Monday, November 10, 2008

The Concept of Beauty

Today in dramatic analysis I was forced to think about something interesting. We are discussing the play "Approaching Simone", and my prof was talking about how the playwright separates gender with the masculine as icons of power, and the feminine as symbols of beauty. I haven't read the play as of yet (I know, I know, I'm terribly behind on my reading, but I had three essays due over the weekend and I just haven't gotten around to it yet!) so I didn't understand this image in its context.

At any rate, this separation of Beauty and Power through the association with gender made me think about how I, myself, am not fond of being associated with Beauty. I take it almost as an insult if a random person praises me for such superficial qualities, and I wonder why more women do not. It often angers me when women think it is their DUTY, or a sort of aspiration, to be beautiful, and now I understand why that is. For a woman, oftentimes beauty is a replacement for power. When she feels incapable of Power, she resorts to Beauty, justifying this choice by claiming that Beauty is "feminine power". However, Beauty and Power are two separate concepts. In fact, it seems to me that beauty is an absolute LACK of power... a kind of submission to the patriarchy and the chains He presents. Or perhaps "Beauty" is the wrong term... because the Beauty of the Patriarchy is a kind of constructed and deformed Beauty... The Beauty women attempt to achieve is an artificial Beauty... one that can be achieved only through pain and paint. So I suppose what really bothers me about this concept of feminine beauty being mistakenly equated with feminine power is that it is incredibly deceptive: a false idol of Beauty has been erected in order to detain women from constructing their own concept of the lofty and Beautiful.

Yes, well. That was a bit of a rant, wasn't it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Just a thought...

I have had an "epiphany". (I put this word in quotation marks, as it is not so much an epiphany as a sudden idea; it is not a revelation, for naming it as such seems to suggest that this idea is Truth, and I am not at all sure that is the case). I was thinking about the various ways one could achieve Enlightenment, and I was suddenly faced with the concept of diseases of age that bring about an infantile state of helplessness, both mentally and physically. Many of us look upon these illnesses as the worst type of diseases imaginable; I have personally thought about preferring death over enduring such an illness. However, I started thinking about the possible purpose of these diseases. As William Blake says, we are all born into a state of Innocence, where we are unaware of all of the ills of this world. This is a paradisal state, but through Experience we Fall from paradise. However, Blake says, it is possible to regain this primitive state, and once we reclaim our childlike natures, we can reach a state of Higher Innocence. Now, what if one of the ways to attain Higher Innocence before death is to be FORCED back into an infantile state? What if one of the ways to attain Enlightenment is through a stripping of all conventions, all socially constructed values and sets of behaviours, brought about by these diseases? Now you and I, having fallen into Experience, would think that being reduced to such a state of mind, such a state of utter helplessness, would be an unimaginable travesty. But what about the individual who is going through this? Of course, at the beginning there would be fear and frustration, because surely the individual would be faced with the struggle against everything Experience tells him is wrong and fearful. But once that individual was engulfed in his illness... what then? Surely he is oblivious to all this suffering. Surely he is then wrenched from this cycle of samsara. Surely this 'illness' is the greatest form of detachment from the world. Is this Enlightenment? And in looking for a cure for these diseases, is Science trying to destroy the ultimate Spiritual Experience? And what does that say about us, if we are cheering Science on to victory?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Worse than "Zero"

From Foucault's 'Madness and Civilization': a passage that caused me to freak out in the same way the documentary, 'Zero: The Inside Story' made me freak out.

'Up to the second half of the fifteenth century, or even a little beyond, the theme of death reigns alone. The end of man, the end of time bear the face of pestilence and war. What overhangs human existence is this conclusion and this order from which nothing escapes. The presence that threatens even within this world is a fleshless one. Then in the last years of the century this enormous uneasiness turns on itself; the mockery of madness replaces death and its solemnity. From the discovery of that necessity which inevitably reduces man to nothing, we have shifted to the scornful contemplation of that nothing which is existence itself. Fear in the face of the absolute limit of death turns inward in continuous irony; man disarms it in advance, making it an object of derision by giving it an everyday, tamed form, by constantly renewing it in the spectacle of life, by scattering it throughout the vices, the difficulties, and the absurdities of all men. Death's annihilation is no longer anything because it was already everything, because life itself was only futility, vain words, a squabble of cap and bells.'

