Tuesday, 10 June 2014

What is Fantasy? Truly?

Athena, the patron goddess of Athens virgins, wisdom and heroes who, fought her way out of Zeus's head at birth.

I am generally a patient person when it comes to respectfully listening to people's opinions and sides to their stories because, hey, I wouldn't be an observer if I couldn't do that.

Except when certain buttons get pushed. Then I go into defender knight mode. Well, there are different levels to it, but essentially, there are a few things that you do not push with me the wrong way; unless you want to get your ear ranted off.

Female empowerment, rights etc, Tolkien as himself, his works, and anyone who plays with it (ie: movies or fanfiction), ancient and modern Greece/Mediterranean culture and anything to do with fantasy or storytelling.

Now, all that quite briefly said, you are perfectly and rightly entitled to your own perspectives, judgements, whatever. Frankly, so long as we coexist without blowing each other into oblivion, then it's a live and let live world. Being impeccable with your word, no judgements, assumptions and always doing your best, remember?

That said, I am no perfect warrior of peace either. I have my fair share of judgments, assumptions and the like but I am human and I am practicing. That is all we can do.

To me, fantasy is a place where a great amount of that practicing can take place. Yes, getting out into this reality, interacting wih others and having experiences is the ultimate and main method, but when you are at home, in bed, about to go to sleep or moping about on a rainy day (if you are that sort), then reading fantasy allows for you to drop another lens over the reality we all live in by taking us to other lands and other persepectives. In short, I see fantasy as the first step to being able to live the Four Agreements, a bit like moving from training wheels to two wheels on bikes.

So following in the points that fantasy is just another lens over our reality (which is already an illusion in and of itself) and that fantasy is like training wheels to the full bike riding life of the Four Agreements then why is do people sneer at it, call it for children, for people afraid of "reality" or as something utterly fake?

First of all, labelling something as fantasy does not give either the author or the reader the right to be disrespectful to the cultures being borrowed from, the histories or people you are flashing a light on, Nor is it perfectly fine to not give any basis in realism because, "hey it's all made-up, for fun!"

Think of literary fiction for a moment. Is that made-up? Yes. Definitely. The only thing you might ever read that is not made-up should be non-fiction or articles of some kind. Then again, even those can have elements of storytelling or "selling" in them. People want you to read their words so they will go to all lengths to ensure you do. Think, click-bait, but in all forms of media.

So then, why, because something has the label of fantasy on it do people sneer at it?

In my opinion it goes right back to fear. People fear what is different, new, has no right or wrong answer, and what, in general, makes them question their belief system.

That is fantasy. It makes you face your fears. It makes you confront the reality that this world we live in is wholly fabricated by our perceived social and cultural values and mores. When really, at heart, we are just creatures of the Universe, beings of light, as much walking sticks of matter as the stars are great balls of it.

So the next time you label something fantasy, don't do so to worm out of your lack of research or respect of the human condition and the Universe.

Always fantastical because reality is the same.

PS: Pandora had a jar, not a box, that whole kerfuffle came about because of a basic little mistake in terms of translation between Greek and English back in the 19th century.

Also, see the below image of a fresco once adoring an ancient Greek temple? Yeah, those pretty and austere white columns and statues were originally a playground of prime-colours. Brightly.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Using Creativity to Live

Carousel's aren't stereotypically magical places for nothing. Especially old ones like this in San Franscisco.

You've all probably heard about the power of art to help people work through problems (of all levels and kinds). I've got a slight twist on it however as I see art (creativity in general) as a way to view the world around you. Creativity is a way of life, not just a method of healing.

In other words, if you strive to be creative with at least one thing per day, you will find yourself thinking "I'm living" rather than "I'm just existing." Rather than going through the motions, day after day, with creativity, just a bit, will allow you to slowly start taking control over your life.

Use creativity to live.

But wait! I'm not creative! You might say.

Sorry, but actually, you are utterly wrong. I believe everyone is creative. After all, creativity is not a personality, nor is it a genetic trait. It is a skill.

The definition of a skill is something which can be learned, and eventually mastered (though frankly I also believe, like life, you will never be a master of creativity, after all, what is living and learning, if you reach an end point? Death? Probably).

