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Love is Painful, and That’s a Good Thing

Love. Months ago, after reading some stuff by some great, yet unorthodox thinkers, I’ve decided that Love is the greatest thing there is (Yes, I’m aware Paul beat me to it in Corinthians 13:13 centuries ago, but that’s not the point).

Recently, I woke up to the idea as to what direction I wanted to take my art, which is purely based on Love. I Love painting, I Love beauty, I Love the people I choose to paint, I hope that I will inspire Love in those who look at my art…

This morning, though, I realized one of the reasons Love is so powerful is because of how painful it can be.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. This morning, I woke up feeling… upset. I’m not sure how else to explain it. I wasn’t happy, but I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy. This was more than the normal waking up groggy. I had very vivid dreams that I couldn’t remember, so I know it had something to do with it. Other than that. I was at a loss. I was also worried because when my mornings aren’t good, the rest of my day isn’t the best either.

Even so, I was determined to have a good day! It was a Saturday after all, and I suffered through a pretty long and crappy work week. I just made my first Etsy sale, my dearest friend bought a $5 print from me of one of my most cherished paintings, of which I will never sell the original (a still life bouquet of purple daisies my now-husband gave me when I returned home from Italy. See? Another example of art painted with Love).

daisies with print

This morning, I went out to put the print in the mailbox. I grabbed the mail that was already in there. As I went inside, I looked down at the mail to see if there was anything for me or my husband… and saw the reason why my waking up wasn’t so good.

The name “Bruce Gilinsky.”

And just like those terrible amnesia movies where images of the guy’s memories all start flooding back, I remembered the dream I had last night.

Bruce Gilinsky was my grandfather. He died Spring of 2016. Last night, I had the most vivid dream that he was back. My grandma, my parents, my brothers and sisters, my husband… Grandpa… and I were all in the upstairs living room of my grandparents’ house. My whole family was happy. He looked a couple decades younger than when I last saw him. He didn’t have as many wrinkles, and he was happy to be alive and see us all again. Now, because I was somewhat aware of events in the dream and out of it, I didn’t realize I was dreaming, but I did remember that Grandpa died, I asked how this happened.

Turns out he was brought back through cloning technology. He was cloned, then his age was accelerated. He still had all of his memories, even of his death. I knew this was very wrong, and that what took place was unethical for so many reasons.

But, here’s the thing, I didn’t care.

He was back. That was all that mattered.

I can’t help but think if that was why I woke up so perturbed, and the dream was blocked from my memory if not momentarily. There was some guilt about not caring that Grandpa was still dead, but replaced with a clone with all his memories. It reminded me how much I missed him. I missed him so much that any solution to see him, talk to him, be there with him… would be good enough for me.

Now, dreams could just be dreams and not mean anything, but in the past couple of years, I’ve become very interested in Carl Jung and his expansion on Freud’s dream theories. Whenever I’ve had dreams that I could remember, I try to think about what they could mean, or what my brain is trying to work out and what lesson I could take away, or what I could watch out for.

I think on some level, there’s some warnings or speculations about the role of delusions.

After remembering my dream, I fervently hoped that Grandpa was in Heaven, because as this subconscious desperation of mine was to see him again, that would be the only way I could see him again. This then instilled in me a need to truly believe that there is a Heaven.

After thinking about this some more, I was thinking about a very common Atheistic argument that the reason why people believe in things like ghosts and Heaven are only a defense mechanism and that superstitious people could not handle the idea that they’ll never see their loved ones again, so they have to believe in these things so that they can just move on with their lives. Ironically, I believe Freud said that, and here I am looking to a student of his to make sense of these things.

I believe the solution Freud would say to dealing with this grief is just to accept the cold, hard truth that you’ll never see them again and move on.

Well, that doesn’t work for me. There’s no evidence that there is a Heaven, sure, but on the flip side, there’s no evidence that there isn’t either. So at the end of the day, I think this depends on what works best for you and your life. What kind of life you want to have and what beliefs will help you achieve that.

So, maybe Heaven’s a delusion. But… I don’t care. In my dream, Heaven didn’t exist, but the cloning technology did. Here, the cloning technology doesn’t exist, but Heaven does. It doesn’t matter.

So, here’s what I think would work best for me. If I am to believe that there is a Heaven, then I will continue to pray that Grandpa’s soul made it here, that also means I need to get there too, which to me, would require a life that strongly involves believing everyone, no matter how terrible, is still worthy of love, patience, and compassion.

