Friday, October 4, 2013

As I always imagined, if you want to nurture your ability to understand people and the Chekhov.  Check out today's NYTimes article once again emphasizing the necessity of the Humanities.

My father-in-law, a psychiatrist, once said that he learned the most about people through literature...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the emotional vs. the rational

It's been awhile since I have blogged since I haven't had enough hours in a day to do everything for the past year, it seems.
So here I am, on a practice run tonight.

On my way home I was listening to NPR and there was an Op-ed columnist who just wrote a fictional book entitled "The Social Animal."

The thrust of the interview, as I interpreted it, had to do with how our society sees the emotional and the rational as separate parts of our being. That being said, the value --in our society--is usually placed on the rational. David Brooks argues that instead of relying on rational decisions, people tend to be influenced by their underlying, unconscious emotional state, which is in turn influenced by the social relationships surrounding them.

Though he agrees we cannot control the emotional (as it is subconscious), we can "educate" the emotional:
Now, we don't have the choice to control our emotions, but we do have the power to educate our emotions. And we do that through literature and through art and music to give ourselves a repertoire of emotional experiences.
If you choose to go to a college,  you're educating your emotions by who you surround yourself with. If you go to the Marine Corps, different sort of education. So simply because I'm saying it's unconscious and emotional,  doesn't mean it's beyond our control. We have the choice to choose how we're going to educate our emotions.

Do we do enough to educate our emotions? Or, should our emotions educate us?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Today was the first day of the Spring semester and what a wonderful day it was...there is something so contagious and so inspiring about looking at my students as they begin their quest for knowledge and wonderful it is to know that I have the luxurious opportunity to take part in this...

A little while ago on NPR, Stanley Fish was interviewed about his views on education...he was adamant that a professor's job has nothing to do with teaching students about life lessons. Having read many of Fish's theoretical works as an undergrad and as a graduate student, I was interested in what he had to say. Then, after hearing the interview, decided, that I hope to never be like him.

One of the things I remember most about my academic life are those few professors that made a difference-- those that taught me life lessons. Whether it was to think critically, to interrogate the world, to understand what I believe, or to love whatever it is I do with all my heart...I got it. And, I thank them for shaping the meandering pathways in my life.

Today , I read :
...the British writer, James Allen, who wrote a little book entitled As a Man Thinketh. Allen said the thoughts we cultivate in our minds will grow up and will show up in our attitudes, actions, and words. "A (person's) mind may be likened to a garden," he wrote, "which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind."

We forget, I think, quite often, that we need to nourish our mind, to intelligently cultivate it because if we don't the alternative may very well take control.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It has been a crazy several months and have thus been unable to blog...let alone get any sleep in the course of a 24 hour day.
But what has plagued me this semester has been the relevancy of art.

There is always a chasm between what we know and what is possible...Magritte said it best when he spoke about the mind and its ability to blind us from things around. What exactly does that mean? The Enlightenment thinkers continually professed the unthinkable capacity of the mind if cultivated and we all have been schooled to think that knowledge is how exactly could the mind blind?

Magritte took the most commonplace, banal objects and represented them in bizarre, foreign ways- to shock, to confound, to create paradox. And, Magritte believed, when one is faced with paradox, one then "sees."

But when one sees with the rational eye: the mind ...we question all ideas with the practical, the pragmatic, the feasible...BUT does this type of questioning then make less likely the manifestation of the unlikely, the unimaginable , and the impossible?

And if the impossible is closed off , do we then just surround ourselves with mediocrity?

Goya believed that artists should educate the masses with his pen but he also believed that one must flirt with the unconscious, irrational mind to create "true" art... could Goya's belief be a 19th century rephrasing of the above? Yes, it is necessary to think and question, but in order to create, to imagine, to achieve great things... it is also necessary to not allow your mind to create obstacles that could get in your way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I've learned many wonderful things from my students' blogs these past semesters and especially in the classes where I fused blogs with my physical classes ...the blogs allowed me to really get to know my students in ways that I would have never been able to through class discussion or through short face-to-face confrontations.

