I done been tagged to give out five of my favorite quotes. To the Ginormous Text File of Collected Quotations, Batman!
"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love." - Neil Gaiman
"I'm sure there's something more to be read in a man. People dare not - they dare not turn the page. The laws of mimicry - I call them the laws of fear. People are afraid to find themselves alone, and don't find themselves at all. I hate all this moral agoraphobia - it's the worst kind of cowardice. You can't create something without being alone. But who's trying to create here? What seems different in yourself that's the one rare thing you possess, the one thing which gives each of us his worth and that's just what we try to suppress. We imitate. And we claim to love life." -- André Gide
"Once in awhile it really hits people that they don't have to experience the world in the way they have been told to." --Alan Keightley
"Life is like a box of chocolates...a cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. You're stuck with this undefinable whipped-mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while, there's a peanut butter cup, or an English toffee. But they're gone too fast, and the taste is fleeting. So you end up with broken bits, filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts, and if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you've got left is a...is an empty box...filled with useless, brown paper wrappers." - Cancerman, The X-Files
KUZCO: Don't tell me. We're about to go over a huge waterfall.
KUZCO: Sharp rocks at the bottom?
PANCHO: Most likely.
KUZCO: Bring it on.
-The Emperor's New Groove
(I picked all my favoritest long ones because I don't get a chance to deploy those as often.)
From my Art & Spirituality journal. I would include the name of the play, but since it's a local production, it'd be too easy to Google it and find out where I live. Hurray for paranoia!
They aren't much alike, on the surface. Pan's Labyrinth is a story juxtaposing a child's journeys in a supernatural fairy world with the rebel resistance to Fascist Spain. [Local Play] is an exploration of mental illness and creativity on the personal scale. One involves a relatively benevolent faun, the other a malevolent reptile demon.
They both, however, nearly made me cry in the theatre.
I was once a child who invented fantasy worlds to live in when the reality around me was too dark and too big to deal with. I was once a teenager who made bargains with my internal demons because I thought they constituted my creative powers. The tightrope between reality as it is and reality as I lived it is one I have balanced on before.
In my lived experience of spirituality, I have lately been separating the truths and the falsehoods from the systems I was given wholesale as a child, comparing and contrasting it with my own experiences and my own discoveries. Sometimes I don't know if I cling to certain beliefs because I believe them true on my own terms or because I fear the consequences of proving them false. Sometimes I still come home to an empty house and think I'm the only one who hasn't been raptured because I wasn't a Real Christian. I wonder if I might have to be the only one who can see the truth, like Ofelia as the sole believer in fairies and [Protagonist] as the only one who can see the lizards, and whether something exists independent of anyone's belief in it other than my own.
To a large degree, as an artist, I still negotiate the balances inherent in trying to make my own visions into a reality to be experienced by others, and the difficulties of the process of unraveling the fabric of my own reality in order to study the threads of which it is woven. I deal with my own experience of mental illness in order to help friends who are dealing with some of the same issues, separating the real from the illusory and the true from the false, and discovering the ways in which something real may be false and something dreamed can be the truth in the end.
From my Art & Spirituality journal.
Perhaps as a result of my previous art history elective, Women in Art (which I loved and adored, in part because I savored the chance to make all my feminist wonkery useful for something other than pissing off my parents), one question kept nagging at me throughout the quarter:
"Where are the women?"
I saw more female nudes than female artists. I counted two women that we studied throughout the entire quarter-- Georgia O'Keefe and Frida Kahlo. These two tend to be the standard artists to use when the occasion calls for "[insert girl painter here]," so it's not quite that I quibble with their inclusion per se, but that they were the only ones. Given that the twentieth century was a time of unprecedented accessibility for female artists, there should have been far more than just two female artists to analyze.
Where was Hannah Koch and the spirituality of Dada? Romaine Brooks' somber exploration of solitude and sexuality? Eva Hesse's tactile minimalism? It bothered me in particular that Sonia Delaunay was excluded from the book's discussion of her husband Robert's work, considering that hers was similar in outlook as well as incorporating collage and fiber elements and using abstraction in a manner predating even Kandinsky's.
It bothers me, as a woman and an artist, that art history can apparently blithely exclude an entire gender's perceptions of spiritual and artistic experience without noticing anything missing.
From my Art & Spirituality journal. I can't remember the names of the music in question.
I have a curious relationship with noise. Growing up as the second of five children, I have come to hold a certain sort of distrust of total silence. The absence of sound generally makes me feel on edge and somewhat paranoid, perhaps because I feel like my siblings or parents are plotting some evil distraction or onerous chore to spring on me at any moment. Silence is the prelude to something extremely obnoxious. Partly as a result, I can't deal with total quiet; it's necessary for music or the fan to be on for me to feel comfortable enough to focus on either working or sleeping. Whenever I return to [Terabil] from [Avalon], the first night always weirds me out because I can't hear the bizarrely comforting night soundscape of sirens and dehumidifier rattling that I'm used to.
