Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sapere v. Capire

This is a reactionary post.

Yesterday, during down time in a class, out of the blue one of my friends asked me a series of personal questions: do you like anyone right now? Who have you liked before? Who’s your best friend? Who was your best friend in freshman year? Why aren’t you best friends with her now? What happened?

I stared at her for a minute, trying not to get angry at someone who is, after all, a good friend, an old friend - but not a close friend. I had a question for her:

Why do you want to know?

Her answer: No reason.

My next questions, which I did not verbalize: why do you think I would answer those questions when thrown at me like that? What benefit would having that information give you? Do you think that knowing the answers would help you understand me?

-

Maybe I’m just oversensitive. But my friend - none of my friends, no one who knows me - is entitled to the answers. With personal questions, my policy is - if I wanted you to know, I would have volunteered the information.

I was trying to excavate why my friend’s questions offended me so much. I mean, maybe she thought that after having known me for six years, that she was shirking her duties by not knowing these things? That’s a weak argument to me.

As I was writing in my journal (which I do in Italian, so that explains the title), I realized that her questions bothered me because she wanted to know about me, and had asked questions that would not lead her to understand me.

Which is the wrong way to go. I want to be understood, but I don’t want to be known.

I don’t know how generally applicable this is; however, this impulse might begin to explain why people make friends with Internet strangers, friendships that feel just as real and solid as those made IRL. On the Internet you get to choose what to present, so you create a version of yourself that lacks the details inescapable when meeting people face to face.

Does it sound as though I’m angling toward something specific? I am. IRL, the first things people notice about me are my race and gender, which bring with them all sorts of baggage. Here, I’m represented by my words only, and the choices I made in the aesthetics of the blog.

So people from school, who can see (as the readers of this blog cannot) that I’m an Asian girl, know more about me than someone who only reads this. But most people at school (wait a minute, I have to get my angsty teenager hat on) do not understand me.

I have to leave for fencing now, so apologies for a post that expresses only half a thought. I leave you with this poem:

The Unknown Citizen

by W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

(source)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the Dark

by William E. Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

(source)

--

Read this in English last month. I like it, dark as it is. Wish me luck with those EA apps...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Analects

Confucius = the Master.

(book number.line number; page number)

-

Be trustworthy in speech

1. act. 2. speak; get help from moral people

“Tell such a man something and he can see its relevance to what he has not been told.” (1.16; 62)

Guide by virtue; then subjects will develop shame

“[Take] on the burden when there is work to be done.” (2.8; 64)

“In your speech you make few mistakes and in your action you have few regrets.” (2.18; 65) - leave out anything doubtful/dangerous, use the rest cautiously

Dignity and kindness; raise the good; frugality, honesty, curiosity (ask questions)

“Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.” (2.24; 66)

“In his errors a man is true to type. Observe the errors and you will know the man.” (4.7; 73)

“Chi Wen Tzu always thought three times before taking action. When the Master was told of this, he commented, ‘Twice is quite enough.’” (5.20; 79)

Make new mistakes, correct the old ones

“You can tell those who are above average about the best, but not those who are below average.” (6.21; 84) - my band teacher should read this quote

“In the eating of coarse rice and the drinking of water, the using of one’s elbow for a pillow, joy is to be found.” (7.16; 88)

“The Master is cordial yet stern, awe-inspiring yet not fierce, and respectful yet at ease.” (7.38; 91)

“Only when the cold season comes is the point brought home that the pine and the cypress are the last to lose their leaves” (9.28; 100) - I know the point of this quote is moral, but I shall take this opportunity to say that I love cypresses.

“Either this man does not speak or he says something to the point.” (11.14; 108)

“The thing about the gentleman is that he is anything but casual where speech is concerned.” (13.3; 118)

“If a man is correct in his own person, then there will be obedience without orders being given; but if he is not correct in his own person, there will not be obedience even though orders be given.” (13.6; 119)

“Unbending strength, resoluteness, simplicity, and reticence are close to benevolence.” (13.27; 123)

Always “act with perilous high-mindedness.” (14.3; 124) - high-mindedness meaning honor, not self-righteousness

Superior man: “Without anticipating attempts at deception or presuming acts of bad faith, is nevertheless the first to be aware of such behavior.” (14.31; 129)

Cultivate self - what am I to do?

