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Archive for September, 2005

The clothing store The Gap is known for their great ads. This fall, the ad campaign has centred around popular musicians answering the question, "What's your favourite song?" (The "ad" part is that a favourite song is like a favourite pair of jeans, which of course, can be found only at the Gap.) I really dig the TV spots, because I think it's kind of neat to find out what someone's favourite song is… and professional musicians, in my mathematical-logic, must know a whole lot of songs, so their favourites must be really meaningful to them. Whether that's true or not, it's my gut reaction to the campaign – which I'm sure is kind of what they were going for – and it's given me a conversation-starter – "What's your favourite song?"

I am a true music lover. I love all sorts of really eclectic styles of music, and I know the words to about a million songs. My mother complained about this recently as she was helping me paint my bedroom. We had the station tuned in to a station that plays a lot of 60s, 70s, and 80s music, and I was happily singing along. She stopped me and said, "Is there any song you DON'T know the words to?!?" Of course there are, but it's true I do tend to remember song lyrics very easily. In any case, you would think someone like me, who loves so much music and is so passionate about it, would have trouble choosing a favourite. But no, you'd be wrong.

I do have a favourite song. It's a total gut reaction when someone asks me the question – it's like I have no other possible answer. I've loved this song since I was a little girl, about 6 or 7 probably. My favourite song is Brown Eyed Girl, by Van Morrison. I think it's just a perfect song: it's about love lost, a bit wistful, but cheerful; it's catchy and sing-able; it's sunny, must have been written in the summer, and reminds me of happy days. It always makes me smile, I never get tired of hearing it, and of course, I know all the words. (Imagine how pissed off I was when I went to see Van Morrion in concert a few years ago and he DIDN'T perform Brown Eyed Girl. It was like a betrayal.)

It's only when I overthink it that I come up with other songs that are special favourites to me. My initial, gut response is always Brown Eyed Girl. But to round out the top 5: Imagine, by John Lennon; You Can't Always Get What You Want, by the Rolling Stones; Solsbury Hill, by Peter Gabriel; and D'yer Maker, by Led Zepplin. (I just realized all my favourites are by male artists… weird.) All these songs make me FEEL something – happiness, hopefulness, sadness. I think that's why I love them so much.

So, I'm going to open up the question to anyone else out there who might be reading. I think a favourite song tells a lot about a person…

so, what's your favourite song?

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I like being me. I have a good life. I am blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my life. I have been lucky in a lot of ways, endowed with natural talents and abilities that have given me great joy. I am fortunate to be situated in this world in a way that gives me opportunities that many people don't have.

 

I like lots of things about me. I like that I am silly, smart, creative, honest, warm, kind, generous, a good and loyal friend, independent, optimistic, sarcastic. I like that I am tall, that I have brown hair, green eyes, and curves. I like that I can laugh at myself – I'm usually the first to do it! I like that I can see multiple sides to any issue. I like that I can sing, play piano, swim. I like that I enjoy and thrive on change, and welcome new experiences and points of view. I like that I am open-minded, particularly in regards to other people, and that I try my best not to judge others. I like that I have a strong sense of justice. There's lots of good things about me.

 

 

Now, all of this is not to toot my own horn. There are also lots of things I don't like about myself, too: I procrastinate, I eat too much chocolate, I have little will power, I spend too much money, I can be whiny when I'm sick, I sleep too much, I read too slowly, I drive too fast, I am quick to anger, I have a bad knee, I get stressed out easily, I bottle up my feelings, I'm scared of bugs, I hate camping, I take showers that are too long, I get road rage, I can be cruel with words. So the picture is far from perfect. But all in all, I'd have to say I like who I am, and I wouldn't want to be anyone else – and if the faults are included, I'll take them and deal with them as I go.

 

 

I have always believed there is an essence to a person; we all have an specific identity that is essential, and cannot change. This is not to say that I don't believe people can change, because I wholly believe it. But I think there are certain things we definitely cannot change about ourselves, no matter how we try. This is what I try to see in people – the essence of who they are.

 

 

I want to discover more about myself, and what it means to be me. I know that no matter where I go, what I become, who I am with, that I want to be ME. To me, this is what integrity means: to integrate all the aspects of oneself into one consistent persona; to be all parts of oneself in all situations. I think being a person of integrity necessarily means that no matter the situation, I will never act out of character, that I will always retain my identity, and that I will not give up any part of my system of beliefs and ideals.

 

 

As I move through life, this sometimes isn't easy, but it is an idea I am committed to. I'm curious to see what life will throw at me to test this commitment. I hope I am up to the challenge, and that on the day I die, I will look back at my life and smile, knowing that I never gave up on myself, that I always stayed true to my essence.

