Returning to Life

It is Spring again. The Filianic and astrological new year has begun. This year began with a Lunar Eclipse, which on a personal level feels a bit appropriate. My usual joy at the beginning of Spring is dampened by the sadness of the passing of my grandmother last fall.

I think one of the difficult things about life in the modern West is that we have lost the notion of mourning periods. There was a time when there was a proper amount of time to be “in mourning,” and rituals for coming out of mourning, with periods of “half mourning” and “light mourning.” When reading modern wisdom about grieving, we are told that it is individual and different for every person and every relationship.  Yet, I think that mourning is not really the same thing as grieving. I think that mourning is the pause we take in our lives out of respect for the person who has passed, and the ending of mourning is when it is right to “come back to life.”

Spring RoseWith that in mind, with no modern conventions to fall back on, I decided that Winter would be my period of “mourning” and that I would try to “come back to life” in the Spring. I am still quite sad, particularly as my grandmother loved Spring, but I will always be sad from time to time. My grandmother was an important person in my life. It is funny, because she never really taught me (or her own children) much. She tried, but she had no patience. She would hastily explain things, and if you did not get it the first time, she would give up with a disgusted “Ach!” and take what you were doing and do it herself. Yet, despite this, I learned so much from her. There is very little that I do that I do not still hear her voice telling me stories or giving wise counsel.

Even now, in my front yard, I see a lesson that she left.

For the past several years, Mormor (“grandmother” in Swedish) and I lived in the same two flat, which was owned by my aunt. In the front of the house, there was a lamp post, which used to be a working gas lamp. Mormor thought it was ugly. She researched, and she found that it would be costly and perhaps dangerous to remove it, so she devised a way to make it beautiful. Last spring, she planted roses around it with the plan that they would climb and cover the post.

Throughout the Summer, she carefully tended the roses, and she made sure that they did not stray too far away from the post. This was an interesting lesson in itself. It seems in order for roses to climb, they have to be held close to their source.

By the time that Autumn came, the roses had covered the post and bloomed gloriously for Mormor’s ninetieth birthday.

KIMG0073Mormor passed a little over a month after that, right before the first snowfall.

The roses bloomed until that very day. They became covered with snow, and they left an almost magical image, as the petals could be seen on the snow.

2015-11-23 07.40.27Yet, time passes, and now it is Spring. As if the roses were left to teach another lesson, they are starting to grow back again.

2016-03-28 10.52.03I guess it is time to come back to life, as well as to honor and care for what Mormor planted and left behind.

Avoiding the News

One of the most effective ways to reduce the level of poison in our personal Image Spheres is to avoid the news as much as possible.  One can not even catch a small glimpse of the news without being exposed to something horrid.  Even so, this can be a difficult step for people.

In the United States, we are taught from an early age that it is our civic duty to “keep informed.”  For this reason, even if we do not really want to keep abreast of the news, there can be a sense of guilt in staying away from it.  After all, there is real suffering in the world, and we are given the impression that our awareness of “issues” can help in some way.

The problem is that the “issues” in the world are complex and intertwined.  Taking action in one direction may cause more difficulty in another direction.  Unless one is an expert on a subject or issue, one really can not understand all of the complications involved.  Becoming an expert on an issue truly requires one to devote much of one’s life to it.  For the rest of us, all awareness of “issues” does is to poison our Image Spheres.

Blossoms growing on the World Heart Tree from restored Heart Flowers

Isn’t this selfish?  How can we just worry about our own protection and Image Spheres, when there is so much suffering in the world?  These are fair questions, but I think that as counter-intuitive as it seems, I think that protecting our own Image Spheres does help on a larger level.

One of the best explanations I found for this forms the basis of the Anime series, Heartcatch Precure.  In this series, the Heart Flower of every individual is connected to the World Heart Tree.  The Evil Side’s goal is to turn the world into a Desert and steals people’s Heart Flowers to create monsters called Desertarians.  For someone’s Heart Flower to be stolen, it must already be wilting due to some pain or worry.  The heroines (the Precure), fight to cleanse the Desertarians and to restore the stolen Heart Flowers.  By doing so, the restored Heart Flowers strengthen the World Heart Tree.