“In word you are conscientious and trustworthy and in deed singleminded and reverent.” (15.6; 133)

Think about future difficulties and plan accordingly

“What the gentleman seeks, he seeks within himself; what the small man seeks, he seeks in others.” (15.21; 135)

“In instruction there is no separation into categories.” (15.39; 137)

Learn, inquire, reflect; question and answer with disciples

Is it not a pleasure to learn and put your learning into practice?

Know what you (don’t) know.

A teacher gains new understanding from review.

Reading without thinking is useless; thinking without reading is dangerous.

If you hurry, you will not be thorough; if you are petty, you will not achieve great things.

Knowing truth < loving truth < finding joy in truth.

When three meet, one can always learn: emulate the good and avoid the mistakes of the bad.

By a stream, the Master remarked that everything endlessly flows away.

The superior man acts before speaking.

Superior man: knows right, is at ease, is dignified (not proud), and is harmonious without conformity.

The inferior man knows what is profitable, is anxious, is proud (not dignified), and conforms without harmony.

Worry not of your fame, but of your worth. 

If you learn in the morning, you can die content in the evening.

To err without reforming is truly to err.

The wise have no perplexities, the moral no doubts, the brave no fears.

You can kill an army’s general, but not a man’s ambition.

-

References:

Confucius. The Analects. NY: Dorset Press, 1979. translated by D. C. Lau

Last year’s Chinese school textbook.

-

"Confucius say" irks the Chinese girl. The phrase trivializes, and while Confucius said some things with which I do not agree (and have therefore omitted), his wisdom is genuinely helpful. Compare with Aurelius, whom I must admit I prefer.

--

This week is crunch time for EA apps. Have notes! Friday there will be a poem.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why I Don't Care About High School

I realized today that I just don’t care about high school anymore.

I don’t have the classic version of senioritis, characterized by general apathy toward classes, procrastination, and lackluster work quality. Instead, what I don’t care about is my school and my peers.

Today seniors had to leave fourth period early to take the panoramic photo. Since I’m in AP chem, where there are only three seniors, we didn’t know when to leave and so got there late. The picture hadn’t been taken yet, the photographer wasn’t even ready, but as the three of us walked out onto the field people shouted at us, telling us “hurry up!” “Just run!”

My friend started to semi-jog, even though she was in flip-flops. I wondered why I wasn’t running. Normally I have no problem proceeding with all deliberate haste; normally I hate being an inconvenience.

Instead I walked at my usual pace (which is relatively fast), hands in my pockets, and contemplated flipping off the shouters. Just to see what would happen.

Walking back from the photo, behind me a few people who are on my level intellectually (meaning, I respect them) and with whom I am friendly good-naturedly ragged on me for being late. Normally I would apologize, explain why I was late. I did explain, but when they persisted I rolled my eyes, smirked at them, and went to lunch.

These are people I respect and like. But I just don’t care what they think of me.

Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because this incident - of me making a small mistake and not feeling guilty when called out on it - marks a drastic change. In 2012 I wrote about how I needed to break the smiling mirror - to stop trying so hard to please others.

Is it a good thing that I’ve stopped putting other people’s feelings first?

Yes.

Why? Because it’s not that I all of a sudden don’t care how my actions affect others. It’s that the number of people whose opinions matter to me has shrunk drastically from when I measured it last. And that is good, because a lot of the people I was trying to impress before don’t care about me, don’t talk to me, don’t know anything about me besides the fact that I do well in school. I’m not going to try to keep in contact with them after graduation. I don’t think I’d notice if I never saw them again.

How much I care about high school is proportional to the amount of time I have left.

I know for a lot of people it’s the opposite, at least in senior year. These are the people who get senior jerseys and shades, who yell “SEEEEENIORRSSSS” at rallies (which they actually enjoy), who buy class shirts.

If you’re one of these people, that doesn’t automatically mean I think you’re a fool. After all, I too expect underclassmen to get out of my way in the halls, I too snark about how sophomore means “wise idiot.”

But what is so special about being a senior? Yeah, we’ve made it through four years of high school, just about; we take gov and econ and have all the good teachers; still, so what? One of my favorite people (the Teal Knight, who happens to be a junior) produced a documentary on ovarian cancer when she was in eighth grade. You, boy who hollers so much at rallies, what accomplishment can you lay down next to that? What can I?

I haven’t incorporated being a senior into my identity. I feel infinitely more loyalty to the lower brass than I do to the class of 2014. Lower brass = 15 people, almost all of whom are awesome. Senior class: 400-odd people, many of whom I don’t even know.

