exploring life in all its variety

June 25, 2012

Saving Captain Kirk

Ever since all the reading I did about journal writing recently, I’ve been fascinated with diaries and letters (again – as a teen I soaked up collections of Anne Morrow Lindberg’s letters as well as several memoirs by others, the most unforgettable for me being Jane Goodall’s account of life with the wild chimpanzees, In the Shadow of Man).

Today I almost missed a small treasure for a Star Trek fan like me. I accidentally opened my feed reader page, and just as I clicked off it, the words Star Trek popped into view, so I clicked back to see what the mention was about, and found this post at Letters of Note about an exchange of letters between Gene Roddenberry and Isaac Asimov regarding the original Star Trek series. It appears Isaac Asimov had written an article for TV Guide about SF on television and had some criticisms of the show that Gene Roddenberry felt a need to respond to. The result, a helpful exchange that led to improvements in story lines intended to expand on Captain Kirk’s character and take advantage of William Shatner’s creative range.

Two of the results of this exchange that I remember distinctly were the episode in which Captain Kirk had his personality split in two by a transporter accident, and another in which a woman used a contraption to switch her personality into Kirk’s body and his into hers.

File: — Barbara @ 8:28 am PST, 06/25/12
May 6, 2012

Eternity’s Sunrise

Review: Eternity’s Sunrise: A Way of Keeping a Diary
by Marion Milner
ISBN-13: 978-0415550741 (I read an older edition printed in 1989)

This was a satisfying read in that the author was aging at this point and became if possible even more introspective, and it was fascinating to follow the delight she took in seemingly simple things but on a much deeper level. Internalizing experience can happen at a lot of levels, and it seems to me that as one ages one seems to see eternity more easily in the mundane. I think that’s what I’m trying to get at as what I found in this book.

Marion Milner also wasn’t just any aging woman. She was someone who’d explored her inner workings from the time she was young, had spent years helping others do so as a psychoanalyst, and had never stopped growing and learning and considering that there was something deeper she needed to get at. So many people seem to decide that they’re “finished” at some point and become more know-it-all than questing. I feel that it’s our quests that really define us and make us wise rather than just knowledgeable.

The book is organized as a kind of internal travelogue. It follows her on four different trips to Greece, and a visit to Israel, paying attention only to what stood out for her, observations if you will that she identifies as “beads” as if she were putting together a string of prayer beads, each one special for its own (and her own internal) reasons. This isn’t what one expects from a travelogue. There isn’t anything that a casual tourist looks for. It will appeal only to the tourist of the psyche, playing with the images that stand out for the author in her travels, viewed as one might read the images in dreams.

Some early passages that stand out for me:

“Now I knew what it was I had missed in the other two visits, when there had been no time to climb the mountain, knew that it had not been that I had wanted just to see what flowers and birds were there, nor to get to the top, nor to find the Bacchantes’ cave (we really knew we’d never reach it), but rather to achieve something of what arriving at a holy place by mechanical transport deprives one of, the sense of spending, not one’s money but one’s self, to get there.”
(See the Greek play, Bacchantes by Euripides, “O hidden cave of the Curetes!” (http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/bacchan.html), which the author had been reading while on an earlier trip to Greece.)

“I had certainly found that the whole idea of turning one’s attention inwards was deeply threatening to some people.”

(Contemplating the Daphni monastery Christ Pantrocrator mosaic) “… could this be a glimpse of a new vision that the artist who made the mosaic was speculating about, perhaps not even knowing that he was, a secret doubt whether the wholesale rejection of the body which had become so embedded in the way Christianity had developed since the days of Christ really was what Christ had meant? Could it be showing the mosaic maker’s own intuition that to be truly human did not mean denying the body but redeeming it from the body-mind split that practical life in the world so often seems to demand, redeeming it by a recurrent resurrection, not after death but in this life? And, therefore, not retreating from bodily love but going deeper into it, finding richer and richer possibilities in relationship, in psychic and physical creativeness, bringing the full inner body awareness into being together?”

