations of atomic particles within our own cells has a "feel" to them. Without discussing why (or even how), human beings are a mass of vibrations that resonate together as a single system. Our ability to function as a unified whole depends upon the coherent resonance of many subtle vibrations within and around us. The internet is an extension of that vibration. 

Resonance is a state of synchronization among vibrational patterns. All vibrations can be thought of as wavelike movements through space time location. Each wave has a characteristic or individual rhythm (frequency) that describes how frequently the waves rise and fall. For those familiar with music, the pitch of a note can be expressed as a certain frequency with higher notes vibrating more rapidly than lower ones. 

Soul Resonance 

When two or more sounds from different sources vibrate at the same frequency, they are said to resonate together. This resonance is often times applied to people. This means that the waveforms from each entity (or sound) oscillate back and forth as the same rhythm. When this happens, the height of the wave is added together (expanding the amplitude) and the waves lock into phase with each other. Once in a phase, they tend to remain that way. 

Oscillating waveforms stabilize when they enter into resonance (just as people reinforce each other's views) because they are, literally, on the same wavelength. This is a state also known as brainwave entrainment, when brainwave frequencies fall into step with a periodic stimulus having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state, which purportedly depends upon a "frequency following" response on the assumption that the human brain has a tendency to change its dominant EEG frequency towards the frequency of a dominant external stimulus. 

Individuals with similar activity in both hemispheres of their brain are alleged to be happier, more optimistic, more emotionally stable and less prone to mental illness. Increased levels of synchronization are found naturally in people who meditate regularly and people who are very content with their lives in general. 

We experience resonating waveforms when we listen to a chorus of voices singing in harmony, when out in nature and a sense of immersion vibrates with every cell in our bodies, or when we encounter like-minded individuals in RL or online, an experience that allegedly transcends the virtual boundary, making the virtual world "feel" tangible. 

The rhythmic entrainment of the myriad of frequencies that travel through the body form a coherent, central vibration that we experience as a kind of resonant "hum" when we are having a good day. On these days, we feel as if we are in tune with everyone and everything. When an individual "jumps online" during this phase, social interactions seem effortless, the value of the experience in which one is participating "feels" enhanced, and the impact seems to expand further than on days when we feel as if we are out of sorts, out of phase, or simply cannot do anything right. On these days, our communications with others falter, our sense of joy diminishes, and our analytical brains kick in with gusto to tell us all the reasons why we're not enjoying our experience. At the same time, others do not enjoy their interactions with us, increasing the possibility of conflict and basic vibrational incoherence ~ these days suck. 

Just like the strings of an instrument need to be both taut and flexible to make a harmonious sounding note, so too does individual resonance require a certain balance between flexibility and tension. Applying this concept to our online experiences, we benefit most when the sites we visit offer both of these aspects of experience. Facebook, for example, is one of those long, drug out American soap operas. Twitter is like a bunch of commercials popping up during your favorite television show, with some being so "good" that they make it into mashup where you can read your favorites all in one place. Google is like surfing through Comcast's television programming guide. It only shows you what's on "now" (or an hour from now). If you want something specific, you need to search by name. 

All of these random online experiences whereby we send out or bring in information have a "vibe" or "feel" to them. The state of resonance within the body is a statement of our health and vitality. The online experiences we choose often times reflect that statement. Individuals inclined toward Facebook, for example, tend to resonate with those who wish to engage in personal discussions, or who generally believe they are providing a community service by offering valuable insights or information. While the latter is what drove the majority of my posting experience, I find personal sharing in a public forum off-putting. Hence, I left FB. 

Twitter experiences are a different beast. The sharing of 140 character concepts, which mostly consist of links, pictures, or "follow me and I'll follow you back" tit-for-tat declarations, are anything but personal. True, there are individuals who thank each follower and some who may engage further with a particular follower, but these are rare occurrences. When this happens, it is more than likely that the individuals in question share a particular resonance, not necessarily for the format, but for the information being shared. In general, Twitter participants resonate with ideas more than with people. 