And even the people I do know matter less to me. Last year, junior year, I felt as though I had three different distinct friend groups, and I was torn among my allegiances to them all. This year, I hardly see many of the people I considered “my tribe” just a semester ago, and I don’t care.

I’ve simply drifted apart from people who used to matter to me. The same thing happened during freshman year and I remember anguish, emotional turmoil, whining about it to my sister and my journal. I thought it was the end of the world; I thought I’d have to eat lunch in the library by myself.

The problem was that I was afraid of being alone because I didn’t have anyone I knew was on my side. I wanted a group: I wanted to sit at a table surrounded by friends, all of us terribly witty, having the time of our lives. Now most lunches I’m at clubs anyway, and when I don’t I am perfectly okay in the library by myself. I was afraid of being labeled a loner. Now I actually do not give a damn how it looks for me to sit there doing my chem homework while everyone else talks to their friends.

I have found good friends. I have one best friend, and a handful of others in whom I can confide all my troubles and worries, and to whose problems I am glad to lend a friendly ear (and pats on the shoulder). Who else matters, beyond that?

-

Bonus:

From Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle, we have the term grandfalloon: “a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist…[they]have no true spiritual destiny in common, so really share little more than a name.” (Wikipedia)

Futhermore:

"Ich Will" - Rammstein
Ich verstehe euch nicht

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Taking Breaks

On Saturday, I made a huge mistake: I took the afternoon off. I didn't spend the time going on a walk, or writing in Orsolya, or even reading. I just wasted about 6 hours, and for the rest of the weekend, even though I tried to be productive and did get a lot of work done on school stuff...I felt off-center, still feel off-center, unprepared to take whatever might come my way this week.

I know that I could easily turn extremely lazy; thus I have constructed mental barriers that hopefully work to prevent laziness. As much as I can, I've tried to follow the principle of delayed gratification; I've written before how self-control is the highest virtue. That doesn't mean that I always live up to my high standards, but it does mean that when I take a day off in the beginning of the weekend as I did on Saturday, I beat myself up over it and swear not to do it again.

At this moment I can't really afford to take days off. My EA apps are due at the end of the month, in only two weeks, and even though I might be pushing my Common App ones to RD that's still a lot of work that needs to get done before the end of the year. I don't want to complain yet again about how busy I am this semester - but I am busier now than I was last year and I need to develop a healthy system of dealing with the stress, a system that will scale next year when I'm in college.

One of the biggest sticking points in my current system is the issue of breaks, as demonstrated above. Simply plowing through the work would lead to burnout, but knowing my personality I cannot afford to take days off - they cause more stress than they relieve.

Iterative process: how to take breaks better?

Something I've been doing recently to keep me focused on one thing for a set amount of time is by putting on a whole album/musical composition as background music, of length suited to the task. For example: Igor Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring" is about half an hour long, the right length for making a study guide for chemistry. A writing session may require a 45-minute to 1-hour long album.

I don't feel the need to address the benefits background music - I figure that's a subjective thing, and for me I've found it valuable. For others it might not be. Assuming that having music on in the background does help with concentration, then the big advantage of putting on one video is that you don't have to click away from whatever you're working on to change the music. Choosing the right length of music also gets rid of the need for an alarm, which I've found easy to turn off and then ignore.

At the end of each set, then, what I've been doing is putting on one lone song and doing whatever for that duration before going on to the next thing. But that's not really much of a break, and that's what I'm trying to improve. Longer, more relaxing breaks that don't interfere with workflow, that have a net reduction in stress. That's what I'm after.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Letdown

I have no idea what to say tonight. How about this: the truth.

I am disappointed.

Tonight we had a football game. Normally, I love football games: getting dinner beforehand, the rush to get out the door, chilling with my section, cheering for the team, winning, putting the room back in order afterward, staying late talking to the other staff members. And the first items in that list did go as normal.

Sticking point, and I never thought I’d say this: my section.

Okay, in case you haven’t figured out, this is one of those self-centered complaining posts. So be warned.

I should make it clear that I love my section. Half my Common App essay is about how much I love the lower brass and how meaningful it has been to me to have switched in from flute. I love the sound of trombones (someone needs to do: a trombone choir rendition of “You Raise Me Up”). I’ve used the word love in every sentence of this paragraph and I didn’t even try to.