Cure Sunshine and her fairy erecting a barrier to protect the World Heart Tree

Cure Sunshine and her fairy erecting a barrier to protect the World Heart Tree

While this is a fictional Anime series, I think that it is based on sound metaphysics.  Our Hearts are microcosms of the Sun, and the World Heart Tree is a metaphor for how all of our individual Hearts are connected.  Horrid events do not just damage bodies, they damage souls.  The damage to the World Heart is increased when more souls are exposed to awful things.  If there was a physical contagious infection, it would only be common sense to limit the exposure to that infection as much as possible.  Even those who were caring for the sick and working to contain the infection would take precautions to limit their exposure, not just for themselves, but to avoid the spread of the disease.

In a similar fashion, I think that taking precautions to limit our exposure to the horrors of the world helps to contain the spread of the “disease,” as it were.  I believe that guarding our own “Heart Flowers” does indeed make a difference to the “World Heart Tree.”

Making Space for Nativity

This year, Nativity was quite a hectic time for me.  For the first year, I was the hostess for the family Christmas Eve smörgåsbord.  It was a small gathering, but even so, a great deal of preparation was required.  The house had to be cleaned and decorated, and I was responsible for the meatballs.  In our family, the meatballs are quite important; my grandmother would often make the meatballs weeks in advance, and freeze them until just before Christmas Eve.  This year was the first year that I have been allowed to make the meatballs, which was quite an honor.

SAMSUNGLearning from my grandmother, I made the meatballs a couple of weeks in advance, and I made a test batch for my grandmother to taste before committing the rest of the mix to little balls.  I was quite pleased when I received her approval after the first try.

When the day came, the gathering went well, I thought.  It was rather interesting really.  While I prepared the house and the meatballs, most of the food came from other people.  My grandmother made the glögg (a hot, sweet, spiced alcoholic beverage).  My aunt brought the potato sausage and the prinskorv (which, since childhood, I always called “little hot dogs”).  My spouse went grocery shopping and bought lots of vegetables, a small smoked ham, pie, and various cookies and sweets.  My spouse’s coworker came and brought the rotmos (a Swedish version of mashed rutabaga).  I prepared the house and the meatballs, and the rest of the bounty just arrived!  That seemed quite symbolic of Nativity to me.

All of this made me think of the meaning and importance of Nativity.  I no longer consider myself a Christian, but Christmas/Nativity has a much deeper and older meaning than the Christian narrative.  The Mother God Chapel recently published two important articles that explain the older and deeper meaning of Nativity which can be found here and here.  In summary, the material world falls further away from the Light and would fall into complete Darkness, but the Light intervenes, and Light returns and is renewed.  This theme is found in the Christian narrative, but the theme is Universal and thus larger and deeper than the narrative of any human religion.

In thinking about the meaning of Nativity, I have also been reflecting on the Advent preparations.  These preparations involve rearranging one’s schedule, one’s finances, and one’s home to make room for Nativity to happen.  One buys and/or makes gifts for friends and family.  The preparations take time, making Advent a rather busy season, and often one must rearrange one’s daily activities to accommodate the extra chores and tasks.  If one puts up a Nativity Tree, furniture must be moved.  Regular household decorations must be put aside to make room for the Nativity decorations.  It seems to me that these preparations are all symbolic of making space for Nativity to happen.

Yet, when we make space for Nativity to happen, a bounty often arrives, I think…or at least it did for me this year.

Slowing Down

Last week, a new book came in the mail.  My spouse had purchased it for me as a gift.  The book was 大きな森の小さな家, or the Japanese translation of Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This happens to be one of her favorite childhood books, and she has been reading the series again.  It was quite exciting really.  The Japanese company that sold it also sent along a little card, saying ありがとう (Thank you), stickers, and a little origami star.  I thought that was so very sweet and wonderful.

???????????????????It seemed like a good place to start my Japanese novel reading.  The thought of rediscovering reading again is quite exciting.  Although, it may seem strange reading a translation of an American novel as a starting point, but it feels “right” somehow.  Strangely enough, I do not know if I actually have read this book before, and if I have, I do not remember it.  It seems like something that I *should* read, and I am really focusing Japanese, with little time leftover to read fiction in English.  This book is a bit beyond my Japanese level; however, it is possible if I work hard, I think.

On the practical side, my spouse has already been helpful in checking whether I am comprehending what I am reading.  She has read this books so many times, she almost has it memorized.  It seems safer to ask her (and let her quiz me) then to check the English version myself.

