(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Heart Doodle

I keep returning to this little heart doodle. I scribbled it on myself with henna several weeks ago and now I'm finding I can't let it go, or perhaps it won't let me go. 

While writing a letter to my friend Andy, I really looked at it and considered all the elements of this seemingly random doodle.

The inner part is clearly infinity. Only it's not ∞ infinity, it's broken. It's infinity opened. The "ends" are snapped and curled into spirals. And It's not opened just anywhere, it's opened within a heart.

The heart is clearly representative of the spirit heart. And what do we have coming from this opened heart? We have squiggly lines and dots radiating outward. They're like real veins and arteries from a heart, but they're also like light. The squiggly lines like waves and the dots like particles. Who says I never learned anything from physics.

So this heart that has been opened by the divine (for what else can count or change the infinite?) radiates light. But not just any old way, the overall structure is that of a cross or of a crossroads, the lines radiate at four distinct points, which is pretty standard symbolism for opportunities and change.

I wonder if perhaps this heart is supposed to represent me, but my first instinct is to reject that kind of egotistical thinking. But if it is me, can I live up to that? I suppose I want to, I want the light in my heart to create change. I want to act as a medium for something greater. I guess we'll see, and maybe, maybe this will serve as my reminder of what to strive for.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Fairy Tale Sermons: Monkey King and the Five Pillars

From Lucifer Issue 75

The Monkey King is your classic trickster god-fool, resident of China. As a hero, he entertained the masses, but to the gods, and especially the Jade Emperor, ruler of heaven, he was nothing but trouble.

Perhaps the best known telling of his adventures comes from Wu Cheng'en's 16th century epic, Journey to the West.

As the story goes, the Jade Emperor with all his armies and powerful generals was not able to placate the passionate and ambitions Monkey and so, reaching higher even than powers of the kingdom of heaven, sought the help of the Enlightened.

Buddha met with Monkey at the gates to the heavenly palace, where he waited admittance to the halls of the gods as an equal. Catching the interloper in his hand, he issued a challenge. If you can jump out of my hand, you can claim right to the throne of the Jade Emperor.

Unable to resist the temptation of such an offer, Monkey leaped and twirled through the air, flying on a cloud as he'd learned from a Taoist monk, flying far, flying wide, flying to the ends of the very Universe. He flew until he came upon five great pillars that held up the sky itself.

Proud Monkey thought to himself, aha, I have surely won this bet, but to be sure, I shall leave my mark upon these pillars. So we find the mythological Chinese equivalent of "Monkey was here" graffiti tagged on the middle pillar. And to further prove his point, Monkey pissed at the base of the first pillar.

Then he returned to Buddha, boasting of his great achievement, of how far he'd gone, but Buddha informed him he had never left the Buddha's hand. Shocked and angry, Monkey King could only look on as Buddha raised his hand and there, inscribed on his middle finger was Monkey's handwriting and the faint but clear smell of urine from the base of his smallest finger.

Now, of course Monkey protested. He screamed and raged and was just about to jump and flee when Buddha pushed him out of the Gate of Heaven and he fell all the way down to earth. Buddha then changed his fingers into the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. These became a five-peaked mountain that trapped Monkey, holding all but his upper half with its weight.  Struggle as he may, Monkey King was not able to move.

Returning to the heavenly palace, Buddha told the Jade Emperor that Monkey King was well and truly taken care of and that he would remain trapped beneath the mountain for some hundreds of years until he had truly learned humility, whereby a travelling monk would come and unleash him.

Hubris, ladies and gentlemen, was a common theme amongst all the pantheons. Some upstart immortal (or mortal) would challenge the god/s with per feats of creativity or strength that were so beyond any other mortal man and boast of their achievements until it was heard all the way up in heaven. And inevitably they rain down with their subtle tricks or angry fire and they punish you.

In many ways, it's a commentary on social mobility. You do not rise above your station. A shepherd does not become a king. A spider does not become the creator. Dwarves do not stand with giants. Not unless it has been ordained by the gods, not unless you have truly earned it.

But what is it to be humble? What is modesty? Both of these prerequisite a conscious acknowledgement of one's own shortcomings, an acceptance of faults and station. Where humble denotes the absence of pride, modesty is the absence of pretension and boastfulness.

But like Desire's fickle relationship to Enlightenment, these are not things to strive for because in a way, to strive for them, to seek to be more humble and modest for humility and modesty's sake defeats the purpose. So then, what is one to do?

To seek modesty and humility is to self-deprecate almost to the point of losing self-respect. It is the inverse of pride and boastfulness to a fault. Rather than seeing how great you are, you project how horrible you are, how low you are. It's groveling at the feet of nobody.

While Monkey represents one extreme, the base, earthly desire, and Buddha clearly the opposite, the most divine, we as people stand somewhere in-between. Freud recognized some good tropes floating around when he talked about the id, ego and superego.

