Tuesday, April 3, 2012

-26- On Sociology

This's my term paper for sociology
                                    United States of America: a Technocratic Nation
            If you ask what type of government presides over the United States, the most common response would be democracy. While there will definitely be some deviations among the responses, it’s hardly likely that anyone would call the American government a technocracy. The term, coined by Herbert Marcuse, refers to a government where the “technical considerations of imperialistic efficiency and rationality supersede the traditional standards of profitability and general welfare.” (Marcuse, 1941) Does that not perfectly define our government? Among the leading industrial nations, we’re one of the few left that do not have universal health care, a free college system, or any of the other perks that Europeans enjoy. There’s one thing we do have though, and that is bureaucracy. Tons of agencies meant to supervise, to control, and most of all, to do so efficiently. One might ask how Herbert Marcuse pinpointed America’s true nature. The answer is that he did not. When he wrote of a technocracy he was referring to Nazi Germany.
Robert Michels, another German sociologist noted the increase of bureaucracy in socialist parties and labor unions in Germany shortly before World War I. He pointed out that the leaders of such parties had a vested interest in maintaining power (Michels, 1915). Thus he devised the idea of the iron law of oligarchy, which describes how even a democratic organization will lead to a bureaucracy ruled by a few. He theorized that this result was enforced by two processes. The first, which isolates the leaders, is their individual abilities. Max Weber, one of the founders of sociology, pointed out that people who achieve leadership roles usually possess the skills, knowledge and appeal necessary to control others. (Weber, 1922) Subsequently, Michels points out that the rest of the organization looks up to the leaders for direction and thus reinforce the process.
In America, it’s no secret that there’s a big discrepancy between classes. In this country, the top 1 percent of the richest people own almost 51 percent of the liquid financial assets (Ruccio, 2011). Considering the government’s actions, it’s clear that the balance is tipped in their favor. The Bush era’s tax cuts have been extended, despite the national budget deficit, while at the same time, the government is looking to cut away spending on food stamps, health care, and even want to get their hands on the social security money. Just as Marcuse said, the traditional standards of general welfare are nonexistent. At the same time, how do you think people get away with manipulating the government this much? The answer is through bureaucracy, of course. Large corporations lobby for their political interests. Money talks, and it speaks loud and clear. The Wall Street bailout was one of the most outrageous moves in our country’s history. When the American people were all going through foreclosures, and some lived in tents in public parks, some of the richest men in the world were getting subsidies. It was the clearest example of a bureaucracy ruled by the few, acting in the interest of its leaders at the cost of its followers.
            What allows the leaders of this country to do whatever they want? The answer is individualism. The principle of individualism, the pursuit of self-interest has been redefined into compliance. Herbert Marcuse explains this by comparing man’s relationship with machines. “In manipulating the machine, man learns that obedience to the directions is the only way to obtain desired results … There is no room for autonomy” (Marcuse, 1941). This is the perfect analogy considering how America is now almost entirely a consumer culture. After all, who is the most compliant of individuals, if not the consumer?
            When describing Nazi Germany, Herbert Marcuse implies that the control imposed on the people would not have worked if it operated purely by brute force and terror. He said that it was also the ingenious use of manipulation through the use of labor, propaganda, training, and the industrial and party bureaucracy. (Marcuse, 1941) That is the true danger of bureaucracy, a danger that should be noted as clearly as its benefits. In a technocracy like our own, there’s not a lot of room for free will. Autonomy is reserved for the leaders of this country, the people in charge of the bureaucracies that control almost every aspect of our lives. I sincerely doubt this is in the interest of the general welfare.

Schaefer, R. T. (2008). Sociology; a brief introduction. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Gerardi, S. (2010). A brief survey of the sociological imagination. (3rd ed.). USA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
Ruccio, D. (2011, February 25). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://rwer.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/25-graphics-showing-upward-redistribution-of-income-and-wealth-in-usa-since-1979/

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

-25- On Divorces

I had to write an expository essay for my English class. This is the final draft.