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Well, now that school has started, my time is divided into two main categories: reading for school, and procrastinating from reading for school. That said, I try to carve out a little time once a day for exercise, mindless TV, and reading before bed (yup, more reading). I have one rule about reading before bed: no reading schoolwork. That is not to say, however, that I can't read philosophy! (just not philosophy I am currently working with for school!) the past week or so, I have been reading existential philosophy before bed each night. It's not really the same as reading regular philosophy; existential philosophy is much more lyrical and interesting to read, and a lot less dry and theroy-laden as most philosophical texts. Existentialism is the philosophy of existence; many "existential philosophers" would not consider themselves philosophers at all (Dostoevsky, Ortega, Sartre), and many would certainly not appreciate being labelled as anything, much less existentialist.

 

Often when I tell someone that I am a philosophy major, they ask me the question, "Who is your favourite philosopher?" I usually respond that I haven't studied enough to answer that knowledgably, but that my main areas of interest are in ethics/bioethics, feminist theory, and existentialism. Well, I think I'm going to go out on a limb from now on and name someone, even though my studies are incomplete in regards to philosophy in general as well as being incomplete in regards to the work of this philosopher in particular. So here goes, the big announcement: my favourite philosopher is Friedrich Nietzsche.

 

Nietzsche defies description. He is many things: peri-existentialist (not quite existentialist, but if there had been no Nietzsche, there would be no existentialism), nihilist, athiest, cynic, psychologist, gifted writer, philosopher. Nietzsche is most certainly a major figure in literature and philosophy, and his work is cutting, brilliant, egotistical, and foreceful.

 

I'd like to share a famous passage from "The Gay Science" with you, The Madman. *excerpt from Existentialism from Dostoevksy to Sartre, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann, Meridian Books, 1975

 

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Why, did he get lost? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

"Whither is God?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murdereds. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its moving sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not laterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever will be born after us – for the sake of this deed he will be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke and went out. "I come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering – it has not yet reached the ears of man. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves."

It has been related further that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said to have replied each time, "What are these churches now if they are not tombs and sepulchers of God?"

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So, everyone who knows me, knows that I am a bit of a TV junky. I have my tried and true favourites that I simply can't miss (ALIAS, LOST), my faves that I can watch in re-runs for the rest of my life and still not get tired of them (Seinfeld, Sex and the City), more recent complete mind-numbing obsessions with deep, slightly ridiculous emotional ties to characters (Six Feet Under), and even a couple of guilty pleasures, mostly reality-based (Rock Star INXS, Canadian Idol (I have been known to vote), Survivor). Since I have been unemployed, I have been discovering all sorts of new television programs that have captivated my attention. One of these has been Starting Over. It's a reality show that situates several women in the same house where they begin self-help projects in order to overcome emotional and psychological dilemmas. I know what you're all thinking, Jenn's cracked up, but it's really good! I was skeptical at first, but once I started watching I was hooked: I wanted to know what steps were next for these women, how they were progressing, and whether they would be able to truly change their lives. I also enjoy watching because I can find bits of myself in a lot of the women I watch, and I like to see what self-help exercises they are encouraged to do, so I can see if that is something I, too, could learn from.

So, I was watching this for most of the summer, and this one woman in particular, Layne, was really striking home with me. She was looking for the "perfect man"… Mr. Right. She had a very stringent set of criteria by which she would measure men she met to help her determine whether she would be interested in continuing to spend time with them. The list was quite extensive, and involved physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological criteria. Two things stuck in my mind from watching her work through the issues she had surrounding men: One was the idea that she wanted to "be married", but she didn't have a specific target for that desire in the form of an actual person. The other was the idea that you could really fall in love with just about anyone, as long as you choose to love that person.

The wanting to be married thing is really pervasive for women. Most women will say that they would like to "be married one day", and idealize the notion of marriage – what it will be like, look like, feel like, to be married IN GENERAL…. not to one person in particular, but to be the wife of a faceless non-entity. The role of "wife" seems to be one that can easily be imagined by many women without the benefit of an actual husband!

I admit this is a concept that I have fallen prey to. I still have romanticized notions about marriage, and what it would be like to be married…. to someone, someone I obviously haven't met yet. I can picture in my mind's eye what it would be like to be in that scene, to know that I am a wife. Of course, the romanticized version does not include any of the unfortunate circumstances many women find themselves in today: domestic abuse, spousal rape, emotional neglect and abuse, marital infidelity, finding out terrible things about your husband (porn addictions, alcohol or drug abuse, gambling addictions, pedophilia, homosexuality, eg.). No, the romanticized version always has me smiling, happy to be a "wife", secure in knowing that someone has promised to love me forever.