But as any good literary critic could tell you, even with the superseding ego to balance the two polar extremes, this still  reinforces the binary system. If you have two things that are opposite, adding a third between them does not remove them, it does not displace them. It provides a fulcrum from which to balance them, a match point where they can coexist, but they are still separate.

It seems, always, that to unite two opposites will result in annihilation. What I see in this is the existence of not two, but one. Opposites are the same thing in that they require the other to define themselves. It is this modality that makes them so hard to see. Take for instance that memorable scene from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing where the universal force of darkness faces the universal force of light and rather than an explosion that destroys the universe, they instead shake hands and seem to come to an agreement.

Yin and Yang, the opposing intertwined. This is why Buddha doesn't kill Monkey King. Monkey King cannot be killed because his function as opposite of heaven is vital, but also because there is possibility for change. One can be more humble, more modest, but it isn't a matter of seeking to be so as much as it is a matter of simply being so.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pied Piper

If you look closely, there's a Racheloons
lurking in the background.
Oh Hamelin town, suffering of a folly of your own creation. You have to pay the piper, for he is a vengeful traveler. Broken hospitality to the wayward wanderer bodes ill for your already feeble reputation. He will take your children, but who is really playing the pipe? Take that and smoke it.

Who betrances us so unwilling that we would walk and wander a-way without cause or care?

This way, that way, here-a-ways and there-a-ways; it does not matter. Like the checked cloth we call the pied, they are all the same. Nothing is new but that in the now because there will always be a future that looks at this past.

Echoes of his melody ripple like Eros' missed targets on the Naiads' pool. He has the Sirens' song captured.

Moths to the flame we pound our heads on the wall in time to his 6/8 beat.

Even you, village elders, swoon to his haunting, tempted and taunted.

I'm not going to be enchanting anyone with my pipe playing, not by a long shot, but earlier this summer I made an intention to learn an instrument. I am determined to hold myself to that intention.

The next obvious question was what kind of instrument should I try to learn? I'm poor and essentially alone for most of this summer, I needed something simple and cheap that I could teach myself. Autodidactism FTW!

Then, in the same conversation with my friend Jonathan where he offered to teach me guitar should I acquire one, I realized exactly what I should learn to play: the pipe, tin whistle, penny whistle. I've always had a fascination with the story of Hamelin, and the song by Seattle band, the Senate, hasn't helped with that either.

So I dug up the little, bamboo pipe my aunt bought me in Thailand (Vietnam?), found some fingering charts and melodies online, and proceeded to start playing. I'm a little squeaky and I have trouble with the higher notes, but I'm determined.

Gratuitious butt shot!
It's helpful that I don’t drive and chose an instrument that's easily portable.

While I'm walking, I find myself playing simple scales, trying to play, from memory, whatever tunes I can remember. Hot cross buns and the intro lines to Disney's Part of Your World.

I'm not going to be performing with this. It's not about that. Learning an instrument is an exercise in self-improvement and self-discipline. How long can I keep this up? Can I really devote myself to becoming good at this? I want to. And even if I don't, I'm not proving myself to anyone else. This is all about me.

It's funny, too that I find myself gesturing and gesticulating wildly with pipe in hand. It becomes an extension of my hand, almost like a magic wand. I laugh at myself, but secretly pretend it is a magic wand disguised as a musical instrument.

I can have fun with this.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's been a while since I've blogged something mundane.

I'm making shrimp quesadillas for dinner tonight.

They should be delicious with a little bit of oregano mixed in with the cheese. Perhaps I'll hazard an attempt at a few homemade tortillas while I'm at it.

I'll edit this post with pictures later.


The more I learn about postmodernism, the more of an acrid aftertaste it leaves in my mouth. I guess my biggest problem with much of this postmodern progression is how very egocentric it is. Me me me. I want, need, think, feel. It is not ignorant of this, the postmodern Self knows exactly what neurosis and idiosyncrasies plague it, and this makes it jaded.

It would be a lie to call this calling out purely observational, hypo-critical even if I did not include mySelf among the masses I have a problem with. Despite my distaste of postmodernism, I revel in it. These explorations of thought: radical feminist, deconstructionist, Marxist, post colonial, et al. are the academic waters in which I swim. The ocean has lost its salt and I have a hard time seeing the humanity in these humanities.

Jaded in this academia, disillusioned by the yo-yo movements of what it means simply to exist (see Martin Heidegger's Being and Time or any offshoot related work for how complicated that can get) it seems like they forget to exist. Action versus Intention, Cause vs. Effect, I'm not advocating this. To exist with no thought, to act with no consideration of the consequences is irresponsible, but so too is the converse.

It's a balancing act. 

But that's classic me.

"ace you have a formula for answering questions and it kinda bugs me the 'well lets think about it intelligently and use logic while respecting difference."

