Post number 4

First off, the the experiment which I referred to in class is called Brain Change in Response to Experience conducted by Mark R. RosenzweigEdward L. BennettMarian Cleeves Diamond. Sorry I couldn’t post a link or a video I failed to find anything online that didn’t require money.

I was disappointed with the dichotomous emotional reactions I experienced while reading Ranier Marie Rilke’s, Letters to a Young Poet and Gardners Five Minds for the Future in the same setting.

While reading Rilke’s letters I felt as if I was being personally consoled in a way that I have never experienced.  His letters made me feel at ease with my sadness and left me pleasantly curious as to it’s presence within my mind. Rilke’s letter’s refocused my energy, and manifested it into something positive. Rilke articulated advice with such peaceful elegance and genuine honesty that I couldn’t help but feel like his letters were intended for me. Their was something different in the way Rilke conveyed his advice.  It wasn’t about telling the young poet how to live his life but rather like putting eye glasses on a person whose vision is blurry. His letters were a guiding hand to help the young poet explore his inner self, to acknowledge the positive in every experience and every emotion, negative or positive. And although his guidance felt whimsical it did not feel illogical or unattainable.  It felt more like he had lead me into a warmly lit room, with a maroon lazy boy recliner, a lit fire place and a cup of hot apple cider.

My reaction to Rilke’s letter’s was in bitter opposition to that of Gardners oral presentation which left me feeling defeated and exhausted. Which always seems to occur when I experience dissonance after reading what I ultimately interpret as life advice from an “expert” whose interpretations I do not feel in agreement with.  His piece left me thinking, who the fuck are you? Who the fuck are you to judge creativity and apply to it a make or break criteria. I wonder if he had this harsh of an opinion before his stupid multiple intelligence crap happened to meet the eyes of those who could get him famous.  Perhaps I am getting so upset this moment because I am insecure about my own creativity and thus concerned about the success of my future. But either way, Gardener is rewarding himself with far too much credit to be making such grandly difinitive statements but as am I without not having read his entire book on creativity.

“Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentation, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened.”

“You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.”

“No, there is not more beauty here than in other places, and all these objects, which have been marveled at by generation after generation, mended and restored by the hands of workmen, mean nothing, are nothing, and have no heart and no value; but there is much beauty here, because every where there is much beauty.” Referring to Rome

“Solitary”:  it is vast, difficult to bear– necessary to obtain vast inner solitude

“Why should you want to give up a child’s wise not-understanding in exchange for defensiveness and scorn, since not understanding is, after all, a way of being alone, whereas defensiveness and scorn are a participation in precisely what, by these means, you want to separate yourself from.”‘

“If only it were possible for us to see farther than our knowledge reaches, and even a little beyond the outworks of our presentiment, perhaps we would bear our sadnesses with greater trust than we have in our joys.”

, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.

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“The fall of humanity was the fall from the actual to the symbolic. Language abstracts us from the real world; keeping us from direct, intuitive perception. Words, like the ego, are merely guides. Don’t mistake them for the real thing. Pull aside the filthy curtains of the social. Language makes an enigma of simple existence; it obscures the true nature of reality and of your self.

– Tony Vigorito

For all who haven’t read Tony Vigorito’s book, Just a Couple of Days, I highly suggest you do. The general gist of the book is about a relatively confused, intelligent, and very scared, 30 to 40 something year old man  named Dr. Fountain, who is approached by the military to develop an antidote to a virus called the Pied Piper, which when contracted causes the infected to slowly lose their capacity to understand symbolic reasoning, ie: language, communication and thus they are left with no other choice but to DANCE!! Needless to say, the Pied Piper virus escapes its confined corridors and soon the entire world becomes “infected” with the dancing virus, everyone but Dr. Fountain, who (at least for a little while) remains hidden, contemplating behind closed doors, alone with his words, watching while the rest of humanity moved to the rhythm of the earth.

Just a Couple of Days rocked my mind the first time I read it 7 years ago, when I stole it off the book shelf of my friends sister solely because I liked the cove.. Fancy that, one might say, who would of thunk? But,if you read the book you will agree, there could have been no better way for me to have met eyes with it. But I digress. Read the book.

Just a Couple of Days really encouraged me to believe that the world would be a far better place if everyone was infected with the Pied Piper.