As I have examined this mental picture of social conditioning, I have come to see how silly it is to want to be in an intimate relationship without actually having someone in mind to be a partner. I think it's one thing to want to marry the person you love, the person you have been with for some time, etc. But to just plain want to be married? doesn't make much sense. So, this is something I am working through on my own: I now am reframing my conceptions concerning marriage, so that I now believe that I don't know whether or not I want to be married, because I have not met someone appropriate to whom I would like to be married. It is also forcing me to reframe marriage and the role of "wife" that has been socially constructed for me, and most women, from an early age. I know that I want to be me; just me, in all the various roles I may inhabit in life. If one day, I become someone's wife, I will not cease to be me and start to become "wife", but I will be a "wife" in whatever way is most authentic for me.

The second idea, that a person can fall in love with most anyone, is much more difficult for me to grasp. I too, like Layne, have ideas of the "perfect man". I too have an extensive list of qualities I think would be important for the person I fall in love with to possess. I have thought of this as a good idea: having standards is a good thing! There's not point in "settling" for someone who has qualities that drive you nuts, or that just don't jive with your sense of the good life. However, there is a conflict of underlying concepts here: waht about the idea that LOVE is something that happens to you, that it is a force outside of you, something magical and mysterious, something that you "fall" into, a force stronger than you, that "you can't help who you love"? The notion of fate, I suppose: soul mates who must be fated to meet, whose destiny is written in the stars. I would argue that this conception of love is widely accepted by most people. This whole idea of having a list of qualities is in direct conflict with this notion of love as an uncontrollable force: either you can choose who you love, or you cannot. It seems quite clear to me that it IS possible to choose the recipient of one's love; people make these sorts of choices all the time. This takes the power away from love, in a way, and puts it in our hands.

 

If you take away this idea, that love is a force outside of you, then you are left with the only other possiblity: that love is actually inside of you. And if it is inside of you, and has been all this time, then it is not sensible to be waiting for love to find you. All that is constructed on the concept of love being something that happens to you crumbles when you look at love in a different way. If love is inside me, then I already have it; it's just a matter of expressing it. And really, is there a wrong way to express love? (Aside from stalking….) if we begin to think of LOVE as a VERB, an active word rather than a passive noun, a thing, then LOVE takes on a whole new meaning. Since I have LOVE, it is inside of me, it is only a matter of CHOOSING to express it to someone in an active way. And really, this opens up the door of potentiality for anyone to be the recipient of my love, so long as I choose it.

This is still a concept I am working with, this idea that I could potentially LOVE anyone. I'm still working with this notion in light of particular preferences I have for specific qualities in people. But it is an enlightening idea… could I really love anyone?

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links

Hello All!

You may notice if you scroll down the page a bit that I added some links to this site, with the help of a certain computer-programmer friend (thanks Matthew!). If you have ever wondered what the heck I'm flapping about most of the time, I put a variety of interesting links in that will give you a better idea. Ever wondered what existentialism really is? or why feminists always seem so angry? or what issues inform bioethics? Well, hopefully these links will provide some answers.

Happy surfing!

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I saw an old friend the other day. We met several years ago, and despite various circumstances, we always stayed in touch. We always used to have great talks, good discussions. He is one person who sees the world in a similar way to the way I see do, and so our chats always end up on the same note, the same page, or in a similar way. He had been away in a foreign country for a long time, and we hadn't seen each other in quite a while, so we had lots to catch up on. What we mainly talked about was how we felt we had changed in response to things that had happened in our lives during that span of time. It was fun to find out we had both learned similar lessons, and had both changed in similar ways.

 

One thing that kept coming up in our chat was the way we had overcome various limitations that we felt had constrained us in the past, how patterns of behaviour keep on cropping up, and how difficult it sometimes could be to succumb to the old ways of thinking or doing things. For him, he was able to sustain some major changes while he was away from his friends and family, and he was very pleased about that. Now that he is back home, certain pressures to conform to the old idea of who he was and how he acted are coming up all the time. I found this was true for me, as well, when I came back home from only a few short months of living away. I had made changes that I was happy with, and when I returned, it was very easy to revert back to old habits. For example, both of us, when we lived away from home, were very active and fit. When we came back, we stopped working out. Why? Because when we lived here, we were not active and fit, and so it's easy to revert back to the old familiar life.

 

The main thing we agreed on in regard to limitations was that most often, nobody hold us back but us. If you think of something that you have "always wanted to do", but haven't yet done, 9 times out of 10, the reason you haven't done it is because you haven't allowed yourself. It's not that somebody else is preventing you from doing that thing – it's you! So, then, the question becomes: do you truly want it? If you haven't allowed yourself to accomplish that thing, why not? Do you really want it, truly? Or are you perhaps afraid of what will happen if you actually do it?

