Journal 9, Borders
Whoa... I didn't realize we had a journal nine due. Sorry, Ron Scott.


I have found myself crossing borders all semester, for two semesters, for five years. I find myself in other people's fields of space, in their minds, in their emotions. I cross the people-border regularly, the border that perhaps entraps myself. But then we move beyond people, beyond ourselves to discover that the very boundaries we create -- that indeed do exist to us subjectively -- are not really there unless we put them there. Sometimes they must be there. I'm reminded of the historical borders and etymology, the shifting of meaning over time, the new insights, the evolution of life. Only through the boundaries of eras do we recognize change, can we look back and say, "But this is how it used to be, and this is how it is now."

And yet there is the "circular infinity" that Hogan described -- the simple patterns of water, for example, water that is everywhere, predictably formed yet inexplicably here. We can measure for combinations and patterns and consistencies, but we still cannot explain how or why. These are the borders of explanation, of classification, those which can and cannot be transcended. If I think about which boundary I cross the most, it would be that of space-time, the boundary between describable and ineffable. We create stories and signifiers to represent what cannot be said. I transcend words, yet words are my life, all our lives, the very thing in which we are made. It's how we know each other. It's how we come to understand (and be confused).

Personal boundaries are definitely the ones I am most reluctant to cross. I'm arrested by intensity, and I've learned at this point in my life that I must keep a fair distance from people, but not because I don't like people, but because I love them, and sometimes love requires protection and space. It's almost radical to love like this, and everything radical must be met with a counterforce to equalize the energy, and I balance myself with solitude, with infinity, with literature.

More and more this semester has the Native American mentality reawakened my intense awareness to nature (Spring helps, too). It's been freeing, and I'm inclined to believe that Harjo played a significant role in that. When we aren't dogmatized, we are more open to the eternal, to different dimensions, one of which is the "alternative reality," as Dr. Powell called it. But we have art, the creativity and genius through which we express what is organic to us, what is original, what is some weird evidence of meaning and purpose. It was meaningful that I was in a class with six other unique and intelligent people who I really grew to admire. Alex, you are one of the coolest people I have met at Walsh -- wonderful to have had the chance to interact with. I really enjoyed a second semester with you, especially before you graduated. I wish you the best of everything in your future.

Alex and I had a class together in summer 2009, Green Mythologies. I remember how profoundly affected I was by it, how closely I realized we as humans really are to the earth -- close in how alive we are, close in consciousness. This is life. Life. The boundary I am most reluctant to cross, now that I think about it, is the one between life and death -- maybe because I've seen death, maybe because I've almost been there before, or maybe because I feel so much power here on this earth, in my body, in the energy around me, in the stillness. My dog and I have been running around through the fields in the rain lately, free, feeling the grass and mud under our feet, the starkness of nature, of our existence, of division and wholeness, boundaries and connections.

As humans, as creatures, the connections we make with the earth, on the earth and above the earth are all connected by the same forces. We are all particles in motion. Potential unfolds in the vortexes of energy that, although infinite, create an event in time. I suspect there to be a difference between boundaries and networks. I see the networks.

Thank you, everyone, for .this semester.

Journal 8: Knowledge
The best way I can begin discussing myths is to refer to the entry in my diary from 1-31-2011, when I first read through Kane's "Wisdom of the Mythtellers":

"Sean Kane. 'Wisdom of the Mythtellers.'   I know -- patterns, mystery, knowledge of ineffability. But this is a harmonious interchange, and I'm caught recklessly in the modern world. When I stand amid the theology, the sciences, the technologies, the information, I'm overwhelmed by how unnecessary it all is. But I need people, yet I see things that cannot be shared with people. The Kane sections affected me most acutely, touching on insights that illustrate the discomfort I feel in this world."

Myths, as far as I can see, retain the reverence and respect for every facet of existence, which we seriously lack now. But more than that, we lack a connection, a unity, a sense of wholeness, where the complexities of existence -- in all its multiplicities -- are not divided, categorized, humanized, packed into documentation, computations, interpretations, analysis, analysis, analysis. "Civilization" lost its inherent ability to understand without analysis, even if the eventual result was myth or superstition (when the real experience becomes a story). These had roots, origins, yet the origins were not located at a center point, in one tiny egg, but could be found at every point, on every leaf, in the egg, in the shell, side-by-side, light years apart, yesterday, tomorrow, right now, in trees, in lions, at dusk, in other people. We think of "profound" in terms of depth, but the profound cannot be found without infinity, where there is no depth, no breadth, no measure, no direction, no location, no time, no variability except in the variety of life through which it flows continually. Most of all, no binaries.

When I was in Pittsburgh at the Sigma Tau Delta conference (here I begin a story, or adumbrate one), trapped in a hotel, I wondered why I could not feel the divine. Depression weighed upon me, and I felt cloistered and malnourished by the inability to escape into nature, into solitude, divided from the assailing energies of other people bouncing off of brick buildings and off paneled walls. And then suddenly it hit me: the divine is suffocated out of an area serried with people -- an area without "greenspace," (we no longer tame; we name) without tranquility.

Myths are not ideals, or at least they weren't originally. Only when myths become representative of a world to which we can never return (Kolodny's "mythic wishes") do they become ideals, mainly because we visualize nature only in relation to ourselves, and in ourselves we search vainly for ideals. Ideals, apparently, are genderized. And as humankind evolved into "civilized" people (and I laugh heartily at that) and therefore began to "understand" itself (and I laugh even more heartily at that), the process of understanding life pivots from human beings and swivels with the needle of science and religion.

This "evolution" (if only because it refers to change over time) was chronicled by Leo Marx; this class could have been framed with his essay. Here is one particularly poignant passage: "But even after the triumph of Romanticism, the separateness of nature remained a largely unchallenged if unstated premise of public discourse. Since no authoritative biological counterpart to the Newtonian laws of nature had yet been formulated, supernatural explanations of the origin of life were not yet vulnerable to the challenge of scientific materialism. By the same token, pantheism retained its status as a Christian heresy, and dutiful communicants were advised to be wary of the felling of oneness with nature" (12).

