The Creative Tension Between Vitality and Fatality: Illuminating the Mystery of Sylvia Plath Through Her Striking Never-Before-Revealed Visual Art

“How frail the human heart must be — a throbbing pulse, a trembling thing — a fragile, shining instrument of crystal, which can either weep, or sing.”

“Once a poem is made available to the public, the right of interpretation belongs to the reader,” young Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother upon the publication of her first tragic poem. Perhaps Plath would have felt differently had she been able to anticipate how inseparable her poetry would become from its indelible wellspring, her personhood, as posterity enveloped both in an immensity of interpretation — and misinterpretation — the right to which “the public” all too haughtily presumes over any artist’s life. In the decades since her death — a death the circumstances of which have only intensified the impulse for interpretation — her poetry has permeated the fabric of culture, quoted in everything from popular science books to Hollywood blockbusters, often unmoored from context and warped by a superficial understanding of fact. Half-opaque though we are to ourselves, we so readily presume to see the reality of another’s life on the basis of little more than fragmentary glimpses and biographical half-fictions.

Sylvia Plath

In addition to her poems, Plath left behind a rich body of journals and letters — an abundance of autobiographical material that seems to have only deepened the mystery and myth of her person. She found an outlet for what words could not contain in her visual art. “It gives me such a sense of peace to draw; more than prayer, walks, anything,” Plath wrote in a letter to Ted Hughes when she took up drawing seriously at the age of twenty-four. “I can lose myself completely in the line, lose myself in it.”

In One Life: Sylvia Plath, Smithsonian curator Dorothy Moss hopes that we may find Plath — the unseen, unfathomed, misinterpreted Plath — in the lines of her visual art.

Self-Portrait in Semi-Abstract Style by Sylvia Plath, ink and gouache on paper, c. 1946-1952
(Estate of Robert Hittel, © Estate of Sylvia Plath)

The exhibition features a selection of images and objects from the Plath archives at Smith College and Indiana University’s Lilly Library, most of them never previously exhibited — sketches, drawings, collages, photographs, letters from her psychiatrist, handwritten pages from her journal, her childhood ponytail, her typewriter.

Triple-Face Portrait by Sylvia Plath, tempera on paper, c. 1950-1951
(Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, © Estate of Sylvia Plath)
Sylvia Plath’s childhood ponytail with her mother’s inscription, August 1945
(Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana)
“A War to End Wars,” self-portrait by Sylvia Plath, February 26, 1946
(Mortimer Rare Book Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, © Estate of Sylvia Plath)

Moss, curator of painting at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, had been incubating the idea for the show for five years. Having studied English and art history at Smith, where she first encountered the poet’s remarkable archives, she grew convinced that Plath made a worthy candidate for the Smithsonian’s One Lifeexhibitions, each offering a deep look at a single person’s impact on American life and culture. Previous installments in the series have celebrated founding father Thomas Paine, poet-philosopher Walt Whitman, baseball legend Babe Ruth, rivaling Civil War generals Grant and Lee, and civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.

Plath is only the third woman portrayed, after pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart and farm work activist Dolores Huerta. (Incidentally, Plath’s first job was as a farm worker — an experience she believed shaped her as a writer.)…

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https://www.brainpickings.org/

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The Psychology of Doubling Down

by Tracy Moore

Why some people go harder when faced with evidence they’re wrong

 You’ve seen it before: A friend, acquaintance, coworker or random high school friend posts on social media about chemtrails or dubious science on global warming or a side-eye questioning of whether the pay gap is real. Commenters or friends rush in to question the faulty thinking—but instead of examining what’s being said and rejiggering their worldview, the original poster doubles down, pivoting to any other argument that solidifies their original point. What’s behind the double-down, and why is it so hard to resist?

President Trump provides some of the most clear-cut recent examples. He recently doubled down on the North Korea issue, claiming that his threat to send “fire and fury” their way was not only not harsh — it actually wasn’t harsh enough. As The New York Times noted:

“Frankly, the people who were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” he told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”

Trump did it again with Charlottesville, refusing to condemn neo-Nazis by saying there was blame to be issued on both sides. When called out on the false equivalency, he doubled down again, insisting that the alt-right and “alt-left” are simply two sides of the same violent coin. As the Los Angeles Timesnotes:

At his news conference, Trump made a glib and utterly unpersuasive argument that tearing down a statue of Lee would put the U.S. on a slippery slope to … something. “This week it is Robert E. Lee, and this week Stonewall Jackson,” Trump said. “Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Naturally, he’s done it many other times.