Reading that hurt, but I refuse to be offended by Cody's comment because it's true. I wouldn't be me if I didn't answer questions like that. If it makes me boring, makes me predictable, makes me infuriatingly passive, rational, what-the-hell-ever, so be it. I'm being the me I choose to be. I could have answered the original question (should I migrate to twitter) with a straight up no, but where's the fun in that?

To give my opinion as such is pseudo-altruistic. Pseudo because it is my opinion, but still somewhat altruistic in that it tries to provide something beyond that opinion. It allows for the possibility of other options.

This whole post is "respecting differences." I cannot simply dismiss something just because I disagree with it. I can't even make myself want to without first considering it as fully as I can.

I've talked a lot with theLittleBirdChelsea about introversion/extroversion in the last few weeks. ChelseaDagger and quite a few of our mutual friends are introverts. I'm very clearly an extrovert. It's a fundamental difference that I feel leaves me at a disadvantage since I cannot identify with certain thought processes and facets of what it means to be an introvert.

It's too incompatible for my sense of empathy to process. It is other not in the Heideggerian sense, the inclusive other, so much as the Sarterian reference. I am the exclusively excluded other from the introvert paradigm, and it is a symptom of society that this results in the ostracism of introverts unless they are willing to adapt and conform to a predominantly extroverted society.

At one point, in one of my conversations with Chelsea, I mentioned how in retrospect, I'm very clearly drawn to introverted personalities because -- and I think this is the exact wording I used -- as an extrovert, I can help bring them out of themselves. She went on to comment about how this is a common misconception and that most introverts don't actually need to be brought out and indeed, putting them in social situations where they're surrounded by people actually can cause them a lot of stress.

Much as I love her, I really just wanted to tell Chelsea to shut up right then. Ego time! I wasn't talking about socially. The way she was talking about the dynamic, I might as well have told her that introverts are broken and as an extrovert I can fix them. No.

As an extrovert with a desire to be more empathetic and therefore open to listening and attempting to understand the other side, whether I can or not remains to be seen, I have the ability to provide the kind of balanced social interaction that would not be overwhelming more so than general company. I am an outlet and a catalyst, a doorway that always remains open. I pressure you in that I am a presence you cannot forget or ignore. I include you only as far as you want to be included and resist the kind of pressures that make the introvert feel like there is no choice.

Put another way, I can act as a buffer. You can be yourself around me and I can bring that self with me. In short: Use me.

This life isn't about me. I don't want it to be about me. Screw ego. Screw "me/I." But to do this, to move beyond this ego, I need to create or perhaps recreate myself  as something, as someone that is beyond ego, that is altruistic: marked by selflessness.

But as my friend JoeJack would probably say, "That isn't real though. That's false altruism. It's another damn performance, another role you make for yourself, it's not the real you."

I am whatever the hell I want to be and anyone who tells me differently can shove it. If you care, if you want it, if you have a genuine, sincere, authentic heart behind whatever you project to the world, that is what you are.  Because that is what you make it, and it is what others perceive. Identity is not static. Who I am changes, so why can't I choose how it changes?

I fill these roles. Constantly I fill them and I shift from one to another to another. Seamlessly so that you would not notice the difference. Why aren't they who I am? Why aren't they a part of what makes me me? No one else fills the roles I do the way I do. Exist, let yourself exist. You're filling roles, you're always filling roles and you can't always change that, you can't always break out of those roles. I understand this.

To change roles has consequences. That's another thing Chelsea and I talked about. The consequences sometimes remove your choice or ability to change roles. As Chelsea stressed to me, for the introvert, to exist outside of your role is to ostracize yourself because unlike the extrovert, you cannot relate to people outside these roles that form around you and that kind of exclusion is tantamount to death. It feels like the world is attacking you.

I understand and disagree with this. Change has nuances and options, always. You can't change the way you think, not on the fundamental level, not in a way that will keep an introvert from being paralyzed by the consequences and locking them into the role they fill. But there is still the possibility for change. It just has to be subtle and there have to exist the kinds of supports that will remind and reassure you that the consequences will be dealt with.

Saying this is easy, but to put it into action is hard. Instead of changing yourself, your role, this requires changing the circumstances that put you in that role. And it's just as big, just as painful. It's constant, because change is constant but it is possible. You have to act where you do feel like you have control.  You have to ask for help.

I wonder if I could make those kinds of changes. Somehow I don't think so. But I also think that to an extent, I am those kinds of changes, they are constant, they themselves are changing and I am integrated. I adjust, I react, I don't need to make those kinds of changes because I don't feel that conflict. I'm not threatened by the consequences because by the time I notice them, I'm already taking action for them.

This is me existing, taking them in stride. This is me reaching out and offering my help. This is what postmodernism needs. From one self to another, Acelessthan3 at your service.