Tag Archives: psychology

G- Vincent Van Gogh…A-Z Challenge.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

As you may recall, my theme for the 2018 A-Z Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists. Today, we’re off to catch up with Vincent Van Gogh, the “Painter of Sunflowers”, who is equally well-known for his Starry Night and many other iconic works. I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that Vincent Van Gogh somehow opened Blake’s “doors of perception” and possibly even saw a glimpse of something in between Heaven and Earth. He was indeed a visionary genius.

If you are interested in some musical accompaniment, here’s Don McLean’s Starry Starry Night

It’s no secret that “Vincent The Man” was more beautiful, intricate and complex than any of his paintings. While his self-portraits barely scratch the surface, the inner man is best revealed through his letters to his beloved brother, Theo, an art dealer who financed his entire artistic enterprise. Indeed, these letters are considered masterpieces in their own right.

“But what is to be done? It is unfortunately complicated by lots of things, my pictures are valueless, they cost me, it is true, an extraordinary amount, even in blood and brains at times perhaps. I won’t harp on it, and what am I to say to you about it?[1]

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh  Arles, 17 January 1889

Yet, it is also well-known that Vincent Van Gogh had a tortured existence. That, despite the vibrant colours almost glowing in his later works, he experienced extreme hardship, failure and rejection most of his life. Indeed, he only sold one painting in his life time. That’s hard going. So, you could say that all these failures added up and that these, combined with his psychological troubles, caused him to cut off his ear and ultimately commit suicide.

Or, so the story goes…

Meeting Vincent

Trying to remember when I first “discovered” Vincent, is like trying to track down the origins of a dream. There are endless stars and nebulae with no beginning. His paintings expressed an anguish, an inner-chaos which I couldn’t put into words. You see, I spent the first 28 years of my life living with undiagnosed, untreated hydrocephalus, which I jokingly call: “a harbour in my head”. In the year leading up to surgery, I experienced a myriad of bizarre neurological symptoms. So, you could almost say those swirls in Starry Night, had moved inside head. Indeed, my head was like a pressure-cooker about to explode. So, it’s no wonder Vincent made sense and somehow he cast a light out of the darkness. Indeed, it was the light of a thousand stars.

In April 1992, my best friend and I touched down in Amstersdam. I was a 22 year old Australian backpacker, and I’d just finished my university studies. It was an exhilarating time. My cocooned world of intensive study had sprung open, and I’d flown to the other side of the world. You can’t get much more liberated than that, and being in Europe for the very first time, was incredible. It blew me away.

In those early days, we not only visited the Anne Frank House, but we also went to the Van Gogh Museum. It was there, seeing Van Gogh’s paintings in the flesh, that Vincent suddenly came to life with the force of a thousand stars. That was now over 25 years ago, so much of the detail has faded. Yet, I still vividly remember how his paintings came to life. Indeed, I could swear they were moving. You know, the irises, the sunflowers… The whole experience blew my mind.

A few months later, I even visited his house…The Maison de Van Gogh in Cuesmes, Belgium near Mons. This was where Van Gogh worked as an itinerant preacher. That was yet another mind-blowing Vincent experience.

Vincent and I were growing closer…

Starry Night MOMA

Vincent Van Gogh “Starry Night”, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

His Paintings

When it comes to Vincent’s works, I find it hard to pick a favourite. Of course, there’s Starry Night, but I also love his Sunflower series. I love sunflowers, but when you hear that the Amsterdam Sunflower contains 32 different tones of yellow, you’ve got to respect the mind-boggling genius of the man, and his sensitive attentive to detail. As a cafe lover, I adore Cafe Terrace At Night 1888.

After immersing myself in all things Vincent for the last couple of weeks, I’ve also been struck by an intriguing pair of paintings: Vincent’s Chair With His Pipe (1888) (left) and Gauguin’s Armchair (1888). The two chairs are like chalk and cheese and were painted while Gauguin stayed with Vincent at the Yellow House in Arles. Vincent’s chair was comparatively simple and painted in daylight. On the other hand, Gauguin’s chair was much more sophisticated, and it was painted at night. Van Gogh seemingly hero-worshipped Gauguin and bent over backwards to prepare the Yellow House for his arrival. This included painting the first of the two sunflower paintings to decorate the walls. He also had furniture made and asked Theo to help Gauguin out of his financial woes . However, their friendship became rather tempestuous. During a heated argument, Van Gogh cut off his ear and Gauguin returned to Paris.  The breakdown in their friendship must’ve devastated Vincent.

Van Gogh’s Last Days

Unfortunately, no discussion of Vincent Van Gogh is complete without addressing the psychological/psychiatric struggles which plagued him towards the end of his life. These, as you may well be aware, culminated in him cutting off his ear and ultimately committing suicide by shooting himself in the stomach. He died two days later.

Vincent was only 37 years old.