Think of it this way also: creativity is about reconnecting the dots

Either way, you are creative. It just takes the determination to practice and an inordinate amount of belief in yourself. Especially as it is easier than ever to compare yourself to even that indy author who just published an ebook, let alone anyone who lands on a bestseller list and is a household name like John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars."

The thing people often forget (and I'm just as much a culprit) is no one got anywhere by doing a lot of comparing. People create things because they love to. Because it is a way to express their innermost thoughts, turmoiled or peaceful. It is a way to reflect on the reality of this Earth and the reality of their lives and perspectives or try out the perspective of someone else.

It's life. You do thing because you love to, not because it will get you fame.

If your creativity extends to lyrical facebook statuses, great. You might have made someone's day. I did. Numerous acquaintances expressed their love of the statement and one even wrote it down to share with others and I'd love to share it with you all too.
"People are moons. Don't look at them as new or full, light or dark, they are who they are, which means a lot of deep asteroid scars that no one can ever fully see, all at once. Not even them. They are a deep, moonlit wormhole. That makes them real. Not their reflection on society's waters." ARR
 It's not going to be a perfect path. Your idea of perfection will likely never exist on this reality, but what can exist is a good life lived. One where you create something. Daily.

Start with making someone smile.


P.S. If you want further words about the values of creating things, check out this brilliant address by Neil Gaiman, a trule admirable storyteller, to American grad class a couple years ago.

Make good art.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Values of Difficult Relations

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1))

After my last post I figured I should do a more standard quote-based post. It's one of my favourites (though who am I kidding, if it's got JRR Tolkien's name attached I'm going to like it). This one is especially perfect though because it runs a balance between a perfect compliment and a sneaky insult.

Try it on people. It's a laugh. Truly. 

That said, I'm going to take this post to both unpack the multiple meanings in this oft befuddling quote (remember the looks of the poor hobbits in the movie?). 

The best sort of friends use broken sunglasses to make cyclop guards for your sandcastles.
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like" is the easy bit to the quote as it implies Bilbo would like to get to know more of the hobbits in the Shire because he believes they are all worth knowing. Simple.

However it goes a step further. Due to the implication that half of the hobbits there are worth getting to know better, we can take it to imply that most people we know will reveal hidden gems to us as we get to know them better. Perhaps it is a hidden talent, a perspective or a common experience, at least half the people you meet in your life will be worth getting to know better. They will teach you something.

"I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve" is a little trickier as it can be disguised as a bit of an insult to the other half of the hobbits.

However it too goes a step further. In all actuality it doesn't reveal that half of the hobbits present at the party are not worth knowing, but rather that Bilbo is acknowledging he has a personal shortcoming in that he doesn't like half of them as much as they deserve to be liked. As with the first half, this second half is also implying that all the hobbits there are worth knowing, it's just that Bilbo cannot quite make himself come to like one half of the lot as much as they deserve to be known and liked.

That's rather true of life for us humans too. We all have people we dislike, or at the very least, little habits and triggers that others do which bother us. Nonetheless, it is important we all move beyond that and recognize everyone deserves to be liked. Maybe you are not full on friends with them. Maybe you were friends with them and it fell through. Maybe you never will be able to friends. But at the very least, find something about them which is admirable. Find something about them you could learn from.

Also, and most importantly, recognize your own faults. What triggers and habits bother you? Do you dislike people who show-off? Do you find laziness irritating?

Now ask yourself why that is. More often then not, the things that irritate you, irritate you because they trigger feelings of doubt within you. Perhaps you feel unworthy, or you work and work and work but no one ever recognizes your effort?

Scratch it. Tough, I know. But worth it. Yes, it is important to surround yourself with people who allow you to be honest to your identity but it is also important to learn from others who trigger insecurities and other such negative thoughts of your identity and skills.

Not only do they help you become aware of those insecurities so you can work them through and finished, but getting to know people who bother you might just give you a new perspective to observe the world from.

Am I the only one who is curious about the inner lives of the silverware stealing Sackville-Bagginses related to Bilbo?