                My mother sat down on the couch and sighed wearily. I could see that she was clearly tired from a long day of work. I took a seat next to her and she hugged me. We sat like that for a while, and then she said suddenly: “Today I got the divorce.”
                Statistics say that 40% of all marriages end in divorce. What does that say about our society? Is “in sickness and in health, till death do you part” no longer an issue? It’s coming to the point that when my friends introduce their families, hearing the words “stepfather”, “stepmother”, “stepbrother”, “stepsister” is more common than the real thing. Families that have never went through a divorce seem to be a thing of the past; by now everyone knows someone who went through a divorce, and perhaps even someone on their second or third marriage. The fact that it’s so common spells out a great danger to families, for divorces are not the end of the story. Divorces lead to broken families, distressing childhoods and fail to teach the children family values, which continues the cycle.
                The effects that a divorce has on families are never positive. All children need the presence of both parents in order to thrive. I remember that after my mom got the divorce I stayed in the house for a whole month. It was not intentional, it just happened to be summertime and I stayed indoors doing nothing until so much time passed that it already became fall. I stepped outside and saw how much everything changed outside. Everything began to die. When I walked to the nearby park, the trees were barren and the dead leaves were crushed beneath my feet with every step. The wind was cold and the air had lost its warmth. It felt exactly as it was at home. From the moment my mother left to go to work and until she came back that evening, I was the alone in the house. I wouldn’t come home from school to see that my dad had cooked me something for dinner, nor was there a new movie for the two of us to watch until mom came home. I thought I was the only one with such experiences until I talked about them with my friends. They all felt the same way. Divorce is similar to the death of a parent, but it’s actually crueler because it’s not the parent that’s gone. It’s the feeling of a family. It disappears, and in some children, it never recovers again.
                One of the most devastating factors of divorce is the psychological factor. Mary Ainsworth’s groundbreaking research on attachment styles between parents and children revealed the importance of that relationship. She showed that only with an active and caring parent would a child feel securely attached. Children who had a secure attachment bond with their parents would have a lot of confidence and were more likely to become high achievers in school. What’s the impact of losing a parent when the child is securely attached? Damien W. Cordero, a psychologist who expanded on Mary Ainsworth’s attachment theory and it’s applications to divorce claimed that children who live in dysfunctional families, or have divorced families can assimilate dysfunction as a normal part of attachment. In layman’s terms, an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and from a dysfunctional family, dysfunctional children are raised. It’s no surprise that divorce rates are common among children whose parents are divorced as well.
                The effects of divorce don’t end there. In fact, it’s clear in our popular culture that traditional family values have long since changed. Currently it’s a general consensus that telling a person you love him or her means that you have very serious intentions. In contrast, in older mass media, it was common to say it even on a first date, and in most cultures, there is no such distinction between “love” and “like” as there is in American culture. When watching the movie “Transformers 2” a couple of years ago, I was surprised by the childishness of the protagonist who refused to tell his girlfriend he loved her because he didn’t feel quite ready for it. He only does so at the conclusion of the film, and only after she says it first. I just didn’t understand such a perversion of a simple feeling. I wouldn’t bring up such a ridiculous movie if there wasn’t a good reason for it. The truth is, our culture is much more ridiculous than that. In high school, I’ve not known any couple that explicitly proclaimed love for each other. Furthermore, it’s becoming a decreasing trend for children to tell their parents that they loved them every night. Just ask yourself if you did it when you were a child. Other effects of divorce are not so easy to spot. The children often lose trust in people of the same sex as the parent that leaves the household. It’s especially hard on girls, who are likely to find themselves in abusive relationships mirroring those that their parents went through. However, the effect on men is just the same. Absentee fathers breed absentee fathers. I can personally vouch for that, because my first stepfather was the son of a stepfather, and so, coincidentally is my second stepfather. I can only hope I don’t continue the streak.
                The divorce, while a seemingly private occurrence already is a cultural phenomenon. When nearly one in two marriages ends in divorce, it’s something that is clearly on everyone’s mind. Its effects, however, are usually not. The ruined childhoods are just the least of the problems, because the worst effect of divorces is that they teach children that it is normal. While a divorce might seem as if it is an easy way out, for the sake of the children involved, it’s important to at least try to make things work. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

-24- Final draft of essay.

I've written about five different versions of this goddamn thing, and some of them just went off in a completely wrong direction. This is the final draft I'm handing in, and I hope it proves to be enjoyable outside of just being an assignment.

