People to Listen, People to Learn

Published May 29, 2015 by Jess Arwen

One of the reasons that I started this blog, admittedly, was to find a community of people who would listen to my thoughts.  Apparently, when this all started, I wasn’t feeling as appreciated at home, but this wasn’t their fault.  In fact, much of this fault lies with me.  Yet, now that this community and other writing communities have adopted me, I feel doubly loved.  That must have to do a bit with growing up.

Over the past few years especially, I’ve watched my closest friends since kindergarten do a lot of growing up, so I must have done some growing as of late.  Teachers always told me that the growth from high school to college was the greatest of all growth in life, but I argue that more growth occurs while in college, mostly in the junior and senior years.  These are the years when you realize you can ride on your parents’ coat-tails no longer, and you must finally adopt yourself and take care of yourself.

To this end, you realize how much you appreciate others’ kindness, and you begin to push the nastiness of earlier years out the door.  This is not to say that all adults are the most mature and civil people, but perhaps more than their college selves.

When I was a wee freshman in college, my now boyfriend was a senior, and there was one time I left my favourite mug in a friend’s room before leaving.  Since my boyfriend lived next door, he was kind enough to rescue my mug, and when he returned it, it was all clean and wrapped in plastic bags for safety.  When I told my dad that, he exclaimed, “How domestic!” for a college student to be so thoughtful.  I replied that my boyfriend was a senior, and my dad said that explains it.

As a freshman, I thought that was hilarious, but as I’ve approached my senior year, I see more clearly how true it is.  Another friend of mine had a tough time just trying to keep up with her classes.  She was not motivated in any sense, so our little group had to push her.  Yet now, we no longer push her, and she’s the one cheering us all on.  It’s amazing how much happens in college.

For me, I think I have learned to let little things go a little more.  The world is not out to get me, and my friends really are there for me, if I let them.  There’s the stinger: you have to let people be there for you; else, of course you’ll feel pretty lonely.  Now, at least, since I’ve learned that, I feel so loved in real life and in these online communities.  I am so blessed to have friends who have stuck with me for so long, even when I pushed them away.

This is a long way of saying that we all grow up.  People listen, and people learn.

Anyone else have any similar experiences?

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Focus and Immediacy

Published May 23, 2015 by Jess Arwen

Focus.  It’s one of those skills that is jumping out the window with every new technology.  Our era has trouble doing work on the computer without a plethora of open tabs, beckoning us to check our social media lives, to change the music in the background, to watch more of those funny cat videos.  It’s amazing how well we multi-task.  Sometimes, it’s just better to focus though.

I like to devote my entire self to one task.  The task grows more enjoyable the more attention I pay it, and I become a time wizard.  When you focus solely on one idea with all your energies, the time flies.  For example, if you enjoy reading, you’ll get sucked into a book for hours, your friends and family concerned about where you went, but you don’t notice the time passing, for you’re focusing on the lives of characters so beautifully crafted by an artist whose words take you away from temporal troubles and place you in the immediate present.

If any of you philosophers are reading this, you’ll know that Soren Kierkegaard is all about art depicting what he calls “immediacy.”  His idea that art ought to transport you to a world where time ceases to exist is not a new one, for so many have discoursed on the effect good art has on the audience.  Good art demands all of your attention, and when it does, we should give it that attention.

Yet today, because of all of our distractions, we ignore the demands of good art and continue to half listen.  This is why we should read with zealous.  A good exercise is just to daily find something, even if it’s not art, and shut everything else out.  Some days, I’ll do something completely different.  I will go running without music and simply focus on the way my body reacts to the hills and turns, to the speed at which I pattern my feet.  Those runs actually feel like they go by faster than when I have music, for I have the tendency to count how many songs have passed and how many more I will likely hear before I hit my distance goal.