I have a love hate relationship with language. I love it, but at the same time I hate it, or more so, I resent it. And I think I love to hate it. The same way I love to hate a lot of things. I hate the fact that I have to go to college, or more precisely I resent the fact that I feel societal pressures to attend to college, which made me fear the life I might have had if I didn’t attend college, so thus, I am here. But on the same note, I love the experiences I have had here at Guilford. I love the friends I have made, the knowledge I have gained, the places I have been able to go, characters I have met.

But who is to say my life, would have been any better or any worse if I had or had not attended college. I am not sure if this analogy is quite matching up but, in regards to what I had said early, who am I to say that the world really would be sooo much better off if everyone was infected with the Pied Piper Virus.

I used to pronounce the word squirrel as squey-al before my mouth could properly create the shapes needed to say squirrel.  I used to wish I was a squey-al. Squey-al’s didn’t have to do “human things,” all they seemed to do was run around in the woods, playing, leaping. And once I found out what a period was, and that I was going to get one, I envied them even more.

I will never know what it like to experience the world without language. Talk, talk, talk, write, think, talk, think, talk in my dreams, wake up, think etc. repeat. It is all very exhausting, distracting and virtually impossible to silence.

“The fall of humanity was the fall from the actual to the symbolic. Language abstracts us from the real world; keeping us from direct, intuitive perception. Words, like the ego, are merely guides. Don’t mistake them for the real thing. Pull aside the filthy curtains of the social. Language makes an enigma of simple existence; it obscures the true nature of reality and of your self.

I am seriously confusing myself, dragging myself, with my own two hands, down a long and inescapable labyrinth. It’s almost laughable that I am sitting here reading this quote (that may or may not actually reflect Tony Vigorito’s true beliefs), written to explain to the reader the hindering effects of language. This of course is the irony of human intellect and the basis of philosophy.

Perhaps deep down I believe symbolic reasoning is the fall of humanity. We have allowed language, or more specifically written language, to make the world more anthropocentric then ever. We have cut off the rest of the world, and in turn cut ourselves off from it. We have developed an exclusive language, a language that can be written, and thought, so it does not even have to be vocalized and thus does not have to be shared or experienced by any other species but our own.

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This summer I joined the Southwest Conservation Corps and spent 12 weeks in Colorado building, cleaning, and renovating trails. My crew spent 9 days at a time out in the wilderness, overworked, over-hiked, underpaid, and shower-less, but those 3 months were the happiest I have been in an extremely long time. Before joining the Conservation Corps I had never even heard of the term LNT. My crew leader was so hard core about it that we weren’t even aloud to take rocks out of a park. When they first read the 7 principles to us I sort of thought yah, yah, duh, and they went in one ear and out the other. There came a certain time when it felt like the outdoors was our home. We were sleeping outdoors, working out doors, putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into creating space for others to come to enjoy the outdoors.  We saw bears, and porcupines, heard mountain lions, and coyotes, we ate the tiniest most delicious strawberries hidden between ferns on top of mountains I had no idea could be soooo magical. The respect I developed for the land was something entirely transformed from the respect I thought I had going into the experience.

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If you are in the mood to read something interesting…..Look up Self-realization: An Ecological Approach to Being in the World by Arne Naess

Noomero dos

While reading The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram I found myself constantly underlining, looking up, and writing down words and or philosophical theories that I had never heard of (or been consciously aware that I had heard of) or applied a name to.  For example:

Epistemology: branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge. It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and the possible extent a given subject or entity can be known.

Solipsism: philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. As an  epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure

Inter subjective phenomena: phenomena experiences by a multiplicity of sensing subjects.

Even words I previously thought I had a relatively strong comprehension for I found myself writing down. For example:

Sentient: having the power of perception by the senses: conscious

Corporeal: of the nature of the physical body; material, tangible

Sensuous: perceived by or affecting the senses

I wanted to try and understand every intention of every word. This made David Abrams writing that much more beautiful. I couldn’t help to look up every, and I mean EVERY word I felt even the slightest definitional doubts about. I found myself in awe with the authors writing. Every word I didn’t recognize turned out to be the most perfect word that could have ever been used in that sentence, unlike the person who types “happy” into the thesaurus hoping to sound more intelligent (or something like that), and/or unlike some writers who overuse their prestigious knowledge of vocabulary to the point where I feel like screaming. David Abram had no choice but to have chosen the words he chose.