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Womb

I've been thinking a bit more about death, and about its possible meanings (or outcomes, I suppose). I want to thank Tyrel in advance for having patience with me. He allowed me to speak without forethought, and I talked myself in circles while I tried to grasp my mind around this concept. I think I can now discuss and explain it in orderly detail. Heh.

I think that the anxiety most people have over leaving this world must be similar to the anxieties of an infant who is about to leave the womb. What is life in the womb? Surely it must be existence on a lower plane, but it must be an existence. As the woman is the womb of the child, so, too, is the earth the womb of man (the earth, or atmosphere, or whatever you want to call this bubble of oxygen in which we exist). Or perhaps the body itself is the womb. When we die, when our spirit or soul or consciousness is forced out of the womb, perhaps we enter an entirely different and higher level of existence, a level of existence we can perceive as well as the infant can perceive existence outside of the womb.

I then began to throw myself into a different sort of anxiety. I began to think that perhaps the earth was not the womb at all, that perhaps the earth is a developing fetus. If that is the case, perhaps man functions only on the level of an organ. If that is so, then the hope for an afterlife, for any type of existence outside of his function as an organ which allows for the further development of the earth, is null and void. But then, as if in the form of divine reassurance, I happened to catch a conversation on the television I was using as background noise. I'm not sure what the show was about, but it caught my attention when one of the characters started espousing beliefs similar in nature to those of Tyrel. This character said that the spirit lives in every part of your body, and if you should lose a part of your body, such as a limb or an organ, you are losing a part of your soul. The Mohicans believed that the only way to regain this lost aspect of soul was to bury the body part. This idea placated my fears, and somehow made me feel much better.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Death be not... death.

I am going through a bit of depression, and death consumes my thoughts. It seems like this past year has been full of death; several people that I once knew are gone. Fortunately, I was not close to any of them, so their deaths affected me only on a symbolic level... the symbolic level being the awareness of death, of what it is, and truly contemplating what death means. It means the end. It means no longer being. It means ceasing to exist. This is not the first time I have thought about death in this way, but, strangely, it is the first time I have ever really FELT the significance of death. And it terrifies me. If you have never feared death you have either not realized what it means, or could mean, or else you have not contemplated its consequences seriously enough.

I have also been thinking about where the concept of an afterlife came from. I believe that the concept of God and the afterlife came moments after man became aware of his existence. When the first person realized, 'I am!' he must have immediately realized: 'One day I will not be...' The concept of God was created to ease fears, to equip us with the courage required to exist day to day, with the threat of death constantly hanging above us. Without the idea of eternal life, we would remain huddled in a corner, afraid to move lest we should trip on a pebble and die.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Un Pays de S*******

I was perusing the Globe and Mail the other day, and I came acrossc an article by Margaret Wente that I find EXTREMELY problematic. Basically it is an apology (and I use the word apology in the traditional sense: a defense of a particular position) of the statement made by Dick Pound. I'm not sure how many people are aware of this controversy, but in August, Dick Pound, a member of the International Olympic Committee (and a former vice president of the organization) made a terrible comment, saying "400 years ago Canada was 'un pays de sauvages', with scarcely 10 000 inhabitants of European origin." This comment was made after someone asked him if he felt embarassed for the Olympics to be associated with China and its political history of infringements and violations of basic human rights.

Now, to call pre-colonial Canada a "land of savages" is not only disrespectful, it is offensive. It is offensive not only to the "savages" he is designating, but to the collective body of Canada as well. Would an American official publicly call the world of the south, and the black communities that arose as a result of the abolition of slavery, a country of n*****s? No, of course not. That word is seen as offensive, as a derogatory slurr that was created in order to dehumanize an entire race of people. The term "savages" was used in the same way, invented for the same purpose, and the racism that follows the aboriginal as a result is no less severe than that which follows the negro. Why is it then, that the latter term is acceptable, while the former is not?