If you are a lover of Van Gogh’s and are particularly interested in his last days, I strongly recommend you see the movie: Loving Vincent. It’s now available on DVD. They have animated hundreds of his paintings in the movie, and also question whether he actually took his own life.

So, without any further ado, here’s my letter to Vincent Van Gogh:

Maldives Postage Stamps

Letter to Vincent Van Gogh

Dear Vincent,

Vincent! Vincent! Wherefore art thou, Vincent? You appear before me like a dream, an apparition. Stars are swirling through a wave of blue, carrying me to a place inside my head, which exists somewhere beyond the lines.

Like you, I feverishly work away. Not for dollars and cents or immediate payment, but through a belief in something bigger. I don’t know whether you can set a dollar amount on that. Yet an artist, a writer, needs to eat and pay for their kids’ school shoes and excursions. These realities place a sense of gravity on even the most inspired imagination. That is,  unless we have no strings, no ties to hold us down to the earth, and we can just do as we please. However, that life is not for me. As much as I might crave time and space to write and “be”, I’d die in my own orbit. My family and I are one, interwoven, yet each is our own being (however that works).

Vincent, I hope you don’t mind me dredging up the past. However, there are many doubters among us, who could ironically also be termed: “believers”. I just find it hard to accept that you took your life. That after suffering for so long, why then? Your paintings might not have been selling, but you were producing masterpiece after masterpiece. Surely, you could see that. What went wrong? Indeed, I’m even starting to wonder if you even shot yourself at all. Did somebody else pull the trigger, and you wouldn’t say? Please speak up now. Send me a letter. It’s never too late.

Your loving friend,

Rowena

Van Gogh Crows In A Wheatfield

Vincent Van Gogh, Crows in a Wheatfield, Van Gogh Museum.

Letter From Van Gogh

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. My old friend Joseph Roulin from Post Office in Arles delivered it this morning. We were both overjoyed.  Joseph’s been missing the old post office. You’re the only one who ever sends a letter around here and we’re all trying to work out who’ll be next.

By the way, I loved the stamps. Who would’ve thought!

Sorry I can’t help you with the details of my final days. I’ve put all those earthly matters behind me now.

However, I wanted to send you a fragment of a letter I wrote to my brother, Theo on the 21st July, 1882:

“What I want and have as my aim is infernally difficult to achieve, and yet I don’t think I am raising my sights too high. I want to make drawings that touch some people.”

That’s what it’s all about.

I’m not sure that I regret not finding fame and fortune in my life time,. However, it baffles me that I could be spat upon and ridiculed in life, yet hero-worshipped in death. Does that make any sense to you?

Your friend,

Vincent

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh

[1] http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/19/571.htm

http://blog.vangoghgallery.com/index.php/en/2012/07/29/van-gogh-and-gauguins-chairs/

The Yellow House, Arles

 

Further Reading

https://www.facebook.com/VanGoghMuseum/videos/10159187334010597/

DVD: Loving Vincent

Brainpickings: The Fluid Dynamics of Starry Night

The Unexpected Maths in Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night

 

 

 

 

E-Eileen Agar…A-Z Challenge

As you may be aware, my theme for the Blogging A-Z Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists, who have touched me personally in some way.

Today’s artist is British surrealist, Eileen Agar, who I came across in rather a unique way. You see,  while I was compiling my list, I came across an art personality quiz on the Tate Gallery’s web site… http://www.tate.org.uk/art/find-your-art-inspiration. This is part of Women’s History Month, and it allows you to see which woman artist is your perfect match.

Since I love such quizzes, I sharpened my brain and tried to answer the questions as honestly as I could. Confession time. This is not as easy as it sounds, because I find it all too easy to cheat, and present a more idealized version of myself.

As it turned out, I was told that Eileen Agar was my perfect match. Indeed, this is what the quiz told me:

Love to play: Eileen Agar

“You are curious and perceptive, with a playful sense of humour. You love nature and collecting beautiful objects. Highly imaginative, you look at the world from a sideways perspective. You’re open to new experiences and appreciate life’s absurdities – much like Eileen Agar.

Agar (1904–1991) was one of the few women artists to become associated with the Surrealist movement. In fact, she was the only British woman artist to show work at the International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936. A lot of her work is assembled using different found materials and objects, such as feathers, beads and shells. She often took the natural world as her cue, responding playfully to the landscape around her (see her photograph of ‘Bum and Thumb Rock‘).”

Well, this was a bit of a surprise for this meek, mild-mannered reporter…a  Clark Kent in a woman’s body.

Let’s start off just by talking about her hats. These were artworks in themselves. Her best known is the Ceremonial hat for eating Bouillabaisse (a rich, spicy stew or soup made with various kinds of fish, originally from Provence). This was no ordinary hat. It “consisted of a cork basket picked up in St Tropez and painted blue, which I covered with fishnet, a lobster’s tail, starfish and other marine objects’ 1 Well, she was friends with Salvidor Dali who had a lobster on his telephone, so I shouldn’t be all that surprised.