Not yet vulnerable. Damn that oneness.

I believe, at times, however, that even Emerson sometimes missed the patterns, mysteries and knowledge of ineffability. One of my contentions with science and modern times is that we feel the need to divide everything into "objective" and "subjective." As far as I can see, there are far more than just two perspectives, more than two ways of understanding. A myth is neither. Or maybe it is all because it attempts to capture all, to say something that cannot be said. Sometimes it's merely the suggestion of mystery that reminds us that mystery is still here, but it is inextricably interwoven with nature (and I mean that in almost all its denotations). Neither profundity nor myth can be derived from the mind alone.

I cry sometimes at the idea of space exploration, only because the arrogance to dominate and master deprives us of the mystery of its existence. Reduction, reduction, reduction... until we have nothing but shallow pools of acid rain that sit atop broken pavement that sits atop millions and millions of miles of sewage drains. I'm sure we'll do that to other planets in the future.  Even in expanse to we reduce.

Myths never used to be myths. They happened. They were life. Environmental justice was endangered at the same time human justice became endangered... the time when a myth became a myth, when peopl took recourse to inadequate language to explain what cannot be explained. Personally, I don't consider anything a myth, since myth now is nothing but supposed history. I just try to seek the mysteries when I encounter them, since that is the only time I feel undeceived, strangely, and whole. Even when the moon is a crescent, it is whole. Even when the time is 10:12, life is timeless. Even in mortality, infinity is present.

journal 7 -- Dissonance, harmony -- the Native American pulse and the "pastoral impulse."

"In the Garden I did no crime... "
-- from Tori Amos' 'Raspberry Swirl'

Forenote:   If the land is "responsible for everything," then it would be responsible for the concepts and principles that humans create, including that of "responsibility."

To a certain extent, because both Joy Harjo and Annette Kolodny are writing about or within the American perception of nature and its relation to civilization, then there will be continuity somewhere between their works. When I first read Kolodny, what struck me as salient was the focus on language (not to mention its force) and language shifts, especially depending on either the writer (a male, generally), the writer's feelings toward the earth (reverence/awe or exploitation/dominance/social control) or the intended audience (a friend, diplomat or a politically pander-worthy population). To the same effect, poetry of course depends on the art of language and materializes and gains momentum from it.

There is a something about the images and scenes in Harjo's poetry that interconnects modern industrial society and the natural world, where both tend to bleed into a layered and textured metaphor:

"And if I awaken in Los Angeles I will know
that I am not the only dreamer.
I will appear in the vision of a dove
who perches on the balcony
of the apartment.
In his translation I am the human with a store
of birdseed. He is the sun.
I am a fruitful planet."

Even in small suggestion of hope (the dove), there is a strong sense of delusion in this perception, that in our little worlds we are not the center even if we think we are. Also here is the implication that a dove can no longer, in the midst of urbanization, differentiate between a human being and the earth, since the human being is now the primary provider. Yet there is also reciprocity between "I," the fruitful planet, and the sun, which nourishes, as if both the dove and the human (could) thrive because of each other. Notice the parallels at the line breaks of each couplet: know/dreamer, dove/balcony, apartment/store, sun/planet... maybe -- consciousness/perception, free flight/stationary height, dwelling/stock house, central light/orbiting home--though those can be altered and interpreted in numerous ways. A keyword, though, is "store"-- "a store"--a silo of collected and horded sustenance distributed to everyone (or to the selected) at the will of a conscious mind, much unlike the seemingly ever-providing abundance of a "fruitful planet," analogous to the "maternal 'garden'" that Kolodny recognizes as part of our contemporary "mythic wishes," places to which we cannot really return except through the imagination.  But regardless of whatever quantity of goods humanity possess, humanity itself and its store-house are only a false replica of an opulent natural world. Harjo, it appears, notices that we have built so heavily upon the natural world that we have forgotten it -- that children are so lost in the cement set across the earth and lost in the convoluted design of it that the "mother"--the literal or the figurative--"confused by the taste of sadness" (in part due by industrialism, selfishness and materialism, perhaps), will never find him again -- that humanity loses itself in the world it creates, yet the natural world breaks through, even through our pain, even when she writes in pain:

"I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north
not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.
Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have
broken through the frozen earth."

It's survival. The colonials entered to dominate  the land or repose in the splendor of lush vegetation and the sufficiency of it -- they trampled and trapped, laid laws, built cities, painted pictures with words... an endless sequence of luring and invasion: the rapture of the land -- pass it on, make it enticing to others -- a living Eden, no poverty. They were overwhelmed by the magnificence of the smells, the colors, the blooms and opportunity (though this appears in "It's Raining in Honolulu, maybe even in "Equinox"),though almost licentiously, the way they would a woman -- exhibiting their "pastoral impulse," as Kolodny deemed it. But here, in the Harjo's poetry, the worlds are not so polarized into "preserve this" or "rape that," nor is the much reference to "possessing" the land, but more that we are obliged to choose (or not choose) to acknowledge the ubiquitous reality of the natural world surrounding and pouring into the artificial one, and our consequential effect on both.

Through Kolodny's research into the "pastoral" non-fictions of colonization, we see that the land (in which they lost themselves before they lost themselves in the world the built upon it) they discovered fulfilled "mythic wishes," just as we witness through their written words their sensations and observations of it. Kolodny provides for us a lens that saves us the burden (though with a bias, of course) of resorting to the primary texts, and thus we experience that specific side of the expedition, while Harjo, on the other hand, spins the picture around so instead of the readers invading the continent with the English, we sit with the Native Americans who "had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their/ long and solemn clothes, to see what would happen."  However, if everything is interconnected, as Harjo suggests in this poem, then the colonization was a part of this process of destruction and, therefore, regeneration, maybe even in the colonizers innocence/guilt/ignorance/desperate need for escape... But that raises a quandary concerning choice and predestination, which maybe shouldn't be expounded upon here.