A Departed Dream.

            In the essay “Death of a Moth”, Virginia Woolf ponders the significance of life, and its implications. She describes the day moth as insignificant and pathetic, and yet admits that it, too, is full of life. That realization; that life exists, even if small and miniscule, deeply impacted her view on life. She wondered what the moth would have been like had he been born in any other form. That was a question that haunted me after my friend Michael died. I felt cheated, because I thought his life should have been different. He was human, perhaps more so than any other person I’ve met before. He did not deserve to die a dog’s death. Yet like the small moth trapped in a window, he was also tied down without knowing it. I never believed in fate, and still do not, but what happened to him seemed inevitable. There are, it seems, limits in this world that one can never surmount.
            I met Michael when I was ten years old. Back then my family just moved into Queens, Briarwood, and it was not a pleasant neighborhood to grow up in. At first sight it seems like any other place, a mix of apartment buildings and small two story houses that all looked the same. There were trees planted at every five meters, and some of them grew tall and cast comforting shade during the summer, while others would look sick and frail. There would be hardly twenty leaves on any one of those trees and looking at them always ruined my mood. That fall, when every tree’s branches looked like the hands of skeletons reaching towards the cloudy sky, I went exploring my new neighborhood. The further I went, the more small houses I saw. Like soldiers standing at attention, they lined the street on both sides, and as I walked past them, I felt like a general admiring his troops. They were all the same shape, had the same windows, doors, front yard, and a fence. There was always some variation among the houses; some had their roofs tiled differently, others painted their fences a different color. Some houses didn’t even have fences. As I walked down, I started to notice that most of them were quite run down. There was garbage everywhere, bags piled on top of bags. An occasional ripped bag would stink up the place, its entrails revealing dirty clothing, food, and other general trash. After a while, I started to wonder whether I could have walked too far. I forgot where I was, and there were hardly any people outside to ask for directions. I kept walking, thinking that if I just kept moving I’d find the right direction eventually, but instead got even more lost. Furthermore, the neighborhood started to look even worse; broken glass glittered on the sidewalk. I walked slower, to avoid stepping into it and then I bumped into someone.
            A baseball cap covered his face so I couldn’t see his eyes. That frightened me and I thought I would be robbed right there, or kidnapped. Then he leaned closer and I got a better look at the stranger’s face. There was a lot of dirt and grime on it, but he didn’t look much older than me. He asked me if I was lost. I was too embarrassed to admit it, but he saw through me. “Come on kid, I’ll walk you home,” he said. On our way, I found out that his name was Michael. He was fourteen years old and lived in the same neighborhood. He said that the part where I lived was the white side and that the part where he lived was the white side’s shadow. I could see what he meant by that. What surprised me was that there was no bitterness in his voice. When I asked him why he didn’t mind living there, he told me that he wouldn’t live there for much longer. He had a dream of becoming an architect and rebuilding his neighborhood into something better. I listened to it, fascinated. I could imagine him, coming back to the neighborhood twenty years later, and fixing all the ugly little houses, and their grimy fences. I believed he could do it. When we reached my neighborhood, we parted, and I wished him good luck. He smiled at that, and said he didn’t need it.
            It was about a year later when I saw on the news that Michael died. He was working in a grocery store when a robber came in to demand money. I recognized him because the news showed the video of the confrontation. Michael was wearing the same hat he had when we met. He tried talking the man out of it, and was shot. I couldn’t understand how someone could do that to him, of all people. I felt he was too good to die like that. I thought about him speaking of changing his neighborhood, and what was going to happen to his dream now. Would it just disappear, the same way he did? It was strange, I only met him once, but I felt connected to him somehow. His chance act of kindness made me see in him something different, something that shouldn’t have been trapped in that decrepit neighborhood. He deserved better.
            Michael’s dream died along with him, because it had nobody to protect it. His dream was like the moth, a small existence, a pure bead of life in a miniscule, fragile form. Virginia Woolf stated, “I looked as if for the enemy against which he struggled.” Yet what are the enemies of dreams? Was it the man who killed Michael out of his own necessity? Was it Michael who put himself in harm’s way? I think it was the neighborhood where he lived in, a neighborhood which he loved, somehow, and wanted to change. It was as indifferent to him as the window frame was to the moth. It was a barrier of small houses, garbage bags, dead trees and broken bottles that were at fault. What chance did he have to escape? Three years ago I revisited the neighborhood and it was the same as always. The clouds above me floated indifferently, as if mocking me. Did you expect anything to change? - they seemed to ask. Truth be told, I did.

