exploring life in all its variety

July 21, 2012

On Violence

My heart goes out to the victims and their families, of the shooting in Colorado, as well as to the family of the shooter.

So many of us in the face of something like this try to find the answer. But is there an answer? Is it possible to end all violence, to make complete sense of our world? To make it perfectly peaceful?

I’m put in mind of the film “Serenity,” in which a controlling government becomes convinced it can create a world without sin, and in the end the only world “without sin” is one in which everyone has been killed, or transformed into a monster, by that same government, in a misguided attempt to control completely.

We are human, and we do horrible human things. It’s horrifying.

We are human, and we do wonderful human things. We can take heart.

My family experienced a violent tragedy many years ago, and I know there is nothing but time that heals such wounds, and one is lucky if time does. Revenge doesn’t, the death penalty doesn’t, getting rid of guns doesn’t, trying to control people even more doesn’t. Frightening people and imposing even stricter security doesn’t. Marginalizing the significant portion of the population who are “quiet” or “loners” or who don’t socialize on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t. All these things serve only to separate us even more.

Everyone has something to say about this tragedy. Does anyone have an answer? A solution?

I could take a guess at the cause, just as everyone else is trying to do. A brilliant student who was fascinated by how we behave and by neuroscience, who in the past month collected weapons, chemicals, booby-trapped his apartment, bought some 6,000 rounds of ammunition. It wasn’t that he bought a gun, or a chemical, but the accumulation of these things that might have been a red flag, had anyone known of all of them. It wasn’t that he was a loner or “too quiet” but that there was this big thing on his mind that he didn’t discuss with anyone, and perhaps that big thing wasn’t just planning a shooting, but an accumulation of symptoms he was smart enough to recognize and yet not smart enough to overcome, some paranoid schizophrenic delusion or fantasy that had been stewing for sometime. One that, because he never felt safe sharing it, festered inside him to the breaking point, and shocked and surprised us all.

But I don’t know any better than anyone else.

President Obama: “I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.”

Mitt Romney: “I stand before you today not as a man running for office but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American. This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another and how much we love and how much we care for our great country.”

Mayor Bloomberg of New York: “Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it.”

What are they going to do about it?
What are we going to do about it?
What am I going to do about it?

For myself, I’m going to do what I try to do every day since my sister’s death. Live, love, be myself, understand myself. I’m convinced that there’s nothing to do out there in the world, but only in my own heart and mind.

Carl G. Jung: “This problem cannot be solved collectively, because the masses are not changed unless the individual changes… The bettering of a general ill begins with the individual, and then only when he makes himself and not others responsible. This is naturally only possible in freedom, but not under a rule of force, whether this be exercised by a self-elected tyrant or by one thrown up by the mob.”

While violence is as old as humanity, so is nonviolence. So is love. So is family. So is sharing. The early hunter-gatherers shared everything among the tribe. They buried their dead with flowers. Neanderthals are now known to have buried their dead with flowers.

Mohandas Ghandi: “I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems…The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow. I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.”

File: — Barbara @ 8:00 am PST, 07/21/12
March 7, 2012

Books about diaries or personal journals

For many years I’ve kept personal journals. I don’t mean blogs (though I’ve kept a few of those as well in recent years), but paper journals that I write for me alone. Journals (or diaries) have been an important outlet for me since I was a teenager, though I’ve kept them more regularly at some times than at others.

In the meantime, since I first started journaling, I’ve read a lot of books about writing, because I had a dream of being a published novelist. But I’d never read a book about keeping a journal until now. The other day someone posted a quote by Tristine Rainer about journaling. I looked up the name, found that she’d written a couple of books, and one thing led to another. (more…)

File: — Barbara @ 2:15 pm PST, 03/07/12
February 11, 2012

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the Goddess in ancient belief and myth, why She vanished, as well as why women have been treated so abysmally at certain times in history in nearly every culture, this makes fascinating and disturbing reading.