Most of us know the term double-down from blackjack. You’re dealt two cards, and you have the option of potentially doubling your profit by taking on the risk of one more card. Maybe you go bust, but maybe you win big.

“It is considered the ‘money’ move in basic blackjack, a way to make twice as much profit with one flick of the wrist,” Matt Villana writes in a guide for when to use the move in cards. “Dealers and pit bosses refer to it as ‘reaching deep.’ For the rest of us, it’s known as ‘doubling down.’ And, to be honest, most of us do it way too often.”

We do it too much in life, too. And in real life, the application is slightly different. In gambling it’s a term used for calculated risk, one that typically indicates you have enormous confidence in winning. In real life the confidence applies to the conviction that you’re somehow above the fray of facts, and also possess just enough stubbornness required to die on that hill. It requires a steadfast refusal to admit there’s any possibility that you’re wrong, followed by wild scrambling to save face.

In other contexts, people use the term to simply mean make more effort or do more, as in “double down” to help Haiti, or “double down” on women’s issues. There is also, it’s worth noting, a KFC Double Down sandwich—the bread is replaced by two pieces of fried chicken.

But most of us nowadays use double down to indicate stubbornly clinging to a notion in the face of evidence to the contrary. And while the doubling-downer feels smug and confident, to the observer, it often looks like an obvious hot-air pivot by someone too insecure to consider that they might be wrong. While we should expect politicians to do it (after all, their livelihood depends on appearing to have the answers), anyone is capable of doubling down — journalists, partners, friends, scientists and colleagues.

Especially men? There are no statistics to indicate that men are more likely than women to double down on a bad argument. But Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen told The Atlantic that, at least when it comes to arguing differences between the sexes, men are more likely to see arguing as a contest, whereas women are more likely to see it as exchanging information. The result may be that men are motivated to do whatever it takes to “win” an argument, which could include coming up with anything to keep looking right, facts be damned—or at least heavily manipulated…

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https://melmagazine.com/the-psychology-of-doubling-down-32a237c1570a

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THE 5 MOST DANGEROUS DEMANDS OF FEAR

by Dylan CharlesEditor Waking Times

It seems the fear is taking over. After all, it’s been such an integral part of our lives for such a long a time now that, sadly, life just wouldn’t feel normal without it.

They used to say that if it bleeds it leads, implying that fear-pimping was somehow an acceptable part of economic growth. But, we know there’s more to the story. We know that fear is a tool used for social control. It’s a weapon of mass destruction and mass deterioration of mental health. It’s a technique used to entrap us into lower consciousness, to keep us humming along in a dense vibration. It keeps the reptilian brain in the driver’s seat, and used to create conflict and chaos.

Most importantly, though, fear, whether real or perceived, keeps us focused on survival and security, forgetting that abundance and cooperation are both possible and far more enjoyable.

“Fear begins and ends with the desire to be secure; inward and outward security, with the desire to be certain, to have permanency. The continuity of permanence is sought in every direction, in virtue, in relationship, in action, in experience, in knowledge, in outward and inward things. To find security and be secure is the everlasting cry. It is this insistent demand that breeds fear.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Those in positions of power in government and in the media know this all too well. They use fear to influence the behavior of the masses. They front it as an offer we can’t refuse, telling us it’s okay to be afraid, because, we have them to protect us. They use it as justification for the ever-expanding military industrial complex and the Orwellian Permanent War. They use it to manufacture political consent, and to manufacture tolerance of the ever-incessant attacks on privacy and liberty.

And here’s the catch-22: The more we give in to the tyranny of fear, the less secure we are. Fear is a trap, and here are five tricks it uses to enslave you.

1.) The Fear Tells You to Indulge in Anger and Hate

This one is widely understood, but worth repeating. If you’re unable to overcome fear, then you’re open to anger and hate, of which we see so much of in our world today. What is rarely discussed, however, is that fear is what fuels the anger and hate, and that fear that drives the unrest and chaos we see in our world.

Yoda, of course, said it best:

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” ~Yoda

2.) The Fear Expects You to Abandon Rationality

There’s a stark difference between fear and caution. Caution is a functional process that occurs in the present moment to keep us out of immediate danger. The fear in question here, on the other hand, is more like an art form, a type of refined capacity of human imagination. And imagination doesn’t need rationality.

Fear tells us to ignore facts, statistics and direct experience, and focus instead on hype, sensationalism and comforting lies. It draws our attention to the worst case scenarios, no matter how ludicrous they may be. From this perspective, sensible solutions to problems are practically invisible, and options are thin.

