Monthly Archives: March 2008

can someone please feed the cat?

hello everyone!lolcat, reading a book

it’s friday today, so time for a frozen pea friday post. today you can find it over at smarter than your average blog, who has kindly invited me to guest post.  it’s about the bewildering amount of choices people are faced with when they have cancer.

i’m going to be away for a week or so. while i’m gone, please make yourself at home. someone please water the plants and feed the cat?

and if you get bored, browse through the dusty archives up in the attic, in the basement, in the shed and behind the rose bushes.

of course you can also read some books or trundle over to the blogroll – no i didn’t say eggroll! feel free to raid the fridge, though (and throw out anything that looks green and fuzzy!)

see you soon!

(i’ll try and post the carnival of eating disorders, though, which is due to come out on the 31st.)

creativity blocks, metaphysics and individuality

in our last conversation about creativity, jeremy from PsyBlogs talks about the difference between “chaotic” and “ordered” creatives and then moves on to discuss creative blocks.

recently, i came across a doctoral thesis in divinity that talks about the connection between chaos, creativity and spirituality. kurt sander from northern kentucky university points out the important nature of “failure” among creatives. “we must acknowledge that the understanding of a composer’s identity is incomplete if one looks only at masterpieces.” he goes on to say that most creative blocks do not stem from a lack of ideas but from an inability to manifest those ideas. ideas are trapped in the creator’s mind and cannot come out.

according to sander, to make sense of creative chaos, one must find a way to say ‘no’ to individual ideas, “not only to expedite the compositional process, but also to maintain a work’s cohesiveness.”

how to do that? he quotes one of my favourite composers, john taveneran icon, who says, “we live in an age when man has lost belief not only in god, but also in himself. metaphysics has been completely split from the world of the imagination.”

sanders suggests, then, that the way out of chaos is to organize one’s creative process into “a quest for artistic perfection symbolizing the greater human quest for divine perfection.” sanders himself does that with the help of iconography, an ancient art form that de-emphasizes the individual creator’s ego and places art within the context of a greater good.

that is one point of view. let’s add another one – the great filmmaker fellini’s, as discussed by dr. john parris springer, an english professor and movie specialist. this point of view is also about chaos, creativity and creative blocks – but it takes a different, perhaps even the opposite tack. fellini solves his creative crisis by getting as intensely personal as he could possibly get.

fellini had struggled for several years developing ideas and working on a script for the famous film . there was intense pressure to make a film that would top la dolce vita, an international sensation when it was released in 1960. fellini was suffering from the filmmaker’s equivalent of writer’s block, uncertain of his purpose and hesitant to commit to a particular narrative or aesthetic plan for the film.

fellini’s solution was to make a film about a movie director who is riddled with uncertainty and doubt – a character in the same dilemma as fellini himself. thus, 8½ is extremely personal and psychological (which led to accusations of self-indulgence by his critics.)

in 8 1/2, one critic – a sort of alter ego – follows fellini (portrayed by the character of guido) throughout the film, constantly throwing intellectual cold water over the project. the critic’s final pessimistic speech to guido is a plea to abandon the project:

“such a monstrous presumption to think that others could benefit from the squalid catalogue of your mistakes.”

however, 8½ ends on an uplifting, redemptive note. while sitting in his car listening to the critic, guido experiences a sudden epiphany that permits him to achieve a renewed sense of artistic purpose and personal commitment to his wife and friends. guido’s final declaration is, “life is a celebration! let’s live it together!”

at first glance, these two points of view on the creative crisis are very different. one emphasises moving away from the ego or individual to the greater good. the other moves deeply into the individual.

in the end, however, both make me think of buddhism. for example, delving into process is something that is advocated by insight or vipassana meditation. pema chodron speaks very eloquently about that. go inside. get to know yourself, that feeling, intimately.

at the same time, buddhism teaches non-dualism. we are all one, and part of the cessation of suffering is to experience ourselves as more than our tiny little individuality.

buddhism is also very much about detaching from the chaos of our thoughts – thoughts, for example, of failure, self-criticism, pressure to perform, uncertainty and lack of direction, and move towards a groundedness in nothing but the exclamation, “let’s live, together!”

(image by mharrsch)

recovering from addiction: a prayer

a prayer by someone dealing with addiction:

an image that goes with prayer

dear higher powers:
thank you for another day of life.
help me to walk closely with you today.
work through me so that i may better help others.
help me when i am weak. help me to reach out to your unending strength.
help me to remain hopeful and inspired.
help me to be humble in dealing with my ferocious disease.
help me to remember where to turn for help.
help me to get over myself and reach out to others for help.
and help me to remember what a magnificent being i am, that each and every person is your child, worthy of the utmost respect, that i don’t own anybody, that nobody owes me anything and that i live in a caring, abundant world.
help me to create more harmony, peace, serenity, joy, security, and love.
help me to freely give all these things and find them in return.