Wente goes on to talk about "demythifying" aboriginal culture. She says, "The kinship groups in which they [aboriginals] lived were very small, simply organized and not very productive. Other kinship groups were regarded as enemies, and the homicide rate was probably rather high."

Erm... excuse me... "probably rather high"? What the hell?? This kind of statement is one that should be regarded not only with suspicion, but with rejection. What kind of objective statement is that? It is the most vague, insidious kind of statement, because it allows itself a certain credibility, a "believeablity" that the rational person can see right through. If you are going to make a statement like that, you MUST be sure to have some kind of empirical evidence that backs it up. No one has the right to make such a judgement call without proper documentation. And furthermore, is not this allusion to criminality the same argument American racists made for their aversion to men of "colour"? You really want to go there, Wente? Really?? And another thing... why is it that when "civilized" countries openly murder one another it is called "warfare", but when indigenous peoples run into conflict it is called "homicide??

Now, while I obviously disagree with Wente on... almost everything... I do see the danger behind romanticizing pre-colonial culture. That is another form of dehumanization, I think. In elevating a group of people in such a way, in talking about the free native running around, happy and connected to nature in a way the modern man is incapable of, you are certainly presenting a distorted image of what life may have been like. I am not saying that those elements did not exist, but in presenting a people as an ideal, you are inprisoning them within a set of unreachable expectations. An example of what can happen to a group of people when they are idealized this way can be seen in the case of Woman, an issue I can certainly relate to. For the longest time women were elevated in order to be discriminated against. In the nineteenth century especially, they were thought to be the moral core of society, and as such it was the duty of men to protect them. They were discouraged from engaging in politics, as they were too pure. Surely such a perfect being would not want to taint themselves with the vote! The same thing is true, I think, for native peoples.

Wente concludes her article with the claim that the mythification of aboriginal culture arose out of post-colonial guilt, which I agree certainly exists. She says it is equally hazardous to the colonialist and the colonized to allow such a myth to emerge, as it serves only to separate. She says we must look at history realistically in order to stop alienating. But... don't you think calling the culture and customs of a particular group inferior... don't you think that by calling colonialists 'civilized' and native peoples as 'savage'... don't you think that by enforcing this HUGE dichotomous relationship... you are creating the ULTIMATE effect of alienation

Monday, November 3, 2008

"I'm Afraid of Americans"

Tomorrow one of the most threatening global powers will hand over the reigns of power to a new leader. One of the most dangerous nations will choose a new Emperor, and I watch on in dread, fearing what this could mean for the security of the world if the wrong leader is elected. Tomorrow the United States will elect their President.

You, American people, this is your chance to renounce the position of global terrorist. This is your opportunity to change the negative impression the world has of you, a chance for you to stand up and show the rest of us that you are not a nation of war-mongerers and ravenous capitalist monsters. It is your responsibility to stand up for yourself and your nation, to elect the diplomat instead of the iron fist, and to cry out "J'accuse!" to the previous administration.

I do not believe the American people are an evil people... merely a misguided people. I believe that they will see through the sophistry of McCain, and that when given an opportunity to elect a man who will benefit the world and not just themselves, they will rise to the occassion. If I am wrong, if McCain and his Republic of Blood-thirst win the hearts of its citizens, I will hate the American people as much as I hate its government. In my eyes, they will be responsible for the world war that McCain is prepared to incite.

I have an American flag, and I am prepared to burn it if I must. And I know I am not alone in this. (Does this make me a "Terrorist", too?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Nether World

I am reading The Nether World by George Gissing, and it has made me think about the significance behind the allusion to Orpheus and the meanads that tear him to bits.  Now, we all know the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, how Orpheus descends into the underworld to retrieve his beloved and loses her because he looks back to ascertain that she is following.  In the novel, three particular figures emerge as Orpheus figures, all of which are described as artists.  The only way they will ever escape the nether world, the world of urban poverty that surrounds them, is by never looking back, never showing concern or compassion for those they leave behind.