Implicitly, in "The World As We Knew It Ended," her descriptions evince the same kindness that Kolodny recorded -- that "the Indians from Roanoke Island greet the weary explorers 'with all love and kindness and with as much bounty (after their manner) as they could possible devise'", which then led them to perceive it as a resurrected or new-found "golden age," when she writes:

We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and
potatoes, enough for an army.

Yet there is dissonance here, because even though Harjo's setting is more modern than the early colonial days, this still provides a different perspective of the Native Americans than the seemingly unafraid and unassuming version that the settlers give. No doubt they were hospitable, I'm sure, and probably would have shared the "cooked rice and potatoes" (opulence of the land -- our responsibility to provide for each other and thus carry out the responsibility of the earth?) with an army, but it is dubious to suspect that the Native Americans were ignorant to the threat posed by this imposition.

And so in Harjo's writing we see the world metamorphose; the imagery remains the same, but what it connotes isn't:

The conference of the birds warned us, as they flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their song and talk we knew when to rise
when to look out the window
to the commotion going on--
the magnetic field thrown off by grief.

Birds parallel with planes, with war crafts -- signs of war -- not bird signs of the past but modern bird signs with proximity to steel, both of which require no oracle or diviner to interpret, just ears, eyes and, perhaps, updates from the news. Yet they are still the living birds that have always existed, and thus they continue to spread the message through their knowledgeable flight from danger. "Commotion," she says. It is to this point in modern society in which Kolodny begins her article: that the distance from the tranquility of an untouched, uncultivated, "uncivilized" (in an industrial sense) environment is now only a dream, something that activists now have to protest about, with names such as "Battle for People's Park"; and as Harjo echoes here:

And then it was over, this world we had grown to love
for its sweet grasses, for the many-colored horses
and fishes, for the shimmering possibilities
while dreaming.

"Dreaming," she says. Now both the Native Americans and all the American colonial descendants pine for this lost world together. But Harjo's gives us some hope, perhaps, in the art that generates from devastation and destruction, when someone picks "up a guitar or ukulele from the rubble" and sings about the inspiration of the earth, the "light flutter" -- art is formed, "a poem," something which Kolodny does not reference. Kolodny refers to the beauty of the language, but it's always criticized because she's approaching her topic from a feminist's standpoint, tearing down the prose in order to expose the sexism or sexual implications, whether about the Virgin or of the glutton-friendly, rapable whore called Earth. 

While both generally personify the earth, in Harjo's poetry the earth is neither the Virgin nor the Whore, but the mother and the lover simultaneously -- someone or something asexual. It's more nurturing, more emotional, more inclusive, more accepting of sensuousness -- a force that embodies the qualities of both genders--the "mother" or the "brother"--yet defies them altogether in its growth and regeneration processes. Harjo includes the possibility of kindness in each gender, instead of pitting the males against the female earth. And yes, the common image in Harjo and Kolodny is the "womb," but for Harjo it isn't the Virgin; nature, it seems, wouldn't be so chaste, so austere, so uncomfortably confined as to deny any affection or care or pleasure for those whom she swaths. All are embraced. All are a part. And it's the human choice of treatment, whether to the earth or to other humans, that affects the whole.

Keep in mind, too, that these are two different types of writing, scholarly and creative, so each will evince some level of dissonance purely because of their modes. Their intentions are different: one seems driven to expose, to argue, while the other just wants the reader to be included, to understand, to feel. One conveys, the other interprets the conveyance. Yet it can't be disregarded that both are female writers, so they'll attend to the subject matter from this perspective, consciously or unconsciously.

Lastly, I suppose, we must interpret to some degree with a critical lens the work of Harjo as Kolodny did with the colonial pastoral writers. "Their language," Kolodny writes, "also reinforced a particular mode of English responses," just as Harjo's poetry is intended to provoke a specific response in America. It's the effect of writing in general; words are powerful when they reference the present condition of civilization, yet words are more easily dismantled once enough time has passed though regain momentum when we can recognize in them the effects on modern culture or the similarities to it. Time, perhaps, and a better grasp of historical context contribute to critical abilities, thus giving the critic the upper hand. Journalism certainly does that now, but time has a way of mining into ulterior motives that may not have been obvious at the date of original composition.

So... This isn't as thorough as it could have done, but hopefully it locates some of the main points of similarity and dissimilarity. All and all, I believe both writers seek to engender a sense of respect for earth.

Sacred pages in sacred places
, I suppose my most sacred spaces are my journals. They contain the very essence of my life, my very core, the people I have known and loved, the horrors and wonders and mysteries and contentment I have faced and the wisdom I have learned; they contain--those inviolable places--the history of my entire life..

Morning Cleanse, Ritual (journal 4)

I highly doubt this qualifies as a ritual in which I "take place," as if I'm merely one part of its group-work mechanics; nor is it one culturally communal or representative; but it is one I practice daily out of physical and emotional necessity.