(image by alicepopkorn

social media mega project wrapup: twitter

robert scoble's twitter shirt imagetwo months ago, vivien at inspirationbit started the social media mega project. we are trying to create a place where all the social media wisdom is gathered together.

my job was to gather blog posts on twitter.

there are two social media tools that i feel quite passionate about. stumbleupon is one of them; the other is twitter. on twitter, i stay in contact with interesting people, with a mix of casual, funny, friendly, just-in-time and informative little tidbits. yes, no update can be over 140 characters. (great for haikus, by the way!)

here are the submissions:

my partner carol over at alphablogs posted lee lefevre’s great video on twitter. what a fun and simple intro to twitter!

epiblogger gives a cross-section of what “tweets” look like.

my blogger friend karen talks about why twitter may not be for everyone. for some people, those 140 characters are just too short.

glenda, one of my twitter buddies (remember her? she’s the misbehaving woman) thinks twitter is much more than instant messaging. it’s about building community.

simon on yeepage has a mini-series on twitter. if lee lefevre’s explanation is a bit too short for you and you want to see everything written down step-by-step, that’s the place for you to go.

another submission was by gregg – this one is interesting because it’s written on yet another microblog, tumblr.

sameer has written tons of posts on twitter. i like the one about twitter stats – partly because i’m a bit of a stats nut myself, and partly because it shows an example of the myriads of applications that have sprung up around twitter.

so that’s it for the submissions. i would have thought there’d be more (i’ve participated in group writing projects that had 100+ submissions) – if you’re interested in my thoughts on why that didn’t happen, check here on the other blog i write for, alphablogs.

other than that, i just couldn’t help it, i had to look around for a few more posts that talk about twitter (btw, technorati shows 16,000+ tags for twitter, and a google blog search returns over 3 million hits). here they are:

(btw, the other participants in this project are – for aaron stroud from on financial success; for facebook: ina from inspiring wear; for flickr & zooomr: brian auer from epic edits; for stumbleupon, youtube, myspace: karen zara from a1-fan-fun; for sphinn. simonne from all tips and tricks; for second life: dandellion from metaverse; for mixx, netscape, squidoo: pearl from fresh perspectives; for sk*rt, blogging zoom, bvibes: jhs from colloquium; for digg, reddit: vivien at inspirationbit; and for technorati: monica at me like the interweb.)

easter, eostre, ostara

eostre on the origins of easter:

the modern english term easter developed from the old english word eastre, which itself developed prior to 899. the name refers to the goddess eostre, who was celebrated at the spring equinox, and has cognates in old high german ōstarÅ«n, plural, “easter” (modern german language ostern). the old english term eastre ultimately derives from Ä“ast – meaning the direction of east. this suggests it originally referred to a goddess associated with dawn. corresponding traditions occur with the roman goddess aurora and the greek goddess eos.

eostre is sometimes derived from the proto-germanic root *aew-s, “illuminate, especially of daybreak” and closely related to (a)wes-ter- “dawn servant”, the dawn star venus and *austrôn-, meaning “dawn, east” (compare ostar-rîchi “eastern realm, austria“), cognate to the names of greek eos, roman aurora and indian ushas, all continuing proto-indo-european *hausos.

there is no certain parallel to eostre in north germanic languages though grimm speculates that the east wind, “a spirit of light” named austri found in the 13th century

according to bede (c. 672735), writing in de temporum ratione (“on the reckoning of time”), ch. xv, de mensibus anglorum (“the english months”) the word “easter” is derived from eostre, an anglo-saxon goddess of spring, to whom eostur-monath, corresponding to our month of april (latin: aprilis), was dedicated:

15. the english months.

in olden time the english people – for it did not seem fitting to me that i should speak of other nations’ observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation’s – calculated their months according to the course of the moon. hence after the manner of the hebrews and the greeks, [the months] take their name from the moon, for the moon is called mona and the month monath.

the first month, which the latins call january, is giuli; february is called sol-monath; march hreth-monath; april, eostur-monath; may thrimilchi…

eostur-monath has a name which is now translated paschal month, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. now they designate that paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

what is secure in bede’s passage is that the lunar month around the month of april in the julian calendar was called eostur or similar; in vita karoli magni einhard tells, that charlemagne (c. 742 or 747 – 814) gave the months names in his own language and used ‘ostar-manoth’ for april.[6] some critics who question bede’s account of a goddess suggest that “the anglo-saxon eostur-monath meant simply ‘the month of opening’ or ‘the month of beginnings’.” it should be noted that old high german ōstarÅ«n is plural, as it is in aelfric‘s hexameron: “and ne beoð næfre eastron ær se dæg cume ðæt ðæt leoht hæbbe ða ðeostre oferswiðeð

in 1835, jacob grimm (1785-1863) published deutsche mythologie, a collection of german myths and oral histories, including a two-and-a-half page commentary on a goddess ostara.