As a professor lecturing, I would catch a glimpse of the student and all of a sudden a particular experience that student had, or a profound thought, or a personal image that student shared would emerge and I started to realize that I was no longer seeing just a face with a name but faces and names that were connected to lifestories and creative ruminations that intrigued and inspired me. Particularly fascinating it was when I had students whose outer composition never revealed how incredibly profound, perceptive and interesting they were inside...How great would it be if in our everyday encounters we didn't just access/judge/see people through their outer compositions but instead saw in each face individuals with lifestories...

I flew in to Chicago from SFO yesterday. What started out as a 4 hr flight became a 9 hr flight with my 2 1/2 year old (who actually did remarkably) ...but since my husband didn't travel with me I had to cart around a car seat , a cart with 2 luggages and a stroller. Looking completely inadequate, this student leader asked me if I needed help and had his "student ambassadors" help me. Apparently, after talking with them, I found out that this was a program instituted by Eisenhower to send highschool students to different countries all over the world to get to know each other and other countries ...His belief was that ordinary citizens of different nations, if able to communicate with one another, would put their differences aside and live in peace. And he believed that the important step was to see the other as another human being with the similar needs, similar emotions, similar fears, and similar desires. But to do that meant really getting to know them...faces with lifestories...

My conversation with them was enlightening and the blogs I have seen online have also been enlightening. Both experiences reassured me that if these students (my students and the student ambassadors) are any representation of our future , we'll really be okay.

And as a mom with a 2 1/2 year old, I need to know that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

it's been a tough few days with my sister in the hospital. the one thing that really forces you to think about life in its most rudimentary way is when everything you take for granted suddenly might be taken away from you. my place of quiet...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

art ...and the world

NPR discussed the Rwandan genocide and they interviewed a woman who was 8 months pregnant when the war was going on. About to be raped, the soldier cut her Achilles tendon so all she could do was crawl away. When she gave birth, she could not move, docgs ate her baby.

In a world like this ...what importance does art have?

Art--in all its forms--must show society what it refuses to see. Even the most obvious, the most mundane things have been used as subject matter for artists because we --often see things but rarely think about what it really means or we justify our indifference because we think it is not our problem.

As every aspect of our life is affected by gasoline prices and the incredibly weak dollar...i think we are starting to realize as individuals in a collective society that the whole world is interconnected. Nothing we do affects only us...knowing that let's turn our actions into a positive. Everything we do CAN have an effect on somebody, somewhere in the world.

Rwanda is our problem. Iraq is our problem. China is our problem. The environment is our problem.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Today's Gift

Art sometimes shows the obvious - because we, in our daily lives, are too busy to LOOK, to really see the world around us. Street Art has become the art of today forces us to look at our environment , above, below, in crevices, in cracks in places where we least expect it to find beauty, to find art. Remember through Baudelaire that beauty does not need to be aesthetically pleasing, it need not be polished and neat, it need not be pretty - he asks that it be REAL, authentic, genuine, something that makes you FEEL: love, happiness, sadness, fear, or anger - as all of our emotions are beautiful and they all allow us to realize that we are alive. ..and life in all its emotions and tribulations a gift.

Try to make it a point everyday to find in your everyday world "today's gift" something, anything that is "beautiful"...last night when I came home from teaching class at 10:30, I went into my bedroom and saw my husband and my 2 year-old daughter sleeping together on our bed. That was "today's gift."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Negotiating te Self in art

I just watched REVOLVER and i must say that was the most intriguing movie i have seen in a very long time. Slapstick, witty dialogue, fusion of avatars with real people in the parodying of intense emotion while being psychologically informed and dramatically baffling...this is what art is about. intellectual and revelatory.

For me one of the most interesting aspects of the movie is its ability to illustrate the dialectical relationship between our different selves as we construct, understand, discover our self. Specifically, Ritchie brings to the surface the protagonist's fears...demonstrating how incredibly real the feelings are behind someone's anxieties --so real that they aggregate so much power they become debilitating. Invisible to others BUT nevertheless real to the person going through them..while simultaneously able to show the incredible and necessary power and role of the mind to overcome it.

