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Archive for December, 2012

What Beautiful Rocks

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Give a child the most beautiful rock. “Break it, save it, draw it or stack it, it’s up to you.” Given these options we see so much- does the child who cracks the rock in half reveal a scientist in development? Does the child who sets to sketching the rock or scribing lines of verse describing its beauty suggest the future artist? Much of how we relate to things of beauty reveal who we are inside. We seek answers to the sources of our wonderment that extend to who we become and what we pursue in life. In essence, many of the skills we use to make sense of the world as children run through adulthood and inform our adult lives.

Wonder is an amazing emotion. At once certainty and confusion, the emotion is a state of an awareness of beauty and yet a recognition that the source of such strong emotion remains unknown. We seek answers to this state in order to make sense of this power and perhaps identify some powerful ingredient. Do we seek to trace these ingredients so we can seek them out in other places? Some seek spirituality in nature and regularly make trips to far-off destinations. Some enjoy food and spend thousands each year in search of a great meal. We experience something once, enjoy it, and make it a point to trace and hunt for it again.

With our reaction to an item of beauty we can learn much about who we are. Do we break the rock? Do we save it for display or seek to trace its core components? In the end we learn we are by how we answer our sense of wonderment. In tracing out our “Wow” we find both threads of who we are and the means by which we work to make sense of our surprises.

Modern Tellings: Detachment In Differential Time

December 25, 2012 Leave a comment

One wonders whether certain pieces of fiction are so far beyond contemporary society that they’ve long been rendered fantastic. Even realistic fiction suffers this loss in time, Dickens and Shakespeare become more confusing with each passing decade as cultural touchstones change and points of audience relation disappear.

In those stories people “act differently” or “say things in some other way”. One might even hear of how “the way they see the world is different.” Students experience the texts in different ways than the author originally intended: “Things just aren’t the same.”

But when do stories suffer this detachment via time differential? When does a story become so far off that it is unrelated to our world? Oddly culture decides this.

We have a system where culture reclassifies culture, existing as some swarming, swashing body of material that varies in popularity and relevancy. Certain works never catch while others take decades to find an audience. Some texts lose favor with the culture only to return later to become touchstones. Yet more never connect: bursting into the world only to sink.

This is a fascinating change and on Christmas I consider one story with an existence one wonders is quickly becoming unrelateable: A Christmas Carol.

What would Bob Cratchit do in today’s workplace? Tasked with an abusive employer on top of his life’s stresses how might he react? Given our headlines one wonders whether we can trust Cratchit to suffer silently? In today’s society how do individuals experiencing these forms of stress react? Certainly fiction works to present a popular version of a common reaction and, if possible, the most exciting rendering of the situation in dramatic form? Where might one “modern Bob Cratchit” appear in our story? Consider popular news stories and consider just how some suffer through stress in today’s world. Humility for modern Bob or something different- something much more different with renderings in fiction suggestive of what we read in the news. One fears such modern Bobs.

Vulgarity of Vague

December 24, 2012 1 comment

“War is over!…if you want it…”. What is war? Perhaps safety lies in the dictionary definition of the term that suggests an armed conflict. Ok, our example battle with Country X has ended but what of the other wars taking place? What of the wars taking place within each soldier coming home, inside each soul affected by our Example War? Absolute concepts like war fail to communicate any meaning because they mean everything and yet nothing. What is war? What is love? What do these terms mean?

We may have emotional knowledge of these terms we cannot truly communicate our understanding. “Love” is a term given to an emotion within each human being: we feel love, we give love and even “make” love; and yet, we cannot communicate what this means. For such a deep and rich concept the very name we use fails to express what we need. Does the term fail due to complexity? Is love too much of an idea for language? Perhaps language doesn’t work for all things. Does language have limitations in communicating?

Some ideas seem too complicated for language. How might we express concepts of love with a single term. Herein lies a possible solution: correct the limitation by adding example. No, we cannot understand “love” by the lone term, but via the addition of additional ideas and descriptions we can work to express the complicated details of the base term. Let us unpack these ideas and work to more specificity.

Here we find language’s great paradox: more description works to more specificity and simplicity leads to complication. Confused with but a single term we must work to correct confusion.

Questioning False Questions

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Some questions need never be asked. “Can I help you?” or “What can I do?” seem less sincere query and more fake pretense and social staging. If one is capable, why not always help? For some this question is the polite query meaning “I don’t want to help but if you ask I will and know full that by not asking I’ll make you mad.” The game is known and the situation is clear: help is needed. Just do it.