grimm recalls bede’s account of eostre and states that it was unlikely that the man of the church would simply have invented a pagan goddess. from the anglo-saxon month name, he then reconstructs an old high german equivalent, *ostara:

“this ostarâ, like the as [anglo-saxon/old english language]. eástre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.”

grimm also notes various accounts of the name of the easter festival in old high german, like ôstertagâ or aostortagâ. according to grimm, these were plural forms of ostara, since the festival would have been celebrated on two days.

grimm’s commentary does not mention any easter eggs or easter bunny customs, the only easter custom he mentions being easter bonfires (osterfeuer), a long-standing german tradition, attested since 1559.

ostara is also one of the names of the mother-archetype in the psychology of carl gustav jung.

easter: wrestling with the church

cross on a good fridayyesterday i went to a christian church service for the first time in 1 ½ years. the last visit had been to a crammed, tiny african-canadian church, a memorial service for one of vancouver’s downtown eastside heroes, a little old matriarch who had taken the whole neighbourhood under her wings.

yesterday was a four-church service at a big baptist church. very different. i have to say that soon i felt uncomfortable. many of the reasons why people turn their backs on christianity came up for me. for some reason, however, i didn’t want to wallow in criticism. i wanted to hear the message. what was the underlying message of love, of sister and brotherhood, of walking with the divine? it was very hard, almost like wrestling with demons. i sat there crying with the effort and with sadness and frustration but i didn’t want to give up.

finally it occurred to me to take notes during the sermon. this focused my attention and by writing down only the ideas that resonated with me, it was easier to stay with the positive rather than with the filter of criticism that was just spoiling to take over the whole experience.

what did sound true to me was this: the figure of jesus stands for doing what is right, against all odds, without compromise. the cross can be a symbol for utter defeat, shame, and being the absolute outcast (cast out of life, even). however, it was such a symbol in the context of roman tyranny. so while there is great pain involved, in the end (yes, literally in the end), being cast out of tyranny is a positive turn of events. dying on the cross is dying out of tyranny.

there is always a seductive element to tyranny.

what tyranny is in our lives right now? what tyranny could we – die to?

of course some of you might wonder why i even bothered to go to church, and on top of it, why i bothered to work so hard at trying to sort at least some of it out.

i suspect that some of it is simply because it is my legacy. my grandfather was a lutheran minister, and that was a strong influence in my life.

but also, i truly believe there is great value in christianity. to me, the message of love, compassion and justice despite even the strongest resistance is nowhere else as clearly and passionately expressed as in christianity. the call to express and experience love of the divine both in private contemplation and in fierce action – where else is it as strong as in christianity?

another observation i made was of the sombre atmosphere in the church. it wasn’t pleasant but the thought struck me that there is something comforting in knowing there is a place where we don’t have to constantly be happy, where there is room to say, yes, life sucks big time. that is probably one of the attractions of christianity.

one more thought: numerous times when i was sitting in that service and listening to what was said, i cried out inside myself, “this is so wrong!” i was so strongly convinced that these ideas were wrongheaded, pernicious, anything but life affirming. it did occur to me later on, though, that my thoughts and practices might seem just as untenable to many of the people in that church as theirs did to me. intellectually this is a given – yes, we know there are hugely different ideas out there regarding religion, and that there is a great and acriomonious (and often deadly) distance between the various different camps – but i felt this on a deeper level yesterday. and it brought a bit of compassion and respect.

well, it’s good to get all of this off my chest.

and … quite a while ago i had suggested to my blogger friend jan to have a friendly conversation about atheism and spirituality. what do you think, jan, is this a good place to start?

(image by beezly

my good friday poem

sad pink dragon

“never on good friday,”
mumbled the pink dragon,
and sighed over a dish of
marbled curry chicken,
“never on good friday
have i, pink dragon, had a friend
admire my spikey tail.”


his spikey tail with
orange pink polka dots,
his spikey tail all alone
in a chinese restaurant.


all around him
were grandmothers with white hair
pampering their gap-toothed grandsons,
middle aged lovers
twinkling eyes
over cups of hot green tea,
waiters and waitresses
chattering in cantonese –


but the pink dragon
sat alone.


his beautiful tail twitched sadly.
and out of a dragon eye with long purple lashes
rolled a long, salty dragon tear.


 (and as it happens, nancy just posted another kinda=sorta good friday poem of mine, here)