Full moon

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As I got out of the car

Last night

I stared up into the sky

It was after 9

I knew you’d be out

Through the lush trees

Real beauties

I saw your powerful glow

I was taken aback

Staring at it

Wondering who else is looking at

The moon, the way I am

A Quote for the Day~

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Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. -Agnes De Mille

A speech on Love (The behind the scenes, what went into my thesis kind of speech)

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Love is such an overused word and underrated subject, and my thesis aims to explore love in a unique and thoughtful way that makes it have meaning again in a raw way. This thesis has been a very long time coming. Over three years ago I considered making an analysis on love and for my first writing week project, and I thought that’s what I would create. I was told that my writing week project cannot be 40 pages long, much to my dismay. Then two years ago, I started working on my thesis that I titled, let all that you do be done in love: an analysis of love. Finally, I could write about what I had planned so long ago with the personal message that it was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. First I drew a chart on giant white cardboard, with sections. I remember bringing the chart in to my first reader and going over it with him. Over time many of the sections were written and when I got to the first semester of my senior year, I had huge plans for my thesis. While love itself was not taking off in my personal life, writing my thesis helped me to discover that it wasn’t about that, that wasn’t why I was writing this. It was so much bigger than that.

During the workshop in my IS5 class, I asked Adam about page length; specifically I asked if I could write a 100 pages and everyone in class had a horrified look I remember well. Adam did one of his classic facial expressions, and said no. There was a page limit. See, I had a tutorial with Stuart where I worked on the science section of my love thesis where I focused on pheromones and oxytocin and I learned so much! However, I kept getting more and more ideas, more thoughts of how my exploration of love and how I could direct it. After a while, JD had to have me focus it on what I already had planned: An analysis of the four loves by C.S. Lewis, a Science explaining love section, love changing over time, a personal story, and connecting my personal story to C.S. Lewis’ work by analyzing my failed love as a case study. That’s what I will be talking about today.

 

C.S. Lewis’ book was really my jumping off point for my thesis. By reading about affection, friendship, eros, and charity, it made my thinking for the rest of the thesis sharper. I was finally focusing on the sections and making everything flow. Writing about friendship and affection wasn’t hard for me. I wrote about both of those according to Lewis with my own critique. It was eros and charity that I took more time on. I wanted to find a way to talk about eros that was meaningful and also explained it the author’s way, but with my voice too. And after taking a break from the thesis, I was able to do that. Charity was a section that I had a hard time explaining so I met with my thesis advisor to discuss how I could better understand this section so I could continue.

 

Writing about pheromones and oxytocin was a part of my thesis that I found the easiest. I found that studying and reporting on facts was easier than analyzing an author’s philosophy and far easier than trying to decode my own thoughts and feelings. Not to say science is easy, because it’s not. And the science behind why we have certain powerful feelings that could be love was harder still to learn about. It was useful to add science to my thesis (It was not my initial plan to) in order to help not only my reader but myself understand love more with science behind it, rather than just observations and speculation. One of the things I learned is that while giving a massage both the giver and the receiver have oxytocin released inside their brain. I also learned that pheromones are odorless, but very present and can help explain why we are attracted to one person and literally repulsed by another.

Writing the introduction and conclusion to my thesis were probably the most challenging parts (in addition to a bunch of books for research that I read that I didn’t use). I really wanted to start off strong and I wanted the conclusion to capture how complicated love really is. So I went through four revisions of my intro, before I found one that I felt suited the thesis best. The conclusion I left for last. Somehow, after all the writing and furthermore all the thinking about love I did, I was able to write just one meaningful conclusion.

The Conclusion: Contemplating, what kind of love is out there for me?

Walking down the streets of Chicago I am overwhelmed with beautiful scenes and my mind wanders, as the mind of a passionate woman often does. I think about love often as I find it a deeply wonderful concept. I think about a long distance connection I have made and if it could ever turn into the kind of love I seek. Surprisingly, loss hasn’t turned me away from the notion of love. It has taught me that I am capable of loving deeply and has me excited for how elevated that feeling will get when the love is mutual. Considering the science of love I examined and combining it with C.S. Lewis, I have gained a great depth to my view on love, and know more about the science of pheromones and oxytocin and their role in fueling a love connection between two people. They are two complex scientific ideas that allowed me to consider more than philosophy and personal struggle. I now watch many romantic movies with this smile on my face and read these romantic books, enthralled by the deep love the characters share, while being critical of overdone love stories that don’t seem organic or genuine.

