Thursday, 19 July 2007

LisaNova does George Bush!

This is like totally awesome!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Human Potential & Philosophical Ruminations

I am developing a belief that people behave more or less in ways in which they are expected to behave, or in the ways they are trained to behave. Most people are never trained to think for themselves, or better said, they are retrained to rely upon others – specifically those in authority – for advice and admonition. Institutionalized "learning", in its main manifestations – public schools, churches and universities – is designed to give answers and solutions rather than to teach its students and adherents to seek out those solutions for themselves. It really is more akin to indoctrination than learning. Learning is based upon personal experience, whereas indoctrination is based upon experience outside one's own immediate experience.

For example: After one's successful completion of his "education", he is awarded a diploma which signifies that he is now an "expert" in whichever fields of study, and for the rest of this person's life, he will base and contrast his experiences based upon his learned expectations. Rather than ever challenging his most basic assumptions, he will instead make every attempt at reclassification and reevaluation of experiences that either fall outside of said assumptions, or that do not neatly integrate within them. Perhaps this individual will disregard completely any information that runs counter to his "education", since it cannot be right. And this person represents a leader in our society; he is one of our educated elite! Those few, rare individuals that literally "think outside the box" (how I hate this cliché), are quite often ignored until their theories are later accepted as general rule.

Regardless of one's education, whether it be a high school diploma, community college, trade school or university; we all inherently "know" the falsities and illusions of this transitory existence. Most of us simply choose to ignore this inherent, internal wisdom. There are lyrics from Leonard Cohen which come to mind from his song/poem "Everybody Knows".

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that youve been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows youve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that its now or never
Everybody knows that its me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when youve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the plague is coming
Everybody knows that its moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But theres gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that youre in trouble
Everybody knows what youve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows its coming apart
Take one last look at this sacred heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows…

For those who would defend institutions, it is said that the mass of humanity are like sheep that need a shepherd. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). We need a Christ, or a Pope or a Führer to gather us together and show us the way. There is of course a spiritual truth in this scriptural morsel, but like all language it is subject to misunderstanding, for "the way" is not in a person, nor a Messiah. The Way is a practice, and a means of living that leads to the truth within each of us. We are each one of us, our very own Messiah. Each of us is a spark of Divinity, a child of G-d. That is the most assured truth in just about every faith tradition. We do not need anyone to find what is already within us, yet we are all in this together. The other grand spiritual truth is that we all are one. These truths are often dispelled by institutionalized religion and political organizations (corporations included), which attempt to isolate us and make us vulnerable. I sincerely believe the most fundamental human trait is empathy and compassion. The polar opposite is true for institutions which are invariably divisive and manipulate humanity in ways that are fully contrary to its nature.

Ever wonder why mankind collectively, consistently misbehaves like a selfish, spoiled child? Could it possibly be that our Institutions actually capitalize on such? Could it be that by treating us a children; we behave like children? Could it be that our human potential is intentionally, actively and repeatedly curtailed? Could it be that Institutions in fact represent a collective manifestation of our ego? Since we are not who we think we are; we are not what others think we are; we are not our thoughts nor language used to describe us; neither are we our acquisitions, material or otherwise; and finally we are not even our bodies which die and decay; therefore our ego is nothing but an illusion, and its greatest fear is "death", or its exposure to the truth that it never existed in the first place. The ego would prefer to see the destruction of the Universe over its own. We should know that our one and only adversary, the sole satanic force bent upon our destruction, is in fact what we so often perceive as ourselves – that incessant voice that broadcasts in our conscience night and day – that very voice we so readily confuse as our own! Be still and know that I AM. Be here and now. See the illusion for what it is.

Am I an Anarchist? I suppose one could find such ideological leanings in my evolving philosophy. Yet I also believe mankind is capable of so much either as individuals or in community. But mind you, community does not imply like minds and like motives even. Community is everyone living in relative harmony in all their various facets and expressions. Community implies tolerance of others. Judgement is withheld, and mercy flows like a river…

Friday, 6 July 2007

Intimacy Between Men Used Not to Imply One's Sexuality

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men.