BUT! If there is no Heaven, and when Grandpa died, that was it, and that’s what will happen to me when I expire, then… I will have died living a life that hopefully made other peoples’ lives at least a little better. More importantly, any parts of my brain that control things like disappointment will cease to function. So, it’s not like I can be disappointed that there was no Heaven after all and that my life with a strong dedication to Love all amounted to yet another meaningless existence. Right? Right.

I already decided months ago that I wanted to focus my life more focused on doing small things to make the world at least a little better than I left it rather than focus on all the many horrible things about the world.

As sad as it was, and as much as this dream made me realize how much I missed someone I loved so dearly, I’m glad I had it. It instilled a somewhat selfish, yet effective motivation to live the life I want to lead.

Here’s my takeaway: I think it’s best to live your life as honestly as you can, and that science is great for helping us understanding the material world, but for certain things science can’t empirically prove, like the meaning of life, whether or not anything matters, whether there’s life after death… whether art has any significance… if living as if such things do matter helps you to become a less frustrated, kinder, more helpful person to making the world around you a little better, then I guess it’s worth it.

That being said, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying you join a cult, or join a religion where a core tenant (or any tenant) is to treat others badly. What I’m trying to say is, if you think about it, things like Love, Kindness, Loyalty, and Mercy cannot be scientifically and empirically measured, but living as if things are real make us better people… In fact, I’ll let Death from Discworld explain it for you better than I ever could (skip to 1:30):

The worst thing that would happen is you died living a better, more meaningful life and won’t live to regret it.

So, yes. Love can be painful, but that’s a good thing. Despite what you may think of “fantasies” people use to get through the day, I think we can all agree that Love reminds us and instills in us something almost as powerful: Meaning… and what it means to be Human.

 

 

 

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Banning Cinderella is Dumb, but not Surprising

Bleh. I’m home sick today. Even scrambled as my brain is from the fever, I’m determined to make as coherent of a blog post as I can.

I heard of Kiera Knightly’s interview on Ellen DeGeneres’ show in October and how she said that the Disney Princess movies Cinderella and the Little Mermaid were banned because in both cases they were movies about two women saved by men.

Here’s the clip:

Now, personally I think that banning kid friendly movies on the grounds that their ideologies may fundamentally disagree with yours is not the best way to go about things. I would put Ms. Knightley’s wish to ban Cinderella and Little Mermaid on the same level of silliness as a fundamentalist Christian depriving Harry Potter from their children for supposedly promoting Witchcraft. Which then results in said children missing out on the good messages Harry Potter gives like bravery, friendship, fighting for what’s right when the odds are against you, and many other wonderful lessons.

Cinderella_-_Anne_AndersonI do agree with her irritation at Disney’s version of Little Mermaid for reasons I may write in another blog later, but Cinderella? Even Disney’s version of Cinderella? To just boil it down to as a helpless maiden who get’s saved by a rich guy? That doesn’t sound right.

Though, I’m not here to criticize a rich actress that I’ll probably never meet and her child-rearing choices that don’t in any way affect me. I’m here because the story of Cinderella has been a recent obsession of mine and I just feel the need to write about it.

All over the world, the story of Cinderella has existed in some form or another. You do have our current Disney version, Germany’s Ashenputtel. Non Western cultures like China, Egypt, East India (Anklet for a Princess), and Native American folklore (The Rough Faced Girl). These are just a few examples out of hundreds.What is it about this fairy tale that is so pervasive in so many cultures? What is it about Cinderella that is so pervasive in all of our minds?

Though there are different variations of the story, they all have these obvious things in common: a young maiden being abused by stepmother and at least one stepsister, her biological mother is dead, in some form another her patience and goodness is rewarded and she’s able to leave her stepmother (usually a royal marriage, but sometimes treasure too).

When these tales were first being written, childbirth was one of if not the most common way for women to die. This meant there were a lot of children already growing up without a mother. Stories like these, even the darker versions (Ashenputtel where the stepsisters cut parts of their feet off to fit the slipper), were probably a great comfort to these children.

They were not meant to shield children from outside dangers, but they were meant to help children go through dangers ever present in their own lives. Maybe their father married a woman already having children of her own, who put her own children’s needs before her newly-obtained stepchild.

Cinderella, in all versions, represented a kind of role model. She could very well be seen as a weak, helpless victim trapped in a bad situation. Her stepmother and stepsister’s laziness, vanity, cruelty, and malevolence could’ve very well rubbed off on her. She could have wallowed in self-pity, bitterness, and could have easily become just as bitter, corrupt, and nasty as her oppressors, but she didn’t. In every version, she retained her goodness, which then in turns attracts supernatural forces to come to her aid and help her out of her situation.