In my life I have my amazing parents as a living example I constantly am around of how much love perseveres and how pure and remarkable love can be. They always manage to think of the other and never bicker.  The little moments are where I can witness their enduring love, an organic and simple love, or perhaps their years of experience is what makes their love look so effortless. Always, I see them share a cup of coffee and talk about their intense days of work and how stressed they are. Never really complaining, this ritual of having coffee is how they enjoy spending time together. This is where the distinction between the books I read and real life come into the light for me. Love and the relationships that come with it take a lot of work and commitment to keep that love flickering. It is not as simple and quick as a text of literature or film tries to prove to me. Movies often make love seem so easy, something I find irritating and I challenge now when watching movies. I actively call out how unbelievably perfect these movies are and prefer movies that involve some suffering or tragedy as those movies show a compassion developed that feels organic. Sometimes they demonstrate love as tragic and I find it very sad but more believable. Love isn’t easy to find or keep once one has the great fortune of locating it on this enormous Earth. The difficult fact to understand is we don’t choose who we love or who loves us back. We must hold on tight and fight for love sometimes. The walk I continue is disrupted by honking of car horns.

When I arrive at home, I think about and consider how I became so fascinated by love. I come to recognize that there is such beauty in love’s sacrifice. Actions speak louder than words and often people do things in real life that are a symbol of their love for one another. It can be something like shoveling the snow off your partner’s car before they go to work to make their life easier. You aren’t doing this to get anything in return. It is for them to have an easier day and to know you are thinking about them. The action propels forward the idea of not just helping someone out. Perhaps you did it absentmindedly. Thinking, oh I will clear their car also. Maybe it is as simple as putting a blanket on them as they have fallen asleep on the couch. Gestures are things they will appreciate and not forget. When you are both 90, they will remember all the little things you did to show how much you cared. In the end, it will be all the things you did, gestures big and small that make up your relationship, but that reminder that you care will endure. The idea of “we are in this together” will help in bad times. When things get tough, you remember all that you shared and lean on each other for support. That won’t be forgotten either. Love is the strongest force on Earth, beating even gravity. Love accomplishes things gravity never could. It breaks us, or causes us great joy. Sometimes, it is somewhere in between. We don’t always have control of the love as we saw with Tom, the married man having romantic feelings for another woman. All we can do is our very best if we desire love, to work honestly towards that goal. To not force things, but just let them happen. Because after all, love is that – love. To love at all is to be vulnerable (Lewis 121). It is that vulnerability that allows love in. If only we could all find a way to allow ourselves to break and burst open our walls. If only then, we could let love in.

 

 

A special thanks to JD, David Shiner and Stuart for all working on my thesis with me. A thanks to the Shimer community for pushing me and believing in me. And finally to Shimer community for showing me what it means to love something so much. And knowing how much you are going to miss it. While my thesis focuses on romantic love between two people, Shimer College and all the wonderful people that are a part of it taught me about a greater personal inner love for myself, the people around me, and for pursuing my passion. I hope to add a section on that kind of love to my thesis when I get around to publishing it.

Weaving Webs: Fantastical and Concrete

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Arabian Nights was not the set of tales I had expected at all. I thought of Aladdin and not much else and I was surprised by what I would find. It was instead a very fascinating but equally bizarre narrative with strange sex, murder, deceit, demons, women’s strength, and much more. Bringing it back to IS5, Ethan drew a connection to this story and that of Gilgamesh in the way the main character in both stories needed a distraction from very destructive behavior. Gilgamesh needed to be stopped from doing whatever he wanted, while the king in Arabian Nights needed to be stopped from a murder spree of women. I quickly learned during our discussion that there was significance to the tales in Arabian Nights as fables and folklore.  Women have a particularly interesting role in this book of tales as they take on a variety of symbols in what we have read so far that includes having agency. In this first protokoll, I would like to explore the structure of the narrative, the connection between demons within the stories and the actual kings, and the greater question which is: what is the woman’s end game with the king? (as Travis asked). Does she hope to save society with her cunning or is she just “kicking the cab down the road”, a theory we explored in class.

To summarize some points, the king’s deceitful wife caused him to believe no woman can be trusted and that is only highlighted when he visits his brother’s kingdom and finds more betrayal there. His brother also being betrayed ironically makes him feel better which adds some humor to this story. I questioned why such extreme measures were taken by the king to murder all the virgins the night after marrying them, but I wonder now about the greater meaning of the situation beyond that of the murders he commits. A very intelligent women, Shahrazad, volunteers to marry the king and she has a plan. She begins to tell a story and with her sister’s encouragement the story and more stories follow, which stop her death sentence at least for the time being. I just wonder as an aside, what happened to the second brother who was also deceived by his wife? After his part in the book, he is missing from the narrative. There is already so much going on in Arabian Nights that having another story line going would make it very difficult to follow along.