While these are only two general examples, notably influenced by my own experiences over three years, they do generally indicate that each site or server attracts its users in a way that heightens a preexisting frequency, harmonizing tendencies with the similar tendencies of others. As these frequencies grow, they attract more like-minded individuals. While an individual might join Facebook or Twitter and participate for a period of time, the experience wanes when the newness of the frequency, which causes an initial surge in the height of the waveform, drops to the point whereby the vibration is recognized as "out of sync". 

We cannot always resonate with the entire world around us. The best we can do is to resonate harmoniously within ourselves and allow that resonance to attract like-minded individuals toward us. This is one of the perceived benefits of blogging, individual websites, and even news platforms. Individuals seeking out a specific experience, form, or concept search through the Internet until they find the frequencies that best match their interests or resonance needs. Over a period of three years, the only advertising I have done for this blog, for example, was to share the post links on Twitter which, in turn, are linked to my FB page. The rest of the visitors presumably make their way to this blog via word or image search. 

It is my opinion that finding the right online platform in which to engage with the world - to receive and transmit information - is key to keeping us in harmony with our own resonance. When we find the right mix of online platforms that resonate with us, our heart rate, breathing, and brain waves all settle into a deep, rhythmic entrainment. A discontinuous experience will disrupt that balance and sometimes interfere with our otherwise harmonious experience, but at the end of the day, if the online experience truly resonates with us, we will remain. If the online experience is not perfectly matched to the individual, it is best to bid a fond Adieu to those with whom we engaged, returning back to a comfortable platform or moving onto a new one. 

When an individual is ill-suited for a particular online experience, the body naturally wants to disengage. Returning to what we enjoy helps to reestablish the body's natural resonance. It is here that the body becomes coherent again. When we tire of a non-resonating experience, each vibration is a new demand that further fragments us. However, when comfortable and aligned with a particular online experience, we are better able to meet and greet the day with cheer and good resonance. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Print this Page: I'm a Stick Figure

(Print this page and remove it from this blog entirely. The post published right before this one honestly conveys my genuine feelings on the subject of good towels, so I felt that it was relevant and responsible to include it, but now, anything else that I write, in comparison to that fine piece of literary accomplishment, is really just banal nonsense. The blog is fine without it. Print out anything that follows and dispose of it. Shred it. Stuff it in a rocket and shoot it off in your local park. Flush it ... wait, no, don't do that. Flushing large objects down commodes only plugs them up. Just get rid of anything that follows the Towel post. You'll be doing us all a favor.)

In the meantime, here is an entry from one of my Stick Figures...

I'm a Stick Figure
I have a heart for a heart
I'm super skinny, 
BUT super Strong!
I'm getting 
I'm getting
I don't understand why 
she can't just draw more of us,
I mean, how many people have to tell her to
But she won't listen.
She thinks drawing HEADS is more
That's what you get
when you trust your EXISTENCE
to an ARTIST!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Nifty Towel

User Friendly (2014)
Bo Erik Hollsten
Private Collection

You know what I think is just so cool? 
The idea of having a really good towel.
Especially one that actually dries your skin 
instead of just pushing water molecules around. 


Finding a good towel requires care and patience.
Just look at this towel.
It is one of those relatively attractive towels,
it has a circle motif, and linear undulations,
great for trapping water molecules.

I'm happy about this towel.
And I'm even happier after using it.
I mean, think about the last time you dried off with your towel.
Did it leave you feeling warm and fuzzy,
sans lint!
Did it leave your skin baby soft?
Were you able to hang it up and use it a second time,
saving the universe from harmful chemicals in laundry detergent?

I sure hope so.
Besides, we should all do our best to conserve the environment.
Not just for future generations,
we don't know them,
but for ourselves.

I mean, who wants to walk around a dirty planet?
Certainly not someone who has a great towel,
like I do.


I'm really looking forward to my next shower,
to my next interaction with this towel,
which has become like a dear friend.

And, besides,
what else is one to do after taking a shower?
I mean, what if no one had invented the towel?
What then?

I'll tell you what then.
We'd be jumping around trying to get dry!
Or dripping dry...
Or doing our hair whilst our bodies dried...