I try to keep my identity small, as Paul Graham says, but being a lower brass person has entered that sphere of my personality that makes me unreasonable: i.e. when I act as though members of my section are implicitly better than other people.

What I hate is being proved wrong.

My disappointment stems from this: some - not all - of the sophomores in my section did some extremely stupid dumb idiotic things tonight. Were I more reliant on the current memes, I would call them basic scrubs. Absolutely pointless, stupid things - I don’t need to go into specifics, the specifics are too banal. But boys in my section committed the stupidity.

What is my role, as section leader? Do I be a hardline establishment staffer and report them to the director? Do I turn a blind eye? Neither of these appeal to me - so as I usually do I consulted with my former squire (who is now a knight in her own standing; let’s call her the Teal Knight) and we decided to ask politely for them to stop.

Yeah, like that’s going to work on sophomore boys. I tried again later, after different and less stupid infractions, and in my irritation dropped some expletives. I’m still not sure if that was the best approach.

How can I play bad cop to a section I love? I find it difficult to criticize people to their faces - there’s always the unhealthy urge to apologize. But I can’t, I can’t back down because they were clearly stepping on the line, and I cannot accept that sophomores will be sophomores and act like idiots. Notably, the freshmen behaved, as did the Boy Scouts in my section.

I miss the Trombonist. We had no discipline problems last year, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s my fault for not being the leader he was, the kind who commanded respect without ever saying a word. I don’t have that kind of presence.

I find that I resent the troublemakers in my section not so much because of what they did but because of how they’ve forced me to revise one of my beliefs. Trombones are not all wonderful: trombone players can do idiotic things. I know it’s not fair of me to put them on a pedestal. I still think their behavior was stupid.

Another way I resent them: they’ve made me lose trust in my own section. Do I have to be after them the whole game, telling them to shut up, telling them not to play out of time, marking when they leave and if they come back with food or not? I don’t want to do that: we’re a section, we should be able to have fun. But I can’t trust them not to get up to crazy shenanigans when my back is turned.

What could I say to them, that would make them not do the dumb things they did? I highly doubt that they care what I think of them enough to let that stop them. Calling in the drum major or band director as a higher authority somehow doesn’t seem to me to be playing fair, given that I condone eating in the stands and other minor infractions.

The thought that they might not respect my word as section leader hurts. I say that in all seriousness: it hurts. What is the point of earning the respect of the band director and the other members of staff and advanced band if the guys below me don’t respect that authority? What is the point of leading a section you can’t trust?

It’s so late it’s early, and I am feeling heartsick over this. You think I exaggerate? No. The lower brass is like a family to me, and my brethren have sorely disappointed me.

--


"6 Fuss tiefer" - Oomph!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reflections on Riordan

Today was the US release date of House of Hades, the fourth book in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series.

Some backstory: HoO is the sequel series to the wildly popular and awesome Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which details the adventures of Percy Jackson, a misfit kid who's been kicked out of every school he's been in, who turns out to be the son of Poseidon and goes around with other demigods saving the world, snarking all the way.

The series' target audience is middle grade readers, which did not deter Lieutenant Sarcasm and me from (partially) running to the bookstore today to get HoH. I have asked LS not to give it to me until after all my EA stuff gets turned in. I want to be able to enjoy the book without feeling any guilt over impending deadlines.

I've already read the first few pages - as in the pages before the story begins. Here are some of the thoughts they generated, in no particular order:

The list of middle grade books he’s written impressed me. Five Percy Jackson books, three Kane Chronicles books, the Demigod Files (companion to PJ), and the first four of the Heroes of Olympus. Thirteen books, all of considerable length, almost all (I can’t speak to TDF, which I haven’t read, and The Lost Hero didn’t win me over as much as the other books) of high quality.

The books also show a narrow, deep focus: modern kids who find out that they’re connected to the mythology of an ancient civilization, which isn’t actually myth. Speaking as a reader, I’m content with this model; as a writer, I admire that Riordan has been able to write thirteen books in the same premise without getting stale.

All the same, I wonder if I’d want a portfolio of works so circumscribed. I know Riordan wrote different kinds of books for adults, but I’m only familiar with his middle grade stuff. The Percy Jackson characters show up in Heroes of Olympus, and while as a reader I could spent any amount of time with them I know it might be different for the author.

