Wednesday, September 12, 2012

doing well

It's been months since I've checked in here. I dated seriously (some 'firsts' were had, some cliche mistakes made) and I learned a lot. Do I know who I am? Not yet. Maybe never. I learned things, things I needed to know (I know I've said that before...). I read some books and indelicately appropriated lots of new ideas. I sent lots of texts and e-mails that I'm proud of. Left lots of Facebook comments that made me chuckle later. (that's a weird thing to put here...but those are the concrete things I can point to--the pieces of me that I know exist because there they sit even when I'm not conscious of them. and back to self-serving observations: sometimes, when I read what I write, I learn that there's more to me than even I knew--there's more in that subconscious than I thought). Made friends, ate out, saw movies. Traveled. What else? I jumped out of a plane, swam naked under a waterfall, burst into years saying goodbye to a friend. Tried to be someone new and failed...a little. Became someone different.

I'm really terrible at predicting my life many months hence--but I think that, in many ways, I keep getting better at life--and that makes me hopeful. Has real life come easily yet? Nope. I'm still the old verbal, dissimulating, fractious self, enlarging my personality against the relief of the big ideas, meeting despair with sublimity...and jokes, smiling at chaos, brandishing puns. Dicking around a lot too. Repeating myself. Wasting time on people out of strange neurotic needs I don't control all that well. Comparing myself to others. Wanting to love--being thwarted, failing too. Wanting to be loveable, with some success (when not failing). But I yam what I yam--and sometimes yam suits me a lot better than others.

I'm taking four psychology classes now, working 30 hours a week, and prepping for two GRE tests (regular and psychology subject test) and running a lot as I'm attempting to get thru over a hundred hours of psych audio courses (30 miles last weekend!) I feel busy. Grad school in a year? I hope. 

In the meantime? More dancing, a teensy bit more alcohol, German studying, philosophy, kissing. Fun and love, I hope--one or the other, at least.

Monday, April 2, 2012

wisdom from tragedy

 From Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning
In  attempting  this  psychological  presentation  and  a psychopathological explanation of the typical characteristics of a concentration camp inmate, I may give the impression that the human being is completely and unavoidably influenced by his surroundings. (In this case the surroundings being the unique structure of camp life, which forced the prisoner to conform his conduct to a certain set pattern.) But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? Is that theory true which would have us believe that man is no more than a product of many conditional and environmental factors—be they of a biological, psychological or sociological nature? Is man but an accidental product of these? Most important, do the prisoners' reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?

We can answer these questions from experience as well as on principle. The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than the mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

a lady in the street

Whether [my grandmother] succeeded in making a lady out of me is for you to decide, but I will say one thing in my own favor before we begin.

No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street.
-Florence King
 Reading Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

Sunday, March 18, 2012

love, continued

a bit more on love as one's solitary possession (from a different source and hopefully heading-off any solipsistic interpretation of the quote from the last blog):
"Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character that determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one "object" of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty. In fact, they even believe that it is proof of the intensity of their love when they do not love anybody except the "loved" person. This is the same fallacy, which we have already mentioned above. Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object - and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I can say to somebody else, "I love you," I must be able to say, "I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself." -Erich Fromm

Sunday, March 4, 2012

crush, unrequited

“First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself." - Carson McCullers
"sound like anyone you know?" I asked myself with the internal dialogue version of an arched eyebrow and knowing smile.

I have an unfortunate history of falling for the self-contained, somewhat-detached. loving's not the problem for me--I just can't get anyone to take it (it doesn't help when you're looking within a subculture within a subculture within a subculture). as a friend told me, "you need to stop going after introverts with the hopes of converting them [to extroverts]." 


love considered

my first piece of advice about love is to find someone who believes the same things about it as you do. 

for myself, I esteem a love of commitment, of choice, of the doing-ness/performance of loving things--beyond infatuation and romantic sentiment. (if there be romance, then all the better). I want a family, domesticity, mutual give-and-take love--and all of the constructive happiness that inheres therein. it's my hope to find another who believes the same. 

it's difficult when you go for someone and you're rejected or, worse, when you're broken-up with. especially for me (and other 'lovers' I assume) who are trying--who have, it's hoped, given 90% to 110% and who feel flexible and mutable, willing to cater to the needs and demands of another and his or her personality. when the rejection comes, it's not a matter of "what I did" but a matter of "who I am." so the question is not "what can I do better?" but "am I not the type of person I should be?" this has been poignant: the realization that someone doesn't like me. so I wonder,  "where have I gone wrong? what defect of personality or character sunk my chances? am I loveable?" I'm not quite so self-dramatizing to answer the last question in the negative...but it takes time before you stop wondering why that particular crush didn't bother finding out or why that partner said, "ehh, I can do better."

I move on, I learn, and I try to get the cliche mistakes out of the way with my mind set both on choosing better and "becoming" the person I need to be.

Monday, February 20, 2012

sonnet 130

so much of humor is finding the below-the-surface or unexpected relations between two things, especially two disparate things. it can also be a rather effective type of argument, supplying just the sort of associations (contravening all reason) that support your position. said hyperbolically and with a wink, your opponent has no recourse to reason: to beat you rhetorically, he's gotta come up with a better joke! I came to a newly-betrothed friend's aid recently in her disagreement with her mother over her choice of a birdcage veil over the more traditional gossamer affair.

my text:
"tell her that traditional veils are more suited for cheesemaking and that you will not be walking down the aisle with cheesecloth draped over your head. when michael [the groom] lifts the veil, he is opening the cage to beautiful and rare songbird--not unwrapping some Gouda"
I'm told that the birdcage veil is gaining favor.


I'm going thru Shakespeare's sonnets now and I was struck by the parodic humor of sonnet 130 (especially as it prefigures our contemporary reflexive sarcasm). for anyone who's completely missed the poetic conceits when reading something like Dunne's "The Flea" (thank Jove for commentaries), sonnet 130 is there to commiserate.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

Friday, January 27, 2012

sonnet 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.