Think about that for a moment.
Imagine sliding your wet feet into perfectly dry socks!

All I can say is that this is one nifty towel.


I tell you.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Who Is this Individual? For that Matter, Who Are You?

In the late eighteenth century, a philosopher turned royal, retired from her role. At the conclusion of her life she quietly whispered to herself: "je vais vivre" (I will live on). Her breath escaped and her thoughts of going to live among the gods in eternal bliss with all those who went before and someday those whom she reluctantly left behind changed forever, for she awoke again only to find herself with a new face, body and personality. A process in Doctor Who's universe known as "regeneration." 

This philosopher, prior to becoming a royal, was not a stranger to living what many might consider a charmed life. Born in the late 16th century, he led a quiet life of intellectual pursuits. Initially focused on mathematics, he turned his gaze toward philosophy. Given his frail constitution, which would ultimately contribute to his demise, he spent a good deal of his time in intellectual seclusion where his imagination soared beyond his predicament. Imagine his surprise when he later awoke only to find himself seated under a tree in the shade reading philosophy to his closest girl-friends. 

Companions of this philosopher turned royal weren't at all sure at the time, but they suspected that there was something different about their friend, the Queen, and with that suspicion they wondered more about themselves. They each held the popular religious beliefs of the time, but rumors from exotic lands caused them to collectively ruminate on population changes and privilege. Were they basically the same person, only different? If so, what made them them

You might think that questions regarding personal identity have nothing to do with historical tales given philosophical issues are not addressed in history books, but this does not mean that the characters that populate our history books didn't question issues of personal identity, in particular, royal characters. What divines someone to rule and someone else to serve? Was a question of utmost curiosity. No person would argue that privilege was a blessing, unless one is held hostage by the responsibilities and intrigues associated with a privileged life. However, thinking about imaginary situations was quite risky in those days (even more so for a person of prominent status), thus ruminating, if expressed outside one's mind, could only take place in a sacred place among one's closest confidants. 

Thinking about the private ruminations of prominent historical figures can help us realize that there are gaps and inconsistencies in our theories. For example, we might have a theory that those who serve are goodnatured and blissful, revelling in their simple existence; yet, this theory has trouble standing when we think about the mammoth responsibility of home management without the aid of a full-time staff. An avid follower of Rousseau's highly romanticized works on the nature of human life might have romanticized the notion of singing gloriously while proudly attending to the needs of the physical world, but this same individual might later find themselves somewhat disheartened upon discovering that there's little to sing about when dusting must be carried out every day, seemingly forever and ever and ever ~ never to be finished because the moment one finishes dusting, to one's great chagrin, dust instantly reappears again. 

Fans of historical figures often content themselves on the objects of worth the individual in question leaves behind. They surmise the motivations and inner workings of the individual's mind by their circumstances, by what was said of them at the time, and by the individual's documented experiences. It would be ludicrous to think that an individual could be understood simply because they are recognized. 

What goes on inside the mind of an individual is rarely verbalized, much less discussed or shared with the world, in particular for individuals with much at stake. The fact that we cannot know anyone, least ourselves (entirely), renders any hypothetical a contradiction, at best. Similarly, what we are considering with respect to the issue of personal identity is equal in its ridiculousness, but only if we allow ourselves to "believe" the fanciful ideas we surmise. So long as hypothetical constructs remain hypothetical, we free ourselves to begin testing the comprehensiveness and consistency of our own theories about personal identity. 

So, back to the hypothetical story at hand: let's say that a prominent philosopher, twice over, returns to the world as a female royal surrounded by intrigue. How would this philosopher turned royal behave? Initially, perhaps, naturally, according to the whims of the new personality. Then, gradually, over time, those embedded tendencies toward intellectual ruminating would beckon (perhaps after the impetus of conflict or personal tragedy and the deep reflection that follows). This multifaceted being (a being consisting of several millions of subatomic particles) would slowly begin gravitating back toward the quietude of familiar intellectual pursuits with a small circle of friends. 

