04 November 2004

The long, miserable blog I wrote yesterday didn't post. I'm numb to write it again. The latin names of the 200+ plant and animal species I just learned for field biology are buzzing through my head in a meditative string. A bit of self-indlugent academic escapism: Martes americana, Taxus canadensis, Bufo americana, Fraxinus americana, Ursus americanus, Lepus americana, Acer pennsylvanicum, Lontra canadensis, Antilocarpa americana. On second thought, this situation is inescapable. Inescapable and I'm heartbroken.

John Stewart Mill On Liberty is my assigned reading for the evening. It's terribly relevant and is helping greatly with my understanding of where we went so wrong. Right now I'm having a hard time moving past my idea for a secular humanist (not entirely pleased with that label) missionary movement to that great reddness in the middle of the country.

The furthest I've come in understanding is a deep seated problem with our infusion of morality into government and politics. This stems from a breakdown in our education system, where we are not educated about the philosophy upon which our system of government was founded: where we have a government to protect people from “being preyed upon by innumerable vultures," as Mill says, but the government is limited in the extent to which it may interfere with a person's Liberty, capital "L". A government where we are protected from the tyranny of the majority in issues of personal preference for self-regarding behaviour (Who I sleep with, who I choose to spend my life with, what I decide to do with my body.)

And in some ways we have a tyranny of the minority. Fundamentally, my life isn't going to be all that different. My value system might be undermined, ignored, even legistlated against, but you and I will have the necessities of life and will keep on humming. But millions of people around the world are going to be affected by the decisions of an administration that the overwhelming majority of global citizens don't favor.

I've had a headache for the last two days straight, and I never get headaches. A strange tightness around my chest. It's going to be a long four years.

(Note: This is my negative, despairing entry. I'm not yet to the point where I can be excited about a new era of progressive, grassroots citizenry. I'm indelibly optimistic and i'll get there. Mourn, analyze, then Move-On.)

01 November 2004

And how did I get through a whole discussion of the proper way to value friendships (28 October 04) without talking about virtue? That elusive word that needs a 5-7 page paper written about it in relation to Groundhog Day by tomorrow at 10:10 AM. No more abusing this space as a tool of procrastination

Jackie Stluka is putting on an art show in the Tjaden experimental gallery, Tjaden hall, Cornell University. She's a sophomore in college and her art is incredible. I especially love the pieces she's done with her journals. Actually, almost all of her art grows out of what is first put in her journals.

She keeps the most beautiful journals of anyone I've met. I first saw them on a backpacking trip in the Adirondacks this summer. There are words and doodles, pictures, portraits, and collages blended together among the pages. Watercolor, oil, fabric, charcoal, ink: all mediums blending words with artistic representation and abstraction.

She's taken photocopies of pages from her journals, painted over them to edit and embellish, and hung them as a sets next to the displayed journals in their entirety. I'm jealous because I feel like my journals of black and blue ink will never be as beautiful or magnificent, or as significant. (Though my artistic creations: letters, stories, philosphies, and poems, have all, in some way, come from the pages of my journals.)

Jackie is able to extract slivers of her life, put them on a page, and have them come to life, express emotion; and one doesn't even need to read the words on the page. It's interesting that in her editing of the journal pages she's actually covered some of the words, layered them with fabric, tape, and paint. As if to diminish the significance of the words. It sounded like she just artistically didn't like the look of them, but I wan't to talk to her more about that. Was it a way of hiding some of herself?

I think written word is so beautiful and Jackie has very beautiful handwriting on top of that. I would have left the words as they were. (But that harkens back to my trouble with erasing any written phrase, even given the infinite creativity of language. Why does losing just a small phrase sometimes seem like such an irrecoverable loss?)

It seems like her life is better represented (truer, perhaps?) in art rather than in words. She has said that she feels better able to capture her creative impulses in abstract art, rather than in concrete and recognizable images. Is this difference in the creation of art parallel to the difference between poets and fiction writers? Does one rely more heavily on form (poets and abstract artists) where another relies more heavily on conveying experiences through shared and recognizable forms and emotions.

I recently read an article on the role of literature in moral philosphy. It basically said that stories - told orally, read, depicted in film, etc. - teach us about moral philosphy by drawing on our ability to empathize, on our compassionate natures. (And our ability to empathize is so interesting from an evolutionary standpoint, but that's a digression for another day.)

Can art also tell a story? And if yes (it seems yes?) then can art play a role in moral philosophy? It's undeniable that art can evoke emotion, but can you have character development in a static piece? Without character development can any statement be made about morality?

So: Jackie's Art. It'll give you lots to think about and it's up until Saturday afternoon; check it out!

A dream:

Mac is the democratic presidential candidate, and it's days before the election. He's travelling on his campaign bus, filled with reporters and friends. I was trying to make my way to the back of the bus where he sat calmly and regally to kiss him on the cheek and tell him he's the sexiest politician alive. Reporters with papers and microphones and shouted questions and got in the way, and when I finally reached him he'd morphed into John Kerry, and I couldn't kiss him because it was bad for publicity. I sat down in a seat several rows away, and a reporter asked me if the campaign was hard on our relationship. I said yes, but that it was a sacrifice we were willing to make, that we had to make, for the world. Then I realized I couldn't marry a man 40 years older than me, even if he is the president, and I woke up.