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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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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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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John Quincy Adams on Efficiency vs. Effectiveness, the Proper Aim of Ambition, and His Daily Routine

John Quincy Adams. Portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1796.

“The spark from Heaven is given to few — It is not to be obtained by intreaty or by toil.”

“Those who work much do not work hard,” Henry David Thoreau observed in his prescient meditation on the myth of productivity and the measure of meaningful labor a century before the dawn of the cult of workaholism, which continues to bedevil us with ever-accelerating virulence to this day.

A generation earlier, John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767–February 23, 1848) — another man of introspective genius and uncommon wisdom — dug at the heart of modernity’s foundational disconnect between efficiency and effectiveness: our tendency to pour tremendous energy into doing things, with little reflection on whether those are the right things to do in the first place.

His journals, now published as John Quincy Adams: Diaries 1779–1821 (public library), offer an exceedingly insightful record of one extraordinary man’s reflections on his own nature, haloed with luminous wisdom on the universals of human nature. Throughout them, the sixth President of the United States examines the paradox of how even the most industrious self-exertion can fail to attain a worthwhile result and why unfocused ambition is a guarantee of frustration rather than fulfillment.

In the spring of 1819, six years before he won the Presidency, 52-year-old Adams anticipates Kierkegaard’s proclamation that “of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous [is] to be busy,” and laments the absurdity of ineffectual busyness that animates his days in office as Secretary of State:

Every day starts new game to me, upon the field of my duties; but the hurry of the hour leaves me no time for the pursuit of it, and at the close of my Career I shall merely have gone helter skelter through the current business of the Office, and leave no permanent trace of my ever having been in it behind.

Years earlier, in observing his own habits of mind in the course of his voracious self-education, Adams had become aware of the meager correlation between effort exerted and results obtained when a clarity of purpose is lacking — even the mightiest discipline, after all, is wasted without a clear direction. In a diary entry penned on the final day of 1804 — a year he considered distinguished by “its barrenness of Events” — the thirty-seven-year-old Adams laments his tendency to lose himself in rabbit holes of what may be interesting but is not relevant to his larger aims:

My studies were assiduous and seldom interrupted. I meant to give them such a direction, as should be useful in its tendency; yet on looking back, and comparing the time consumed with the knowledge acquired, I have no occasion to take pride in the result of my application — I have been a severe Student, all the days of my life — But an immense proportion of the time I have dedicated to the search of knowledge, has been wasted upon subjects which can never be profitable to myself or useful to others — Another source of useless toil, is the want of a method properly comprehensive and minute, in the pursuit of my enquiries — This method has been to me a desideratum for many years; I have found none in books; nor have I been able to contrive one for myself. From these two causes, I have derived so little use from my labours, that it has often brought me to the borders of discouragement, and I have been attempted to abandon my books altogether — This however is impossible — for the habit has so long been fixed in me, as to have become a passion, and when once severed from my books, I find little or nothing in life, to fill the vacancy of time — I must therefore continue to plod, and to lose my labour; contenting myself with the consolation, that even this drudgery of Science, contributes to Virtue, though it lead not to wealth or honour…

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RADICAL LEADERSHIP: TURNING THE TABLES ON SOFT SLAVERY

by Gary ‘Z’ McGee, Staff Writer Waking Times

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will police the police themselves?” ~Juvenal

What do we do when power corrupts, as it tends to? What do we do in the face of tyrannical governments, uncontrollably oppressive dictatorships, and police or judicial corruption and overreach? What do we do with the rampant soft slavery that surrounds us? Do we just shrug our shoulders and trust in the chain of obedience, even though the chain of obedience is the source of the problem? Do we just indifferently bury our head in the sand and hope that the Powers That Be protect our asses while we’re and blinded by our faith in the system?

Governing the precept that humans are fallible, imperfect, and prone to make mistakes, especially when it comes to power, it stands to reason that confiding in a system made up of humans wielding power is absurd. It’s circular reasoning at its worst. As Edward Abbey wisely surmised, “Since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.” Indeed. So, it stands to reason that attempting to lead (rule) ourselves (despite our personal failures) is superior to allowing others to lead (rule) us (since power tends to corrupt).