Each morning I awake gradually, usually without an alarm, lie in bed for a moment to evaluate my dreams, stretch out a bit before actually getting out of bed, and then head upstairs for my first cup of coffee. I guzzle a large glass of water and then while my coffee is heating in the microwave (I like it scalding), I grab a few raisins and a handful of cereal so my stomach isn't bearing the coffee-burn without extra absorbency. I then head back downstairs to stretch out my body more and play a game or two of Dr. Mario on the Super Nintendo -- my meditation duration, when I try not to think about the day or anything at all. I just sit there Indian-style (I hope that title doesn't have Caucasian ignorance infused in it) in silence, trying to breathe and relax my body and prepare myself for the day. After that, I head back upstairs for bowl of cereal number one, which is always Puffed Wheat and dried fruit and occasionally a handful of another kind of cereal on top. The reason for the specificity is because I have an extremely, extremely delicate stomach and can't handle a heavy breakfast. In fact, my stomach is the primary reason for this ritual, which I've been doing for about five years. After my first bowl of cereal, I go back upstairs for bowl of cereal number two (and more coffee, naturally). This procedure requires about an hour, and if I don't set aside this hour  or so every morning, I'm emotionally and intenstinally miserable all day. It's also crucial that I connect with myself, with the Spirit and with silence, and nourish and cleanse my body in the morning, for once I begin interacting with the living world (people, mainly), all my stress immediately tightens directly in my stomach, just as it has since I was an infant. After this ritual, I do whatever else the morning allows (workout, shower) before I cramp myself into my uncomfortable car to drive a half hour to sit for hours on campus.

So I guess I could call this my morning cleanse.


Assembling, Disassembling and Reassembling History

You ask who writes history.

The other day (a Thursday) I met with a group of classmates to work on a presentation. One of the members had been sick and consequently missed the Wednesday class, so she asked to copy some of my notes. As I flipped through the pages, I asked if she needed Monday's too, forgetting that she had been there earlier in the week, a mistake to which she jokingly retorted, "Gee, I'm glad to know I was noticed." 

This mistake happened because on Wednesday  during class, those who were in attendance informed me that she was sick and had been all week, so somehow my mind recreated the circumstances of the week and unintentionally erased from my memory her attendance on Monday. This is an instance of unexpected intercession where the original facts are distorted or confused by the implantation of recent fact. The fault, however, was not completely mine because it happened beneath my awareness as if I simply took her absence Monday as given under the influence of Wednesday's circumstance. My mind, therefore, had recorded an altered (and inaccurate) history of the week. So when the information was then corrected by the actual person to whom this mistake regarded, I had to rewrite that history.

We can deduce from this particular case how easily it is for history to be recorded incorrectly if it is done so any time after the actual event---even if that duration is no more than a day or two. Conclusively, this is one reason why history is so often rewritten: a  matter of factual correction.

Everybody, however, contributes to the making of history, through oral conversations, factual documentation, fictional representations and news stories. If we consider now the prevalence of the internet, the information and detail concerning the history of the moment is more monumental than can be accounted for at once.

Our historians and researchers, on a more professional and scholarly level, write our actual history textbooks, printed in which is specific information intended to be passed properly on to the incoming generations. But everyone knows that textbooks (in all disciplinary fields) are updated annually (and expensively), and we can surmise from that alone that it's because new revelations are discovered continually about past events. Archaeologists, for example, uncover new specimens that confute (or at least refute) or verify the conclusion drawn from past excavations. Because of these new findings, then, history must be rewritten. Often, though, I'll endeavor to purport that some chroniclers are too hasty to report their information, which is why everything must be examined and reexamined until the truth exposes itself. 

To  the content of which history exists, every creature on earth contributes. But it must remain in mind that those who actually record the history are sometimes doing so with there own subjectivity, preconceptions, expectations, hopes and opinions underlying the process. Also, there may be an ulterior motive behind it---perhaps to either reveal a truth once lidded before (take the Native Americans, for example, or even "humanitarian" colonial efforts) or to cover up a truth and prevent public scrutiny. Political leaders have an incredible amount of power, though thankfully (I think) some nations allow freedom of press---and we all know journalism was originally straightforward reporting (despite how sometimes partisan, monitored or distorted it is now). The mass majority is often sheltered from the current events because we are reliant on the media for our information, and coverage is carefully chosen in many cases. Therefore history is not always fully known to all.

I'm reminded of the building of the Panama Canal when I think of the actual rewriting of history based on new information. At the time, the U.S. population was given a different description of the treatment and living conditions of the African and South American laborers during the digging. They assumed that all treatment was fair, or some probably never ever recognized the existence of other cultures' involvement (or where they came from) because they were only given information pertaining to white American workers. Some of the government documents that were written during that time are flagrantly bias and arrogant, flaunting the superiority of whiteness and the power of the U.S. and lauding their capitalistic success---i.e. how much money they. would make from of it. Of course the Panamanians benefited too (to a degree), but historians know now that the cultural and social dynamics were significantly complicated, and the effects even more so. We know now, especially from a medical perspective, how influential colonialism was during that massive construction, and also how most of it all came down to power and commerce. No one, of course, would have admitted the motives at that time.

It usually takes time---years, decades, centuries---for people to seek out all the information surrounding a historical event or era. They have to strip away all the propaganda, politics and subterfuge in order to examine the actual people involved. They must return to the material in light of current information and undo what may have been an intentional diversion. Also, sometimes it takes years and years in order to fully realize the effects of a historical event. Presently, we can't even begin to recount to others the effects of the wars in the Middle East or how much that has devastated our economy. We may know body counts and military movements,  but I'm keenly aware of the word "classified." What don't we know? Well, we'll leave that to the future historians who will write (and then rewrite) this piece of history.

Also, the are variant definitions of defines history: history of the civilization, history of a culture, history of city, history of a family, history of an individual. Sometimes the only consistency is the fact that life happens. The past, present and future are all scrutinized simultaneously, so all those mental time frames contribute to the meaning behind the record.

I have over 15 personal journals totaling nearly 3,000 pages that date back to age seven---19 years of my life--and by referring to them I can recount the history of my life and of my development. I could go back and look at actual dates and say, "Okay, this happened at this time--I was here, this is how I felt, this is what I thought," but I know that I cannot document everything I do or every influence that attributes to the attitude in which certain entries were written. Patterns and copious factual evidence certainly exist, but my entire life could not possibly be reassembled by those books alone. I can build a puzzle with it, and maybe fill in some gaps with memories (which are vulnerable to attenuation by time--or influenced by Romantic Time, which is that interceding reflection in which meaning and emotion are added or revealed), but there will always be pieces missing. I could, however, take recourse to my family members who had a different vantage points from which they viewed and interpreted the same event. Eventually, then, I would have no choice but to take into account their facts and speculations and add them to what I experienced. All of these would therefore contribute to the ever-unfolding reality of situation (and I will resist philosophizing on what "reality" is) and also the complexity and confusion.