3.) The Fear Wants You to Try to Control Things Which are Beyond Your Control

“We think we are running things. But unless we reconcile what our unconscious and subconscious fears and motivations are, we are just a child on a bus with a toy steering wheel making ‘vroom’ sounds with our mouth. We aren’t in control of shit.” ~Aubrey Marcus

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About the Author

Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist esoteric arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. …

This article (The 5 Most Dangerous Demands of Fear) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/08/18/5-dangerous-demands-fear/

 

 

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We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance

Hsu_BR_LewisTHE PREVIOUS MODEL: Carl Lewis running the anchor leg of the men’s 4x100m relay race at the 1984 Olympic Games.David Madison/Getty Images

Genetic engineering will bring us new Bolts and Shaqs.

For many years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, also known as “track-town USA” for its long tradition in track and field. Each summer high-profile meets like the United States National Championships or Olympic Trials would bring world-class competitors to the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. It was exciting to bump into great athletes at the local cafe or ice cream shop, or even find myself lifting weights or running on a track next to them. One morning I was shocked to be passed as if standing still by a woman running 400-meter repeats. Her training pace was as fast as I could run a flat out sprint over a much shorter distance.

The simple fact was that she was an extreme outlier, and I wasn’t. Athletic performance follows a normal distribution, like many other quantities in nature. That means that the number of people capable of exceptional performance falls off exponentially as performance levels increase. While an 11-second 100-meter can win a high school student the league or district championship, a good state champion runs sub-11, and among 100 state champions only a few have any hope of running near 10 seconds.

Keep going along this curve, and you get to the freaks among freaks—competitors who shatter records and push limits beyond imagination. When Carl Lewis dominated sprinting in the late 1980s, sub-10 second 100m times were rare, and anything in the 10-second flat range guaranteed a high finish, even at the Olympics. Lewis was a graceful 6 feet 2 inches, considered tall for a sprinter. Heights much greater than his were supposed to be a disadvantage for a sprinter, forcing a slower cadence and reduced speeds—at least that was the conventional wisdom.

So no one anticipated the coming of a Usain Bolt. At a muscular 6 feet 5 inches, and finishing almost half a second faster than the best of the previous generation, he seemed to come from another species entirely. His stride length can reach a remarkable 9.3 feet,1 and, in the words of a 2013 study in the European Journal of Physics, demonstrated performance that “is of physical interest since he can achieve, until now, accelerations and speeds that no other runner can.”2

Bolt’s times weren’t just faster than anyone else in the world. They were considerably faster even than those of a world-class runner from the previous generation that was using performance-enhancing drugs. The Jamaican-born Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson achieved a world-record time of 9.79 seconds at the 1988 Olympic Games, beating Lewis and boasting that he’d have been faster if he hadn’t raised his hand in victory just ahead of the finish line. It would later be found out that he’d been using steroids.

The potential improvements achievable by doping effort are relatively modest.

Even the combination of an elite runner and anabolic steroids, though, was not enough to outcompete a genetic outlier. Bolt achieved a time of 9.58 seconds at the 2009 World Athletics Championship, setting a world record and beating his own previous record by a full tenth of a second.

We find a similar story in the NBA with Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal was the first 7-footer in the league who retained the power and agility of a much smaller man. Neither a beanpole nor a plodding hulk, he would have been an athletic 200-pounder if scaled down to 6 feet in height. When Shaq got the ball near the hoop, no man (or sometimes even two men) could stop him from dunking it. Soon after his entry into the league, basket frames had to be reinforced to prevent being destroyed by his dunks. After the Lakers won three championships in a row, the NBA was forced to change their rules drastically—allowing zone defenses—in order to reduce Shaq’s domination of the game. Here was a genetic outlier whose performance was unequalled by anyone else in a league that has long been criticized for its soft anti-doping policy; for example, it only added blood testing for human growth hormone to its program last year. Whatever doping may have been going on, it wasn’t enough to get anyone to Shaq’s level…

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http://nautil.us/issue/51/limits/we-are-nowhere-close-to-the-limits-of-athletic-performance-rp

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What the Buddha Taught Us About Race

What the Buddha Taught Us About Race
The Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho, Thailand | Photo by Christopher Rose http://tricy.cl/2evDRt3

Thai forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu discusses four main takeaways from his new translation of the Sutta Nipata.

By Emma Varvaloucas
Below, the monk answers four quick questions about the Sutta Nipata.
 