Common sense, right? Not so fast. As Will Rogers famously quipped, “Common sense ain’t so common.” People are unlikely to question a system they’ve been indoctrinated into accepting, even if that system goes against common sense, the golden rule, and the non-aggression principle. People are more likely to stick to what they’ve been conditioned to believe. Whether that belief is political or religious or both.

Overcoming this takes a particular flavor of courage that doesn’t readily exist in the average person.It’s a kind of courage that must be birthed through great psychological pain and suffering, usually at the death of one’s innocence. It must be nursed and cultivated daily, lest it slip back into passivity or back into typical, ineffective, and outdated modes of courage. It must be guided by a unique and daring flavor of leadership: a radical leadership that audaciously checks and balances constructs of power and teaches others how to do the same.

Becoming Free

“We are all born free and spend a lifetime becoming slaves to our own false truths.” ~Atticus

Radical leadership begins by overcoming false truths. A false truth is any belief that is deemed invalid according to cosmic law. It’s our responsibility alone to figure this out. Nobody else can do it for us. We may get lucky and have a teacher/leader who guides us toward a truth that is deemed valid according to cosmic law, but we should not count on getting so lucky. It’s our responsibility alone to question what we’ve been taught, no matter how wise or enlightened our teachers/leaders seem to be. Because, at the end of the day, even our teachers/leaders are fallible human beings. And even the wisest and most enlightened among them are still susceptible to the seductive lure of power. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

It is for that reason that Nature itself is usually a better teacher/leader than almost any human. Even better: teachers who are in touch with Nature. Of course, as children, we have no choice but to go along with whatever agenda our parents/teachers/leaders have set out for us. But there will come a time later, usually after we’ve left home, when that agenda/belief must be questioned. It may turn out that, upon questioning these agendas/beliefs to the nth degree, they come out the other side of the “cocoon” as worthy and valid of cosmic truth. But this will usually not be the case. And that’s okay. Because then we’ll have more reason than ever to become free.

What’s crucial to understand is that freedom is almost entirely psychological in nature. In today’s day and age, it is less about breaking free physically (from hard overt slavery), and more about breaking free psychologically (from soft covert slavery). Breaking free psychologically is astronomically more difficult than breaking away physically, because it is all done inside us. Deep inside us, where our demons, repressed shadows and cognitive dissonance are all tangled up in a knot that seems impossible to untie. That’s where radical leadership comes in…

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About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGeea former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
This article (Radical Leadership: Turning the Tables on Soft Slavery) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary ‘Z’ McGee and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/08/16/radical-leadership-turning-tables-soft-slavery/

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Why Right Livelihood Isn’t Just About Your Day Job

Why Right Livelihood Isn’t Just About Your Day Job
Photo by Eutah Mizushima | https://tricy.cl/2vtDa9t

 

In our messy and entangled world, it is impossible to separate what we do for a living from the larger system that makes living possible.

By Krishnan Venkatesh

If we are embarking on a spiritual path, we need to live our lives ethically, and this means ensuring that we do as little harm as possible to anyone or anything while we’re earning our daily bread. If we don’t, our practice will be undermined by our daily actions, not only because of the practical consequences of harmful acts but also through the internal agitation of remorse and denial.

The Buddha’s statements about right livelihood are mostly what we would expect him to say. Avoid business in weapons, human beings, meat, intoxicants, and poison, according to the Anguttara Nikaya. Monks and contemplatives should steer clear of fortune telling, blood sacrifices, and other “base” or “lowly” arts, the Digha Nikaya reads. The careers of a soldier and actor are also full of dangers to the soul, warns the Samyutta Nikaya, and any activity requiring dishonesty and injury will annul spiritual progress.

All of these guidelines seem clear enough, and yet the path to right livelihood itself isn’t that simple. For example, is a soldier’s career necessarily incompatible with a spiritual life if he aspires to keep the peace and protect sentient beings? If plays and films have the potential to bring an audience closer to the truth about the human condition and to awaken compassion, why can’t there be Buddhist actors?