Friday, February 17, 2012

-23- Nature Vs. Man

This is a rough draft of an essay I am composing for my English class, however, it is not the first time I write about the topic. Read, enjoy, give opinions, and point out any errors are necessary. I am not allowed to rewrite the essay after I hand it in so my goal is to make sure it deserves an A

Nature Vs. Man

The mass of men lives a quiet desperation, claimed Thoreau, and he was right. It is true that most people live in bondage created by their society, their families and their loved ones. In society man is always trapped by his love and his fear, his dignity and his shame, his pride and his cowardice, by a social contract universally accepted against his will and without his knowledge. Every man is raised as he is expected to be by his society, not as he naturally should be. As a result, he is force fed ideals and burdened by responsibility, taught what he should love and hate, and most importantly, taught to obey without questioning. The society that Thoreau abandons when he goes into the woods is an oppressor that makes a coward out of any man, a coward who fears for his life and yet puts it in the hands of others without a second thought. The social man is a monster that lurks the shadows of his own cage. His exorcism is nature, his release is freedom, and that is precisely what man wishes to destroy, not out of ignorance of his diabolical nature but because of it.
I have learned this truth in the same way that mankind discovered fire; through an observation of a dangerous phenomenon that could not be explained, but existed, a phenomenon that is destruction in its boldest purest form. What pitted man against nature? Was it a Shakespearean dilemma that has long since outlived its origin? I had no answer. I stepped away then, away from humanity and nature, to understand the source of such hate. When I found the answer, I could not believe it. It is an answer that still troubles me today, and it is the reason why I never address people, but only individuals. The social side of man trails every individual as a shadow, and looms over him as a master puppeteer, out of sight, yet in complete control. As Amy Tan explains her essay Mother Tongue, she behaves differently based on whom she’s with. She willingly limits herself, censoring her own existence according to what others expect of her. It is that censorship, the willingness to bend one’s preferences and ideals to what is expected, that drives men to ruin in their society; it is the source of the quiet desperation that Thoreau observed in the mass of men. It is so ubiquitous that it is frightening; a nightmare that disguises itself as harmless. It would be, if it stopped itself as that. But when the question of “What is expected?” becomes more important than “What needs to be done?”, when duty overrides convictions, when man finds himself drowning in what is expected of him by other men, he is broken. He no longer trusts himself for an opinion and instead seeks it from others, enslaved by his fellow men; he exposes them to the same indignity he faces. It is there that evil capitalizes, when men no longer depend on themselves, they find themselves depending on others. History has shown what that leads to: war, genocide, terrorism, racism, sexism, hate crimes, the list is endless. Mankind’s worst crime so far, however, has been its destruction of nature.
Nature is the antithesis of mankind’s social nature, it rejects mankind’s pathetic desire to avoid responsibility, and it denies any expectations and operates by no rules. In wilderness, man stands alone, dependent only on his mind and body, and only by exposing himself to nature, does man understand that the two are inseparable. When experiencing nature, when walking among the edges of cliffs, knowing that a misstep is death, that relationship of cause and effect is different by the logic of duty and convictions. The bond between man and nature is not “you can’t”, but “you can”. In nature, when your life is threatened, you have the power to do everything you can to fight for it. That is a long way off from society, where upon conviction by one’s fellow men, one no longer has any freedom of choice. Lastly, nature teaches every man the value of his life, by letting man fight for it. It forces men to stake their lives on their judgments without hiding in the shadows of other men. That responsibility, right or wrong, life or death, is the wisdom that nature offers to mankind. Can one even compare it to man’s trivial ponderings of what is expected of him? Does mankind not seem cowardly in comparison? To me it does.
Thoreau immersed himself in nature to free himself from other men, to experience life as he was born to live it. As a reward, he gained an insight to another existence, an existence that other men curse, destroy, and resentfully hope for, every day of their miserable lives. The resentment of other men towards nature, their society, and lastly, themselves, could not reach the hermit that Thoreau became. For choosing to live independently, Thoreau was rewarded by becoming one of America’s greatest writers. Would we have known him otherwise?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

-22- A Hybrid Story

I became interested in poetry recently, and I wanted to take a shot at writing it. Not all habits are easy to cure, so it became an odd hybrid. I hope you enjoy.