What are some suttas in the Sutta Nipata that are not famous, but are worth getting to know? Perhaps the most important section of the Sutta Nipata is the Atthaka Vagga, a collection of 16 poems on the topic of nonclinging. But there are some hidden gems in the rest of the collection, too. The Arrow (3.8) is a very strong statement on the need to overcome grief, and The Rod Embraced (4.15) starts with the vision of the world that led the young Buddha-to-be to seek awakening. As he says, he saw people floundering like fish competing with one another in small puddles, and there was nothing in the world that wasn’t laid claim to. Every time I read that passage I think of the time I saw salmon arriving at their spawning grounds in a stream no more than an inch deep, struggling to flop themselves over other salmon already dead, while bears were hovering around ready to strike. All that fighting, while in the end they were all just going to die.

You describe the common thread among the suttas in the Sutta Nipata as a response to the culture of ancient India, where brahmanical doctrine was the prominent religious tradition. How would you describe the Buddha’s relationship to the brahmans and their system of belief, and how does this collection illustrate that? We know from other texts that brahmans in the time of the Buddha were obsessed with the question of defining the true self, whether the true self survived death, and if so, how to make sure that it had enough to feed on. And we know from other parts of the canon that the Buddha regarded all these questions as wrong-headed because they got in the way of answering what he saw as a much more important question: how to put an end to suffering and arrive at a dimension where there’s no need to feed. The Sutta Nipata, though, touches on these topics only briefly. Instead, the brahmans presented here seem to be united only in their belief that they are better than everyone else, and the Buddha goes into great detail as to why people cannot be judged on their birth and social status, and should be judged by their actions instead.

That sounds especially pertinent to the issues of racism and classism that we still deal with today. How can we apply the Buddha’s positions from ancient India to contemporary times? Two of the Buddha’s teachings on racism and classism are especially applicable today. The first is the point I just mentioned: There’s nothing about birth or social status that makes a person good or bad. People are good or bad solely in terms of their actions, and so that’s how they should be judged—not by the color of their skin. There’s a nice passage in the Vasettha Sutta (3.9) where the Buddha notes that, with common animals, you know the animal by its coloring and markings, whereas the same standard doesn’t apply to human beings: There’s no physical mark that tells you whether a person is trustworthy or not. If you judge people as good or bad by their appearance, you’re reducing human beings—yourself and others—to animals.

The other teaching is a little less intuitive but just as important. There’s a sutta on the topic of body contemplation whose title, interestingly enough, is Victory (1.11). It gives a long catalog of the disgusting details of the human body, and then ends by saying, “Whoever would think, on the basis of a body like this, to exalt himself or disparage another: what is that if not blindness?” If you think that white skin is somehow special, imagine what a pile of white skin would look like on its own. That should be enough to subdue racial pride…

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https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/what-the-buddha-taught-us-about-race/

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Trump encourages gross violence against Muslims after Barcelona attack

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has suggested that some Muslims should be executed with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, hours after a deadly terror attack in Barcelona, Spain.

“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught,” Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon. “There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”

Trump’s tweet referenced a dubious story about US Army General John Pershing’s handling of Muslim prisoners during the Moro Rebellion (1899–1913) in the Philippines. The rebellion was an armed conflict between Muslims and the United States military.

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump frequently told a tale of how Pershing had Moro Muslim prisoners in the Philippines executed with bullets soaked in pig’s blood to quell rebellion against American rule.  

Speaking at a rally in Charleston February last year, Trump said General Pershing “took 50 bullets and he dipped them in pig’s blood.”

“And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem,” he said.

According to some historians, Trump’s tale is false. They have concluded it would have been “out of character” for Pershing.

But some other historians have suggested that American troops did use pigs or pig’s blood to intimidate Muslims during the Philippine conflict in the early 20th century.

US troops in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War (1899–1902)

 

“So yes, there were deliberate efforts to offend Muslim Filipinos’ religious sensibilities,” Christopher Capozzola, a history professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told TIME last year.

“And yes, there was large-scale violence against their communities. But I know of no event like the one that Mr. Trump describes,” he stated.

Muslim advocacy groups have challenged Trump to debate a representative from the American-Muslim community “on the issues” he has “raised about Islam and Muslims.”

Earlier in the day, Trump condemned the attack in Barcelona. At least 13 people were killed and 80 were injured after a van plowed into a crowd in the Spanish city.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/08/17/532079/Some-Muslims-should-be-executed-with-bullets-dipped-in-pigs-blood-Trump

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