The structure of the narrative the class found reminiscent of Marie de France with its flow and the beginning of the tales being similar in terms of an “I cannot wait to tell you this story” sort of attitude. I, personally, found the romantic style to be present in both works. In Arabian Nights, there is much repetition of phrases and a lot strange fantasy elements in the way the tales are told. The way the stories are set up draws questions of how true the stories actually are historically (not actually due to the fantasy elements). The authenticity of the stories of both works was questioned by the class, but I think it is difficult to question such a story with so many years of alterations to the manuscripts as the introduction points out. Taking years and years of spoken word and putting it into stories is very difficult already.

Some of us also found the book hard to put down as the stories drew us in in a similar way that they drew the very crazy, unreasonable king, compelled to listen further night after night to a cunning woman. The tales were told in a way that made one want to read on, but also left one with many questions about clarity and plot. To answer some of these questions, Adam drew a diagram of the stories and sub stories on the board where we struggled to decide what part of the plot was resolved in which story. (I feel like I am describing a soap opera at this point.) Many questions came to the table but a significant one is, are these stories told by the woman close to authentic ones or was the woman tailoring these stories to serve her purpose? That idea that she had specific purpose in mind is debatable as well. What is the purpose? The class thought she could weave these stories to compel the king to spare her, and then the kingdom, and that they brought out parallels such as with the king and the demons found in her stories.

The connection between the kings and demons is really interesting because both the kings and demons can be reasoned with in unusual but similar ways. The demons and kings have a murderous, unforgiving nature that makes them very cold and harsh. One demon was released from a jar, but wanted to kill the man that released him and this seems really unfair to me. Both king and demon appear so powerful, but somehow using logic or trickery in the case of the fisherman, one can outsmart a demon. The deep question of whether a man or demon is superior came up in class and I pondered it but truly do not have an answer. Another huge parallel made is the woman that came out of the demon’s chest in one of the stories was there for the demon to keep chaste. This is like the king in the main story wanting his wife to stay faithful to him.

Women’s agency is captivating in this story because women are better story tellers, women cause deceit, and a woman takes it upon herself to control a dangerous situation and save society. Why doesn’t anyone kill the king or why don’t they all run away? Well, the class said that there wouldn’t be much of a story if everyone ran away. The greatest question is what is the end game for our female protagonist? There can be theories spawned from this question that only further reading can really answer. In my eyes, she is saving society temporarily, but can she really convince such a murderous, bitter man that wants to destroy all women that he should change his ways? Is her charm what will change his mind or will a moral in one of the stories warm his ice cold heart? We shall read on in the story and find out what she can achieve with her story telling. Can she save society? One other question to ponder is how will her story telling evolve? Will there be more parallels to real life and more demons that connect to the king? Will her agency shine and bring prosperity to the kingdom is what I really wonder.

Dreams (Throwback, But Truth)

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Dreams. Some of us have. Some of us do not. Sometimes. All the time. Somewhere and everywhere. There are sometimes built over time with posters in bed rooms, movies running in our minds, and hope in our hearts. As with some movies, these can take unexpected and sometimes unfortunate turns. Because sometimes we get sick. We forfeit the championship game before the try-outs even start. We hang up our soccer shoes and remember things like the nick names we got while we attempted to fulfill them. Bruiser was my nickname and a part of my dream. Soccer was my sport, defense was my position. Then after eighth grade I got sick, and sophomore year called for no more P.E. period. Funny how some dreams bring other ones into light. The dream to create. To be part of something bigger than yourself. How to be humble. My junior year I stepped into this new world and new dreams were pressed on fast forward. Dreams. You never really forget your dreams. They stay with you as you complete your morning jog, your salad, your chores, your romantic dinner, your fight with the cable guy. As much as you try to alienate yourself from them. They call to you. To be social was another dream I never fully held on to. It seemed to always be slipping from my grasp when final it seemed it had never existed. Now on the in-betweens, I’m trying to envision new dreams. Not to replace old ones. To be a smile now. You see funny thing about dreams. They never retire.

Do you Love me?

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I lust after your voice

You accent

I lust after your smile

Lovely, silly grin

I lust after the glow in your eyes

Such charm

And I lust for your touch

Tingle

Most of all

I just need to know

I can’t read minds

Do you love me?

Tempted

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When the moment is right

or wrong

When we find silence

Or you say something and I smile

When I feel that urge inside

Will I be tempted

to throw caution to the wind

to kiss your sweet lips?