800px-Aschenputtel

So what? There are people who are good and kind their whole lives and still suffer hardship after hardship after hardship. Their kindness, naivety, and sweetness even sometimes attract monsters that use their own kindness against them via manipulation  What good does their kindness do in the face of the cruelties of life?

In response, I think that in the face of hardship, it is far better to try to make bad situations less miserable (especially if you’re doing what you can to get out of them), then become bitter and make your situation worse. In Cinderella, the prince or treasure represent an ultimate good worth being reached for. You might say there’s no point in hoping to achieve an ultimate good, but I think it’s worth reaching for perfection, but then falling to a good place rather than being stuck in a bad place, or, even better, making it worse.

 

If you’re able to remain kind and honest in the face of cruelty, I think the people around you notice it more, want to be your friend, help you out, and whatnot. As a general rule, people don’t like people who are jerks. The people who first recited the Cinderella folklore knew that too. The divine elements of Cinderella (ie, the animals and the fairy godmother)  came to her aid because she was good.

 

398px-Joseph_Henry_Sharp_-_Blackfoot_Indian_Girl_(1905)I really like the Native American Rough-Faced Girl story because the Cinderella’s special quality was her truthfulness. Again, she was also treated badly by her stepsisters, to the point where they even burned her face because they were jealous of her physical beauty, but she remained strong and honest through her suffering. Her stepsisters wanted to marry the invisible prince, but they lied to the wise woman (his sister) when she asked if they saw him, so she sent them home. When Cinderella tried her luck, she was honest and said she couldn’t see him. The wise woman told her to look again. Not only could she see him now, but he was so impressive his bow was the rainbow and his sled was the milky way. Her reward for her honesty was not a marriage to any rich mortal, but someone more akin to a god.

Even Disney’s version of Cinderella (which I will not have a picture of because, it’s not public domain), you do see Cinderella struggle. She isn’t a perfect little cupcake. She greets her stepmother and stepsisters warmly when she brings them breakfast, they start snapping at her, and her voice is downcast when she leaves the room. You see her slowly breaking down up until the final breaking point just before her fairy mother comes. Her fairy godmother insinuates that because Cinderella still had some faith left, the fairy godmother was able to appear. Which has a message about in the bleakest of times, there’s just that little glimmer of hope that we see that gives us the strength to move on.

We all face hardships. There are situations you just can’t escape from, at least not right away. Maybe someone close to you is dead or dying and you’re suffering not just your own pain, but the pain of everyone around you. There’s fighting, something about wills, sorrow, resentment, but if someone was strong enough to not succumb to this horrible situation, but instead take charge, plan the funeral, comfort the mourning. Maybe you can take a page from Cinderella’s book and try to make it better, because you can always make it infinitely worse. And why wouldn’t you? Nobody knows how bad you’re suffering, maybe if you dragged everyone else with you, they’d have some idea.

dramatic-skies-at-sunset-with-clouds-and-sun-rays_800

Maybe you are facing a tyrant in your life, like the stepmother. Maybe it’s your teacher or boss. I know I’ve dealt with teachers and bosses who were tough on me, but they legitimately cared about the kind of ships they were running and only wanted me to improve. When you find out your boss/teacher is treating you badly because and make it clear they’re insecure/power-hungry, this can cause a serious blow to your psyche, sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, getting out of an abusive situation like that isn’t always easy. Whether you need to do well in that class because your need your GPA to stay up, or you need to stay in that job to well, eat and pay bills at least until you can find a new one.

So, to sum up, Cinderella isn’t just a rags-to-riches story, or a story about a pathetic damsel needing to be rescued. I don’t think it would have been so prevalent cross-culturally if that was all this story was. It’s a beautiful story about a person who has a hard life filled with suffering, but rather than letting the situation turn her bitter, she has the fortitude to stay strong, resilient, and honest in the face of malice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inktober 2017: Lion

lion.jpg

Woot! I’m doing Inktober this year, people! (The upside of living with other artists is that they get to remind you of this stuff so you don’t forget).

So, as many of you know, I’m a painter, not an Inker, so making good quality things will be a challenge and will only happen if I have NOTHING else happening that day. However, in one of my old sketchbooks, I sometimes like to take my ink pens and write out quotes I like to live by (usually my mother is the one saying them).

This is “The truth is like a lion. It doesn’t need defended. Let it loose. It will defend itself.” By St. Augustine.