Eileen Agar wearing Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse

Yet, can I see myself stepping out the front door and even walking down the street wearing such a hat? Not on your life. That said, I have been known to stand out in my own peculiar ways. Indeed, I’ve photographed tea cups in the waves and on the beach. I’ve also photographed a huge Eeyore on the beach looking wistfully out to sea. I also bought myself a pair of pink, satin ballet slippers and attended adult ballet classes, which meant crossing over some pretty high boundaries as a middle-aged woman living with disability and chronic health. So, I have broken a few conventions in my life, and as a child, I even dressed up as a shepherd one year, because I was sick of being an angel. That really was breaking all the rules, but no one said a word.

However, there is one very clear connection I do have with Eileen Agar. That is collecting things. For years, I’ve walked along the beach collecting shells and other detritus. Indeed, not unlike Agar, I actually used these shells while making cards. I have also kept other items like the cuckoo clock parts I salvaged from the neighbours throw out pile just in case one of us goes into sculpture. Ideas were definitely ticking over, even if all this stuff is currently stuffed in drawers or stashed in the roof.

Oh yes. Before I forget, there’s also the old piano currently sitting in our lounge room. As you may be aware, you can‘t even give a piano away these days, but I have plans to give this ailing piano a makeover and turn it into something else. Indeed, this piano has “POTENTIAL” written all over it.

Just like me.

When it comes to Agar’s works, I struggled to find anything I could really connect with. While I like a bit of surrealism, I also like to know what I’m looking at or at least have some clues. I just didn’t get that with most of her work. I didn’t get that spark, that intensity of feeling or any sense of identification. The closest I came was Head of Dylan Thomas, which I really do like after all and if I cut it out and stuck it to my wall, I know I’d love it. It’s just that trying to get through 26 artists in a month is a daunting task, especially when I’m tackling new artists just to fill in letters of the alphabet.

Yet, after reading about the colourful and effervescent life she led, it has made me wonder what we’d be like if each of us could be a 100% unadulterated version of ourselves, unimpeded by social conventions, expectations and our own inhibitions. Would we also be swinging from the chandeliers with the likes of Agar and Dali? Or, would we still be exactly who we are?

However, being creative isn’t just about breaking boundaries and social norms. It isn’t just about being consumed by the creative process, but being unable to live in the so-called “real world” either. There is a balance and some of those restraints are a good thing…a necessary evil. I do believe there needs to be some kind of balance, although I’m not always good at achieving this myself.

Lastly, there’s one very strong distinction between Eileen Agar and myself. Agar chose to remain childless to pursue her art, while I decided to get married and we have two kids and now three dogs, who are almost just as much work.

That’s something I’m going to think about as I explore these dead artists. How many of them married and had children…a family? Indeed, does an artist have the capacity to have two loves? Or, does art have to be all-consuming flame for you to make it to the top? Or, are there personality traits in these artists which aren’t well suited to long term relationships and the responsibilities of parenthood? As many parents know, parenthood is all-consuming. It’s very hard to switch off and it’s the same with the creative drive. It can be all-consuming.

It’s something to think about.

Each of us has our own choices to make.

A Letter to Eileen Agar

Dear Eileen,

I am currently writing a series of letters to Dead Artists who have inspired me in some way. As it turns out, we’ve only just met after The Tate Gallery matched us up. However, I don’t think we’re about to run off into the sunset together yet. I have reservations.

That said, I quite fancy your Head of Dylan Thomas and I was wondering if you’d mind painting my head like that with a bird’s eye view through to my thoughts.

Indeed, perhaps I should have a go myself. I think my version would have something of Van Gogh’s Starry Night inside with all those enigmatic swirls of turbulence. I also like your idea of using collage and sticking bit on. I’ll need to give this a bit of thought and get back to you.

While others would probably ask you a question more pointed to your art, mine is addressing the psychological aspects. Did you ever feel self-conscious wearing your fancy hats, like the Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse? Were you ever concerned that people would laugh, and you’d be ridiculed? Or, do you have a thicker skin and couldn’t care? You really must’ve had a sense of presence, very much like your friend Salvador Dali.

I wish I could be more expressive and let a little more of myself out of the bag. I always feel I have to hold it all back. Keep smiling. Clean house, happy kids. Sometimes, it feels like all that Spray and Wipe can even wash away your very self. Yet, I know what it’s like to be laughed at. Ridiculed. I try to avoid it if I can.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Reply From Eileen Agar

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your unexpected letter.

“I have spent my life in revolt against convention, trying to bring colour and
light and a sense of the mysterious to daily existence. But the English urge
towards philistinism is impossible to avoid, though one may fight it root and
branch. One must have a hunger for new colour, new shapes and new possibilities
of discovery.”

Rowena, don’t be afraid of yourself. Most people shoot themselves in both feet before anyone else has even taken aim.