History is written because we document what happens and/or chose to document it in a particular way. History is rewritten because new insights and facts are always attained after the event, after time has past, and after those who wanted secrets to be kept have died.

(We may not be granted second chances, but we are often granted new ones.)

I'd like my Dignity on the side, please
  The following was initially intended to address the issues of human dignity and environmental justice, but it kind of accumulated into a montage of fragmented thoughts, so I guess we'll just have to see how well the results meet the requirements.

   The ad I was forced to watch before I was allowed to begin this journal entry was about Lysol's new disinfectant spray, which can be used on virtually every surface in the house (or on the earth), and the actors during each scenario who exemplified the spray's variety of uses were all carefully chosen women representing the archetypal stay at home mom: perfectly poised and dressed in elegantly casual clothes that are neutrally pastel in color---very agreeable, don't you think?---in tidy upper-middle-class houses. It was a ramified violation:  to me (my time usurped by it), to the earth (let's just douse it with disinfectant and pretend like that's keeping us healthy), to the believable representation of reality (show me a mother who looks that groomed and that happy simultaneously), to the vulnerable psychology of human beings (many people buy into that crap), and to the feeling of inclusion of every other human being on the planet (those women are humanity's desperate attempt to retain some form of  self-idealism). The vast and instantaneous dissemination of information is unreal. A million times a million utterances are occurring at this very moment and are completely accessible to the "connected" person through an endless pouring forth of theories, opinions, rhetoric, subliminal messages, facts, etc.---indeed, the very brain of the human race... The human race. But that ad was all for money.

   Gaudium wants me to recognize that there are many cultures, once traditional and isolated, and even many little sub-cultures that once were able to create their own histories but now are caught in the massive pulsating jelly of humanity spread across earth. The term "anxiety" worked well because those cultures may only be eager to taste the liberty of democracy and globalization because they were coerced with the a different concept that incurred an urgency for survival, that which prevents being dipped by the scales of supposed equality into the viscid tar pit of poverty, ignorance, oppression and fear. 

   We gain. We understand more, too, and have more opportunities to learn now than ever before. More and more people are attending graduate school (because jobs are more difficult to land now), yet road signs are altered from "Uneven Pavement" to a picture of a car on uneven pavement, so to accommodate to an image-stimulated, half- (if not wholly) illiterate segment of society.  I learned in the news that a psychotic social deviant killed people at a political rally, and that warning signs were evident throughout his life. He learned the location of the rally.

   And because the access to known knowledge it limitless and immediate, people can learn whatever they wish.  I could teach myself deeper and more honed levels of compassion by acquainting myself with people in need, or I could learn to hate others by visiting fanatical websites. I could struggle to teach myself physics, or I could learn a bloodless way to kill myself or someone else. I could learn the mating patterns of lions, or the bi- or tri-linguistics of monkeys.  I could have a depravity preconditioned---say, pedophilia---that instead of conquering or managing with discipline, self-restraint and common sense, I could enhance by investigating and joining online groups of people who share the same sickness, or by looking at enticing photographs. But that's just another one of the glorious boons of intercommunication and our new-found ability to understand each other, right? Of course. Wait... I just remembered that my dignity also depends on the fact that I have little choice but to identify myself with every other type of person classified under "human."

   It's also so very edifying to be able to compare ourselves to others effortlessly. I discovered yesterday that I'm a genius, then five minutes later found I was an imbecile.

   But I think Gaudium was accurate to observe that "Never before has man had so keen an understanding of freedom, yet at the same time new forms of social and psychological slavery make their appearance." It reminds me of the laws of balance, and even more of the realization that mankind does not know how to be free. Robert Frost stated that freedom is the most "mysterious" word we use because it has so many definitions---tossed around here, tossed around there---we are free to choose what freedom means. We are free to realize that we cannot be free, and that sense of imprisonment mutates into some sort of inferiority complex that is manifest in our relationships to "lower" cultures and to nature, or the environment, or whatever term you care to use. Because we (not all, of course) are slaves to prideful minds and to the creations of our minds (or the minds of others), we compulsively enslave the earth and all its inhabitants as well---maybe to superficially assure each other that we aren't self-enslaved at all. But Gaudium asserts very benignly that mankind is superior to all creatures, doesn't it? Hmm, indeed. God forbid we epitomize ourselves with hypocrisy.

   Of course we have the freedom to better the world, to better humanity---and I like to attribute the good work to the addicts, the fanatics, the entrepreneurs. The drug Ecstasy was introduced in therapy for married couples who needed to rekindle their sex lives, and it had wonderful benefits when taken in small doses. Then it moved to the street... not just for recreation but for money. But that's for fun (seriously). We know that the crack industry is revolutionizing the world. And the opiates? Well, they've brought families closer together. Forget therapy. There are entire families, including infants, in Afghanistan who are addicted to opium in one happy, euphoric union. They spend all their money on it; and the children are blissfully weeping because they are hungry, so their parents lovingly give them opium instead of food to pacify them. Indeed, the opium business is thriving there, and those people aren't at all living in social, spiritual, cultural, global and humanistic destitution. No. The dignity is there. 

They must love the sound of war too, with our help or not. 

   But poppies sure are beautiful flowers, and I hear there are over 120 different varieties---science told me that. Did you know you can buy seeds off the internet? Yes, it was a heart-warming feeling cradling my emaciated friend in my arms while he unsuccessfully tried to kick his habit, and there's nothing like emotional, physical and mental attrition to represent human dignity.

