Thursday, December 22, 2011

That's my cousin!

I was privileged to attend his mission non-farewell* this past Sunday and hear his testimony of the gospel once more in person before he leaves to serve the people of Japan for two years.  While he was speaking, I scribbled him:

His most telling quote was: "I have many doubts about myself, but I have no doubts about my God."  And that, cousin, is why I have no doubts about you.  Good luck, Peter!

*Oh, right.  Just in case there is ever a reader who is unfamiliar with the customs of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the U.S.  Traditionally, when a young man (or woman) is about to leave on a mission, he and his family or close friends will give the sermons, prayers, and/or musical numbers in their ward's Sunday worship meeting (sacrament meeting).  These meetings are often termed "mission farewells," as the family and ward will not see the missionary again for 1 1/2 to 2 years.  However, central Church leadership has recently requested that this practice be changed, as the farewells have tended to focus more on the missionary and less on the gospel he is about to go out and share.  The transition is happening, if slowly.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This will be sort of like Plato's Allegory of the Cave... that we have a sort of exploratory dialogue going on between the philosopher and his friend.  Except in this case, the friend can't get a word in edgewise.

E: Sometimes it's too bad that language is a linear mode of communication.

J: How do you mean?

E: (He asked for it...)  Because, as I'm sure you know, ideas have a tendency to sprout (or explode) off in all directions from whatever starting point, and it can be cumbersome to follow one thread through to its fullness and then have to go all the way back to the beginning and take off in the next direction.

We talk of going off on tangents as though they're extraneous and distracting, but they may in reality be essential parts of the fully developed idea, and we need them to understand the entirety of what's being explored.

I find that I can't ignore the little offshoots of idea (at least when I'm working honestly, from the sincerest part of my creativity), which is probably why I use so many parentheticals, footnotes, fragments, and inside jokes and in my verbal communication.  Which usually means that streamlinedness goes out the window.  But by referencing the points of connection, I can hope that my readers/listeners will get a clearer picture of what's really going on with the idea.

That's a very tenuous hope, though, due to the fact that, by its very nature, language is one-dimensional.  Spoken or written, we can only process it one word at a time, in the chronological order of its reception.  Forcing a whole idea into this time-linear format creates the illusion of precedence (or antecedence?), which can lead to the illusion of causation, when often the components of a truth just are, together and simultaneously.  That's nigh impossible to portray with words.

So, then.  Why write, you ask?

J: No, I actually didn't--

E: Because words, for whatever reason, seem to be the common denominator.  Reading and writing/speaking and listening are skills that almost everyone can learn.  And words are specific; you can be almost sure that your message will come across to anyone who receives it if you've written it well (as opposed to a piece of visual art, or music, or dance; the general feelings may come across all right, but the specific reactions they elicit and images they evoke will often vary enormously from what the creator intended.  Notice that these kinds of things often have a written "artist's statement" to clarify the artist's intentions and/or to shape the viewer's interpretation.  And, yes, much writing is as obscure as any Pollock and can be interpreted and debated all sorts of ways; but words can attain a higher level of precision of expression than any other medium.  Long parenthetical.).  And we in our society expect that of each other.

J: . . .

E: But to write well, in the sense of clarity, one has to conform to the nature of language, i.e. streamline.  Focus.  Cut down on...well, on the sprouts (the bean sprouts; she wants a bean feast).  Otherwise, your writing comes out like that last sentence of mine, and you lose people.  You have to own the single dimensionality.

J: Right.

E: Except that it's wrong!  Because the idea, the truth, (the elephant!) is so much more than that!  Truth is at least two-dimensional, probably more--hence painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama--but when we try to capture it in anything like its entirety, the potential for explicit, certain understanding (slim as it ever was) goes away.  And isn't the point to be understood?

(?): Maybe it's okay for now, while we have to exist in a time-bound realm, to have to deal in its limitations.  We won't always be stuck with an imperfection (lack of wholeness).  Some day, some existence, we will have the capacity to see things as they are (see Moroni 7:48), and those who are with us will have a perfect understanding.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It hasn't been 21 days... It still counts, right?

Well, my dearest doge had her birthday just over a week ago.  And I really meant to make some awesome picture-type tribute to post on the day-of.  But then stuff happened, like illness and midterm millions, on top of the fact that I was having trouble thinking of something to draw that really felt right.

At the same time, My Mom and I had a little Winnie the Pooh revival where we read several of the original books by A. A. Milne.  As we read, the interactions between Pooh and Piglet kept reminding me of my interactions with Madeleine--not that I see her as one and myself as the other, but the dynamic between the two really struck a chord with me.