By the way, we have more in common than you think.

Amelia Mad Hatter Cake

If you put your daughter’s Mad Hatter Birthday Cake next to my Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse, there’s more than just a passing likeness. Indeed, I might make myself a new Cafe Hat. Something with little cups and saucers stuck on top.

By the way, do you think you could include a packet of Tim Tams in your next letter please? I’d like to try a Tim Tam explosion. It sounds very indulgent and just my thing.

Outrageously yours,

Eileen Agar

Featured image: Head  of Dylan Thomas, Tate Gallery, London.

 

D- Edgar Degas…A-Z Challenge.

“And even this heart of mine has something artificial. The dancers have sewn it into a bag of pink satin, pink satin slightly faded, like their dancing shoes.”
― Edgar Degas

Welcome to Day Four of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may recall, my theme this year is “Letters to Dead Artists”. Today, I’ll be writing to so-called French impressionist, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and we will be focusing on his sculpture: the Little Dancer and to a lesser extent, his paintings of dancers.

“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.”

-Edgar Degas.

Edgar Degas is one of those rare individuals who remain an enigma, no matter how far you delve inside their head, or process all the detritus they’ve left behind. While I was initially attracted to his dance works because they reminded me of my young daughter, as I came to learn more about the darker, seedy undertones and implicit prostitution, that all changed. Naturally, I also wanted to extricate my daughter from those associations immediately. That’s clearly not the life I want for her. Yet, that doesn’t change the beauty Degas has captured in these dancers. Moreover, it didn’t change the sense of awe I felt when my daughter performed her first ballet solo on stage recently either. How I saw her moving within that great tradition of ballet, ballerinas, tutus and dreams.

Amelia YIPA Photo

Our Little Dancer

Yet, there were other ways I came to relate to Degas, which were totally unexpected. You see, by 1870 at age of 36 Degas was going blind, which caused him a great deal of anguish. Moreover, he didn’t suffer in silence and his anguish was conveyed in numerous letters:

To Rouart (September 11): “I have In 1888 he wrote to Evariste De Valernes (October 26): “I was or I seemed to be hard with everyone through a sort of passion for brutality, which came from my uncertainty and my bad humour. I felt myself so badly made, so badly equipped, so weak, whereas it seemed to me, that my calculations on art were so right. I brooded against the whole world and against myself… I found in you again the same vigorous mind, the same vigorous and steady hand, and I envy you your eyes which will enable you to see everything until the last day. Mine will not give me this joy; I can scarcely read the papers a little and in the morning, when I reach my studio, if I have been stupid enough to linger somewhat over the deciphering, I can no longer get down to work.”

1891: Degas can no longer see well enough to read. He begins treatment under the famous Swiss ophthalmologist, Edmund Landolt.

1893, to Valernes (undated): “…I am dreading a stay in my room, without work, without being able to read, staring into space. My sight too is changing, for the worse. I am pitying myself, so that you may know that you are not the only unhappy person… With regard to writing, ah! my friends can scarcely count on me. Just imagine that to re-read, re-read what I write to you, would present such difficulty, even with the magnifying glass, that I should give it up after the first lines.”

Degas The Ballet Class Musee d'Orsay

Edgar Degas, The Ballet Class, Musee D’Orsay.

In an eerie coincidence, when I was also 36, my muscles started wasting away. However, it wasn’t until my diagnosis in August 2007 18 grueling months later, that I found out what was going on. By this point, I couldn’t dress myself, roll over in bed or even pull the doona over myself. Indeed, six weeks before my diagnosis, I fell at home and much to my horror, couldn’t get up again. I was lying face down on the floor alone with the kids and in so much pain. It was very tempting to give up, especially as I’d tripped over the broom my son had left on the floor and I was so angry. Hurt. Indeed, if ever there was a time I felt defeated, this was it. However, I guess the incredibility of the situation must have hit me. Why couldn’t I get myself up? Had I been snaffled up into a bad dream? Clearly not, so I’d just had to grab myself by the boot straps and get going. I managed to shuffle into the kitchen on my backside and much to my amazement, the cordless phone was in reach. I rang my husband at work, and he recommended I lever myself up with a chair. It worked and my day continued as usual. I didn’t even call the doctor. However, I did give a friend a key to my front door!

Having a condition which fluctuates, or gradually deteriorates, is very different to having a situation like an accident, for example, where you might have a clear cut change. It makes it very difficult to reach an ongoing point of acceptance, because the status quo is always changing.

So, I know that sense of fear. I know his desperation to find anything which might stop the inevitable. Yet, like Degas, I’ve also tried to make the most of what I’ve got and carpe diem seize the day. Indeed, living with something precious which is slipping away, really helps you savour every second. Degas kept painting and sculpting as long as he could, and once that was impossible he went on long walks around Paris, as if releasing that energy through his feet.