Even professions that seem admirable and praiseworthy can be tangled up in negative consequences. A physician today is implicated in a dubious industry that often benefits corporations and shareholders more than patients. My own career as a professor at a private college is mottled with questions about the consequences of the debt these young people take on in order to study. Is it truly worth it for them, or will it hurt them in the future in ways they cannot yet imagine? And, if so, does this negate the beneficial aspects of my work?

Almost every profession carries a burden of nagging doubt. Life was simpler 2,600 years ago. A butcher’s job related to the farmer who sold him the cow, the cow he butchered in his yard, and the customers who bought the meat.

Today, any means of livelihood is knotted into a vast system that impacts lives and landscapes thousands of miles away. A modern butcher’s livelihood is inextricable from the powerful farming and slaughtering industry that has the power to wipe out small farms and entire communities.

It has become much harder to evaluate the consequences of our jobs: we can do the research, or we can shut our eyes. In either case, the result is that deep inside, we find ourselves unsettled.

Since stepping out of the great economic net is also not possible for most of us, how can we find right livelihood?

We might resign ourselves to the fact that any profession we choose will be a messy mixture of good and bad consequences. We can make a daily effort to maximize the good and minimize the bad; indeed, nearly every job gives daily opportunities to help people and improve the world in some way. The effort to understand the antecedents and consequences of our work is also a mindfulness practice in a system that would prefer us to function on autopilot. To a thoughtful person, this effort also creates a constant tension with our work; we cannot hurl ourselves into our jobs with unquestioning ardor.

Many of us crave careers about which we can be wholeheartedly enthusiastic, but it can be a good thing to be in two minds about our jobs and to not identify with them too strongly. In Pali, the prefix samma means “complete, perfected,” rather than simply “right,” with its connotations of orthodox correctness. Thus, samma-ajiva may mean something more like “livelihood fully understood and rightly conducted, with all its tensions.” This would involve a saner relation to our work lives, in which we strive to be the best we can, and yet do not expect our jobs to give us the impossible, namely complete happiness and fulfillment…

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https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/right-livelihood-isnt-just-day-job/

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The Terror Within and the Evil Without: James Baldwin on Our Capacity for Transformation as Individuals and Nations

James Baldwin (Photograph: Sedat Pakay)

“It has always been much easier (because it has always seemed much safer) to give a name to the evil without than to locate the terror within.”

“The self,” the poet Robert Penn Warren observed in his immensely insightful meditation on the trouble with “finding yourself,” “is a style of being, continually expanding in a vital process of definition, affirmation, revision, and growth, a process that is the image, we may say, of the life process of a healthy society itself.” Indeed, if the great humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm was correct, as I believe he was, in asserting that self-love is the foundation of a sane society, our responsibility to ourselves — and to our selves — is really a responsibility to one another: to know our interiority intimately and hold our darkest sides up to the light of awareness. But part of our human folly is that we do this far less readily than we shine the scorching beam of blameful attention on the darknesses of others.

That is what James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) explores in a magnificent 1964 piece titled “Nothing Personal,” found in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction (public library) — the indispensable volume that gave us Baldwin on the creative process and his definition of love.

A year after he contemplated “the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are,” Baldwin writes:

It has always been much easier (because it has always seemed much safer) to give a name to the evil without than to locate the terror within. And yet, the terror within is far truer and far more powerful than any of our labels: the labels change, the terror is constant. And this terror has something to do with that irreducible gap between the self one invents — the self one takes oneself as being, which is, however, and by definition, a provisional self — and the undiscoverable self which always has the power to blow the provisional self to bits.

Echoing Bruce Lee’s assertion that “to become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are,” Baldwin turns his critical yet uncynical intellect toward our capacity for self-transformation — the most difficult and rewarding of our inner resources comprising our collective potentiality:

It is perfectly possible — indeed, it is far from uncommon — to go to bed one night, or wake up one morning, or simply walk through a door one has known all one’s life, and discover, between inhaling and exhaling, that the self one has sewn together with such effort is all dirty rags, is unusable, is gone: and out of what raw material will one build a self again? The lives of men — and, therefore, of nations — to an extent literally unimaginable, depend on how vividly this question lives in the mind. It is a question which can paralyze the mind, of course; but if the question does not live in the mind, then one is simply condemned to eternal youth, which is a synonym for corruption…

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