"Night, Day, and Night Again."

A dull orange bulb is surrounded by the darkness of the night.
The street glimmers with diamonds that sparkle in the approaching headlights.
It has rained the night before.
When the car leaves, silence falls.
The clock ticks in rhythm to my heartbeat.
I am awake.

“Gail, what do you love most about your life?”

It is summer. My classmate Diana and I are painting scenery at a park. Most people who pass us slow down, some of them stopping entirely to see us work. I’ve only just started and yet my work already looks better than Diana’s. She is focusing on details that have no significance. I watch her hand hesitate before each stroke. I understand why she asked me to tutor her. I do not remember why I agreed. I paint, casting away these thoughts.


“Do I need to love anything about my life?” I ask her. It is not the answer she wants to hear. My answer is not one that anyone wants to hear.

“Of course you do, otherwise what is the point in living?” Diana laughs, but I stay silent. I am not close to her and never intended to be. She has been very kind to me but I am not a good friend.


Diana stops painting. She turns to me curiously. “What do you mean by that?”

“I love painting the most.”

I blend several colors together in order to create the proper tone for shadowing. I combine blue, white, and black together, mixing them only twice, to keep the color from having a single tone. I proceed to the canvas, expecting nothing and yet knowing the result beforehand.

“That’s beautiful, Gail!” says Diana. She stopped again and I see the paint dripping off her brush onto the grass.

“I know.”

In the dark, one’s eyes can no longer deceive.
What they claimed to see so clearly is now a mystery,
A monster dwells in every dark corner, ready to disappear once the light returns
And to come back when it’s gone again.
One sits beside me, I know it well.
It has always been there.

Why do I remember that moment? It is of no significance to me. I look at the painting I made that day. It is beautiful. I trace it with my finger, and feel the paint’s layers brushing against me. It does not chip off, fortunately. I’ll to send it to my parents so they can take a look at my work. I want them to see what I can do. I want them to know what I love most about my life. I want them to know it, because they don’t think there’s a point in me living. I want to convince them, if only in order to convince myself

Why do I even love painting? It is hard, unrewarding, and sometimes cruel. It is bliss. I watch my hand move across a blank canvas and I can already see the stroke I would have made. Painting is creating. In the realm of my canvas, I am God. Everything I love about the world, everything I hate about the world, I can create it here, better. Anything is in my power. My brush is my wand, and the paint is magic. There is no magic in the world I live in, but there is always magic in the world I can create.

I paint to escape to a perfect world. To escape from what haunts me. To find a place where I could have a life worth living.

You are beautiful, it says to me.
Am I?
You are revolting, it says to me.
Am I?
In the dark, we are equal.
I, too, am a monster.

A letter came in the mail today. I don’t have to read it to know what it will say. It is from my father. My mother never responds; she hates me. I do not blame her. I rip the letter in half, again and again, wishing to rip it out of existence. In the trash can, I see fragments of sentences, handwritten. One of them says my name. I spit on it, and watch the letters distort. I don’t want to know my name. Let me be someone else for now.

It is a cold night. The windows in every room are open and the breeze caresses my skin with its frigid hands. I don’t want to think of it. I fall into my bed and hide under the sheets. It is just like then. I don’t want to remember. I think of the painting I sent to my parents. It was happiness. I want to see it again now. They don’t deserve it. I want it back.

Why did he do it? I ask myself. I thought he was my father. I thought this was my family, that I was his child. I feel him in the bed next to me, as he was that night. I feel his hands on me, his hot breath on the back of my neck. I can hear his voice whisper, as it did then. You are not my daughter.

 The room is a silent witness.
I am caged in with the beast,
I look outside.
It is there, too.
Do you want to escape? It asks,
What will you escape from?