Indeed, not long before his death, he was filmed walking through Paris: Degas Walking Through Paris 1915

Now, before I actually write to Edgar Degas, I thought I’d better share a few details about The Little Dancer.

The Little Dancer

“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.”

Isadora Duncan

Perhaps, you have seen the statue of the Little Dancer in your travels. However, I would like to make it clear that the bronze statue that we see today, isn’t the same Little Dancer which Degas displayed at the 1881 Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. Rather, it is a bronze which was cast in 1920 after Degas’s death. In recent years, a controversial plaster cast of the Little Dancer has come to light, which according to Dr Gregory Hedberg, could be closer to the original sculpture.  I highly recommend you watch this lecture, which is very much like a forensic report. It blew me away.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pr3OYfY0zc&feature=youtu.be

So, without any further ado, here’s my letter to Edgar Degas:

My Letter to Degas

Dear Degas,

There’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you’ve back from the dead for the day so you can read this letter and give me some sort of reply. The bad news is that we have no money and so we’ll be “tumbleweeds” sleeping on the floor at the Shakespeare Bookshop. I don’t know if the requirements have changed since I gave a reading here, but I think we’ll have to help out in the bookshop and read a book while we’re here. You might even like to read Dr Gregory Hedberg’s book: Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The Earlier Version That Helped Spark the Birth of Modern Art. As for myself, I’m going to re-read Anais’s Nin’s Henry and June. I read it when I was last in Paris and let’s just say I wasn’t in a good way.

While we could talk at length about our respective medical struggles, I would much rather take you to the Musee D’orsay and ask you what you think of the Litter Dancer as she appears today? Is she your Little Dancer and does she bare any resemblance to the statute which appeared at the Impressionist Exhibition in 1881? I have my doubts. Also, as much as I’m pleased we can still enjoy a Little Dancer, I’m not sure about the ethics of putting her on public display without your consent. You are clearly a meticulous and precise man and from what I can gather, you weren’t happy with how she ended up. I don’t know if you kept trying to change her and touch her up and something went wrong, like someone who has had too much plastic surgery. The other concern I have is that was seemingly altered after you’d turned blind and weren’t working much at all. Perhaps, I’ve got that wrong. I’m trying to get my head around some pretty complex details on the fly, and I’d really appreciate it if you could help me out.

Anyway, could you please let me know what you think of the Little Dancer.

Meanwhile, I’m off for a walk. You’re not the only one who loves to walk the streets of Paris.

Warm regards,

Rowena

A Reply From Degas

Dear Rowena,

My time on earth was brief, but that wretched dancer is eternal. I’d locked her up. She was never meant to see the light of day. Now, all my mistakes are being portrayed as my greatest work. My inner world has been turned inside out, and is out on public display. There’s nothing left to call my own. Rowena, my only advice to upcoming artists, is to save yourself from the vultures. Light a match before you die.

Meet me Musee d’Orsay midnight. I’ve found a van.

Yours,

Degas

Weekend Coffee Share – 12th February, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hey, what do you feel like today? I’m not sure I can deliver, especially if you’re used to more complex beverages like a “pumpkin spiced latte”. Nothing like that exists around here, but I do have Twinings English Breakfast Tea and a coffee machine. I’ve been virtually coffee free for a few weeks now. It was reeking havoc with my digestion, although I succombed a few times when Zombie Woman needed a caffeine hit.

Perhaps, that’s what I needed today because after waking up at the normal time, both of the kids were sick and I was feeling whoozy and went back to bed. I woke up at 3.45PM struggling to move. I’ve been under a lot of stress in the last week, and it’s gone straight to my muscles. Need a crane to get around at the moment. Anyone got a spare?

 

The highlight of the last week, was writing a philosophical/humorous post about searching Ebay for the Meaning of Life. On one hand it seems a little bit out there, but on the other hand, I’ve been wondering why I didn’t think of this before. My way of thinking is pretty off beat and turning to Ebay for the answers is the sort of random thing I’d come up with. I was feeling pretty distraught at the time and the really quirky side of my brain so this invitation. Ebay said you could “search for anything”. What about Hope? Do you think I could find hope on Ebay? Well, Ebay doesn’t promise that you’ll find what you’re looking for. When it came to hope, Ebay delivered bike parts.

If you’d interested to see what else Ebay offered up on the important questions of Hope, Despair, Optimism, Pessimism, Love, Hate, the Meaning of Life, the Meaning of Death, I love to hear your thoughts: Life According to Ebay.

The kids are settling into school well. They had school photos on Friday, which were a lot more painless than expected. I thought it might’ve been difficult to get my daughter out the door. She’s just into her second week of high school, but I’ve seen school photo day up there before and you could call is “Look at my hair day”. All the girls seem to take giving their hair 100 brushes out in the sun to a whole new level. Wow! I can’t remember when I last went to the hairdresser, not that that’s a good thing. The hairdresser I was going to closed down and change isn’t something I tend to do well. Besides, as you well may be aware, a hairdresser doesn’t just cut your hair. They’re your psychologist, psychiatrist, philosophical advisor and ego stroker. It’s a demanding job. So, I’ve been left to fend for myself.