Apparently pure noise simply has too many negative associations for me to ever feel up to contemplating it on the level of meditation. I don't think a mantra consisting of "make it stop! make it stop!" is very spiritual at all.
From my Art & Spirituality journal.
My senior project is centered around a girl's simultaneous experience of lycanthropy and adolescence. To this end I've had to do a lot of research into werewolf myths, which involves watching and reading a lot of horror movies and books. (My life is so hard.)
Among other things, one of the major themes I'd like to explore is the relationship between the mind and the body, particularly the division between the intellectual and the sexual. One of the major themes of most werewolf myths is a sense of mind-body dualism, particularly a Gnostic / Manichean duality in which the body represents and constitutes the base, animalistic material nature. In this paradigm, the body, as seen in the "beast" form of the wolf-man, must be subdued if possible, and destroyed if necessary, as an impediment to the essential goodness of the human. To be good is to be disassociated from the physical.
Typically, this kind of "matter is evil" philosophy tends to be fairly misogynistic, since women are supposed to be more rooted to their physical bodies than men. Women are generally tied to their reproductive systems, their menstrual cycles and their pregnancies, in a way that men are not. Women therefore tend to be equated with "The Physical," symbolically, and therefore with Evil. In many ways, for women to be considered fully human, they have to overcome their femaleness. You can interpret werewolf myths, in that sense, as The Intellectual Man overcoming or being overcome (and destroyed) by his lunarly-controlled Physical Woman Side.
In particular, a lot of Western spiritual systems tend to portray sexuality as the enemy of spirituality, especially the more intellectual or systematic the religion tends to be. I learned that lesson early as an evangelical teenager, where my job as a girl was to be the gatekeeper of sexuality. I, as a Good Christian Girl, was supposed to focus on allowing or disallowing boys access to my body based on whether he said the Magic Words (something along the lines of "Will You Marry Me?") Sexuality was something to be channeled into Approved Modes of Expression, which were mainly limited to monogamous heterosexual marriage. The idea that I might want something different, or anything at all, on my own terms, particularly not the idea that I might not want boys at all, was never presented as an option. Since I, as a female person, represented sexuality, it was all the more my burden to overcome it to be considered truly pure and spiritual.
This, not to put too blunt a point on it, is pure bullshit.
To this end, much of the story is meant to question this duality of Mind Is Good, Body Is Bad. The heroine fails at all the obvious solutions-- she can't simply deny the reality of her wolf self, she can't control or subdue her wolf self without damage to her whole self, and she can't entirely throw herself over to being totally wolfy without doing injury to her human self as well. She, as a werewolf, is neither entirely human nor entirely wolf, and living as one or the other therefore makes no sense. The solution, for her, is not to try to compartmentalize and hierarchalize the components of her nature, but to integrate them into a working whole. The body and the mind, the right brain and the left brain, the sexual and the spiritual, are not enemies, nor are they even necessarily separate parts of a larger whole, but different lenses through which to view the world and different modes in which to act.
From my Art & Spirituality journal. The meditation in question had us imagine ourselves with a tail which dug deep into the center of the earth, where we released our "negative energy." Then we howled like wolves. Yeah.
I think I got the point of the meditation, but my ingrained sense of parody prevents me from seriously contemplating my imaginary tail drilling into Mother Earth to release my "negative energy."
I, personally, have always wanted a tail, if for no other reason than to have an extra hand to do things like open and close doors and hit light switches when my actual hands are full. (I've also always wanted to be telekinetic so I can turn off the lights when I'm in bed rather than having to get up to do so. Also, if I had wings, I wouldn't have to wait for the crosswalk. Sometimes I'm too practical for my own good.) When asked to imagine that I have a tail, I can think of many, many more interesting things to do with a tail-- ooh, is it pointy so I can use it as a weapon? Can I write or draw with it? Can I use it to tap people on the shoulder and then pretend I didn't do it so they keep looking around for who tapped them and meanwhile I look perfectly innocent because both of my hands are in my pockets and I'm too far away?-- than dig a hole in the ground with it. As well, being an imperturbably visual thinker, I have to first imagine what this tail looks like-- fuzzy and swishy like a husky's tail? long and stripey like a lemur tail? can it have spikes like a dinosaur?-- and by the time I'm done working out the particulars of My Psychic Tail, I'm already distracted from the point of the meditation.
This is why I couldn't ever be Buddhist. I need no outside distractions because I'm so perfectly capable of being one for myself.