 

I have discovered a limitation of my own, or rather, I have rediscovered a limitation that I have always had. I enrolled in a class this year that I thought would be difficult but interesting: philosophy of biology. Difficult, because I do not have an affinity for science, and I didn't study even the basics of any science in high school, which was 11 years ago. Interesting, mainly because of the philosophy of Darwin. Anyway, I went to my first class the other day, and I was completely overwhelmed. It was a two hour lecture, which didn't help, but I felt like I couldn't keep up at all. My head hurt by the end of the lecture. I went home dejected. I started the readings for next week. By the third sentence, my mind was wandering and I had that headache again. I was disappointed in myself. When I signed up, I really felt as though I could do it; I could take this course and do well, and learn a lot and enjoy it. After the first day, I realized that was a pipe dream. There was no way I was going to be able to write knowledgeably about biology – NO WAY! So, this seemed to me to be a natural limitation. But, it's not, really. I could, if I so chose, study really hard, read additional text books, talk to people who know lots about biology, get extra help from the prof or TA, study with a partner, etc. However, I am making the decision not to do that, because it just isn't that important to me. I dropped the class and transferred into one I know I will do well in – philosophy of language.

 

I hold myself back in all sorts of ways. I prevent myself from being as creative and artistic as I think I could be, and want to be. Nobody is stopping me from playing piano everyday, or painting, or writing stories. Just me. I prevent myself from being as active and fit as I want to be. Nobody keeps me from working out, or doing yoga, or going running, or lifting weights. Just me. I prevent myself from doing all sorts of things that I would love to do, like travel, buy a home, be debt-free, learn a language. I just don't do it! But I am slowly getting there, breaking down the limitations I have set up for myself. After all, I always wanted to study philosophy, and look at me now! It just requires the right amount of energy and dedication, and I know I will be able to do all the things I want to do in life, one limitation at a time.

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I started back to school at the end of last week. Because I am now taking the bus to Halifax daily rather than driving, I arrived about 20 minutes early for my first class (which is good, because usually when I drive, I leave too late and sort of think my car is magic and will get me there much faster than it really does, so I end up late for class most times). Since I was early, I decided to take a few minutes to myself, to get centred for the day. I found a nice little spot outside, and I began to think. It ended up being an epiphanous moment. Here's what I came up with:

It's kind of neat to discover myself here, now. If someone had asked a few years ago what I would expect to be doing at this point in my life, I would have given the usual answers: married, maybe kids, settled into a career, house, etc. I wouldn't have thought I would be single and unattached, or that I wouldn't have the slightest interest in motherhood. I wouldn't have guessed I would have made poor financial decisions that would have left me struggling to pay bills. I wouldn't have guessed I would be unemployed. I wouldn't have guessed I would be on the brink of leaving a 10 year long career. I wouldn't have guessed I would still be living in the same city. I wouldn't have guessed that I would have started and sold a moderately successful business. I wouldn't have thought I would be a student again, and loving the depth of insight it would bring me. It's so interesting to see the people who have come in and out of my life, and how those who have remained constant have also changed and developed. It's neat to find how my moral and religious beliefs have changed. I wouldn't have guessed that my life would follow a path that would turn back on itself.

It's interesting that I have never pushed myself in certain directions, either physically or intellectually. I am ruled more by my emotions that by my reason, despite being capable of reason and intellectual pursuits. Things happen in my mind mostly as a result of how things make me feel. I find this fascinating. If I had never experienced professional boredom, I may not have been led to return to school. If I had not been emotionally affected by world events such as 9/11 and the war on Iraq, I may not have been led to the political beliefs I hold. If I had not been negatively emotionally impacted by my former business partner, I might have stayed, and still be a business owner. If I had not been emotionally impacted by my experiences in the baptist church, I might still believe in god. My thought processes are almost entirely in response to or based on how I feel about things going on around me. How fascinating!

I am finding my own way, and in my own time. I am who I am, and I do what feels right to me. I am not to be rushed in this life. No one can push me or coerce me into being or doing certain things. Things happen within me in their own time. To truly learn the lessons I am presented with, to internalize them, they must be natural processes – natural to ME.

I'm more and more like my astrological sign all the time: the crab. Just like a crab, I need time and space to come out of my shell. Just like a crab, if you poke at me I will hide, and if you poke at me persistently enough, I'll snap off your fingers with my pinchers! Just like a crab, I am soft and tender under my shell, but you have to be willing to break through it to get to the good stuff. Just like a crab, I hide in the sand until trouble blows over. Just like a crab, I carry my home on my back and can be at home anywhere in the world. Just like a crab, I sidestep around obstacles in the most interesting ways. Just like a crab, I am a delicacy – if you can catch me!

I love the process I am undergoing, of learning more and more about who I am. Sometimes this involves finding out how others view me; sometimes it's more about finding new things about myself, on my own. Sometimes it's all about admitting things about myself, to myself and others. Sometimes, it's about finding things out about the world in which I live, and what hurts me and what makes me happy about that world. I am finding my way, each day, in my own way, in my own time. And that feels wonderful!

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