  Ah, choices.

  Instead, let's support and laud our chemists and experimentalists by tripping off of bath salts. Oops, well, we'll try to undo that one. Oh, wait, we can't---legislation. "It's a process that can take years."

  But hey, forget the drugs. Let's just travel to Cambodia (or---gasp!---the U.S.) to participate in the lucrative human trafficking industry. Men sure seem to love to deflower those 11-year-olds, who have probably never heard the word "dignity" before in their lives---and would likely be traumatized to find out what it means.

  No, let's transcend. We are unique people bestowed the right to fulfill our potential. There are souls here, right? And we are people given to passion---not necessarily sensual (though I'm sure that is involved neurologically)---and so it is our human right to live out our dreams, correct? Certainly. I mean, celebrities had their dreams, and I'm sure that child living behind a dumpster had his, too. Hitler had humanitarian dreams, didn't he? His freedom definitely led him in the dignified direction---he stood so straight and erect, so stately, behind his convictions. Yes, and as a world-unit we doubtless learned from him---learned that cruelty and blind obedience are possible, and learned that they couldn't possibly happen now. Certainly they couldn't---I mean, people don't have to kick their technology habits, nor do young people jump off bridges after indelible online ridicule. But don't get me wrong---these devices have opened up and exposed us all to the diversity of the world, and that's great, I think. We understand more and are more tolerant. We also allow more crime to occur and, as Guadium mentioned, possibly prevent closer, more meaningful relationships with others---but we are more connected? We are? Yes, we. We are becoming the most visible landscape on earth.

    Some people prefer virtual simulations over real experiences--and hell, most people may only know what it's like to canoe from their living rooms, on the Wii.

 But let's move away from this and give credit the physicists, for I revel in the looming threat of nuclear war. Where do they test those things? Our doctors are miracle workers too, or at least they must be since people fall back on them for everything. Sometimes they save lives. Sometimes the married ones have affairs with their nurses. But hey, at least modern medicine has proved to us that habits of propriety are actually harmful to the body (you better let those natural substances out). Yes, I feel so utterly dignified when science explains intuition and common sense to me.

   But some people aspire to be elite, and that's okay---they can afford the doctors, while the unemployed thirty-year-old man with brain cancer is denied insurance because he has a preexisting condition. He can't afford his doctor or the fifty medications he must ingest (and I believe those somehow eventually end up in rivers)... But he's culpable for his own actions anyway... He shouldn't have been using that Lysol. But that's okay because he'll die with dignity, his body in slow decay, to the same degree as those on life support---"This person is still enjoying life! Can't you see the brainwaves flitting on that screen? She's happy." 

  I'm also consoled to know that Roger Ebert has a new face. Great! For I know that Healthcare Reform is definitely eager to include that coverage into its plan. New faces for everyone! Oh, wait... only for the elite. We forgive him, though, because he's on television---and there's no better place to locate human dignity than on television! But shh! There's an ex-soldier over there crying on the street corner, with his face mutilated and his arms blown off. One non-profit organization gave him new arms, thank benevolence, but no new face for him! Turn away! Those horrors don't happen at home. 

    The sciences are required to advance, however, because otherwise we wouldn't be able to understand and (attempt to) cure all the maladies science has caused. But sure, the natural world has contributed to the illnesses, too. Damn that tuberculosis, killing some of my favorite authors; but thank humanity for the vaccine! Phew, we're safe from that one now. But "anti-depressants are not for children, teenagers or young adults because they can cause suicidal thoughts." Too bad, because I hear depression is pretty prevalent these days in that age group (and all age groups). I also hear cruelty is faster and easier to administer now; and I wouldn't be surprised if all the sensitive, loving people in the world are the ones who couldn't handle it. I'm inclined to think they might have loved a tree house, hanging out with the High Elves. 

   But living in a tree house wouldn't be very salutary for an asthmatic. Hey, no problem. There is an inhaler that will prevent that... I wonder if the guy with brain cancer had asthma. Well, that's no problem either, for if he wants to commiserate with a pervasive feeling of hopelessness, he can simply relocate to Africa where the children have empty bellies the size of watermelons and regularly see their kin sprawled out dead on the streets in front of their corrugated tin-roofed houses... Are those even houses? They should put them in trees and stop spreading the disease. Oh, right... that disease will never stop spreading: Desperation of a dying population induces sexual impulses. Well, at least they have the same nutritious meal choices that we have here in the U.S.  Yes, that fast food is FDA's greatest achievement---and the packaging industry's and marketing industry's too, for I'm especially partial to the "Holy Cow" ads for burgers that could in one sitting satiate an homeless child for two weeks (assuming it doesn't kill the poor kid while he eats it). Advertising is indispensable for the defecation of sanctity. The Internet, the Beef and the Greenhouses gases... Who would have thought the Trinity would come to that?

   I wonder if they dispense Viagra in Africa---the real reason they keep mating. The pharmaceutical companies sure would make a profit there, wouldn't they? (Shh, don't tell---it was part of colonialism.) They profit from our children too; for our children also have overly large bellies---though I doubt I'm fallacious to suspect the distension isn't from emptiness. Again, no problem. After they learn their life lessons in front of the television, they'll go the gym at age 8 and begin classes where they bike in virtual simulations of the outdoors---unless, of course, they prefer the canoe.

Hmm, what do those poppies smell like?
   "What are flowers?"   "Why, they're those things in vases on coffee tables."   "Why, there those things you see in paintings."    "Why, I'm not sure. But who cares? Want to see the new picture I put on Facebook?"