Maybe. But regardless, take a moment now to think of someone who you dislike, or at the very least, has a habit which bothers you. Think about why. Think about their life. What is their perspective?

Respect. Live and let live. Learn.

Smile for Life

Note: As a general rule I do try not to blab much about my personal life and when I do, I try to spin it toward being more useful to you readers than the silly thing I once had on Livejournal during the years of angsty teenager-dom. Today though, I ask your understanding as I get a little more personal as I express what some would call an ephiphany experience. Regardless I hope you all can take something to apply to your own life perspectives and observations.

If I ascribed a landscape to my friend's perspective it would be this.

A few weeks back I lost an old friend who had lived with cystic fibrosis her whole brave and beautiful life in this world. Yesterday was the proper funeral and that "ephiphany" moment. I realised I was standing amid an end of an era and I wasn't sad. Instead I was full of deep gratitude that I had been fortunate enough to have known her.

Though I still owe her endless batches of force-fed pink icing cupcakes to create happiness (and fatten me up) during a period in which life hit one of those pits and the universe conspired to have her move around the corner from me during that time. It'll have to wait until I catch up with her one day.

For now I just have to find some of my own people to cheer up via force feeding of pink iced cupcakes.

In all seriousness, I owe her more than cupcakes though. Aside from my best friend, who I was able to reconnect with a few years back, I never had anyone who actually listened to me, let alone understood even 10% of what passed through my mouth. My friend was an amazing supporter of my mental particularities. Though perhaps that was because she had the emotional range and empathy to cross two Earth's and still have enough love for a China-sized country of individuals.

Whatever the case, I often find myself in a crowd, people milling around like yappy sheep, asking those impersonal yet apparently obligatory questions and then finding the conversation stunted worse than the ridiculousness of weather conversations in 19th century novels that the writers often poked fun at. So why must we still do it? I've never understood why people do it. Is it some ingrained primodial action that proves to the other party you are not a threat? Perhaps. Yet people still do it.

Occasionally though, people branch beyond it and start chatting about their lives. Very few words were directed around about my friend, though my observations were not scientifically founded in perfection as I left the family members who were largely seated at various tables, in peace from my lurking. I do understand certain boundaries. I also need to admit here that though I have lost extended family, I've only ever been able to attend a celebration of life which was centered around remembering the deceased rather than an typical funeral which is what I attended yesterday.

Pre-service, during the service and he reception I had a growing sense of disassociation from the people present, my sole connection was a thread with my friend as her favourite song was performed and I watched her life smile by in the form of photos. It was the end of an era and I felt more whole and certain of my place in this world and who I was since way back when I was ten, and entirely sure I was going to be one half of an epic crime fighting duo. When you're ten and your best friend hasn't moved away, yet, the world is more your oyster for eating than for taking and hiding away in a bank account. Like adults do. Instead, I subscribe to the Peter Pan sydrome.

Was the experience ephiphany?

No. Definitely not. As far as my knowledge and experience goes, ephiphanies are what characters in books get because the writer needs to move the story along quick enough to prevent readers ditching it out of boredom. After all, the ephiphanies of real life apply more of a sneak ninja style or, transformation via slowly administered drugs.

In other words, ephiphanies are gradual realisations over time, except most people tend to put a lot of stock in the aftermath when you realise you had a realisation of some sort.

In my words, I had a fraether. Over at my Life Hacker's Dictionary you'll find the particulars of the defintion if you're curious.

But for those of you less curious, a fraether is simply a realisation that you can finally to look over the edge of a cliff without desiring to leap over the edge to probable death, or getting the look from people who think you might have done if they hadn't been shoving pink iced cupcakes in your face instead.

This past era wasn't true to me or my spirit but thanks to my friend, and the building blocks of enforced cheer plus numerous sprinkles from other meaningful persons, I have identified my confidence. I can thank the past era for getting me to this point where I feel I can head out and though I may not end up being one half of an epic crime-fighting duo, I will certainly end up being proud of my efforts to share my voice of creativity in order to help others find their own. I owe it to my friend to extend all thehands I can.

When was the last time you listened to someone and extended a hand (or regular cupcake visits)? 

Humming her favourite tune, Hallelujah.