I am painting again. I am alone, yet I feel eyes all over me. My hand wavers, but I continue. I am not finished yet. The brush tears through the canvas and I leave it there. I grab another one and continue. This one is even sharper. My hand follows the lines that were burned into my mind. I apply too much pressure and the brush snaps in my hand. The paint splashes on me like blood. I stare at the broken pieces on the floor. My wand is broken, and the paint over it makes me look like a murder victim. I killed it.

What have you done? I ask of the canvas. It does not reply. The face in the unfinished painting glares at me, demanding me to continue. I throw my palette against it as hard as I can. The paint splatters against both of us. I rip out the brush sticking out of the canvas and stab through it again. It feels nothing. I envy it.

I feel accusing eyes everywhere. They look at me from every dark corner of the room. There are many. What have you done? Why? Wasn’t this what you loved? I have no answer.

The moon fades away in silence,
The street is changing colors.
I rise along with the sun,
Feeling strength gather within me.
The monster sneers and withers away,
Its grimace burns into my mind.

It has rained the night before. On my way to class, I watch the puddles as I approach them. They are all a disappointment; from a distance they reflect the beautiful sky, but the closer you get, the sooner you realize they are just a pale imitation. They want to be the sky, but they are here, bound to the Earth. They have already fallen.

One particular puddle reflects the tree above it as well as the sky. In its stillness, every single branch and leaf bud is perfectly duplicated. I feel as if I am looking at a portal to a different world. Is it the same on that other side? Perhaps someone else is looking at a puddle as well and seeing a portal to our own world?

I approach it slowly, in fear that it would stop reflecting and I will see through its fragile illusion. To my pleasure, the reflection stays the same. I lean over the puddle to see who will look back. I see someone there, someone who is just like me. There are the same eyes that look at me every morning, the same hair that I always brush away from my eyes. There is only one thing that I did not recognize. There is a smile there, perhaps nothing more than shadows playing a trick on me, but it is there. I raise my fingers to my lips and realized that I am smiling as well.

Have you ever played with mirrors?
You take two of them, and you pull them closer together.
At first there’s two reflections, then four, then eight,
It gets to that you can no longer pull the mirrors closer.
It’s just you now, an endless amount of you.
So many you can forget which one you are.

“You look happier than usual,” my professor remarks when I arrive at class. I realize that I am still smiling.

“Thank you, professor.”

“No, thank you, Gail. It is a rare pleasure.”

The professor has never been so kind to me. She is often stern and barely spoke more than two words to me other than greetings. My classmates call her Ms. Heartless. Until this moment, I thought of her in the same terms.

I approach the canvas slowly now, as if a worthy opponent. I see the tight fabric woven together to make a sheet, the smallest imperfections, the angle that is cast upon it from the classroom window, the stray strands that stick out on the sides. I know what I am going to paint already, but I want to say goodbye to what is about to fade before my eyes. I trace a finger against the canvas, feeling its rough texture. I could feel it with my brush just as well, but today I want to know the feeling even better. I press harder, remembering the painting I destroyed last night. The canvas bends slightly, but does not give in. I pull my hand away, having asserted that this canvas is not the same. I am not the same.

I do not sketch beforehand as I am supposed to, nor do I make a base layer. I mix the colors already, knowing exactly where everything will go. I remember the shapes, I remember the shading; there is no detail that could stump me. I remember the smile. The colors are perfect, I am ready. I dip my brush into the paint and begin. My professor has never seen me start a painting in such frenzy. She stands behind me, not knowing whether to stop me or to tell me to continue. I smile, knowing she couldn’t even if she dared to try. I am painting. I am alive.

Is there another world?
A world inside a mirror?
I would escape reality if I could,
I’d be happy to be my own reflection.
But what if I already am?
What if I can make my own dreamscape?

The professor stays with me long after the class has ended in order to not disturb me. Since the first brush stroke, I was out of anyone’s reach, and she understood that. Class went on as usual, with everyone trying not to pay attention to me. I was painting in ways I have never done before, ways I haven’t been taught. It was neither an emotion nor a feeling that being expressed on the canvas; it was a single thought. My wand was no longer broken and I could create again. I finish and sign my name at the bottom. It would feel incomplete without it. I take a step back to admire the painting as a whole. It is finished. It is like looking back in time; a single moment captured perfectly as it were. I see the slight smile on my face. It is slight, just as it really was, perhaps even a small trick caused by the reflection. But perhaps not.