All the literature we have been reading thus far combined with the literature I have been coincidentally reading in my other classes has taken me on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. Our behaviors are biological, thus we have no control over our experiences, they are predetermined, but wait this can’t be true because then none of the interactions I’ve had or will continue to have, with anything outside my body, can be genuine. I would like to believe the latter of the two but of course neither perspective can be “proven “or “disproved” and thus my sanity will continue to suffer.

“Neither the perceiver nor the perceived, then, is wholly passive in the event of perception.” (53)

“…any visible, tangible form that meets my gaze may also be an experiencing subject, sensitive and responsive to the beings around it, and to me. ” (67)

Mindful, respectful actions

out

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Can a person learn to be a leader?

Once again I can not help to detect wisps of “nature” vs “nurture” in this question. IT’S IN EVERYTHING!!

Even if one learns the “appropriate skills” that are expected of a leader will they be able to intern take those skills and project them into the world?  I am skeptical. To bitterly quote Mary Oliver’s Poetry Handbook, “Evvveryyyyoneee knows that poets are born and not made in school. This is true for painters, sculptors, and musicians. Something that essential can’t be taught: it can only be given or earned or formulated in a manner to mysterious to picked apart and redesigned for the next person.” While Mary Oliver clearly states that her book is about the things, in poetry, that can be learned, she is directing this statement towards those in the world who she believes were already born to be poets.

Is this inherent destiny also true of leaders? Say a person was “not born with leadership abilities” even though that person may dream of being a leader, without those innate skills is it possible?

Perhaps their is a spectrum, while one person may be a great leader, depending on how one might define great, another might be a poor leader, a leader without credibility of which people do not entirely respect. Then why is that person in a leader ship position?  We all have identities, identities that we form within and about ourselves and identities applied by those around us. Whether we like it or not, the way I identify myself may be entirely different from the way those around me might identify me. Perhaps I perceive myself as a solid leader, but to the perceived am just a schmuck.

Noomero oon-oh

Quote

“It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.” ” – David Foster Wallace

Approaching this blog I feel very overwhelmed especially in relation to the context of the literature we are responding to. Each piece stirred up a particular concern, anxiety, obsession (I am not exactly sure to call them) that I have with life.

On the first day of class the beginning of Annie Dillard’s piece, “Seeing,” was read out loud and stopped on the last sentence of her introduction which read, “It is that simple, what you see is what you get.” While I admire her optimism and excitement, these feelings seem to be an innate part of her being, something she has impulsively felt and playfully cultivated from the time she was six or seven. “It is that simple, what you see is what you get,” is a calming, lovely statement that reads as easy as 1, 2, 3.  But if a persons impulsive reaction to life is not as appreciative, or whimsical, or wonderfully simplistic, as those of Annie Dillard’s, noticing a penny, and allowing it to make ones day may be a little more difficult than her introduction would lead one to believe.

Achieving the ability to alter ones impulsive reactions to/perceptions of the world and ultimately making the choice to see the world as one desires, uninterrupted by outside forces or intruding influences takes time, and work. Of course, my own cynical perspectives and life experiences have intrudingly influenced the development of this opinion.

Freshman year of college, in creative writing 2, my class read a commencement address written by David Foster Wallace, which he gave to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005.  He begins the commencement with the opening, “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”   Basically, his speech proceeds onward to talk about cultivating free will, switching off autopilot, being conscious and aware of what and how we see the world.

When I first read this piece 3 years ago it felt awesome, and invigorating. When I read it again for the first time in 3 years a few weeks ago I felt that same awesome invigoration and inspiration. But when I made the regretful decision to do a little biographical research about whom David Foster Wallace was, my righteous buzz came to a dark and utter crash as I began reading and learned that he had lived with depression for at least 20 years of his life and committed suicide just 3 short years after making that commencement address.  The reality behind the living, breathing tragedy (as I subsequently took it) that I now saw as David Foster Wallace was a smack to the face the childish, ideological, sense of comfort I had received from first reading and ultimately believing in his commencement address.

Wallace concluded his commencement saying, “It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.” As I re-read these words again now, (and for that matter, the entire speech) I detect a sense of exhaustion, or sadness, mixed with a word similar to sarcasm but not really sarcasm, mixed with a suggested challenge for the audience, which prior to this moment, I had failed to notice.