According to the author, in nearly every culture that has a phonetic alphabet, there was a kind of culture shock that occurred, first when the alphabet was developed and a lot of people became literate, and later when printing became common. These culture shocks came in waves accompanied by violence and/or oppression, especially against women. These periods of time, at least in the West, also coincided with the growth and spread of monotheistic religions that banished images as “graven” or evil, and reformations of those religions, particularly those that renewed the idea that images were bad and the written word was good. (Confucianism apparently arrived with similar shock waves in the East.) In addition to these effects coinciding with the spread of alphabetic writing and monotheistic religion, they also coincided with the spread of Cartesian ideals that put science and rational thought above faith, nature, irrational thought and the arts, and again with the rise of both atheism and Marxism.

I won’t go into much detail, because really the details need to be read as they’re presented in the book in order to make the most sense, and I feel that I have a loose grasp on them. This book bears rereading, for me at least. But I recommend it. Any tiny inaccuracies are excusable considering the amount of information the author sifted through to draw his conclusions.

Overall, the conclusions drawn make sense to me. The book doesn’t promote illiteracy or a return to a more “backward” culture, as one might conclude before reading it. It promotes balance, much like what Jung would no doubt encourage, between rational and irrational, masculine and feminine, Logos and Eros, science and belief, and nature and civilization. It’s easy to see how the spread of the written word and the banishing of images occurring at the same time created an imbalance that people didn’t know how to adapt to. One hopes that our increased understanding of human psychology and our need for balance will help us to adapt better to the similar shock waves that occur as we continue to evolve.

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess
Leonard Shlain
Penguin 1999
ISBN-10: 0140196013
ISBN-13: 978-0140196016

File: — Barbara @ 8:47 am PST, 02/11/12
December 29, 2011

Why I won’t tell you my New Year’s resolution

I’ve never been one for New Years resolutions, with one exception. In January 1995 I was determined to do two things: 1) lose a lot of weight and 2) take on and complete a large, intense creative project, one with depth, one that I felt passionately about, one that was personally risky, emotionally and in the time and energy I needed to invest in it.

I don’t consider myself high in the willpower department, and though I was never sure exactly what set me back the other times that I failed to carry through with something, it never surprised me. I thought of myself as an underachiever. What I’ve found most years is that if I set a resolution, it doesn’t pan out. But in 1995 I accomplished both my big goals.

Why? First, they were goals that were both important to me, things I felt strongly about at the time, and they’d been on my mind for months and even years before the point of crystallization that caused me to go for them.

There was one other secret that I’m now convinced got me through that year.

I didn’t tell a soul about these two goals. (more…)

File: — Barbara @ 4:29 pm PST, 12/29/11
December 23, 2011

Winter in Yellowstone

In spite of it freezing up Firefox on me (hopefully a problem unique to my computer setup), I’m sharing this awe inspiring video from PBS of winter in Yellowstone. The wildlife footage is some of the best I’ve ever seen, including a pack of wolves taunting a herd of elk stags, and a red fox diving into the snow after voles or mice. I’m a fan of nature documentaries, and this one is astounding. Stark evidence that there’s a reason they call it “Wild Wyoming.” Enjoy! (more…)

File: — Barbara @ 1:55 pm PST, 12/23/11
December 22, 2011

Painterly advice that can help with all creative efforts

I’m not usually a painter, though I love the medium, admire great painting, and can’t help dabbling now and then. You wouldn’t think advice for painters would help me that much to nurture my whole creative self. But then I saw this post at JanasJournal.com: (more…)

File: — Barbara @ 2:53 pm PST, 12/22/11
January 3, 2009

2009 Tarot Study

I’ve decided to begin an in-depth Tarot study in 2009, not of any particular deck, but of the 22 major arcana and the 14 levels of minor arcana — Aces through 10s, Pages, Knights, Queens, Kings — using several decks. I’ve been using Tarot, mostly for personal insight, for 20 plus years, so this will be a different journey than it would’ve been as a beginner. Tarot is something that one never really finishes learning. It’s as multifaceted as a string of diamonds, and continues to sparkle for me after all these years. I’m nurturing a new interest in Carl Jung and his methods and writings, so that will be a side focus of this study, since Tarot archetypes relate so well to his work.