The professor claps slowly when I turn to her. There is a kind smile on her stern face, a smile I have not seen before. It is not unlike the smile on my own face.

“You’ve improved yet again,” she says, emphasizing every word. Her voice sounds harsh in comparison to their meanings.

“Thank you. I apologize for taking so much time-“, I start to say, but she raises a hand to stop me.

“Do not apologize. Today I got to experience something I wished for when I first began to teach painting. I wanted to see someone I taught painting in such a way. I wanted to see stunning beauty created by an able mind. It was my wish, and because of you, it was granted. Apologizing for it would be an insult to both of us.”

We both admire the painting for a while. In that moment, there was nothing but the canvas in existence. Then the teacher put her hand on my shoulder.

”Leave it here to dry overnight. You can take it home after that.”

I nod.

Before I leave, the professor calls out to me.

“Gail, does this painting have a name?”

I stop at the door because I have not thought about it at all. Does one need to name something as simple as this? I wonder. I look at the painting and its name comes to me immediately, as if it was carved into the canvas.

“My Dreamscape, and My World.”

Today I had a prophecy,
Tonight I won’t be frightened.
The darkness is mine, the light is mine.
This is my world, this is my life.
My fears, my hate, my happiness, my love.
They all belong to me.

Something is in my eyes. I open them and see the moon shining outside. It is white as always, but its edges glow a pale blue. I smile, thinking how the moon is just a reflection of the sun. And yet they both exist, don’t they? As I look up, I start to realize I can see other stars in the sky. It is late, and there are few lights to block them out. I sit up in my bed, admiring a sight I have missed for so long.

It has been two years since I visited my parents in the country. It was not a pleasant experience; my mother had known of what my father was doing to me, but blamed me for it. I only came to beg for money from them and they knew it. My mother refused to talk to me. I wanted to hear nothing from my father. The silence in the house on that day was not unlike tonight. I knew that I would have to stop depending on them. I knew on that day that I would have to live on for my own sake. I was terrified.

I drove back to the city on that evening. I did not want to think of what might have happened if I stayed there for the night. The sun slowly burned out on the horizon behind me, and the sky turned black. The road was empty and I never felt so alone in my entire life. I approached a streetlight after streetlight and counted them so that I wouldn’t sleep. Then I noticed the stars. Immediately I stopped my car to get a better look at them. I didn’t know for how long I stood there or why. I know it now.

All those stars belong to other worlds, worlds that I will never be able to reach or experience. I will never know what the sky looks like there, if there is ever day or night, if it ever rains or snows, if there are men and women there, just like here. I can only know what is here, in my world. This is where I live. And whether my life is good or bad, it is my life. I cherish it.

The monster appears beside me in silence,
We look into each other’s eyes.
“You are me, too,” I say.
I reach out my hand to touch it and it does the same,
Our hands touch, and it disappears, a smile on its face.
I am asleep.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