So I guess what I wonder, fundamentally, is how Riordan has managed to keep his work and his characters interesting and compelling to him over the past years that he’s been living with them in his mental space. Do I sound overly familiar in the way I’m speaking of him?

Tangent: are there fundamentally different ways in which different writers experience their stories? (to be investigated later)

Riordan’s portfolio of books - I know there’s a better technical term, but I can’t remember it at the moment - his bibliography? - is like a gelato shop. There are different flavors (Egyptian, Greek, Greco-Roman) but it’s the same kind of product. Not that readers (me) mind.

I wonder if he ever wishes he could expand his product line? I mean, I’m sure that he deeply enjoys writing this kind of story - as pigeonholes go, mythology is a rather rich one - but I wonder if there is some other question or theme or subject that he’d like to excavate.

My Lit teacher’s phrase - “compelling question to which you devote your life” (paraphrased) - has been sticking in my mind. Theme and variation...we were reflecting on in-class essays today, and I wrote that the best essays I write under pressure are the ones in which I seize on a small piece of the work and excavate it fully. Like exploring a side street in depth on foot, instead of zooming over a city in a jet.

I’ve also been contemplating why Riordan’s books are so fantastically popular. Obviously, they’re well-written and funny and have characters you can fall in love with and high-action plot lines. But which of those things is the most important?

For me, it’s the characters. I’d follow Annabeth anywhere, especially after her awesomeness in Mark of Athena. Even to Tartarus.

So how did Riordan make the characters come alive so well? Five books of character development in PJ gave Percy and Annabeth a huge advantage over the new characters in Heroes of Olympus (though Hazel has charmed me completely). But I found them compelling even in the first series: why?

I think - provisional theory, and I should be taking a whole post to explore this more in depth - I can identify one major component: their fatal flaws, and how those fatal flaws are directly tied to their strengths.

Moving on for time’s sake (I have a gov essay to work on once I finish this post), another big draw of the books is the mythology. When a book is based on something else - programmatic rather than absolute, as my band director would say - you come in with context built in, so it’s easier to find handles into the work. It’s fun to see how ancient myths get reinterpreted in modern setting: after all, isn’t that what people have always done with compelling stories? Made them relevant.

The mythology is also a big plus because people like to learn things. I won’t claim that desire to learn is the main reason people read the books - but rather because the books make learning mythology painless. Reading the books, you get exposure to some compelling stories that have lasted over millennia, so there’s substance embedded in the books.

What Riordan has done that elevates his books over other myth retellings or modern-kid-comes-into-contact-with-ancient-myth stories is that the myths are not just window dressing. The gods don’t read as gimmicks (like, oh, hey, it’s Zeus the womanizer! Poseidon is dressed like a surfer! Hera talks like a Southern belle! [examples not drawn from any particular book]); they read as humans who are somehow super powerful, which is more true to how the myths were.

Riordan is snarky, not glib. That, I think, is the difference. Snark is subversive, looking askance at something that thinks too highly of itself. Glib, to me, is fundamentally dishonest - making light of even important things. It’s dismissive, not questioning.

Riordan’s books investigate; they explore. Reading them you can tell he loves his subject matter, that it fascinates him, and that kind of attitude in an author gives the reader the freedom to be curious, childlike, and follow their sense of wonder into the world of the story.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Negative Space

(source)

As I begin this post, it is 2335. I have spent the day running from place to place, getting work done, in class, homework, college essays, all sorts of schmutz. We just got our envelopes of raffle tickets to sell for the band fundraiser, so the next three weeks I'm going to be wearing my salesperson hat a lot more than I'd like. These are the same weeks in which I'm going to be getting all my EA materials ready.

Oh, and I got home at around 2230 from the first home football game of the year. Extremely fun (lower brass <3) but exhausting. Spending time with people all day today has not been good for me.

What I need: space and time and peace and quiet.

Space: a door to shut. No one around me, no one even near me, no one even thinking about intruding on my domain. A locked door that no one can touch and live. Do I sound extreme? In all honesty: I feel, truly and completely, as though I would be happier if I had a tower to which I could go, a tower with a barrier around it. Anyone who tried to contact me while I was in the tower - anyone who would bother me - would die, instantly, and never trouble me again.

Time: I need to be able to sit down with something to do, no deadline, no other pressing concerns, nothing and no one to intrude on my mental space. I need to be able to focus completely on one thing without worrying what other important tasks are getting shafted while I do the first thing. No deadlines (less than a month to do all the EA stuff...) (also my permit expires in February).