It is exciting, but it is very slow, and I think it will likely take a long time (I have only gotten through a few pages, highlighting the many, many words I do not know).  This is interesting because my spouse has talked about being able to read these books in an afternoon (in English, of course).    My spouse and I have lots and lots of books, and I am used to being able to consume books very quickly.  Yet, if I am to have any hope of anything beyond a vague comprehension of this book, I will have to savor this book and spend a lot of time with it.

All of this has made me realize how much learning a new language has made me slow down.  As a part of my studies, I have been watching a great deal of Anime.  Yet, I am watching it is a much different way than I have watched anything in the past.  I have several series of Anime going right now, yet I am taking each one rather slowly, watching each episode between two and four times, in different ways.  There was a time I could watch an entire series in a few weeks, but now for each series, I am not even really managing an episode a week.

I think I am grateful for this slowing down.  I am finding I am appreciating everything so much more that I am unable to rush through it.  I find myself thinking about the other books in this series, and realizing, well, it will be quite some time before I get to them.  The one I have will keep me busy for the foreseeable future.  Then I find myself treasuring my new book and carrying it around with me, even when I am not reading it.  I am excited to be making friends with book all over again!

Corsets and Updos

I have another confession to make.  In spite of my efforts to avoid recent and post-Eclipse Western media, I have been watching Downton Abbey lately with my spouse.  I do not know that I can wholeheartedly recommend this show, as there is some problematic behavior and it is not completely wholesome and pure.  On the other hand, I have been quite enjoying watching the clothing, hairstyle, manners, and a functioning, and relatively healthy, hierarchy.

Dressing Lady MaryOne of the things that this show has prompted me to do is to investigate and study the Edwardian period with respect to clothing and hairstyles, and there are some things that I have found quite interesting.  One of the things that was interesting is that all women from Countess to the kitchen maid wore corsets.  Now, of course, we have all been told horror stories about corsets, but I remember wearing one for a play I was in a few years back, and it was not as bad as one might think.  One of the things that corsets did was force one into good posture.  Interestingly enough, men’s clothing was also made to force good posture as well, with tight tailoring and accessories that restricted movement.

Anna Arranging HairWith respect to hairstyles, one of the things that I learned, was that in the Edwardian period, all adult reputable women wore their hair up.  I was also fascinated to see that from the highest to the lowest in rank, all of the women arranged their hair for sleeping at night, either in braids or similarly tied back.

I am seeing an interesting pattern, in that there seemed to be a value placed on having things under control, one’s body, one’s clothing, and one’s hair.  It is an interesting contrast to today, where we are encouraged to be as comfortable as possible, and to let everything hang loose.  I think that this is quite symbolic in many ways.

I recently read Jane Eyre, and I am currently reading Little Women.  One of the things that I am noticing in both of these books is an attitude of self-restraint and self-control.  Faults are something that everyone has, but there is an ethos that we must learn to control and correct for our faults.  Virtue is a matter of effort!

While I am not recommending corsets and updos (unless one wants to try them), I do think that we can learn something from the attitude of self-control and self-restraint that these things represent.  A lot of being civilized is not doing what comes naturally for us, but to strive for goodness, beauty, and virtue.  We all have faults and difficulties, but these are things to be worked on, not allowed to just “hang loose.”

Ganbatte Kudasai!

I have been studying Japanese lately, and I am finding Japanese a very interesting language in many ways.  One of the things that is so interesting is that there are words for concepts that are not expressed easily in English.  One of these words is ganbaru, which roughly translates to “doing one’s best” or “hard work.”

One of the things that is quite interesting is that in Japanese the phrase, “Ganbatte kudasai!” is used in a similar context that the phrase “Good luck!” would be used in English, and is said when someone is about to undertake a difficult task or some other endeavor.  The rough translation of “Ganbatte kudasai!” is “Please do your best!”

Akane-chan GanbaruI have to say that I really like this usage.  It says so much that is very important, I think.  It is especially important for the work of reclaiming our Hestia as an important and even sacred space.  I am not sure about anyone else, but I know that I have compared myself to others and felt that I am not good enough or organized enough to undertake such a journey.  I was certainly not able to do much around the house when I had a demanding career outside the home.  I was (and still am) in awe of women that are able to raise children, have a job outside the house, and still maintain a semblance of order in their home.  There is a lot of pressure on women to be able to do it all, and do it all well, in the present day and age.