Part of the magic of language is this ability to exist despite purpose or need. We deploy our words as means to achieve disparate and often contradictory goals. Here we have a great example: asking if our help is needed when do not want to help. We learn this use of language early. As children we ask for permission even when we know we will. Is it passive aggressive or just sheer smarts that makes us both capable and willing to use language in this form. From our mouths and lips we emit words of incredible sincerity and dastardly deception.

A useful class of language exists: baseless expressions that establish foundation. Daily paradoxes function to provide multiple levels of benefits: cover our bases, do as we’re expected and avoid as best we can the things we loathe to do.

The Bigger Sorts of Gifts

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Holidays cheapen our love by creating a single day where we can prove our claims of love. Instead of an expression spread the year round, the holiday becomes a love banquet, a virtual battle ground of emotion where big expressions mean real emotion and capital expenditure of effort translates to real love. Is it genuine? Perhaps, but for those whose remaining 364 days in the year are far less romantic or even void of expressions of love these days become cheap and sad.

Holidays provide us with opportunities for big expressions. We buy a huge gift and work tirelessly to express our appreciation for someone we love. Gifts and actions are designed to translate as “I love you” or “I appreciate you”, but what of the rest of the year? Do these holidays function as our cannonball of love where we express our love on one day and allow ourselves the other 364 days to remain inexpressive?

Holidays become inverted when expressions are so large they beg the question of sincerity. Often the biggest efforts come from those whose failures throughout the year seem to demand a big expression. In essence the holiday becomes for the callous or indifferent a one-stop shop for expressing an emotion. In this one-act play of love the actor takes the stage, plays the part and recedes back to indifference.

For many a holiday is a saving grace: play the part. Bad actors redeem themselves with big gifts and find a culturally acceptable arena where love is equal to expenditure and big efforts of purchases mean love. Distorted as it is we must remain cautious and aware of a gift giver’s intent. How real is the expression? To avoid a cheapening of the holiday we must filter both ourselves and those who give us gifts. Accepting an insincere gift is as much a crime as giving one. For no matter how bad or cynical the performance it only achieves its goal with an audience who accepts the message. Rejection is key and the insistent assertion of an expectation of genuine love during the entire year is the only way to make all holidays true and one’s daily existence worth dedicating to another.

Categories: Uncategorized

Of A Heightened Expectation

December 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Unequal levels of justice exist in society. For some, especially those who work with the vulnerable in society, we demand better behavior and enact more severe punishment for violations of our trust. In many ways we match our vulnerability with the justice doled out for violations.

For those who take advantage of our vulnerability we provide dual layers of punishment. Media stories are peppered with tales of “teachers gone wrong” and others who have failed at professional obligations. Public shaming comes before social justice and anyone who breaks public trust faces a trial by media long before appearing before a judge. In these initial stages there is no protection and one is dependent on public patience or the ability to communicate well in the face of fire.

To those whose violations of trust have been proven in a court of law we hold minimal patience. Justice is fast and never enough in cases of figures whose violations of the vulnerable have been proven. Granted our trust dare not violate it. Do so and brave the forces of a public whose own sense of security and social trust hinges less on you as the person and more on the basis of what you represent. Violating Doctor or Teacher, you are less an individual and more a symbol of social expectation.

Distance in Vibrations

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Technology allows us to keep our distant friends at our hip. Reduced to vibrations and beeps, the people we need to know but safely can avoid become subjects for our cell phones. We avoid these certain people by leaving them to voice mail, reducing  them to texts and leaving our interactions with them to times of maximum convenience. Maybe we never answer their call, choosing instead to leave them to the dark recesses of our voice mail boxes they may linger there for days or weeks or months.

Technology is often cited as a delicious answer to contemporary society’s quandary of isolation. Yes, we can connect with distant friends and relatives. No longer can geography hinder our ability to speak to those we love. Our boundaries have been broken and we’re always there, always ready and capable of taking a call or making contact. Herein lies the flip side; though, with greater access comes the need for greater filters. Though we can connect at anytime we rarely want to. Inherently individualistic we cannot be everything to everyone all the time. Each of us reaches a point where privacy is the greatest asset and receding into lonesome desolation a paradise. Technology serves us here by buffeting our boundaries. Turn away the calls and texts, block for me, dear cell phone, the voices and minds that claim to need me now. For some this is blessing, but for others this ability to break away is scary and impossible. To those unable to leave the phone behind or who are forever linked to their device we can only wonder.

For some, technologies greatest gift is the ability to connect at anytime. For others this is less true and technology works as filter from the outside world: I am here but where I want to be. Yes, you can reach me if you want but I’m still hidden here, behind this plastic which allows me greater access but, by virtue of my choice, the blissful bubble of device enabled privacy.

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