History's fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn't always been like this, and isn't likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness.

Ang Lee's magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as well as a fear that other people might jump to conclusions about the implications of two men's attraction to each other.

Homophobia afflicts all males in our society, both those who genuinely are sexually attracted to each other, like Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain, as well as those whose love or simple affection for each other has no sexual dimension to it. For one man to tell another he loves him, some joking around often trivializes the expression, with all the depth of a commercial for Bud Light; if two men embrace, a reassuring punch is often part of the action. Simply because they are men, gay men—in spite of being sexually drawn to each other—may often be no less free of inhibition in expressing affection than are their straight brothers.

As an historian who has studied the shifting history of American men's various sorts of relationships with each other, I think it is critical to note that Brokeback Mountain's Ennis and Jack were nineteen in 1963, the year they met. (So was I coincidentally.) They were shaped by the culture of 1950s America, a culture that was unusually hostile to male intimacy, as I argue in Picturing Men.

When most American boys learned to fear and despise any suggestion of queerness in themselves, Ennis received a peculiarly graphic lesson: His father made it a point to show his nine-year-old son the sexually mutilated corpse of a rancher whose relationship with the man with whom he shared a home had bothered his neighbors. Jack's dream for himself and Ennis—simply to live together in peace—was a modest one, in contrast to the reasonable dreams of men today who want to marry each other. Yet, living when they did, Ennis could only warn Jack that if their feelings for each other were ever to "grab on to us again in the wrong place, wrong time, we'll be dead." Their intimacy had to remain in the shadows, making Brokeback Mountain a tragic tale of unrealized potential.

Picturing Men shows a different world. The lost world of American men that I depict in my work was a time when men clearly were comfortable with each other, feeling free to physically express mutual affection for all to witness—not hidden away on a Brokeback Mountain, but in front of a camera, wholly without the coldness or the reassuringly exaggerated gestures that would come to mark photographs from a later time. Picturing Men does not argue that the lost world was in every way better than the world of men today, but does surely maintain that the earlier world was different, and that our understanding it, and the reasons for its demise, might improve men's relationships nowadays, with each other and with the women in their lives.

Picturing Men is based on my systematic scrutiny of thousands of everyday photographs of two or more American men together, from the dawn of photography before the Civil War until the early 1950s—both studio portraits as well as the snapshots that became common after the invention of roll film in 1888. The book displays well over a hundred representative images, showing men indoors and out, in homes, dorm rooms, and bunk houses, at the beach and in the work place, soldiers, sailors, and civilians, camping, hunting, and posing for athletic team portraits. The ways men posed with each other changed markedly over the time my book surveys, and my interpretation of those changes leads me to an interpretation of drastic changes in the quality of men's various relationships with each other over a century of American history.

ibson_fig_xiiAs cultural evidence, photographs document certain things, yet are wholly silent about others. In looking at this photograph taken around 1915, we see two men doing something we rarely observe nowadays. I refer not simply to their pose, but to the fact that they had their portrait taken together in a photographer's studio, a ritual once widespread among American men but extremely rare today. Many observers may confidently think they see evidence of romance and a likely sexual relationship in this photograph, but that judgment reveals something only about the observer, not the subjects. Without an inscription, we can actually discern nothing from this image regarding a matter that has come to obsess us about relationships: whether the parties are having sex with each other.

What we do observe in this photograph—and in countless others—is male intimacy, two men who were clearly so comfortable with each other that they felt no need to clown around, to reassure themselves and anyone who would see their photograph that nothing culturally scorned was being displayed. Another of history's critical lessons is that change always brings both gain and loss. Picturing Men maintains that certain losses that American men have experienced in their relationships with each other have been severe. It is not simply fictional ranch hands, and not just men sexually drawn to each other, whose lives today are full of unrealized potential.

(Following is a progression of team sport photographs documenting a loss of physical intimacy)