 

I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers this week. That was quite a lof of fun and my flash transferred the usual travel debacles into the realms of teleporting… Not the Taj Mahal

How has your week been? I hope it’s been great.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Life According to Ebay.

“Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human.”

Viktor E. Frankl

Although I routinely turn to Google to answer to life’s questions, I’ve never thought of asking Ebay before. However, tonight while searching for an electric recliner, I had an epiphany. Ebay claims it will “search for anything”. So, rising to the challenge, I decided to put Ebay through its paces and see what kind of wisdom it offered on some of the great issues of life: Hope, Despair, Love & Hate, Faith & Doubt, the Meaning of Life & and Meaning of Death.

Search 1: “Hope”.

“The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.”
― Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Fall of Atlantis

Hope

Hope 180mm Floating 6-Bolt Disc Rotor Orange

Although I’m a pretty lateral kind of person, even I found Ebay’s take on Hope obtuse. Hope is a brand of bicycle parts. I’m not sure that Hope is what I’d want to associate with riding a bike, especially a high performance one. Thoughts like: “I hope you reach your destination” or I hope “I don’t get hit by a car’ come to mind. Yet, when I had a closer look at the Hope 180mm Floating 6-Bolt Disc Rotor Orange, it did seem rather profound. Indeed, I’m sure there’s some kind of weird, esoteric meaning in there somehere. Well, at least I can sense it.

Search 2: “Despair”

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”
― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Not unsurprisingly, there weren’t any bike parts called “Despair” on Ebay. Rather, we ended up in the realm of books.There was Kierkegaard’s Concept of Despair by Michael Theunissen (Paperback, 2016). There was also Noam Chomsky’s Optimism Over Despair, which provides: “An essential overview of the problems of our world today — and how we should prepare for tomorrow. We can either be pessimistic, give up, and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist, and maybe help make the world a better place.1”

In addition to the books, there were also a few CDs…Abysmal Despair recorded by ODYSSEY, and a thrash band, DESPAIR, whose debut single was History of Hate and this album was Beyond All Reason. I wonder if their message is all about hate, or more about love? I wonder if I should listen and find out…

Search 3: Love 

 ‘I love you more than words can wield the matter, Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty’

Shakespeare: King Lear – Act 1, secene 1. 

“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”

Euripides

Love on Ebay seems to be much about decorating wedding receptions, or buying someone you love a token of your affection. That when you love someone, you buy them a necklace or for something novel, you could even give them some love coupons (whatever that entails). Surprisingly, or at least to me, Romeo & Juliet didn’t top the list on our search for love. There were customised lasercut wooden names for the Bride & Groom, jewellery…”I Love you Mum”, “I love you to the moon and back”, a pack of 100 wooden hearts in four sizes. Love is also available in helium balloons, and as a little love bird on an Australian stamp.  BTW no books cropped up on my fairly extensive scroll through the results. So, sorry Romeo & Juliet. You lacked out.

Search 4- Hate

Leonard Cohen

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

To be perfectly honest, I felt quite uneasy entering “Hate” into Ebay. Hate really isn’t part of my vocabulary, and it just felt icky typing in the word and like: “Don’t go there”. I didn’t even want to dip my little toe in. Get away. Leave it alone. It was a really strong force deep in my gut.

So, I was a relieved when the results weren’t all sinister. Indeed, there was an album Songs of Love & Hate by legendary Leonard Cohen near the top of the list. He’s an inspiration, not a force of darkness. Phew!

Hate Everybody

Then, there were the t-shirts. If Hope belonged to bicyle parts, despair belonged to books and the philosopher. Love was all about jewellery, hearts and helium balloon. Hate belongs the T-Shirt where indeed hate becomes humour. How can that be? We humans are weird, perverse even.

Search 5…Optimism.

“Optimism that does not count the cost is like a house builded on sand. A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.”

-Helen Keller

helen-keller-beyond-the-miracle-1600x500

Helen Keller

When it came to unveiling the goods on Optimism, books again rose to the top of the list. There was Helen Keller’s Optimism: An Essay, which is still sitting on my book pile unread. As when I’ve bought so many of my books, I was overly optimistic about my reading capacity. There is also Voltaire’s Classic: Candide or Optimism.  and Scott Adams (writing as Dilbert): Optimism Sounds Exhausting. I love Dilbert, by the way.

Dilbert Optimism sounds exhausting

Search 6: Pessimism

Like hate, pessimism is another one of those nasties that we don’t want to own up to. Rather, we’re supposed to “think happy thoughts” and “live happily ever after” in La-La Land. However, behind closed doors there’s at least a touch of pessimism in each of us. However, it’s how we respond to pessimism, which makes the difference. Some of us put on the boxing gloves and fight for our lives, while others silently slip under the bus and wake up as road pizza.