Another exercise is just to read anything and refuse to check the time.  Really entertaining books will draw you in easier than others, but no matter what you’re reading, don’t skip or skim, just read and lose yourself in that world.  You could paint, you could sing.  Practice an instrument.  Just do something, and put technology away.  Focus on immediacy.

Post inspired by The Daily Post’s The Zone.
Image from Visit Copenhagen.

What It Means to Be Human

Published May 22, 2015 by Jess Arwen

The best works of art conjure up every defining element of what it means to be human. From the honest, noble, and purely good parts of humanity, to the deceitful, ignoble, and utterly evil parts of humanity, the best artists express every shade of grey between black and white. Because the world has been full of great artists throughout history, there are many works that express true humanity, but one stands out as far as truly showing the dark sides that give way to light.
Crime and Punishment
In Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky shows the consequences of a man who thinks himself above the law and above petty morality.  This man, Raskolnikov, grows mentally ill, wrestling with the demons he created to plague himself.  In the end, however, there is hope in the character of Sonya, who also is not the most moral person.  A prostitute by need and not choice, she grants Raskolnikov the opportunity for redemption.  She shows him that even those in less moral careers can be the light in dark places.  Together, they read the Bible, which is not a shout-out to make this a Christian post by any means, and this draws Raskolnikov out from his dark place.

If a stranger to humanity were to find what it means to be human, he would find it in this story.  Dostoevsky also provided me with one of the first books read in high school that I actually loved and potentially led me into my Literature major.  Perhaps due to his blatant Russian-ness does he so accurately depict the entire spectrum of the light and dark parts of the human heart, or perhaps he simply sees the world as it is, regardless of his geographical placement.

In any case, I highly recommend Crime and Punishment to any one who would like to better understand what it means to be human.  In an ongoing quest to truly express humanity, I would also recommend the following titles: A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens), The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne), The Odyssey (Homer), Till We Have Faces (C.S. Lewis), Small Gods (Terry Pratchett), and anything by Elie Wiesel.

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt,  Worldly Encounters.

Of Quirks and Quarks

Published February 11, 2015 by Jess Arwen
Inspired by the Daily Prompt First Light , “Remember when you wrote down the first thought you had this morning? Great. Now write a post about it.”

Quirk

noun \ˈkwərk\
: an unusual habit or way of behaving
: something strange that happens by chance

Quark
noun \ˈkwrk, ˈkwärk\
physics : any one of several types of very small particles that make up matter

This morning, one of my first thoughts revolved around Terry Pratchett’s Discworld collection of satirical fiction.  Since my boyfriend introduced me to his hilarious and out-of-the-box perspective on life, I’ve devoured every book I could get my hands on.  My dad and I discussed Pratchett’s way of creating sense from nonsense.  Now you know one of my quirks.  In order to tie this back to quarks, you must first meet my closest friends.

Shawn– he’s the comic book master of our group.  He always wears either Captain America or Green Arrow paraphernalia as they are his favourites from Marvel and DC respectively.  Shawn also enjoys most science-fiction movies and television, such as Star Wars, Star Trek (all of them from the original series, to Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, as well as the movies), Stargate (all series and movies), Eureka, Doctor Who, the list goes on.  This is obviously a quirk we share.

Kate– she enjoys the Marvel and DC movies and comics, like Shawn.  Kate is also a brilliant Psychology major and could tell you anything you wanted to know about that.  She finds Criminal Justice fascinating, so she is an expert on most of the Criminal/Detective television series.  She and Shawn typically watch them together, but Kate is the ultimate expert.  I enjoy the same series, but not with as much gusto as them.

Luke– is a History and English double-major.  Thus, he knows about every war and the motivations that began each war, but he also is aware of the times of peace, since that is when most art develops, and literature in abundance.  I am also an English major, so we enjoy discussing the classics.  Then, when we’re together with everyone, we apply classical forms to analyse all our favourite television series, movies, comics, or anything else we find.