At first I planned to go through these individual cards and groups of four cards in order, first The Fool through The World, and then the four Aces through the four Kings. But then I thought I could also turn this into a comparative reading for my year ahead. I removed all but one suit and the majors from a deck, shuffled the remaining cards, then drew a card for each one- to two-week period, which may stretch out into longer periods if life interferes. I’m not going to rigidly adhere to a schedule, so interested parties will have to be patient sometimes waiting for the next Tarot Study post.

The four Kings will be the first focus of my study.

My process will be flexible and will include studying the cards from up to about 9 favorite decks. I may change which decks I use in the course of the study. I have some decks that I haven’t yet used very much, such as the Golden Tarot by Kat Black, which I’ve had for a few years but have sadly neglected since purchasing it, and my more recently acquired Haindl Tarot by Hermann Haindl, as well as the Motherpeace Tarot by Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble. I’ll journal sometimes about the cards (in my personal journal, not necessarily to share here), I’ll also read about them, meditate with them, and do a little sketching and painting, since I hope to create my own deck eventually, for my personal use. (I’m not sure how much artwork I’ll share here either.)

Please note that what I share here won’t be everything, and the pattern may vary from post to post, depending on my time and what I get out of the particular card. Some posts will describe cards, others will be more about what I’ve learned from books, from thinking about the concepts involved, and so forth. If there’s something you’d like to see more of, feel free to let me know, but I can make no promises because of the time involved and the fact that I plan to take this as it goes and, again, be as flexible with myself as possible so I’ll keep up the study and not feel too constrained. My goal is to post something every week up to every few weeks regarding this Tarot study. What that something will be, I won’t know until I post it.

I have my new weekly calendar set up to chart my way through this study, in pencil (smile). I plan to blog more about Tarot anyway, whether as a part of this study or not, since Tarot was the main focus of this blog when I started it, and has become a strong focus for me once again.

Post updated March 17, 2009

Copyright © 2009 Barbara W. Klaser. All rights reserved.

2009 Tarot Study Index

File: — Barbara @ 4:01 pm PST, 01/03/09
July 11, 2008

I have just one thing to say . . .

Sunflower front

Sunflower back

Or is that two?

File: — Barbara @ 8:17 pm PST, 07/11/08
November 4, 2007

Drifting between big projects

I’m finally shopping my novel around, so I have more time to take care of the rest of my life. There’s something about a book-length writing project that shuts out too much else from the range of my attention, so I’ve decided that unless I sell this novel it’s going to be smaller creative projects for a while, like poetry, short stories, and some needlework and painting. I’m interested in art journals, at the moment, and in playing my guitar more. I’m a rank beginner, but I find music puts my brain into a completely different frequency or something, and I like it there.

While it would be easy (for some people perhaps, not me) to set a list of goals to accomplish, and stick to that set list, I’m more of a drifter. I look forward to browsing my creative urges for a while to see where they lead me. Hopefully they’ll lead into a little more organization and housecleaning. Writing a novel can really upset your housecleaning routine — if you even have one to start with, which I don’t.

File: — Barbara @ 1:25 pm PST, 11/04/07
October 29, 2007

After the fires

The local birds seem to think our yard is a good place to visit while the last bits of fire and smoke die down, and they’ve come through in flocks as well as individually. At one moment this morning they seemed to be throwing a bird party in our side yard. I stepped outside and saw four or five hummingbirds, a flock of common bushtits (which don’t normally show themselves in the open), a sparrow, something else I couldn’t identify hopping around in the bougainvillea, and a mockingbird displaying the white of its wings and singing its heart out. All this in the space of a minute while I just watched, mesmerized by their activity. We normally don’t get so many at once, though we feed hummingbirds and scrub jays regularly. I suppose some may have been displaced by the fires.