As you can see from previous articles, even now that I am winding down my previous career and even without children, I am having trouble with juggling my projects and endeavors.  The phrase and the concept behind the phrase, “Ganbatte kudasai,” is really quite helpful.

This concept is important because it helps me remember that the important thing is doing my best.  I am sure that I am not alone in worrying whether my best will be “good enough.”  There are so many expectations placed on us, both by our world and by ourselves.  It is easy to say, “Oh, this is impossible.  I will never be good enough, so why bother.”  The concept of ganbaru is so helpful with this.  The important thing is not the result; the important thing is that I am doing my best!

This may seem quite strange for us, but I am learning that in Japanese culture, ganburu is actually an abstract concept, which is not related to any particular activity.  I think, though, that there was a time when this was understood even in the West.  I remember as a child, we would get separate grades for effort.  I do not know if this is still the case, but I do know that I have heard that scoffed at, with the idea that it is achievement, not effort, that is what is important.

Yet, I think that there really is a value to effort and to doing our best, regardless of result!  I am thinking of my days in school…at every level from elementary to graduate studies.  There was something satisfying about doing my best in a class that was very difficult for me, and that getting a B (or even lower grade) in a difficult class was much more satisfying to me than getting even the top grade in a class that was easy.  Indeed, it sometimes felt embarrassing to get a good grade in a class that I had not worked very hard at.

I have gone on a little bit of a tangent here, but I think that this concept and idea really is important.  The idea of this blog is not to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed or that they are “less than.”  Our society has a funny attitude around the home.  It is considered shameful if our homes are not in order; however, efforts to maintain our homes are not valued.  I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “So, what are you going to do all day?” when I have talked about closing my business.  Some are satisfied when I talk about starting an astrology practice, but when I say that I am going to be a housewife, the looks are quite dismissive.  It is almost like people think  that houses maintain themselves by magic, or something.  It really is a lot of work!

So, in the face of all of that, I think remembering the concept of ganbaru is so important.  It is not expected that anyone is perfect, just that she is doing her best!

So, to all my readers….”Ganbatte kudasai!”

And for myself, “Ganbarimasu!”  (“I will do my best.”)

For more about the concept of ganbaru, here are some wonderful articles on the subject:

Precure, Preschool, Ganbaru, and the Way

The Happy Prince, Selflessness, and Ganbaru

Japanese Training–Natto, Rice Grains, and Speech

There is also a new blog that has been started by a friend of mine about learning Japanese, if anyone is interested:

Profoundly Kawaii Japanese

The Illusion of “Thinking for Yourself”

As I have discussed before, in the 1960’s, the world changed drastically, at least in the West.  For the most part, I believe that this change has been, for the most part downhill.  In the The Feminine Universe, Miss Alice Lucy Trent calls this change “the Eclipse.”  Now, I can imagine that at least some readers will protest and talk about all of the horrors of cruelty, unkindness, violence, and oppression from the past.  I am not denying that this was so.  The past of this world has been violent and cruel for at least as long as we have recorded history.  I discuss this in a more detailed fashion on the Seed in the article, The Patriarchal Revolution.  This is one of the more compelling arguments for the changes in society since the Eclipse, but I think that much more has been lost than has been gained.  I talk about this in more detail in an article I wrote regarding an Anime I have recently watched.  The article is here.

One of the things that has been lost is any sense that authority can be trusted, or really that anyone can be trusted.  We are taught to “think for ourselves” and engage in “critical thinking” of everything.  Instead of being a contributing part of a community, or seeking a higher purpose, people see it as their duty (and everyone’s duty) to keep “informed,” which really means to keep track of all of the bad things that everyone is doing or may do.

The reality is that really none of us “think for ourselves.”  We all rely on other people.  For example, when choosing a service or a product, we look up “reviews,” which are the thoughts of other people.  When deciding our opinions on “issues,” we rely on others to tell us what these “issues” are and how we should think about them.  We are shaped by others in almost everything we do, and often when we think we are “thinking for ourselves,” we are really just choosing between ideas that have been told to us.

The same is true of “critical thinking.”  I think that there is a place for that; however, how it usually works is that the “critical” part becomes rather overemphasized.  People criticize everything, all of the time.  Even if one wants to be pleasant and let things go, often friends and family will talk about how she should complain and make sure to get what is fair.  Yes, I understand that there are times when it is important, but most of the time, the matters are often rather superficial, when one really stops to think about it.  How many of the things people complain about really matter in the grand scheme of things?