As you can see, we all have our own quirks, and these quirks brought us together to be the nerd herd that we have come to love so fondly.  In our group, these quirks set us apart from each other, but the quirks allow us to create a greater net of nerdy knowledge.  These quirks are our quarks.  While quarks are the pieces that comprise subatomic particles like protons and neurons, our quirks comprise parts of our personality that comprise part of us as a whole.

What quirks are your quarks?

Define Beauty

Published January 19, 2015 by Jess Arwen

A new year demands a new course-load, one of which for me is Nineteenth Century Literature: A Genealogy of Aestheticism.  Sounds intense, right?  It is.

Normally, first classes require reading through syllabi and discussing upcoming projects for the semester.  This necessitates a shorter class, but this was not actually the case.  Instead of doing the usual humdrum first week of class exercises, we made our first attempt at defining beauty.  We went around the room and each named something we find beautiful.  Many people said different ethnicities of children, others named their friends, and the rest said different natural landmarks.

Now, the question is, what makes each of these beautiful?  Is there some similarity between these?  Are there different types of beauty?

We later discussed how we sometimes find beauty in innocence, hence the children, but we also find beauty in things with deeper meaning, like great pieces of art that continue to teach us hundreds of years later.  This is the theme of the class, so we have not landed on a meaning of beauty yet.

But what about beauty?  What is something you find beautiful?

Madness is…

Published November 13, 2014 by Jess Arwen

Today’s Daily Prompt challenged us to write in ten minutes the first thing that came to mind, and (of course), the first thing to my mind was madness. For a personal creative project, I am trying to define “madness” poetically to include as a spoken part for a musical composition.  Emily Dickinson’s poem is of similar tone to what I am yearning to create:

Much madness is divinest sense To a discerning eye; Much sense the starkest madness. ‘Tis the majority In this, as all, prevails. Assent, and you are sane; Demur — you’re straightway dangerous, And handled with a chain.

Yet I am going for a more desperate and modern sound than Dickinson includes. While her poem is still extremely relevant to madness as it is seen today, I need something to fit the feelings of being trapped, of pure and overwhelming desperation. I am doing something with this post I’ve never done, asking for help and presenting a project before it’s done. I suppose this is madness as well, how fitting. “Madness, in its wild, untamable words, proclaims its own meaning; in its chimeras, it utters its secret truth.” Michel Foucault, Madness & Civilization This quote strongly suggests that wild and desperate plea I search for. I want madness to truly mean something, and since I am making art, I want it to mean something specific for each person. It should be a specific definition, but it should also be meaningful to everyone who comes across it. I researched scientific as well as etymological definitions of the word “madness,” and so far I have come up with: Madness is not characterized merely by violation of societal norms but also as moments of extreme clarity of things, unaffected by feelings or emotions. Instead, madness is characterized by the act of transcending society’s norms, by the act of transcending your own norms and instead discovering a land of intense emotions and thoughts that seem to tear your soul from your body. It is terrifying, but it is also enlightening, and these moments of fear become moments of clarity, for you discover who you are when you reach over the edge of madness and return. Of course, this project remains in the brainstorming section for now, but I am looking for input. You can only find so many quotes or accounts of madness on the internet without asking for help. To this end, dear readers, what is madness to you?

I Finally Recorded Something!

Published July 12, 2014 by Jess Arwen

I’ve had this blog for quite a while now, and I know for certain that I’ve discussed my love of music more than anything else on here, so it’s high time I shared something I’ve played with you all! Since this was my first time recording, it’s not the best quality, so please forgive the background noise. Also, I got a little excited at the end there to turn off the recorder, but overall I think it’s a fair first recording!

This is I giorni by Ludovico Einaudi. The title translated is “The Days,” which always remains relatable. I always picture the seasons passing when I hear or play it, and I frequently play it for the incoming freshman classes at my school, for they will be embarking on their journey of college life.

Anywhos, I hope you guys enjoy it! It’s one of my favourites!