So, what constitutes personal identity for our hypothetical character? What makes her him? Or for that matter, you you? What makes our philosopher turned royal the same entity? One natural theory is that personal identity is constituted by bodily identity - that to be the same person is to have the same body. We certainly do refer to sameness of bodies to identify people. When you greet your family "Good morning" you identify them as your family by the fact that the body you see looks just like the body you wished "Good night" the evening prior. 

Let's take a quick romp through Greek mythology to the story of Oedipus who, according to prophecy, would kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus' father, Laius, wished to thwart the prophecy, leaving the infant for dead on a mountainside. The baby was found by shepherds and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope in the city of Corinth. Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy, but believing he was to kill his adopted father and marry his adopted mother, left Corinth. Heading to Thebes, Oedipus meets an older man in a chariot traveling the opposite direction on a narrow road. Following a quarrel over who should give way, Oedipus kills the stranger and continues onto Thebes. Upon arriving to Thebes he discovers that the king of the city (Laius) had been killed and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus answered the Riddle of the Sphinx correctly, defeating it and winning the throne of the dead king and the hand in marriage of the king's widow, his mother, Jocasta. 

While this story ultimately ends in tragedy, it illustrates how much importance is played on personal identity. Prior to Oedipus and Jocasta discovering one another's identities, they live in relative happiness, having two daughters (Antigone and Ismene). How important, thus, is personal identity? In the case of Oedipus, had he realized that the stranger was his father, surely their encounter would have ended differently. In the same respect, had he known that Jocasta was his mother, he would not have married her. 

Clearly, body is a significant factor in personal identity. But what exactly constitutes having the same body with exactly the same form. Given that we are born as infants and persist through many changes of form, which body or form constitutes the identity of the individual in question? 

Throughout our many changes of form, we're expected to find it intelligible that the infant or child after growing up is the same person who was there beforehand, despite the change to their bodies. If we allow for the sameness of identity to persist despite these changes of form, we can hypothetically allow for the sameness of identity to persist despite the interruption in biological form. 

This doctrine is a central tenet of the Indian religions called "reincarnation". In Doctor Who's universe, it is referred to as "regeneration". In physics, the law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system cannot change - it is said to be conserved over time. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form. Thales of Miletus (c. 550 BCE) thought that the underlying substance of which everything is created was water. In quantum mechanics, energy of a quantum system is described by a hermitian operator called the Hamiltonian, which acts on the Hilbert space of the system. If the Hamiltonian is a time independent operator, emergence probability of the measurement result does not change in time over the evolution of the system. Due to the lack of the time operator in quantum theory, the uncertainty relations for time and energy are not fundamental. 

Whichever theory one considers or discounts, the question of personal identity and/or the persistence of the "stuff" that makes up everything we know makes for a multitude of interesting (and entertaining) thought experiments. An infinite number of stories, historical and fictional, can be combined (like particles) in a dramatic unfolding of stories that, albeit different from one another, have an element of sameness insomuch that they are the stories of existence that we tell ourselves about our own existence and the existence of the world in which we find ourselves. Creating new stories highlights the absolute absurdity associated with belief in any one theory, scientific or otherwise, and is thus relegated to philosophical fodder, which can be utilized as fuel for humorous discourse or writings, such as these.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Beautiful Heads

A Celebration of Color (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Contemporary victims of western civilization spend the entirety of their lives inside their heads. The inevitable result is an internal arrangement of complexities in the context of a larger system. Within this system the notion of self can be accessed, organized, and harmonized with a variety of different belief systems. 

Soph Laugh's paintings of beautiful heads divides these directions into easily accessible spaces or pieces of information using shapes, visual concepts, and titles specific to the stories that occur within the silhouette of the mind. This focus on geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors is known as Suprematism, the term coined by Kazimir Malevich in 1915, the same year in which in St. Petersburg he exhibited 36 works in a similar style. The term supermatism refers to an abstract art based upon "the supremacy of pure artistic feeling" rather than on the visual depiction of objects. 

Not unlike Malevich's work, Soph Laugh stresses the purity of shape, though it is the communion associated with the artistic experience that differentiates Soph's artwork .  According to Soph, "The exploration of artistic language is a personal experience, while the sharing of this language system is comparable to the development of writing." 