The reality is that it is hard to really engage in “critical thinking” in this day and age, because we have lost the idea of an objective right or wrong.  One of the big differences between pre-Eclipse and post-Eclipse movies is this idea that there are things that are right and things that are wrong.  Yes, there is plenty of immorality shown in pre-Eclipse media, but, it is not justified like it is in post-Eclipse media.  Good was good and bad was bad.  Shows might depict people being bad, but they, and everyone else, knew they were being bad.  Now, good and bad are so muddled and twisted that no one really knows what they are anymore.

Now, one may say, well what about circumstances?  An example of which would be someone who steals or engages in criminal business ventures because she can not afford the basic necessities of life for herself and her family.  My answer to that is that none of us are perfect, and there are times, people make compromises out of necessity in a very difficult, and often rather harsh, world.  That does not change the fact that what they may be doing is wrong.

It is a funny society where one is supposed to “think for yourself” and “think critically,” but one is also supposed to be non-judgmental.  So, what does one base one’s critical thinking on?  Well, what I have seen in practice is that people do several things.  They often become part of a group, and accept that group’s judgments, often without question really.  In the United States, there is a liberal “team” and a conservative “team” that is now fueled by a 24-hour news cycle.  People also tend to base their opinions on their own feelings and whims.  This actually makes people even more subject to outside influence.

The Metamorph 2So, what can one do?  One of the few Western post-Eclipse shows that I think is good is Star Trek, or at least the Original Series and the Next Generation.  Anyways, one of my favorite episodes in Star Trek: the Next Generation is the episode, “the Perfect Mate.”  In this episode, there is a woman who is a metamorph, which means she naturally becomes the person that perfectly suits her mate.  In this show, she makes the choice to bond with Captain Picard, even though she is promised to marry someone else in an arranged political marriage.  She does this because she likes who she is when she is with Captain Picard.  In molding to Captain Picard, she understands the importance of duty, and she goes through with the arranged marriage to fulfill her duty.

I think this is a rather good metaphor for us.  All of us are influenced and molded by our social groups, the media we watch, and by what we expose ourselves to.  None of us really think for ourselves.  What we can do is to decide who we are going to listen to and who we are going to trust.  We can decide who is it we are going to be molded by.

These decisions become easier when we have a sense of right and wrong, and when we are not just basing things on our own opinions or whims.

The Hair I Inherited

My mother just came for a visit, and she left a couple of days ago.  By a strange coincidence, on the day she left, in my WordPress Reader, there appeared a Weekly Writing Challenge: DNA Analysis.  I do believe that when these things happen in this way, there is a reason and a purpose.  My mother lives across the country, so I really do not see her very often.  The last time I saw her was over two years ago.  We talked a great deal over the time she was here, and it was lovely to see her.

There was one facet of my journey that my mother was quite helpful with, in her own way.  Actually, it is a rather big problem for me.  That problem is my hair.  As you have all been reading, I am working on a lot of changes, including improving my clothing choices and personal appearance.  Still, there is the problem of my hair, and what to do about it.  One of the things that I inherited from my mother, and the rest of my family is very, very fine Scandinavian hair.

To be honest, for most of my life, I really did not even really try to do much with my hair.  When I was growing up in the 1980’s, the style was “big hair,” which was achieved using curling irons and blow dryers.  Now, I never learned how to use a curling iron.  I am incredibly clumsy anyways, so it was always an exercise in frustration, not to mention a painful exercise in frustration, as I inevitably would burn myself.  Besides that, no matter how much work I put in, my hair would go back to the straight, flat lifeless state it had been in.

Pin Curl styleI recently started researching pre-Eclipse hairstyles, and I discovered bobby pins and pin curls.  This has been the most wonderful discovery!  During her visit, my mother also introduced me to hair rollers.  Between pin curls and hair rollers, for the first time in my life, I have found a way to give my hair some life and body.

My mother also perfectly described the troubles I have always had with my hair, as these are the same troubles she has with hers.  As my mother described it, our hair starts off seeming compliant.  It goes into the shape that we want it to without too much trouble.  I have been able to put up my hair into lovely styles with bobby pins after a bit of practice.  Yet, as the day goes by, our very fine hair, strand by strand, escapes whatever we put it in.  It does not matter how many pins we use, or how much hairspray we use, the individual hairs still fly from their proper place.  Similarly, any curl will fall out by the end of the day as well.