Studies in Pessimism Schopenhauer

When it came to pessimism, Ebay dug up German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the father of pessimism…

“The attainment of a goal or desire, Schopenhauer continues, results in satisfaction, whereas the frustration of such attainment results in suffering. Since existence is marked by want or deficiency, and since satisfaction of this want is unsustainable, existence is characterized by suffering.”1.

Search 7: Faith

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith Hill Cry

Well, if you go looking for faith on Ebay, more than likely you’ll end up with a CD by Faith Hill, than a copy of the Bible.  Here’s a link through to Tim McGraw & Faith Hill: The Rest of Our Life

I was actually expecting something more spiritual along the lines of Matthew 17:20:

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I guess that just goes to show, that just because you can “look for anything” on Ebay, it doesn’t mean you’ll find what you’e looking for, or what you need.

Search 8: Doubt

Mrs Doubtfire

Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire. 

Like Google, Ebay also has a sense of humour. When I entered in doubt, Mrs Doubtfire immediately popped up. I had to smile. For those of you who don’t recall the movie, it starred the great Robin Williams who played a troubled divorced Dad who wanted to spend more time with his kids. He dressed up as an older British woman and convinced his ex-wife, Miranda (Sally Field), to hire him as a nanny. It’s hilarious. This is a case of Dame Edna Everage meets Mork. Yet, like every movie starring Robin Williams, there are so many levels to this movie and it ‘s ripe with food for thought. After all, you could say that humour is the best way to impart the most challenging life lessons of all.

Here are a few poignant quotes from the movie:

1) “Did you ever wish you could sometimes freeze frame a moment in your day, look at it and say “this is not my life”?”

2) [Trying to get false teeth out of glass]

Mrs. Doubtfire: Carpe dentum. Seize the teeth.

Search 9: The Meaning of Life

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” 
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Monty Python

When it came to searching for the meaning of life on Ebay, again I was in for a few surprises. Perhaps, I’m just getting old, but I thought Monty Python’s film: The Meaning of Life would’ve been top of the list, but it was in fact a sad omission. So before I move onto what I did find, I should leave you with their take on the Meaning of Life, which I must say is the abridged, sanitised version:

“Well, it’s nothing very special. Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

Another, conspicuous absence, was Douglas Adams famous series which started out with The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Universe and included Life, the Universe & Everything. Even if you haven’t read the series, you could already know that the answer to the meaning of life, is 42.

Meaning of Life Grieve

The Bible or any other religious creed was also conspicuously absent, but Bradley Trevor Grieve’s book: The Meaning of Life made the cut. Perhaps, you need to stick a frog on the cover to get a look in.

Search 10: The Meaning of Death

“Life asked death, ‘Why do people love me but hate you?’ Death responded, ‘Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth.”

—Author unknown

Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised that through all my searches, it was only when I searched for the meaning of death, that Ebay coughed up any references to God, Jesus or eternity. So, it seems that Ebay is just like us humans and when Ebay is facing death, it also turns to God. Ebay beamed up Barry Smith’s The Meaning of Jesus’ Death: Reviewing the New Testament’s Interpretations. There was also Adrian Chapman’s The Meaning of Life A Dangerous Mix of God and Science and  Julian Young’s book: The Death of God & the Meaning of Life.

Conclusion

So, while you might be able to search for anything on Ebay, it’s quite clear that the response is quite random. You might not get what you are looking for, but like any lucky dip, you might get a pleasant surprise, and a whole new world will open up for you. Yet, there can also be that huge frustration, and even despair, of not finding what you need. Yet, expecting Ebay to have all the answers, is a folly. There are better places to look. However, who hasn’t tried retail therapy, and found a true and legitable joy? An escape from one’s pain-filled inner labyrith, even if it is only temporary?!! I’m guilty as charged.

Personally, as a Christian, I don’t believe life is altogether random and yet I don’t go so far as saying “God is in control”. You see, if God is control of it all, that includes good and evil and ignores the fact he gave us free will. Moreover, we clearly have the capacity to make “our lot” better or worse. Yes, in your quest for wisdom, never doubt the power of shooting yourself in the foot.

You can’t blame God for that.

Sources

Noam Chomsky “Optimism Over Despair”

 

xx Rowena

What It Means To Be Human.

G’Day Humans!

This is Rosie-Roo, Rowena’s adorable and geniously smart puppy dog. I’ve jumped onto her blog to end her interminal screen-gazing. Put her out of her misery. I know she’s always teaching me stuff, and thinks she knows it all, but her brain’s now gone into park, and won’t budge. So, seeing that I’ve now worked out how to pull the string on my toy mouse and make it run all by myself, I figure I’m now ready to step into Bilbo’s paws and  be the brains trust around here. After all, that goes with the territory when you’re the Philosopher’s Dog.

Rosie & Zac BW

That’s me on the left.