-21- About Writing

Just a small meditation on writing. I am known for my love and criticism of writing quite openly among my friends. I have a grave respect for what writing is; I’m in love with the craft. I have fallen in love a few times during my life so far, but it is only with writing that I come back to it and fall in love all over again. Romanticism is not in my nature, so this is not dramatization. What writing is to me is a friend that I can never find in another person. Writing is my appeal to a person whom I have yet to meet, the one who can inspire me. I met a few great men, and I know a few that will become them in the future, but what I want is someone who is beyond that. My writing is a reach beyond mankind; I want an understanding that is not limited by the omnipresent ego. There in, however, lies a flaw. When it comes to men, it is the ego that is the driving factor, (this is not used in the Freudian definition). Self confidence, pride, etc. what people are taught to loathe and hide, is what I appreciate most. I admire those with a wholesome ego for they know who they are and accept it. There is a lot misunderstood when it comes to the egoistic man. But this is not about that. What do I mean by an understanding beyond mankind and its ego? I mean a stretch into the land of the overman. It is understandable that a man with a great ego should become the greatest; it’s been proven throughout history. The next step is to be able to cast it aside. This is not a suggestion to discard the ego towards a pursuit of selflessness. I must make it clear; to become the overman, one does not cast aside his personal egoism in search of something greater. Instead, one assimilates his ego with his environment and is able to perceive the world as much as he does himself. In that situation, the ego is no longer pertaining to the man itself; it is lost in what becomes an ultimate understanding. That is what I seek through my writing, an appeal to that man, and though I may still be an immature writer, I still reach out towards my goal.
What would it be like to be the overman? I can’t answer that question, but I do know I want to find out as much as anyone else does. To transcend mankind takes courage that is not found in our generations; it is frightening leap of faith for anyone who attempts. The blasphemy of the situation is that it is a leap of faith for everyone but those who can become the overman, for those require no faith. An existence without fear, pain, guilt, pleasure, love, and even time is not something we as humans can perceive. And yet it is precisely that existence that epitomizes the overman. It is frightening because we cannot imagine it; and yet it is thrilling because we still want to find out. I know I do. I want to see it, I want to live it. There are moments where I wonder about what sets a man apart. Courage? Confidence? Or is it perhaps Conscience? Many writers have strived and reached in the right direction, finding egoism as the ultimate goal of man. I dare go a step further and state now that an assimilation of egoism with one’s environment is the ultimate goal of the overman. The ultimate conscience! I thirst for it, not embittered by jealousy but instead delighted in my capacity to witness and imagine something amazing. People have erected idols for thousands of years and worshipped them. The overman is my idol, but I am not humbled by it. My only desire is to find it, experience it, to perhaps become the overman myself.
Writing, I have fallen in love with you again.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

-20- First February Post - On Cynicism.

A great point was brought up in an article I read recently. This was on cracked.com, and the author was John Cheese, although I don't think that's his real name. He's been a pretty typical writer except he started writing about his life experiences and that really hit off for him because he's got this sheepish truthful humble "aw shucks" kind of style, and it's actually really good, considering the issues he talks about. Nonetheless this isn't about that or him, but a point he brought up. The point was that cynicism is not much different than ignorance, which it criticizes so vehemently. Most cynics just become cynical and leave it at that. "At last I know the truth!" is sadly the thought that most cynics have. But it's not so. That was his point and he explained it pretty well in his own way, but I'll do it my way because I don't like his style.

As a person who has been pretty often accused of being a cynic, I can say what's expected of a cynic and what people define it by, and etc. I know what a cynic is, essentially. And it's really nothing more than being an asshole. It's like being a hipster, because all you're doing is trying to avoid saying something mainstream. Someone asks you a "mainstream" question and you scoff at them and their mainstream crap. That's the gist of it, and it's quite pathetic when you realize it. I'm known as a cynic because I do bring up the other view, and sometimes I spout something unique. Yes, quite often it is because I want attention or something, but more often than not, it's an attempt to make the conversations more exciting. And it's also honesty. Sometimes an honest opinion happens to be a cynical one, and I stick by honesty more often than not.

But that doesn't mean that cynicism is a good thing. Truth is, there is no final verdict on life. Santa Claus doesn't exist, okay cool. But the story does do a lot of good for kids. Fairy tales are b.s., but they teach morals to little kids. Growing up means going through stages when you will believe in this stuff and it doesn't mean the world was out to fuck with you by making you believe in Santa. It was about letting you have a good time. And there's no reason to feel betrayed because it's not true. Once again, it was never about tricking people.

Now even the big topics like religion also are something people are cynical about pretty often. God? Fuck god and his fairy tales, is something you're bound to hear from a cynical atheist. I'm an atheist too and I do stray away from the topic because I know I might say something cynical too (might is an understatement). Nonetheless, religion did allow for an organized society. I don't like to use the argument of "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know," but religion played an important role in early society and still does today. There are people who need to believe in god, even if you're not one of them.

There is a lot of good in life and by being cynical, you're limiting yourself from noticing it. Don't limit yourself by sticking to any particular view because then you get to experience even less. You can believe everything you hear, disbelieve everything you hear, you can act like a jerk or you can be nice to everyone, it's all optional, but the point is to be able to know what you're actually doing and when.