As I was thinking of it, I think that the challenge I face with my hair is a very good metaphor for the challenge that we are facing when we try to be pure and innocent, particularly in the Late Iron Age in a Tamasic Guna.  We start off trying to make changes, but we get lazy or tired or start to feel lonely in our efforts.  We decide to have dinner by the TV, or leave the dishes for the morning.  We decide not to bother getting dressed nicely when we leave the house.  It is just the grocery store, after all.  We watch modern television because it is on.  Spiritually, we feel too tired to say our nightly prayers.  If we allow these little bits of laziness to take over, soon we are back to where we started on our journey.

I think that the solution to these challenges is the same solution that I have to the trouble of my hair.  During the day, I may have to keep my hair up to preserve the curls and re-adjust bobby-pins, or engage in other efforts to maintain my hair.  I also need to keep trying and not give up, even though there are days it seems like a lost cause.  On a spiritual level, we just do our best to keep up with our prayers and maintain our connection with Dea, whatever name we call Her by.  We recognize our faults and failings, and keep trying.

We also resist the temptation to just give up.  If we do succumb to the temptation to give up, we can always try again the next day,  That works with both hair and life I think.  We can always try again the next day!

Oh yes, we can also learn from those who came before us.  Our troubles are not unique.  Thank you, Mom, for the advice about the hair rollers.

Is Being Non-Judgmental a Virtue?

I have to admit, I really do not know much about popular culture.  To be honest, I never really knew much about popular culture.  Even in my younger days, by the time I would find out about something and begin to like it, it was already out of style.  One of the advantages to being over forty years old is that by definition, I am no longer “cool,” or whatever term is used for that concept nowadays.  It was always rather useless for me to attempt to be “cool,” but now, there is no reason to even try.  I can gracefully move into the status of an “old lady” and ask the “young-uns” for explanations when I have no idea what they are talking about.  I do hope to avoid getting too grumpy, and I have not put up a “Keep Off the Grass” sign…yet.

Keep Off the Grass SignThat being said, I think I may indulge in a bit of old lady grumpiness for the moment.  Now that I am blogging, I have been reading articles about how to promote one’s blog.  Of course, if I am taking the trouble to write a blog, it is nice to find people who will read what I have to say, so I have been dutifully reading the articles about what one is supposed to do.  Anyways, one of the things one is supposed to do is to go out and about and read and comment on other people’s blogs.

In venturing out into the blogosphere (I am assuming that is still a term that is used), I am encountering some rather strange ideas.  Some of the strangest ideas revolve around being “non-judgmental.”  There was a time that I saw being “non-judgmental” as a virtue, but I do not think that we meant the same thing by that a few decades ago.  To me, being “non-judgmental” meant being understanding about differences in culture and abilities, and as a general rule, being kind and well-mannered to everyone, no matter who they were.  It also meant having a sense of humility, realizing that I had just as many flaws as anyone else, so I should not try to put on airs like I was better than anyone else.

In some of my recent Internet exploration, I ran across some words that I will not repeat that left me really scratching my head.  Most of them were rather insulting words ending in the suffix “-shaming.”  In these discussions, the context was that this shaming was a bad thing and was “judgmental.”  I will admit that I had no idea why these terms were applied to the context they were and no idea what was so “judgmental” about what was being said.  It seemed to me that the post was discussing good manners in the context of Lolita.  For those who do not know, Lolita is a fashion movement starting in Japan, which is Victorian inspired, with a pretty, cute and girly look.  For an explanation of Lolita, here is a really good article on the subject.  This article has been criticized in the blogosphere of being “judgmental” as well, and I do not understand these criticisms in the least.

It seems to me the meaning of being “non-judgmental” has changed so that it is now a fault to have any standards for behavior at all.  I understand that even in ancient times when I was a child, values were being turned topsy-turvy, as I discussed in a previous article, Welcome Back, Sandra Dee.  Still, there was some sense that some things were right and some were wrong.

There also seems to be a lot of unkindness surrounding being “non-judgmental,” in reading the comments I have seen.  Although, I don’t know really.  I have to admit to being a little surprised by the amount of unkindness and rudeness there is on the Internet and blogosphere in general.  It is nice to have a little haven here, and I have been quite grateful that everyone’s comments have been polite and kind.