    But we are charitable people---those of us, at least, who don't need Space Bags to reduce the overload in our closets---and there are plenty of wonderfully supportive organizations out there selflessly helping those who may feel their dignity has been stripped by circumstance. Additionally (and perhaps surreptitiously), there are individuals also contributing to the greater good. I just don't know how much the extremists help, even if the extreme is the preservation of the earth, the human race, and the very health and spirit of both. The earth is intelligent enough to self-regulate. We are, too, but many people---most people, I'll surmise---are too blind (or distracted) to understand that, and I guess it's easier to want than to be, to resort rather than self-suffice, to use and then discard. Let's hope most of us learn to proactively retain our dignity (and our sense of meaning, whether it be real or fabricated) and then maybe we can better bequeath it to others....maybe.

Journal #5 Timeline
Certainly without prescience, but perhaps with dapples of logic and hope, I have created a fun little timeline of a future I cannot foresee, one scarcely fathomable in a present time that is difficult enough to cope with and move beyond. Indeed humor helps, as does a healthy slathering of optimism and dedication, so let us momentarily put this somber (and perhaps a bit dramatic) present in abeyance in order to watch the sheen of a possible future coruscate before our eyes, shall we?

Timeline of the FUTURE (“Look deep into the crystal ball…”)


#1: The Dream Line


  • Graduate from Walsh (I could consider my life complete in that miraculous achievement alone)
  • Sell all my belongings in order to...
  • Travel to India, Nepal, and Egypt to seek further enlightenment and to experience life—to be changed
  • Return to the U.S. after a year or two (and likely be thankful to be home—or not)
  • Build a shack in the woods and live off locusts and tree sap
  • Befriend the wolves, the squirrels, the foxes, and the fairies
  • Die in a hallucinatory state of bliss (or between the jaws of a grizzly with an insatiable appetite—though the wolves and fairies will protect me, won’t they?)



Timeline of the FUTURE (“Don’t look too deep or you’ll fall in!”)


#2: Reality (tenuous, and perhaps still a Dream)


n      Graduate from Walsh (in honor of my peace-laid father, my optimistic mother, the unprecedentedly influential Dr. Pam, and myself)

n      See Pam again (I hope)

n      Find an suitable, welcoming graduate program, wherever one unique to my aspirations exists

n      Study whatever English Literature program I magnetize toward

n      Write---write essays and stories and letters (as those seem to be my specialty, and little else)

n      Love others (no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much I hurt)

n      Learn to master the language (or renounce it entirely)

n      Learn to trust a gift

n      Try to remember, as I pursue my studies, to pay attention to what will make me both happy and “employable” (boo)

n      Fall in love  (no more loneliness)

n      Receive my Master’s and Ph.D.

n      Ease (or passively fight) into a teaching position at a university, either in the U.S. or abroad—wherever I will make the most impact and be free to teach what I love---free to touch peoples' lives, move them, inspire them, teach them, and let them teach me

n      Find or build a small house in a rural area (assuming those are still available by then--that there has not been a nuclear war or unceasing suburban sprawl)

n      Teach and love and read, and maybe join a band again

n      Love and teach and read

n      Travel

n      Remember throughout every day I breathe, that the mysteries mean as much as, if not more than, the realities; though the realities affect most acutely, most extremely, most dearly; yet the mysteries can only be sought and discovered when the burden of everyday drudgery is minimal, though awareness to them is most often provoked by the effects of real situations. Love can thrive in both the real and the mysterious—indeed they exist and twist simultaneously, and maybe there is no division between the two. Or is there?

So, what did I just tell you? Life is heavy, yet it weighs nothing. One of these two futures will happen--in the imagination of a laden weightlessness.

Journal 4--Personal statements

In the following assignment, I have answered questions pertaining to three sample personal statements written by students applying to various English programs offered by graduate schools. From these samples, I have attained a clearer understanding of what to include in my own personal statement and, more importantly, what not to include. All of these statements lack individuality, spunk, passion, biographical infomation, emphasis in tone and compelling points of interest. Hopefully, when I write my own statement I don't sound like personified bread that's been sitting on the counter for three weeks.



What is the name of the school being addressed? How much can you determine about the program from this personal statement?

            The school addressed Berkeley—The Modern Thought and Literature program. The basic approach in this program steps from an acute awareness to the complexity of social and cultural histories in conjunction with individual realities, and how cultural literature examined from not only a critical literary perspective but also historical, philosophical, linguistic and anthropological perspectives provides a keener insight into the sustainability or mercurialness of a culture—how the literature was recorded and influenced a society. Critical analysis is initiated through multiple disciplines in this program.


What is the purpose of each paragraph? (Essentially, this question asks you to summarize each paragraph of the letter in a sentence).

            The initial paragraph is a tiny narrative that describes the professor and class that influenced this person’s particular interest of study and propelled him to advance on it. He proceeds in the next paragraph with the consequent alteration in his way of thinking that provoke him to ask questions that activated his research. But when he sought to answer these questions through comparative literature, he found that approach was too limited, merely using “the same analytical tools” regardless of the differences across cultures and their usages of literature. All this, he goes on to say, was the basis for this senior thesis, and he performed extensive study to sink deeply into a particular area. What he discovered from his inclination to research diligently was a love for academia, which prompted him to leave his high-paying job to pursue graduate school, two decisions (studying and quitting his job) that reflect his commitment and love of schooling and literature. He then transitions into to discussing how a pursuing a master’s degree will allow him to elaborate on the studies he began at Yale, and specifies how he will use it (to teach and research). The last two paragraphs then assimilate his goals into the given programs at Berkeley and the specific professor who attracted his attention.


What is the major accomplishment or characteristic the person has chosen to highlight?

            Really, it’s his assiduousness as a researcher and student, and his apparent interest in interdisciplinary cultural studies. There is very little other than that sets him apart, that gives him any kind of personality.


Does the writer make their main appeal via logic, credibility, or emotion? How have you determined this? (Provide at least two examples)

            He definitely uses credibility. By emphasizing his studious achievements and his resignation from a high paying Silicon Valley job in order to obtain a degree, he clearly is trying to validate his worth. He provides concrete evidence to justify what he is after, why he is after it, and why he should be admitted to the program.