I am really able to relate to this idea.  I, too, am from the nether world.  I was born from a working class background, and while we were able to escape the misery of utter poverty, certain elements that characterize the lower orders of society can certainly be found within my family: coarseness, both of speech and behaviour, a lack of education, degrees of abuse and addiction... all of those issues that together create the nether world of Gissing's novel can be found in my family.

I, myself, am an Orpheus figure.  My natural disposition and my artistic nature are alien to the nether world.  My interest in books and in refinement are strangely incongruent with the background that surrounded me.  In a way, I feel very much like my intellectual self is Orpheus, and it descended in order to pull my body, my Eurydice from the pits that lay open before me.  And I have certainly found that in order to guarantee my security in the upper world, it has become a fundamental necessity for me to NEVER look back.  There are many who have found fault with me for doing so.  There are those who believe me to be self-righteous and judgemental... a very monster for never looking back to assist those I have left behind. I believe I have encouraged others to follow me... but I will not allow myself to be dragged back into the abyss by looking behind me to ensure they have made the right decision.

I wonder, though, if perhaps that other self is lost in the process... the self that technically belongs in the nether world.  Perhaps I have been unable to retrieve it afterall.  Perhaps Eurydice has become a sacrifical offering to the meanads in my place... 

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I am incredibly disappointed right now. No, disappointed is not exactly the right word. I am filled with a sense of dread, and this dread is caused by a type of recognition I think. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am experiecing the symptoms of disillusionment.

For the longest time my greatest fear has been madness. Not madness as an abstract concept, or madness as seen in others, but madness as an inescapable delusion that would engulf me and prove every thought and feeling within me to be unfounded and unreal. I have always thought contemplation and interiority to be my greatest weapons against such an onslaught, and that if I was aware of every impetus that leads me to action I would be able to combat madness effectively. In short, I thought that in knowing the Self truly and completely, I could know madness, and thus avoid it.

Apparently, this is not the case. Freud said that Nietzsche knew himself better than any other man... and yet he still went terribly, terribly mad. Am I to end up like Nietzsche? Will a lifetime of insights be rewarded with the ultimate negation of those insights? We who tread the paths untouched by others... do these paths inevitably lead to madness? Are we aware that this is our ultimate destination? Do we know the consequences of our choice? And do we choose to disregard those consequences simply because we are wise enough to know that enlightenment is not a destination, but merely the culmination of landmarks on the side of the road?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Inferiority is a choice.

"No one person is greater than another."

I have been accused many times of being an elitist, of making others feel like their existence does not even matter when in my presence.  I have been called a spirit crusher, and one who devours the earth.  Honestly, I think this kind of perception of me is more a reflection of the insecurities of others than an egotisitcal view I have of myself.  I have never once devalued another human being for being unable to "measure up".  I devalue those who devalue themselves.  I condemn those who are capable of wisdom, understanding, and enlightenment, but who choose to throw that away for the pursuit of idiocy.  I say inferiority is a choice, and if that is a choice you have made for yourself, deal with it.

I read a lot.  I think a lot.  I know a little.  If you ask me for my opinion, I will give it to you honestly and bluntly; I will tell you what I think rather than what you want to hear.  I will not patronize, and I will not reduce myself in any way by bending to a common or accepted ideology. You want to condemn me as an elitist for doing so?  Go ahead.  

Friday, October 24, 2008

First Blog

I am posting my first blog here.  I feel as though my first entry should be profound... that it ought to encompass the essence of Self, my Style (of writing, I mean) and my Situation (and by that I refer, of course, to my world view).  Afterall, the first impression I will make upon the still waters of the reading public will be forever immortalized here. One wrong step from me could result not only in the disapprobation of an unknowable audience, but in the knock of the Establishment at my door... or window. I could be dragged away, deported, and tortured!  It's not as though such a thing has never happened before... but already I say too much.

Really, this is too much pressure for any sane individual to manage!

Yes, well, I shall pretend that my first attempt was successful, and begin my true first entry as a second entry in order to alleviate said pressure.  And then I will eliminate this post, thus perpetrating a type of fraud on you, my readers.  Erm, but as that audience consists of me, I suppose only I will be the wiser for it.  Heh.