Simple Expectations (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection 

Human beings are a curious species ~ acutely aware of both head and body, but connected to neither. Centered somewhere in the chasm of emptiness that underlines the mind, intellectual growth comes from balancing this space with the actively engaged space we utilize for cognitive functioning. Repetitive, familiar patterns emerge, some by emotion, others by instinct, which allow the cognitive mind to discuss the resulting organization with itself. 

Most people tend not to question their minds, preferring instead to keep things steady. These individuals have simple expectations from life, and are generally satisfied with sticking to regular routines. Ruled by the unconscious, they rarely know why they do what they do, and may function by impulse. Following the path of least resistance minimizes our expectations and, as a consequence, our chances for (individually defined) success. 

No Signal (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Understanding the patterns of our minds takes time and reflection. Assessing patterns shows where in our mind's systems our focus is strongest and weakest. If we are excessive in a given area, we can use that excess to visualize a healthy result in another area. If, for example, we are strong communicators, we can utilize that skill to improve our relationships. In the same respect, if an individual is highly disciplined, that disciplined can be harnessed toward maintaing our physical systems through exercise or meditative practices. 

Unbalanced mental distributions arise when we do not reflect upon or balance out the excesses and deficiencies in our mind's processing systems. Given that most of us "live in our heads," it can be difficult to deal with our bodies and the physical world unless we absolutely have to do so. This assessment reveals an excess in the higher cognitive functioning of the mind, which typically results in an intuitive individual type who thinks excessively. This type of individual thinks first and acts later, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is unhealthy when this prolonged mental activity inhibits one's ability to be playful or spontaneous. 

The natural tendency here is to ignore deficiencies, while simultaneously over-focusing on excesses. Because these individuals are top heavy, few signals if any are transmitted to other systems, resulting in a "no signal" type of response when other systems attempt to communicate or tap into the storehouse of energy located in the higher regions of the mind. 

Hello, my name is (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

As you peer into the minds of these beautiful heads, you may have found yourself thinking, "Wow, I really need to work on this one." "That sounds a lot like [insert name]" or "She should paint this (or that)." If so, you have probably already been performing a good deal of mental examinations on your own.

From the time we are born, most of us are given names. These names become our archetypes of Self. Each time we encounter a new design inside one of these beautiful heads, we often times return to our own original name or pattern of thinking and pick up our evolutionary thinking processes wherever we last left off. 

Hello, my name is symbolizes our trying to get somewhere by reminding us to remove that which keeps us from seeing that no name is necessary and yet every name is possible. The goal is not to disvalue any name, but to identify with the names of others as a common starting point - to bring as much depth and wisdom as we can to each and every experience we have with others. 

Day and Night (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Day and Night represents two aspects of our being's experience: day and night. During the day, visual awareness stimulates movement and desire; that language allows us to control our actions and conceptualize a self beyond our immediate needs and impulses. 

Night gives us access to the raw properties of the subconscious on a plane that is not yet organized, but our center of being and self-awareness does not operate from this space. 

The predominant aspect of this image is day. It is here where we have access to higher levels of organization and complexity. Each new experience brings about a new realization, a shift in perspective or a transformation. The less dominant aspect of this painting is night. This state of being is one of recreation and enchantment. 

Always in the back of our minds, night remains present with us. Although every person sleeps, sleep is not our primary focus because (with the exception of lucid dreaming) we are not in control of what happens in our dreams. In this state, our stability is compromised. Thus we rely on our waking intelligence to devise a strategy to broaden our understanding of the dream world and to recognize the emotions or signs from our dreamlike perceptions, the thoughts and experiences from which we incorporate into our waking reality. 

Kamikaze Baby (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Kamikaze Baby is that 2-year old voice inside our heads that wants to take off its clothes and experience the joy of being naked. It is the quintessential universal identity: no ego, no personal motivations, no judgment. 

The mental image you hold onto with respect to your inner child is less significant than your ability to relate to the inner child, which carries with it a sense of freedom and compassion for you, the individual. 