Peace: no worries. No one trying to talk to me. No need to be anywhere, to walk quickly, to frown. No war with myself, either, second-guessing and criticizing everything I do and say and think and feel. No war with others - because there are no others.

Quiet: no one talking. No one placing demands on my time, my energy, my emotions (which, by the way, exist). No one. What I need is solitude, solitude of the Rilke kind where you can "walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours." The kind where everything external falls silent and the small quiet things within you can relax. When you can just be yourself without having to defend what that is; when your border guards can put up their arms and go to sleep.

-

Negative space is underrated.

Every week in Lit we have a "weekly poem" on which we practice close reading. This week's poem was "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock", by Wallace Stevens:
The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red weather.

My Lit teacher had us write on the symbolism of the colors and the clothing in the poem, and practically everyone who he called on said, "The white night-gowns represent a lack of imagination in the townspeople and their conformist mindset."

Me: wait. No.

White is perhaps the default color (I'm not talking about race at all in this post, don't take it that way). People who choose colorful things are obviously making a choice, taking control of how they want others to perceive them. White, as the default, tells you nothing, so people like my classmates assume that choosing white - choosing the default, the simple, the plain - is saying nothing.

Me: wait. No.

I choose the default regularly. My favorite soda: clear. My favorite ice cream: vanilla. My favorite bagel: plain. My walls: practically bare. Etc. People have told me to my face that I'm boring. And yeah, it sure looks like that, doesn't it? Maybe I am boring - but choosing color does not automatically create a personality, and a clothes drawer full of black and blue does not automatically disqualify me from being not-a-robot.

Negative space is powerful. If you don't believe me, look at this painting, or this illustration, or this papercutting image. White space is important. It makes for lovely images, as evidenced above. It makes code more readable. Negative space is room in which to breathe, and reason knows that is what I need now.

If I write anymore right now, it'll turn into (more of) a rant. So good night, or good morning, as you prefer.

-

On repeat recently:

Ride - Lana Del Rey

Yes, it's Lana Del Rey. Judge me.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Advice to the Bleak-Souled

October is going to be a crazy month.

Some days, I feel completely bleak/desolate, exhausted at every level of being. My creative input and output for September was remarkably low: I finished no books at all last week, though I'm finally getting into Little, Big (John Crowley). I have spent the past month in one very long scene in Orsolya, in which not that much happens under the surface. I need to keep the story moving - but my writing time just keeps dropping...

But I was saying how October is going to be a crazy month. How? Finishing my EA apps is a priority, of course; then there's regular schoolwork, which thankfully is less than it was last year; then various extracurrics (selling raffle tickets for band is going to eat up my weekend afternoons this month); then, finally, my own writing.

I find that I have deficits of both time and energy. Hence the bleakness.



-

Enough of my complaining.

In Lit we're starting to read Hamlet. ("Starting", I say, because the unit officially started yesterday. In reality I'm already halfway through - our homework for the week is to read the whole play by Friday).

To prepare, my Lit teacher gave us the assignment of getting two people to write us letters of advice, like that which Polonius gave to Laertes:
Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

-Polonius to Laertes, Hamlet I, iii, 55-81

I got letters from my mom and my best friend (Lieutenant Sarcasm). I'm not going to share the actual letters, which are personal, but I'm going to distill the advice here in the hopes that it may help someone else (i.e. EAL later this month, or you [?]).
  • have confidence in yourself - empirical evidence says you don't suck
  • treat yourself well
  • "find beauty and goodness in the simple things" - Mom
  • do fun things - take some risks
  • maintain connections to the people who matter to you

My Lit teacher wrote a letter for the whole class, and I found his words likewise noteworthy:
"[F]ind that problem or question that so entirely engages you that you cannot choose other than to spend the rest of your life trying to answer or solve it."
-Mr. B

-

What I get out of all this, as it relates to my life at this very moment, is: a lot of stuff is coming at you. You always have ten billion things to do. Everything feels either pointless or overwhelmingly important.

But it's okay. Breathe; the future will keep receding just as you prepare for it. Everything is a liminal moment, everything is a threshold, but you don't have to wait to be happy. The world is a beautiful and fascinating place, you only have to be open to seeing and experiencing that beauty.

I use this image as someone who is not religious:

Lift Up Thine Eyes - Norman Rockwell
(source)