I also have to admit that I relexively scorn ideas having to do with spiritual "vibrations" or "energies" or other psychic emanations. Perhaps as a result of having depression for so long, I don't really think ideas like "negative energy" are very useful, at least for me, inasmuch as they tend to give concrete existence to something that's not really real in the strictest metaphysical sense. Spirituality, for my purposes, needs to be rooted in the practical and the lived for it to be relevant. I've never felt any negative energy that I could treat as something apart from my own human energy, such as it is, and I don't think treating my own energy as something to be dumped into the lap of the cosmos for God/Nature/[insert deity and/or force of universe here as desired] to deal with is very useful, no more than offloading my own feelings and problems onto other people was helpful to anyone, least of all myself.
Also, wolf howling? Less freeing, more embarrassing for the introverts among us. I also feel sorry for the poor confused dogs who thought they were going to get to go to a party.
That said, I did like being outside for once. I wish I could have smelled the frankincense better, but apparently the smell genes I got were the defective ones. I blame my father.
From my Art & Spirituality journal.
I am fascinated by spiral objects. Seashells, snails, fingerprints, the arrangements of flower petals, smoke traces in still air, labyrinths and any number of things which start at the center and twirl out into infinity.
Symbols.com lists various associations of spirals as representing water, movement, and power. Spirals have represented the sun and eclipses, stars and planets, tribe migrations and rainy seasons, leavetaking and homecoming (depending on the direction of the spiral), and randomly enough, spin drying on clothes labels and horse dung in alchemy.
One of the compositional tactics I often use I learned in Drawing for Sequential class, and it employs the Golden Section by way of a spiral. Diving the picture into spiraling sections leads one to the focus of the drawing in a journey of narrative discovery on the way. In any given drawing, a tied-back curtain may point down to a hand, which points sideways at a rug, which leads to a wall corner which leads up to a windowsill (on which sits a knife) which leads to the face of the corpse, whose open eyes point subtly to a shadow which leads to a silhouette of the killer in a mirror held by the hand of the murder victim. (The professor introduced this concept during the horror assignment.)
Paradoxically, spirals can lead one inward or pull one outward, depending on whether one is inclined to go one way or the other already. I tend to search for the infinitely vanishing center out of an introverted tendency which always leads me to look inward and deep. Someone else may follow the motion of the ray out to infinity in the other direction. Whichever direction one goes in, one is led to the conclusion that a spiral essentially has no beginning and no ending, but only places where one decides to start and end.
From my Art & Spirituality journal.
A perhaps telling amount of my artwork has dealt with themes of escape, confinement, and freedom, realized or thwarted. I tend to use flying metaphors, particularly women with wings, to describe "flight" as both a literal and metaphorical concept. What would we learn if we were not confined to earth or the quotidian?
My favorite story I've now written three times, twice as a comic and once as a prose story. The last version, a four-page painted comic, is probably the closest to the "definitive version" as it's ever going to get, and it tends to be fairly popular. It involves a girl named Faith (both comic versions are wordless, but she acquired a name in the prose version) who, unhappy with her boring and static life, gets wings tattooed on her back and drives out to the mountains to jump off a cliff. The last page shows her wings of ink transforming into real ones, allowing her to fly into the distance.
My Fiction professor insisted on seeing this as a suicide metaphor, and in many ways, it can be, what with my protagonist jumping off a cliff and all. But the main idea behind it is the idea of escape from the quotidian, in this case through a leap of faith.
One of my dilemmas of faith is having a space to retreat to in order to clear my head, when I find church overbearing and stifling and home intrusive and busy. My bedroom at home used to be my space, but when I left for college, my family moved and I now share a room with my older sister, so I'm not allowed to decorate it-- and beige walls and floral fabric aren't exactly conducive to spiritual experience for me. My freshman year, I had a habit of walking down to [X] Street at midnight and sitting on the pier to think. I stopped doing that when someone pointed out that small, defenseless-looking women might not find it in the interests of their safety to walk around at night downtown.
Nowadays my occasional spiritual ritual is to make myself a cup of green tea, sit on the staircase outside my top-floor dorm room, and warm my hands on the cup while I ponder the mysteries of life, the universe, and the busy intersection I can see from my sitting place. It's a good place to people-watch while being remote enough so that I'm not bothered. Sometimes I pray to myself, but most of the time I just sit and think.
From my Art & Spirituality journal.
I was born in [a different Southern city], but raised in [Terabil], a town which would like to think of itself as a city but is really a suburb that metastasized enough to strangle the city it grew around. Given its position in the Bible Belt, it's not entirely surprising that I was raised as a conservative evangelical Presbyterian.
My childhood was generally unexceptional in a very middle-class WASP sort of way. I have four siblings, one older and three younger, and as we all grew up it was increasingly clear that I was going to be characterized as the black sheep (or, well, the rainbow sheep in my case). We were all smart, and encouraged to get good grades, but I was the one who really liked to Question Things. Just as an indication, my older sister works at a banking corporation and is applying to law school, and my younger college-age brother is going to med school like my father. And I'm at art school majoring in comics. Not exactly the respectable, comfortable option.