So I typed up a few excerpts from some of the books to share with her and anyone else who may read this.  It's not really what I expected to do for her birthday, but...

'But it isn't Easy,' said Pooh to himself. . .  'Because Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you.  And all you can do is to go where they can find you.'
Eeyore Finds the Wolery

...but this is what found me.  It, in all its probable illegality, is dedicated to you, my doge.

Half-way between Pooh's house and Piglet's house was a Thoughtful Spot where they met sometimes when they had decided to go and see each other, and as it was warm and out of the wind they would sit down there for a little and wonder what they would do now that they had seen each other.
Piglet Does a Very Grand Thing

'[It's] a special Outdoor Song which Has To Be Sung in the Snow.'
'Are you sure?' asked Piglet anxiously.
'Well, you'll see, Piglet, when you listen.  Because this is how it begins.  The more it snows, tiddely pom--'
'Tiddely what?' said Piglet.
'Pom,' said Pooh.  'I put that in to make it more hummy.  The more it goes, tiddely pom, the more--'
'Didn't you say snows?'
'Yes, but that was before.'
'Before the tiddely pom?'
'It was a different tiddely pom,' said Pooh, feeling rather muddled now.  'I'll sing it to you properly and then you'll see.'
. . .
He sang it like that, which is much the best way of singing it, and when he had finished, he waited for Piglet to say that, of all the Outdoor Hums for Snowy Weather he had ever heard, this was the best.  And, after thinking the matter out carefully, Piglet said:
'Pooh,' he said solemnly, 'it isn't the toes so much as the ears.'
A House Is Built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore

'Oh!' cried Christopher Robin, wondering whether to laugh or what.
'Just the house for Owl.  Don't you think so, little Piglet?'
And then Piglet did a Noble Thing, and he did it in a sort of dream, while he was thinking of all the wonderful words Pooh had hummed about him.
'Yes, it's just the house for Owl,' he said grandly.  'And I hope he'll be very happy in it.'  And then he gulped twice, because he had been very happy in it himself.
'What do you think, Christopher Robin?' asked Eeyore a little anxiously, feeling that something wasn't quite right.
Christopher Robin had a question to ask first, and he was wondering how to ask it.
'Well,' he said at last, 'it's a very nice house, and if your own house is blown down, you must go somewhere else, mustn't you, Piglet?  What would you do, if your house was blown down?'
Before Piglet could think, Pooh answered for him.
'He'd come and live with me,' said Pooh, 'wouldn't you, Piglet?'
Piglet squeezed his paw.
'Thank you, Pooh,' he said, 'I should love to.'
Eeyore Finds the Wolery 

Love dew.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Join the Empire!

The following is a short essay that I wrote for my first psychological statistics exam.  I was pretty happy with it, so I figured I'd subject all of you to my limited knowledge on this subject, as well.

This was a picture I drew on the back of my test.
It sort of makes more sense in context of some of
the earlier questions.

Let's talk about empiricism, which is learning through observation.  With empiricism, we are limited to studying what we can perceive through our physical senses.  So, when we get bored of measuring the grams of nickel in an asteroid and want to move on to much more interesting things (humans), we run into an issue: humans are what they are because of complex phenomena that psychologists term constructs--things such as love, anxiety, and aggression.  In order to empirically study these grand (and yet very real) abstract constructs, psychologists must resort to operational definitions of these constructs: defining them by observable behaviors for the purpose of the study (for example, the measure of anxiety could be the number of times a subject bangs his head against the wall).

The main problem with operational definitions is that they can never quite capture the entirety of the construct.  A man can give a woman flowers, chocolate, hugs, kisses, rides to the grocery store, and still not love her; conversely, a man might do none of these things for a woman and still be completely devoted to her.  There are many intangibles--things below [edit: or above] the observable surface of life and its workings--that empiricism must, by definition, leave out of its way of studying the world.  Anything that cannot be captured by a merely physical description nor be replicated cannot be studied empirically.  The Prophet Joseph Smith's first vision of God the Father and the Son, for example, cannot be reproduced on command for observation; yet Joseph and thousands or millions of others insist that they know it happened.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ladies 2

Only this one is more for the ladies: the latest addition to our Ladees Mans Wall
Scarrow is one dashing fella.  Yes, Strong Bad is also a Ladees Man.