How often does the writer address their audience? How well do you think they know this grad program?

            Never does he actually address the audience other than in a third-person kind of way, and only in the last two paragraphs. He simply just describes the program; and yes, I believe he knows the program in depth.


 How would you have improved this letter?


I was under the impression that a personal statement was to be a vivid reflection about an individual’s life, but this was nothing more than a summary of what shaped his future quest. It was as though he thought dropping Yale into the first paragraph would make his past self-evident, which perhaps it might.





What is the name of the school being addressed? How much can you determine about the program from this personal statement?

            Because this is a sample on a website, any school name is swapped with XX. The program in which this student is interested focuses entirely on American literature, and all ranges of it. Obviously it is American intensive and very limited

What is the purpose of each paragraph? (Essentially, this question asks you to summarize each paragraph of the letter in a sentence).

            This person begins by questioning what classifies Ezra Pound’s verse as poetry, and how a line of a specific poem motivated him to such questions. His “bewilderment” over it provoked inquiry into the historical context of the poem to better understand it. What he discovered was a whole literary movement reactionary of the Victorian era, and he uses the next paragraph to define this genre. To him, a Chinese student, this detection opened his eyes to examine literature in relation to its surroundings, and to the need for solid background knowledge in literary criticism. Much of the next paragraph outlines his undergraduate career and what he gained from it—all of which led him to his senior thesis, which focused on T.S. Eliot. Aside from that, he directed and acted in Romeo and Juliet but changed the ending because he has in mind an ideal love that should not be wasted on death (and it appears that he is basically insulting Shakespeare by stating that the original ending is “too pathetic”). Onward, he describes a class he was employed to teach, and then concludes his personal statement with a paragraph about the program in which he is interested.

What is the major accomplishment or characteristic the person has chosen to highlight?


It seems the most highlighted accomplishment is his thesis statement (though I think being asked to teach a class before graduation is a milestone), but that seems pretty lame to me. Or maybe it would be his mastery of both Chinese and English.

Does the writer make their main appeal via logic, credibility, or emotion? How have you determined this? (Provide at least two examples)

            Credibility: His only clinching details are those pertaining to what he achieved, such as his fluency in and knowledge of English and its literature, and designing an easily understandable literature course for non-English majors.

How often does the writer address their audience? How well do you think they know this grad program?

            The audience is addressed four times, and only in the last paragraph. He’s well-informed about the program—was definitely out for something specific to suit his personality and aspirations

How would you have improved this letter?


He could have written much more extensively about himself and not the Imagist movement. I’m sure that graduate schools don’t want to read about what they already know. Speaking more exclusively about his Chinese background and what impassioned him in American literature would have added much more flavor and diversity to what is overall a very hackneyed statement. Also, he could have detailed the success or failure of the class he designed and taught—the response of the university or the students and whether or not they continued to teach it after his departure.





What is the name of the school being addressed? How much can you determine about the program from this personal statement?

            This statement lacks any direct reference to a school or program. It’s loose and vague, almost as if it is a template distributed to multiple schools without any knowledge of the programs offered. Already in mind, though, is a direct idea of what she wishes to pursue, and so any graduate school that allows this particular study may be sufficient for her.


What is the purpose of each paragraph? (Essentially, this question asks you to summarize each paragraph of the letter in a sentence).

            The first paragraph is one sentence—one lifeless sentence stating blandly what she would now like to pursue in graduate school. She proceeds to specify her literary interests, what she studied primarily (in school and on her own), and how she wishes to amplify these areas in her continuing education. In the third paragraph, she outlines her future doctoral studies. Adding another dimension to her appeal (if such is there) is her creative writing side—not only is she a student but is also a poet influenced by the literature she studied, and some of her work had been published. Lastly, she explains what she how she would use her doctorate as a tool of augmentation and employment attractiveness.

What is the major accomplishment or characteristic the person has chosen to highlight?

            Her published work, which incorporated the material she studied, is perhaps the most notable accomplishment, but her goal of publishing an essay in her field of study counts as well.

Does the writer make their main appeal via logic, credibility, or emotion? How have you determined this? (Provide at least two examples)

            Credibility: She simply states accomplishments—specific, concentrated studies (she “specialized in nineteenth century novels by and about women”) and her poetry.

How often does the writer address their audience? How well do you think they know this grad program?

            She addresses them twice. I’m not sure she knows anything about it, and if she does, it is not explicitly stated.

How would you have improved this letter?


It’s boring! She mentions nothing about herself as a person, only her literary focuses. Certainly that is worth admiring, but there must be more to a person than their interests. What has she learned from it? What in her life motivated her to focus on that area? Has she been altered by it? Why does literature matter to her? What attracted her to literature in the first place?

Summary of Cover Letter Packet
          In the following paragraph I will attempt to summarize the super-cool cover letter pack posted on Sakai, and hopefully Deborah Walker will approve of my work. (shhh... Let's not even tell her!)

            The specific objective in Deborah Walker’s article “Four Cover Letters of Four Job-Search Strategies” aims to instruct applicants how to tailor cover letters according to their different recipients. Her first cover letter format, a response to an actual job posting, outlines who it should address, the proper way to document accomplishments, and how many “I” statements to avoid. She proceeds to delineate a “target audience” format in which the job field and addressee are specified, and also in which the applicant’s contact information must be listed. This layout closely resembles a cover letter distributed to recruiters or headhunters, where the letter should be disseminated via email with the resume attached. The applicant in this situation, suggests
Walker, should be liberal in the number of resumes distributed, and should also wait for the recruiter to call first. Her last cover letter form is geared toward a professional network -- i.e. people to whom connections have already been established – and should be fairly casual in tone. It should also fuse together both the cover letter and the resume into what she quotes as a “resu-letter,” which she implies serves as a conversational method of self-advertising. This, she stresses, is written always with the reader in mind.




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