Learning about David Foster Wallace’s life deeply saddened me, and admittedly shattered my spirit a bit but I now realize and appreciate his honesty. It can be easy to say things like, “life is what you make of it,” or to tell people to “live each day to the fullest,” but to actually embody these mindsets and approach life with this sort of courageous vigor  takes a lifetime of commitment.

Annie Dillards tells the reader, “The secret of seeing is to sail on a solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff” (33). While this imagery is extremely beautiful, and romantic, and probably makes ecstatic sense to Annie Dillard (considering she wrote it) I, as a reader, start to feel hopeless, what in the hell does that even mean?! In another section of her book Dillard says, “hush the noise of useless interior babble that keeps me from seeing…The effort is really a discipline requiring a lifetime of dedicated struggle; it marks the literature of saints and monkey or every order…” (32) Okay, so, David Foster Wallace also said that “seeing” would not be easy, but he never made me feel like it was somehow out of my league, unattainable, an achievement that should be left to the specialist.

The idea of a world controlled by specialists scares me.

But at the same time…What if I never become “special”?

Take Mary Oliver for example, a specialist in poetry…….I found it interesting to compare Annie Dillard and David Foster Wallace’s work with Mary Oliver’s, “A Poetry Handbook.” Although she was talking about poetry I couldn’t help but apply her wisdom for poetry with more general thoughts about life. Initially she talks about “falling into a manner” of writing poetry. She describes it as “vaguely felt, not understood, not probably intended and never explored.” To me this sounds a lot like a life lost (if it is never cultivated.) Without the tools, or the know how, how does one take something like life, which is almost as difficult for me as poetry, and explore it.

I think Mary Oliver’s piece offers an interesting analogy, intended for poetry, but interpreted by me, as a rational, somewhat clear way to approach the first steps towards a successful life. First of all, Mary Oliver believes that in order to create a poem two parts of the brain, the consciousness and something she calls “the cautious” need to work together. Now her analogy goes as such, “Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches.” Meaning your “cautious”, waits and watches. “If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself- soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly or it will not appear at all” (8).  This made me think of my battle with meat, sweets, and other such foods which I can not seem to genuinely cut out of my diet. I only make the decision not to eat meat, say, 6 out of 10 times, or only make the decision not to eat sweets 3 out of 10 times. I’m decisions are not reliable, I hardly stick to what I tell myself I am going to do, and thus my diet still contains far too much meat and sweets. Improving ones life can not happen unless, once again, one is vigorously committed.

Steve Jobs said something I found very insightful but again difficult to achieve. He talked about approaching life with a conscious reminder that “I’ll be dead soon.” With this reminder floating in bold letters on the forefront of our brains it is then that we can finally cultivate the life that we have always dreamed of. Confident and free of all trivial inhibitions.

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“What’s the point of living if our minds are the physiological activity of the brain?” (Is Science Killing the Soul)

Recently, I have been given no choice but to repeatedly read and contemplate topics similar to the question above. The more literature, and studies I have read the more science points to biology. Is it nature? Or is it nurture? My mind began to formulate an opinion whether I wanted to or not. Like millions of others who feel a discomfort when confronted with the theory that the way our “minds” work is very much contingent upon the physiological activity or our brain, I began to feel a lack of control. Although I don’t believe this takes away from my “free will” or the “free will” of others I did begin to feel sad about the fact that I was feeling sad.

I denied responsibility for the sulky mood I had fixed myself into. I told myself, “I am being crabby, I am aware that I am being crabby, but this is how my brain works, and there is nothing I can or want to do about it (because once again, that’s just how my brain works.) Of course I can try to rationalize my concern that I have no control over my emotions by telling myself that I can work on having a better attitude and that maybe over time I will become a more positive person, but the fact that I even considered this alternative is a result of the physiological activity of my brain….

Morality and Responsibility. Although I may feel a bitter disdain for the people in the world who are racist, or believe they can blast off the tops of mountains without any remorse, I still have a hard time directly blaming these people for their actions.

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Until recently I had no idea how easy it is to get hypothermia. If you are not dressed properly and not taking care of your body it can sneak up on you and have dire consequences. I recently read Into the Woods which talked about campers mysteriously dying, found naked outside there tents, turns out it was hypothermia. These stories momentarily scared the shit out of me. But each of these people had gone about something half assed and or uninformed. Despite everything that I have bantered with throughout this first dizzy blog, it is up to me to cultivate my life, and this means living for as long as I can, which means knowing my facts, being prepared, and not getting hypothermia!!