My major difficulty with the insular spiritual mindset I was raised with began, not surprisingly, at puberty. Throughout twelve or thirteen years of Sunday School, I was taught to memorize verses and recite catechisms and obey teachers, and this began to clash with my increasing insistence on analyzing verses and questioning catechisms and beginning to wonder where, precisely, my teachers derived their incontrovertible spiritual authority from if we were all, as we were taught, part of the priesthood of believers. I noticed where certain assumptions conflicted with each other or didn't seem to apply to my life, or in the case of admonitions to boys not to lust after attractive girls, applied to me when they probably weren't intended to.
The older I got, the less orthodox I became, especially when I got internet access and could look up any theological or spiritual topic which interested me. I went through a short atheist phase, but eventually came back to theism; a bit of a halfhearted Wiccan phase lasted until the pervasive fluffybunny syncretism got on my nerves. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Taoism, but the lack of, well, Jesus made it ultimately unworkable for me. Sometimes you can't leave behind everything.
Nowadays I identify somewhere around Quaker Christianity, which has a strong emphasis on individual connection to God and the essential primacy of conscience over doctrine or tradition, as well as honesty, integrity, and equality, which jibes well with my sense of what religion should be about-- one's relationship to God as best expressed in one's treatment of other people, who like oneself are made in the image of God.
From my Art & Spirituality journal. The meditation is as described in Art & Fluffybunny Cosmic Lightballs.
The meditation on the universe bothered me, partly because I couldn't resist the characterization of it as cheesy New Ageyness. Feeling the earth rotating under your feet and whirling through the universe? If gravity and your inner ear are doing their job right, you shouldn't feel this at all.
As well, I don't think I'd really realized how much I distrusted organized worship until I was put in that situation. I really disliked closing my eyes because to me, removing my sight is removing the main way I relate to the world, and it puts me in a very psychologically vulnerable position. When someone tells me to close my eyes, my first reaction is to think that they're trying to put something over on me. It's not something I'll do for someone I don't already know and trust.
The idea of being graded on how open I was willing to be about my spirituality recalled way too strongly the idea of "brokenness" I grew up with, where the more "spiritually helpless" you were, the more you boasted of your (nonspecific, naturally) weakness and pathetic humanity, the more virtuous you seemed. Here are people demanding that I make myself vulnerable before them and trust them when I have no assurance that they're not going to hurt me if I do, when I have been hurt before by those I did trust that manipulated my emotions and beliefs to their predetermined purposes? Man, I don't think so.
It bothers me that my initial reaction to anything spiritual is so violently allergic, but I don't feel like there's much I can do about it at the moment.
I actually had a really good day today.
I know. I was shocked too. That's the nice thing about being a pessimist-- the only surprises you get are pleasant ones. Particularly the better you get at anticipating the worst, which is in itself a sort of creative exercise. Pessimism is a paradoxical win-win situation-- either good stuff happens, or you get the satisfaction of being right all along.
Painting class was nice. Not only did I get a lot of work done, which nearly brings me to a finish on my still life (I had to stop early so I'd have something to do while logging out-of-class work hours) I asked the prof for a final check and he looked at my painting for a minute, and then asked "So, what's your major again?"
"Are you a painting minor?"
"Nope. I'm a drawing minor, though." (Which is pretty similar, since "drawing" is more about the technical qualities of art than draftsmanship per se. I've done paintings for projects in drawing classes, particularly my color drawing class.)
"Have you considered a minor in painting?"
"Well, it's too late to do anything about it since I graduate next quarter, but hey. I've thought about grad school in painting, though."
"Yeah, you could do that."
So yay, that was my ego boost for the day. ^_____^
My other happy moment was, after missing Iris walking to class about four classes in a row on my way to art history (which sucked because that had been the high point of my art history class days), I caught up with her today. So that just put me in a better mood altogether.
And the BEST part is that it's nearly one in the morning and the other shoe never dropped. ... Well, I found out that my art history journal was due today, but since I'm pretty confident in my ability to pull a B in that class anyway, it wasn't a huge shoe-drop, as these things go.
So! Yes. Now I must needs return to my finals schedule, which involves finishing two oil paintings (one of which I, um, kind of haven't started yet) and my art history journal (subtitle: The Great Bullshitting Extravaganza) by Monday and my illustration class final (which involves dragons!) by next Thursday.)
I will not be sleeping much this weekend, but since I'm an insomniac who works best between the hours of 12 and 5 a.m. anyway, this probably works in my favor.
* Yes, I'm majoring in comics. And it's awesome.