There’s still a lot of smoke in the air, but it’s great to be home. I keep wanting to post some of my thoughts and even a little critique regarding the evacuations and information channels, but it feels so good just to be home after being away for four days last week, and I’m thrilled with how much was saved. I don’t want to seem in any way critical of the people responsible for that. Suffice to say, if you’re a local government official, the more information you can feed evacuees (in as many languages as needed please, for everyone’s safety), and the faster you can get them home after the danger is past, the more willing people will be to evacuate in the future. It may seem that some people are hard cases about evacuating, but I think most who seem that way have their reasons. We have a natural homing instinct that makes it very difficult, particularly added to the stress of a disaster, to be away from one’s home, to feel that one can possibly know enough about what’s happening there. One wants to do something, and it’s difficult to relinquish control.

My husband, dog, and I were blessed to be able to stay with loving family members who put up with our stressed-out state of mind, and we were blessed again to come home and find our house still standing, in fact our entire neighborhood and downtown area untouched except by smoke. There’d been no looting — not that anyone would want my old things anyway — and the power hadn’t even gone out, so our minor fear that we’d have to restock our freezer turned out to be unfounded. Today the smoke still lingers, and the dry weather and heat keep everyone on alert, in the knowledge the fires are contained but not necessarily out. We’re cautious yet immensely grateful.

Many thanks to all our firefighters, and to all the visiting firefighters, including those from out of state and Canada, who came through to help save lives and homes, as well as to all the other officials and support people who worked so hard to ensure things went smoothly here in San Diego County.

File: — Barbara @ 12:56 pm PST, 10/29/07
September 2, 2007

Butterflies

This has been a good summer for butterflies in my little corner of the world. I’ve seen a lot more variety this year than in past years, and yesterday I sighted a Western Tiger Swallowtail in a pepper tree in the yard behind ours. It surprised me, and at first glance I thought I was seeing an oriole making like a butterfly, it was so large. I haven’t seen many swallowtails since I was a kid, and then I usually saw darker, smaller ones, maybe the Anise Swallowtail, which looks more familiar to me. I think the most common butterfly of my childhood was the Mourning Cloak, but I rarely see those now.

File: — Barbara @ 9:06 pm PST, 09/02/07
August 31, 2007

Emily’s journey home

We had to say goodbye to our little gray cat Emily today. We think she was about 20 years old, but we’re not sure, because she adopted us just over nine years ago, appearing in our back yard to steal our puppy’s food. She had a lot of problems, resulting from having nearly starved on her own without front claws, and having possibly been abused. She was missing half her teeth when she found us, and we think she suffered the cat version of PTSD. But over time she warmed up to all of us and became an integral part of our family. We like to think we were able to give her a nice retirement here, after all her troubles. She helped us say goodbye to another dear cat friend, Merlin, in 2000, and today we said goodbye to her.

I’ll miss her purrs, her silky, silver-gray fur, and the gentle tap of her paw when she wakened me in the mornings.

Just a few nights ago, The Lord of the Rings trilogy played on television again. We didn’t watch, because I intended to watch our DVDs again soon, but we caught the tail end of Return of the King, and the final song.

For days that song has stayed in my mind, popping into consciousness at odd moments. Today it did again, and I wondered about it, because I couldn’t recall the singer’s name, the name of the song, or the lyrics. The music just kept haunting me. So I looked it up, and remembered as soon as I sat down to do a search that it was Into the West. Annie Lennox sang it for the film. I love this song. Right now it’s helping me say goodbye to Emily. I learned that it was partially inspired by the death of young New Zealand filmmaker, Cameron Duncan, and first performed in public at his funeral. That makes it seem even more appropriate as Emily’s song of passage.

Safe journey, little friend.

The song is available as part of the soundtrack from the film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [SOUNDTRACK]

Emily

File: — Barbara @ 3:35 pm PST, 08/31/07
January 29, 2007

Past perfect, present imperfect

On the perfect yellow rose
rested a dewdrop
as perfect as the rose
in every way.

It slid down the petal
with a most perfect grace,
then fell to the rich soil below,
content to find its place.