All of this was of course the author’s personal musing, reflecting on her Christian upbringing and coming to terms with her early rejection of that teaching and her interest in nature and in paganism – and later in psychology. Although the author was a Freudian psychoanalyst, she occasionally referenced Jung and skirted around Jungian ideas. In fact throughout her four books that I’ve now read she made reference to what she called the “inner gesture” and an “Answering Activity” or “the sense of something other that lives one.” All these I found leading to or similar to what Jung referred to as the Self.

I’ll stop sharing passages here and leave the rest to be discovered by those who choose to read the book, as I think I’ve made clear by now that this isn’t so much a travelogue of Greece and Israel as it is a travelogue of Marion Milner’s unique vision of life, and an invitation for others to find their own unique visions of life.

There are some passages that refer to her earlier books and are likely best understood if one has read them, but I don’t think any lack of familiarity with those books will detract too much from understanding this one. I just feel lucky to have read them and feel as if I know the author better to start with. This was almost like finding as yet unread letters from a dear friend.

File: — Barbara @ 9:02 am PST, 05/06/12
December 22, 2011

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

I’ve been reading The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain (ISBN-13: 978-0140196016 Penguin), which explores changes that took place in various ancient cultures when alphabets and writing became common. (more…)

File: — Barbara @ 9:50 am PST, 12/22/11
May 25, 2009

World Tarot Day

Today is World Tarot Day, and I blogged about it on my fiction-writing blog, over at Mystery of a Shrinking Violet: World Tarot Day. See you there, I hope.

File: — Barbara @ 3:01 pm PST, 05/25/09
February 20, 2008

The argument for fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

In an interview at Alternet titled Michael Pollan Debunks Food Myths, author Michael Pollan discusses his new book, In Defense of Food. He talks about why news of the latest scientific nutritional studies is probably not the best source for nutrition information, and how the best eating advice given to Americans in the past five decades is probably the simplest — that fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good for us. According to him, we’re likely best off getting back to basics.

Pollan says:

“I’m not a Luddite; I’m not anti-science. I’m fascinated by nutritional science. But I’ve also acquired a healthy skepticism about how much and how little they know. It has only been around for about 175 years. Its history is of one overlooked nutrient after another. As I see it, nutrition science is kind of where surgery was in the year 1650, which is to say very interesting and promising, but do you really want to get on the table yet?” (read article)

Further on, Pollan mentions how the “imitation rule” was eliminated by the FDA, without going through Congress, and how what we eat has in some sense become a political statement. According to Pollan, cooking our own food from scratch may now be a subversive act:

“It’s funny to think of something as domestic as cooking and gardening as subversive, but it is. It is the beginning of taking back control from a system that would much rather do everything for you.” (read article)

File: — Barbara @ 2:02 pm PST, 02/20/08
February 6, 2008

More art blogs and websites

I’ve found more fantastic art journal blogs, ninajohansson.se, and Laurelines Drawings and Paintings. Links courtesy of Jana’s Journal and Sketch Blog. Laurelines also recently posted links to other Must-Read Art Blogs for 2008.

In case you haven’t been watching my link updates in the sidebar, please also be sure to visit Beverly Jackson’s new art gallery website, The Art Shack Studio. I met Bev when we belonged to the same writer’s group, before she moved away. I’m proud to count her as a friend, and a multi-talented one at that.

File: — Barbara @ 3:05 pm PST, 02/06/08
December 20, 2007

Art journal blogs — new links

I’m adding art journal blogs to my blog list as I find ones that I can’t live without visiting regularly. My two newest links are to Jana’s Journal and Sketch Blog, and Princess Haiku (who visited me and commented a while back, leading me to watch her intriguing blog for a while).

I hope you all enjoy visiting these fresh, new to me blogs.

File: — Barbara @ 11:09 am PST, 12/20/07
April 3, 2007

Some thoughts on The Universe in a Single Atom

Just some thoughts I’ve had while in the middle of reading a book titled, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. It was written by Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Fourteeenth Dalai Lama, recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize and religious and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. It’s not the first book of his that I’ve read, but it may be the most difficult.