Contributed by my doge, who is awesome.  And she makes awesome art.  Check out her stuff here!
Also, here are the letters that accompanied the poster:


Here are some ladies that I've drawn in the last couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How is your Highness getting on with your Highness's roller-skating?

You know what's really frustrating?

Knowing that someone is in pain while you are in pain yourself.
Hearing the other's cries and wondering if he catches the echoes of your own.
Wanting to console and be consoled, but being held in check
by the (not unwarranted) fear that breaking the silence
will harm more than it will heal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Let's go meet the pansies!

Look!  Under the tutelage of a more-experienced friend, I tried to use pastels!  This drawing might have made more sense if I'd put the stem in.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't worry

I don't scar very well, it turns out.  Last night at work, I managed to acquire some pretty cool-looking burn marks from some hot metal stuff, and today they're all but invisible.  Ah, well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some reflections on The Obvious

So, in my History of Psychology class ("Hist-o-psych," I like to call it), we've been discussing various levels or ways of knowing.  The most superficial (relatively speaking, of course) is explaining, which deals with facts, objectivity, knowledge based on/established in sensory experience, and such. 

The next level is meaning, which often involves existentialism (also nihilism, but we won't go there today)--but basically, it's where you draw or make your own meanings for things/people/events/life, regardless of the facts, because sometimes the facts leave you with nothing to live for.

Finally, we come to relational knowing, which is...about relationships.  This is something that's difficult to discuss, because this kind of knowledge cannot be shared with others; it only comes through experience with the other: learning that person--or rather, coming to know in the way of conna├«tre, as opposed to savoir (the same principle happens in Spanish, and German, and Tagalog, and many other languages).  And when we try to give this kind of knowledge expression, we inevitably fall back on meaning and explanation, because that's all we can do.

And that's where I got distracted thinking about the poem of my previous post.  It seems that we might fall back on explanation and meaning not only to express our relational knowledge to others, but also to reassure ourselves that our relational knowledge is still there.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A horse (I mean, a poem) with no name

The title of this post has little or nothing to do with the upcoming poem, but I rather like the song by America. Seelenluft also did a nice cover of it in 2007, if you're into electronica. I am, apparently.

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's amazing

that this applies in so many different situations. Thanks to Ryan Woodward for sharing this inspired piece of work.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meanwhile, a floating missionary!

This is the illustration for a birthday letter I just composed. I was rather pleased with how it turned out (at least, the missionary part), especially considering I had very limited reference. It's hard to get someone to pose in the air like that for very long.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Road Not Taken

He came upon me suddenly, and we both paused
that morning in the yellow wood. Perplexed, he faltered
between me and the other road he'd been traveling.
(Until that moment, I didn't even know we converged, she and I.)

For a heartbeat in eternity, he leaned into me—
watching dust motes swim in the sunlight,
hearing birdsong flutter among my branches,
even putting one foot forward on my rustling, leafy pavement—
then he drew back. I could hardly blame him;
I didn't know where I would lead him
any better than he—it's different with every traveler.

Yet I wanted so to see where we might go together;
my grasses would bloom beneath his gentle step.
But a path cannot draw any traveler on
against his will. I could only beckon
with birdsong and sunlight dancing with shadow
while he swayed at our convergence.

The yellow leaves trembled. A single maple wing
spiraled to the ground as he sighed
and started again down the other path.

And still I ache with the absence
of his gentle tread. My grasses may wilt with wondering,
If he had chosen differently—? but, no.

Two roads converged in a wood, she and I,
And he took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

EYN August 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

First off

coming up with a title for this blog was rather difficult.

I wasn't sure who-all would actually know about and view it, and I worried about the various meanings that various people might read into it. However, there wasn't really much I could do about that.

I could control what meanings I read into it, though, and that made me even more uncomfortable. After all, creating this blog was sort of a spur-of-the-moment thing, sort of like getting a tattoo on little sleep and/or in an emotional crisis. What if I chose a title that held deep symbolic significance to me now, only to forget why it mattered a few weeks later? To avoid that, I could always choose something facetious, but that would merely be embarrassing right away.

In the end, I realized that there was really no way of predicting my schema of personal symbols in the future, so I would have to pick something that reflected me right now. Yay being forced to live in the moment. I chose a title that is hopefully solid enough for me and nebulous enough for my readers to keep the nature of this blog flexible (going back to the tattoo analogy: if no one can tell what it is to begin with, it won't look as bad when I start wrinkling and the image gets all warped and saggy).

So, get ready for a piecemeal construct that is a representation of my mind. Perhaps something beautiful will come of it.