So, here I am paws to the keyboard.

Rewinding to last night, you might’ve already read all Mum’s philosophical, new year ramblings about turning Chaos Central and it’ s inhabitants, into clockwork robots. Have a place for everyting and everything in its place.

Of course, we who know Mum better than she knows herself, know better. We know she drank too much pear cider over the holidays. Was dazzled by the fireworks. It’s all gone to her head, and now she thinks a  new year makes her a new person. That her DNA myseriously changed overnight.

I might only be six months old, but I’m a great observer. Not only that, I’m smart. Scary smart. Only this morning, I learned how to pull the string on my toy mouse, but I’ve been pulled mum’s string a lot longer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being creative. However, I’m a working dog, and that means getting on with the task at hand and not writing about it instead.

Anyway, we working dogs are adaptable. I can herd humans, and I can philosophise like a human as well. After all, as you’ve always suspected but have never been able to verify, we dogs can read your minds. Well, at least, that is the more astute of us canines.

Moving forward, I’m going to pick up from Mum’s last post where she concluded: “I am going to be a human being.” Shortly, after signing off there, she quickly typed “What It Means to Be Human” into a new post and went off to bed.

Who did she think she was? Professor Stephen Hawking? Why couldn’t she just be happy with 42 like everyone else, and leave it at that? Why did she feel the need to tackle a question whose answers spread the full length and breadth of the World Wide Web. How did she think she was going to reduce all of that verbosity into 500 words, or even a 1000?

It didn’t take me long to work out Mum was a dreamer, and nothing like a working dog.

 

Anyway, this leaves me to explain what it means to be human.

Firstly, humans are always telling us dogs to “sit”, while I figure all humans do is sit. They need to get out of their chairs. Switch off the TV. Turn off their laptops and mobile phones and walk, Run. Go outside. Smell the roses.

Secondly, humans seriously over-complicate things. We dogs keep it simple. We wear the one coat for life, and we’re always ready to go out. Adventure awaits. None of this hair, makeup, clothes, can’t find my shoes, wallet, phone. I don’t even need a lead, but I did get in trouble last week for what turned out to be a pre-emptive run.

But, while I can be a little critical of the humans and would like to give them some really thorough training, my humans have loved my brother and I unconditionally. We were homeless and had been taken away from our Mum, Dad and sisters and didn’t know what would become of us. Then, Mum and Miss turned up there in the middle of the night to pick us up and gave us a home. We had so much to learn, leaving puddles and piles all over the house and even chewed on the furniture, but they still loved us. Humans have big hearts.

A big heart is mum’s biggest trouble. Of course, she’d like to be uber-organized and have everything running like clockwork, but her heart gets in the way. She cares too much. I also understand that she can’t move around as easily as the other humans and then lets the other humans and us dogs get away with things we shouldn’t. Please don’t tell her that. That can be our little secret.

Well, I don’t know if I’ve answered the question, but I’d appreciate a bit of understanding. This is my first dog, I mean, blog post, and I’m still only a pup.

What do you think makes humans human? Perhaps, you could enlighten Mum!

Love,

Rosie-Roo

PS: In case you’re wondering why I’m called “Rosie-Roo, it’s because the humans reckon I look like a kangaroo. I don’t know why they’d think a dog looks like a kangaroo. Perhaps, poor eyesight and confusion are further aspects of what it means to be human.

The featured image was drawn by my teenaged son many, many moons ago.

7 Day B&W Photo Challenge – Day 1 Sheep Dogs.

Yesterday, I received a Facebook notification that a friend had dobbed me in for the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge, and so I thought I’d carry it over onto the blog.

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately, so I have a backlog of words to spew out and I’ll tap away furiously with the hope of getting to bed some time before dawn. Somehow, my hours have been inverted while battling the flu and night has now become day.

While conjuring up ideas for the challenge, rather than taking black & white photos of colour, I found myself wanting to photograph things that are black & white. Indeed, my mind even wandered off tinto the realm of  black and white thinking.

Fortunately, I have black & white pups. Not the micro pups. They’re tan and black kelpies. Zac and Rosie, our Border Collie X pups were just perfect and they even obliged by staging a tug of war over a stuffed toy sheep my mother bought them yesterday. They are SHEEPdogs after all!

DSC_6906

As you can see, little Dobbie on the right, is putting up quite a fight and almost keeping up with the bigger pups. 

Well, not wanting to be left out, Dobbie the smallest of the micro pups but the mightiest of the lot, took on Zac and Rosie and even made off with the sheep a few times. He sure is fiesty and if he ever gets a chance to become a true working dog, those real sheep had better watch out! Dobbie means business!

Anyway, like all these challenges, you need to nominate somebody to carry on the mantle. Today, I’m going to nominate Monika from Tails Around the Ranch. Monika writes a fantastic blog focused on the antics of her two standard poodles Sam and Elsa.

xx Rowena