In this book the Dalai Lama explores parallels (and differences) between science and his religion, Buddhism. I particularly like how this religious leader is willing to adjust his beliefs according to what science has proven, rather than trying to twist science to fit his beliefs. At the same time he recognizes that science can’t tell us everything, and that one’s personal experience, observation, and intelligence are valid to take into account when determining what to believe. This book is deep, abstract, conceptual, and difficult reading for me because I have trouble wrapping my mind around concepts like relativity and superstring theory. Give me good old gravity. That I understand. Sort of.

It’s good reading, though, and especially good for me, in my non-scientific but more creative and spiritual nature. It gives me more of a handle on what science and belief have in common, as well as that overlapping territory in between and beyond, which we’re sometimes reluctant to face if we let our minds get too set in one pattern of thinking. I refer to the unknown, and our ability or inability to find peace with the fact that so much is still unknown. As knowledge changes, we must in all honesty be willing to take on the new known, adjust the old known, and change our view of possibility, just the way we change clothes with the seasons. It does no more good to believe faithfully in something disproved than to believe that because my coat kept me safe and warm in winter it’s a good idea to wear it on the hottest day of the year. This book is also careful to point out that just because something isn’t proven, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Disproof and lack of proof are two different things.

I’m also reminded by the implications of this book, of a documentary about Alaskan fisheries that was part of the Nature series on PBS. The closure of pollock fisheries several years ago was intended to protect the environment. Later, scientists came to realize that the herring declined even more rapidly once pollock was protected. Herring was found to be a more important source of critical nutrients for marine life than was previously known — a better source than pollock, which constituted a veritable junk food in comparison. Endangered Steller sea lions were forced to fall back even more on pollock once it began to repopulate, while still hungering for their necessary herring.

Even well intentioned science can be a kind of religion, where people (not scientists perhaps, but people) hold too fast to discoveries and continue to defend them, when a wider-angle view is needed, or it’s time to move forward because more is known. When we combine with that the intransigence of government that causes regulations to lag behind each new discovery, we can see that clinging to any beliefs, scientific or religious, can have disastrous effects. One must wonder, for instance, about future effects of genetically modified crops, and the fact that there may soon be only one company supplying most farmers in the world with their seed — much of that genetically modified. How many people’s quality of life could be salvaged by stem-cell research? By more research into natural alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs or surgery? If we can be wrong about sea lions, pollock, and herring, what else might science be wrong about, or simply not yet know? What might religion be wrong about that’s holding its followers, and possibly whole cultures and governments, back? Are bio-fuels better for the environment than fossil fuels, or do they harm the environment just as much in their production, and at the same time threaten world food supplies and distract us from finding or developing more viable energy solutions? What good is knowing how to do something if one doesn’t also know when or if it should be done?

I’ve rambled on. The main lesson I’ve gotten so far from this book is that no source of knowledge or wisdom is sacrosanct, that there are few known absolute truths, and that flexibility and a healthy skepticism are necessary in all areas of study. It’s important to believe that we can do better, that we can know more, that we can think for ourselves, that we can take better care of the planet and each other. It’s also important along the way to acknowledge our limits and exercise humility regarding what we don’t know. What we don’t know may be the biggest vacuum in the universe.

File: — Barbara @ 7:48 pm PST, 04/03/07
December 27, 2005

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, by Jean-Yves Leloup

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is a translation of the Gospel of Mary from Coptic, with commentary, by Jean-Yves Leloup (English translation and notes by Joseph Rowe).

The existence of the Gospel of Mary was brought to light in Cairo in 1896. Some fifty years later, what are now known as the gnostic gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Jean-Yves Leloup provides here a fascinating interpretation and commentary of the Gospel of Mary, with a few rewarding diversions into other texts, including some surprising revelations, and his alternate translation of excerpts from other gospels. At the heart of this work is what amounts to a map of human spiritual potential, the essence of Jesus’s goal as found in the Gospel of Mary, presented as a way of guiding those who would follow, to become fully human. (more…)

File: — Barbara @ 11:16 am PST, 12/27/05

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