For a long period of time , psychoanalysis has informed and influenced the creation and interpretation of visual and written art. For many scholars it has become an indispensable tool in understand the role of art as a transitional object and role of art as a tool in negotiating, creating and understanding the self.

For Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and Juliz Alvrez both Cuban exiles, the experience of living in a country different from their own brought forth issues of separation, fragmentation, isolation, diasporic identity and difference. On many levels --albeit very differently--both of these artists used their art in an autobiographical manner to "negotiate their selves." More to come...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Art vs 21st century world

why do we need art? in an era where the competition is titillating images that go light years a minute...ART forces us to slow down.
Why is it important to slow down?
because slowing down forces us to think about what is in front of us, what is around us, about ourselves. Only when we really truly think ...can we understand and explore our place in the world.

SLOWING down forces us to be PRESENT. More often than not we are not present. How often are we checking our texts or emails, in a hurry to get somewhere, bored and would rather be elsewhere, miserable and therefore each of these actions we are not present. When we finger someone for cutting us off, when we get angry when we are in is truly easier to get angry and when we get mad we are, in actuality, responding by habit. But to be PRESENT means to not respond by habit, to be there, to take a deep breath, to deal with the situation differently than you would otherwise, to let the dude that cut you off go without giving him a finger.

Rothko's pieces for me allow one to be present - you commune with it, you confront silence, you confront your own thoughts, you respond without being given a response. think our own thoughts... present...explore your own thoughts, create your own thoughts, get to know your self. be present.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

But it is a pipe! isn't it?

It is so easy to see art as something that hangs in a museum and as something that is separate and insignificant to your life particularly in the 21st century when so many seemingly more important things are happening...but art is not something that merely hangs in a museum wall nor is it something that is separate from the chaotic world that we all inhabit. In fact, art allows us in many ways to see the world ...or at least, allows us to question how we see the world.
Rene Magritte's "Treasury of Images" is probably one of the most annoying images to my 20th- Century Art students because they feel that 1) it is a picture of something mundane; 2)it is making you question something you know to be true; and 3) once you realize he is saying it is not actually a real, 3-dimensional smoking pipe but a representation of a pipe, they often think--often out loud-- well...duh?!?!?!

But...let's rewind a second and give this piece its worth.

Magritte is making an incredibly important point about the difference between representation and the actual thing itself. Specifically, that an image of something ( a painting of a pipe) is not the real thing (the smelly thing that my father and grandfather smoke from time to time) but rather something that has been created, painted, and therefore an illusion. Once again, my students say: "yes...we know...we've always known, tell me something I don't already know." But do we? really, do we know the difference?

Why is that our (and I use this very generally) sense of beauty is based on images we see on television ads, billboards, and magazine ads? Why is it that so often in cafes and restaurants people talk about television shows like 24 and Gray's Anatomy as if these are actual people and actual situations that these cafe-goers have first-hand knowledge and information about? Why is it that "wealth" is associated with a certain kind of lifestyle, a certain look, a certain brand, a certain car and a certain happiness that so many people try to attain?.. believing that wealth will give them the "lifestyle" illustrated in leisure magazines, the car in billboards, the "look" in fashion magazines and the "happiness" promised by all these 'goods.'

We know all these representations are just representations though --they are NOT real things. Yeah, right.

Magritte created this piece in 1928 yet , how absolutely correct he was and absolutely relevant to today's world. The world we live in is full of images and representations and even though--intellectually--we know it is a painting, an ad, a television has become so imbricated in our daily life...bombarding us in very aspect of our life that we know longer necessarily see the difference between image and reality.
(Later we will talk about Baudrillard and his philosophical meanderings...)

In 1928, he was merely saying this is not a pipe.
Today, when we see teenage girls trying to look like like runway models, we could say this is not beauty. If we come across someone who thinks buying "things" will make him/her content, we might say this is not real happiness. Who would have known that telling us a pipe is not a pipe even though it looks so much like a pipe ...would actually compel us to see how we think about the world...

Magritte's image is to the right.