If you are capable of changing places with this identity, even for a moment, the connection to this prior state of being strengthens. It does not mean that you have to run around your house unclothed, but the result of this mental exercise does allow you to envision yourself as another. 

The Kamikaze Baby gives the adult you permission to be something else. The result of thought experiment is that we learn to see ourselves as others see us. It allows us to make adjustments in our words, in our expressions, in our reactions, and in our perceptions of self. 

Princess Leia (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

When we cannot see our way off the Death Star, we may need to record an image of ourselves into the belly of an astromech droid (a 'thermocapsulary dehousing assister' known as R2D2) and send out a distressed message with the new hope that someone will intersect it and come to our rescue. Having regained our bearings, we can then settle our minds, knowing that a way out of a difficult situation exists. Often, it just requires the assistance of a clever little droid. 

What is important is that we allow others, along with their protocol droid companion to aid in our experience of living. "No man is an island," John Donne wrote in his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624). 

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent, 
a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea,
Europe is the lessee, as well as if a Promontoire were,
as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never said to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee

Wavelengths (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Mindfulness is the essential key to living a conscious life. Knowing oneself, as the famous philosopher Socrates purported, is the fundamental quality necessary to cultivate awareness. 

Mindfulness means paying attention. It involves noticing the subtle waves of emotions or thoughts that flow through us throughout the day and appreciating the many interwoven strands of meaning without getting overly attached to any particular one. 

Mindfulness takes our entire awareness into the present moment, the present strand upon which we are focusing, and allows us to see more clearly that strand with its corresponding emotions, thoughts, and actions. Immersing ourselves in the fullness of as many moments as is possible enables us to experience the richness of each strand. However, too much focus on the "now" might result in the need for a mid-day nap. 

Shield of Belief (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

The vehement belief in limitations is one of the most difficult beliefs against which to contend. 

The shield represents the tendency people have to defend their belief systems. Even if you broach a subject gingerly, most people will not engage in a genuine examination of their belief systems. This relates to the "know-it-all" system of "BS-beliefs" that reinforces the notion that one knows everything about one's beliefs and that others could not possibly know anything because they have not walked in their shoes. 

The reality is that one does not need to walk in another's shoes in order to offer valuable insights or new perspectives. Rather than defending beliefs, examining beliefs benefits both parties. Irrespective of different points of view that one brings one to this discussion, the end result can often lead to enhanced insight and understanding, both of self and of others. 

Learning to examine our beliefs is a process of incorporating change as a result of how we think about our thoughts, reactions, and resulting actions. While this way of thinking can be highly liberating, it can also prove difficult to incorporate. Many people jump to judgment without first asking all the necessary questions to have a clear perspective. 

One easy way to examine one's beliefs is by following these steps: 

  1. Ask permission to reiterate what a person has said in order to clarify and verify that you both heard and understood their point clearly.
  2. Ask one another if there is something to gain from expanding each other's insights on the subject at hand.
  3. Now that the discussion has been placed on the table, agree upon the specific points that both wish to examine. 
  4. Once the specific examination points are agreed upon, begin with the point that both parties agree is the most simple to examine. Offer similar examples against which to measure this point and explain how these examples are similar and/or different in nature. 
  5. Now that a benchmark is established, examine how these points relate to the interests of the individuals examining these concepts. 
  6. Once a common understanding has been reached, move onto the next point and repeat. 
  7. The discussion concludes when all the points in question have been examined and the resulting understandings have been clearly reiterated to the satisfaction of the participants. 
This simple examination process lowers the Shield of Belief, enabling new information to enter. The simple act of allowing new information to enter one's mind is the beginning step toward unification of divergent beliefs, even if the resulting belief systems differ due to cultural, gender, or social status interests. 

The point is to understand a myriad of belief systems from a multitude of perspectives. Understanding the perspectives of others without demanding adherence to one's own beliefs and having others understand our own perspectives without demanding their adoption is perhaps one of the greatest joys in life insomuch that commonality reduces tension, alleviates ill-feelings, and opens up the discussion pathway for sincere communication with others. The benefits arising from these results are numerous.