To me, it seems that maybe being “non-judgmental” in the context that it is used today is not really much of a virtue.  I think that the real virtues are kindness, courtesy, and humility, and that they should be extended to everyone.  On the other hand, one can still have good judgment about one’s own behavior and make decisions regarding who and what one will allow to influence her.

Oh dear, maybe I am putting up the Keep Off the Grass sign.  Well, I have reached the age where I can say these things, I think!

What Is “Real”? What is Ideal?

There was an interesting discussion after my last article, Welcome Back, Sandra Dee, regarding actresses, the roles they play, and who are they in “real life.”  There was mention of how who we are is often shaped by social expectations, and even a bit of philosophical discussion regarding our lives being an illusion and a play.

sandra-dee2As interesting as this discussion is, and I hope it continues, I think that in many ways the images are more important than the “reality,” or at least the “reality” in the sense of our physical existence.  I understand that this is contrary to the view of modern society.  We are fascinated by the “real lives” of celebrities, which generally consists of prying into the darkest and dirtiest parts of their lives.  We are particularly fascinated when the “real lives” of actresses, or other celebrities do not match the characters they play or the images they present.

I think that this fascination is a bit misguided, though, and I also think it is not really useful for those of us trying to clean and purify our Image Spheres for various reasons.

One of the reasons is that people are complicated.  We all play many different roles in our lives.  We play roles as parents, as students, as workers, as friends, and the list goes on and on.  Which one of these roles are “real”?  I think the answer to that is that they are all “real,” even though they are likely quite different.

People are also complicated in that we all have a True Self and a False Self.  On a basic level, our True Self is our better self, and our False Self is who we are when we succumb to temptation.  Using a popular media image, our True Self is the little angel on our shoulder, and our False Self is the little devil.  This idea is a bit foreign to modern, cynical thinking, which seems to operating under the belief that we are being “real” when we are at our worst.  Actually, it is interesting that there are currently many “reality shows” being produced that create artificial situations that often have the effect of bringing out the worst in people.

Aside from the complicated nature of people, when we are working to purify our Image Sphere, we are making choices as to what we are exposing ourselves to.  In our day to day interactions in the physical world, there are many situations that we do not have control over.  We can not always avoid ugly or poisonous things.  We are not always capable of creating a living environment that nurtures our soul.

Given that there are many things we do not have control over, when we do have control over our Image Sphere, it makes a lot of sense to choose good and healthy images.  Do these images represent the “reality” of the past or of another culture?  Some of the answer to that question depends on what one defines as “reality,” of course.  To avoid that difficulty, I think an easier question would be whether the images accurately depict the physical circumstances of the past or another culture.  If one phrases it that way, the answer is likely  that it does in some ways, and it does not in others.

On the other hand, when we get too much caught up in that analysis, I think we lose sight of what we are trying to do.  I think that the media we create and consume reflects our values and our ideals.  These are the stories we are choosing to tell and to listen to.

While the stories that we tell and hear may on some level reflect the physical, material circumstances that we find ourselves in, they also help shape and define our circumstances.  If we are trying to make changes in our lives to let our True Selves or our best selves shine forth, we need role models and examples.  I see nothing wrong with these role models being fictional characters.  I also see nothing wrong in allowing the actresses who bring these fictional characters to life being role models as well.

I think that this was understood in the past.  The images of actresses and movie stars were carefully preserved to hide their faults and their struggles.  Nowadays, there seems to be a great deal of effort spent on exposing the carefully hidden faults and struggles of the role models of the past and celebrating the bad behavior and faults of those who would be the role models of the present.  Much of the time, this is done in the name of “exposing the truth.”

VaseYet, is this really “exposing the truth,” or is it creating an illusion of an ugly and cynical world?  If our role models are celebrated for behaving badly, and if we are taught that this is “reality,” how will we ever aspire to, well, anything?

A metaphor to this might be a beautiful ceramic vase that has a flaw in it.  Does it make sense to turn the vase so that the flaw is visible and draw a black marker around the flaw to make the flaw more obvious?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to position the vase so the flaw can not be seen?

I think that all of us are beautiful vases with flaws, including celebrities.  The choice that we have is whether to highlight our beauty or highlight our flaws.  It seems an easy choice when looked at in this light, I think.