I will never be as perfect as the dewdrop,
yet in my awkward way, I have my grace,
and I shall be content, when that time comes
to fall gently, but with dignity, into my place.

From my journal, 1974.

This poem brings back memories. I recall typing it out as a homemade card for my dad for either his birthday or Father’s Day, weeks or months after I wrote it. Today I think a lot differently about perfection. Back then I secretly wanted perfect — perfect roses, perfect looks, perfect prospects, perfect romance. I envisioned a perfect future as an adult. A perfect home, a perfect family.

I’ve come to appreciate flaws, in nature and in people — in all the surprising ways things turn out. A perfect rose doesn’t exist, except in a hothouse, and I don’t want to live in a hothouse. No one has a perfect life. Such a life only exists in that trite phrase, happily ever after. Does anyone know what that means? Beauty? There are lots of unhappy beautiful people. Wealth? There are lots of unhappy wealthy people. A fairytale romance? We’ve seen where that got some real life princesses.

Today I find lopsided roses endearing. They’re more like me. I can identify. They’re more like everyone.

As for perfection in my work, in my actions, I’ve learned there are tradeoffs of time and energy and expected outcomes. I can negotiate with myself and decide when to stop and be content. There are points at which I know certain things are done. Maybe they’re perfect, maybe they’re not — but there’s no more to fix, adjust, edit, or tweak. It’s time to move along to the next thing. At that point the next thing becomes the now thing, and that’s most important.

But the sentiment expressed in the poem still applies, and I think a lot now, as I did when I struggled to decide what to do with my life, about one’s calling. We each have one, some purpose for being here. The thing is, it may remain a mystery all our lives, even as we fulfill it. Sometimes the really important things aren’t what we planned, sometimes we don’t even remember them, they’re just the after effects of our passage through others’ lives. The important things are more likely to happen behind us in positive ways if we’re kind than if we aren’t, if we appreciate others than if we don’t, if we’re forgiving rather than not. But we still may not know in this life what they were, how we made someone feel, or inspired them, or taught them.

I think we’re very lucky if we find a purpose we recognize and can be happy with, even if it doesn’t mean being a star, or rich, or having perfect teeth, or keeping one’s hair free of gray, or one’s hair altogether. I remember my mom once saying it would’ve been nice to have more money, but the most important thing one needed in abundance while raising kids was love. She left a lot of love in her wake.

Today I think that with all our flaws we’re glorious, spectacular. We shine, especially if we can accept our imperfections, even love them, and especially if we can love, forgive, and accept the flaws in others, and go on living each day as thoroughly, vibrantly, and full of wonder as possible.

Considering the peace that time has brought me, I wouldn’t be 18 again for anything.

But . . . if I had the body today that I was so dissatisfied with then, I’d be ecstatic. It’s true youth is wasted on the young. At least youthful bodies are. Damn it. (wink)

Copyright © 1974, 2007 Barbara W. Klaser

File: — Barbara @ 6:40 pm PST, 01/29/07
January 19, 2007

Edgar Allan Poe

Dear Mr. Poe,

Thank you for the poetry, the stories, the mystery.

Happy Birthday.

Respectfully,
a fan

* * *

The Raven (excerpt)

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!

* * *

Israfel (excerpt)

If I could dwell
Where Israfel
Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
From my lyre within the sky.

* * *

Alone

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov’d, I loved alone.
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

(The above three poems were written by Edgar Allan Poe.)

File: — Barbara @ 3:01 pm PST, 01/19/07
January 4, 2007

Journals, past present future

Turtleheart asked in “Journaling Stuff” (link no longer active):

“Do you regularly keep any kind of personal journal, online or off? What works best for you?”

I started out journaling on looseleaf notebook paper, as a girl. Sometimes I bought colored paper or a spiral notebook for a change. Later I collected bound blank books to journal in, but I feel freer handwriting on plain lined yellow pads, because I don’t care if I scratch out or mess them up. (more…)

File: — Barbara @ 3:59 pm PST, 01/04/07

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