Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Flowers of Evil

The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire was first published in 1857.  Baudelaire’s work was not greeted with applause and cheer, in fact, the series of poems were seen as an “outrage” by the aristocracy in Paris, whom he openly defiles with the neglect for the poor in the modernization of the urban center. He also takes aim at the “sacred one” for false promises that are not delivered to the poor, but praises our engagement with nature (not necessarily begot from the divine in his context), especially the sea, which he argues offers us reflection, somber and fight.  He also provides short poems on the clouds, evening sunset, and seasons of the year.  The short series of poems also offer insight to his thoughts on exotic perfume and beauty.  His style of rhyming couplets, almost throughout, is a work of art (though remember I am reading the translated version, so probably better in French).  Poets are truly amazing in capturing a thought, an idea, or a moment perfectly, and Baudelaire is no different.  His reflection on how music moves his spirit in the same manner as nature is how musicians I know explain what happens to them when they are working on a project:
                        Oft Music possesses me like the seas!
To my planet pale,
'Neath a ceiling of mist, in the lofty breeze,        
I set my sail.
With inflated lungs and expanded chest,
Like to a sail,
On the backs of the heaped-up billows I rest
Which the shadows veil
I feel all the anguish within me arise
Of a ship in distress;
The tempest, the rain, 'neath the lowering skies,

For me, it captures the places the artists goes when they are consumed by a project (song/piece of art, etc.) that inspires them.  Reminds me of my sister’s work creating a new design for her tiles.  The overall poems are quite short and challenges the reader on a society influx with a new modern view on fellow society and nature.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

This is Water (extra read)

Listening to the words of smart people is motivating and at times JOLTS me to action including reading the short commencement speech, turned into a short story by David Wallace Foster called This is Water.  It is the actual commencement speech he gave in 2005 for Kenyon College graduates (Wallace Foster died two and a half years later taking his own life).  The speech captures the importance of a liberal arts education.  He provides context for learning, the challenging life ahead, and not to believe everything you think to be true.  Be thoughtful in knowing truth, as it is often disguised and not what you may think it is.  Remember empathy, we never truly know the other person’s story. His speech is funny, poignant, and with multiple meanings, as only an intelligent and confused thinker can do.  Wallace Foster was brilliant beyond his own time.  His own confusion and deep thinking cost him his own life.  We lost an intelligent and witty man.  A man who asked us to look beyond ourselves and what we take from this life, but to see what could be possible by treating others with decency.  The liberal arts education is priceless in that it should teach us how to treat others, be conscious of our dealings with others, and act appropriately in our daily life.  The 24 minute speech is well worth your time.    One of the best commencement speeches I have heard in my life, and I have heard more than one should have to be subjected…  Here’s the link:  God rest your soul David!  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Reason I Jump (extra book)

I always enjoy reading a second favorite RA book when the RA I am meeting with can’t make up their mind between two favorites.  On Friday I met with an RA who was so impressive in articulating her journey of life.  It made me easily get excited to read her second favorite book, Naoki Higashida’s The Reason I Jump.  The book tells the story of a 13 year old Japanese boy who has autism and communicates by using an alphabet grid that he has learned from a school teacher who worked hard to understand him.  Higashida’s story was written in 2006 and gained critical acclaim when English writer David Mitchell found the book investigating how he could better understand his own son’s life with autism.  The book is a series of questions that the author responds to, such as: Why don’t you do what your told right away, what’s the worst thing about having autism, why do you move your arms and legs about in that awkward way, and why do you jump?   It is the very first deep insight into the mind of an autistic person from their own words.  It is rather amazing that Higashida is able to provide his full account in basic observable ways.  Patience, love, and on-going listening is the answer.  I was so moved by the responses he provides in ways that gives one pause to realize how difficult it must be for anyone on the autism spectrum.  Higashida also includes a few short stories that he shares that further captures the manner in which we tend to ignore the needs of autistic people.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who works to understand others, before being understood.  This story demonstrates why this is so important.   Great read, quick read, but worth every minute!  Gain a perspective, pick the book up! Thanks J for the recommendation.  Your brother is lucky to have you!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Untethered Soul (Extra Book)

Thanks to the AnBryce scholars who provided me with a copy of The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.  The book was a gift in response to the passing of both my sister and my mother-in-law. It was a very thoughtful gesture, which I so appreciate.  I always enjoy deep thinking about why I am the way I am, how I interact with the world and my environment, how I find peace within myself, and whether I have realized my place in this world in relation to all that swirls around us.  Reflection, at any part of our lives is critically important, and none more important than at the moments of time when it all seems far beyond our own ability to understand “why – bad things happen to good people” and we need to determine what is actually bad.  The book is a journey which attempts to take us beyond ourselves and find a place of “inner freedom.”  It is very Zen like book, which draws upon the tenets of the practice.  Singer does an outstanding job of laying the process out to begin to understand who we are, our barriers, and how to work beyond them by utilizing real life examples.  Removing the clutter; the messages we speak in our minds are the first thing to go.  What a simple concept, yet it is so hard to not knock ourselves, others, and the various distractions that we see and feel every day.  Who is that “inner roommate” and why do we allow the little “person” on our shoulder to whisper things that make us unable to go to where we want to go as a person.  Shouldn’t we all be able to succeed?  What holds us back?  Why allow these voices to impact us so much?  Once we begin to address this, we may be able to really find out who we are.   What energy do we need to get to that place between where the ying and the yang exist?  What type of ‘letting go’ of our failures, our weaknesses, and uncontrollable emotions has to happen?  Finding freedom will invigorate us and allow us to be deeply connected to a self that is not tied to the failings of this world.  In many ways, Singer is suggesting through his work that there is a better place for us… that is outside of this world.  This is a temporary space for us, a space for us to exist, do great things and be prepared for the more lasting life outside of this world.  Clearly there is major overtone of spirituality, a higher being, and a world beyond.  For those who don’t believe in a greater life after this, it may not be as plausible. But for me, and for the work I do with life coaching, much fits into the philosophy I believe.  Singer’s last section of five, goes into depth about how we need to live this life, finding unconditional happiness, working towards a spiritual path of nonresistance, how to contemplate death (we shouldn’t see it as our enemy – so true, the more I live, the more I get it!), the secret of the middle way, and the loving eyes of God.  Even if you don’t believe, I would have you read it to help contemplate – then what?  Thanks, scholars.  A perfect read at a perfect time in life for me.