Sunday, September 27, 2009

Consciousness and Honesty

I have never met a truly honest person, a person who never, ever lies.
But then my definition of honesty is quite hard to attain.
I think it's important in life not only to refrain from lies told to other people, but also to refrain from lies told to yourself, or self deception.
Most people lie to themselves. They lie to themselves to make themselves feel better, to justify an action, to keep themselves from thinking something unpleasant, etc... and it's not always easy to tell if one is lying to oneself. It's fairly easy to know when you lie to another human. Occasionally a lie will just slip out of my mouth without my prior knowledge or consent and puzzle me greatly. Why did I tell that lie? What am I avoiding? Why can't I face the truth?
In the background of every lie there is cowardice and shame. If you are a truly brave person then the truth should not bother you, and therefore lies are never told. Lies are a cover up for some other problem in your life that you can't stand to face. The first step towards an honest life is to avoid telling lies to other people.
However, this goes hand in hand with desiring honesty within as well as without, and it's much harder to avoid lying to yourself then it is to avoid lying to another person! I don't believe that humans are fully conscious beings. We are conscious of some things, yes, but there are many, many things that remain locked in our unconscious state, that we are neither aware of nor able to control. Self deception is, for the most part, beyond our awareness, but it doesn't need to be. Some people speak and ask themselves, "is what I'm speaking true?" but few people think and ask themselves, "is what I'm thinking true?"
Most people take for granted the truthfulness of their thoughts, and yet humanity is full of rationalizations that are built as a mere convenience to the person, not based on truth at all but on desire. When we question the motives of our beliefs, it is called existentialism. I wish everyone would have an existential crisis, really look over everything they believe and ask themselves "why do I believe this? do i believe this merely to reassure myself? am i just taking the easy road in accepting this as true?" Many people's minds are due for a major housecleaning. This doesn't just apply to major beliefs but to minor ones as well. When your husband/wife/parents/children/friends ask you "why didn't you take care of this problem?" be honest with yourself and with them. Admit your difficulties, so that they can get resolved.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tolkien On Fairy Stories

I have just finished J.R.R. Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" which, amazingly, I have never read until now. :P (aaah! There are so many pieces of literature which I have never read! I need to get going...) Anyway, in that essay he criticizes a great many things, one of which is educated criticism of fairy tales. I agree with most of what he has to say, and I'm relieved that I'm not the only one who is extremely fascinated with literature and yet who finds it tedious to employ common literary "dissections" which are often employed by English professors.

Yes, I find it worthwhile to focus on a limited section and try to figure out what the author is trying to say, what hidden meanings are there, what common themes, etc... however, most literary criticism goes much further than needed, in attempt to strip the whole book down to its skeleton. (I find their skeletons, especially fiction, to be completely beside the point of the whole book.) Besides, most critics cannot dissect the work without a great deal of arrogance in surmising what the author's intentions are... perhaps the author didn't intend the color red to symbolize blood, or use a circling bird to forshadow doom... you never really know, and it's foolish to think that every writer had "literary studies" in mind when s/he wrote the book in the first place. Most "fairy stories" are like many paintings in that you get a clearer picture when viewed from a distance... observing the different brush strokes and hues of brown aren't going to tell you much about the actual painting and what it's trying to evoke.

Besides, it's the flesh of the story that I'm really interested in, the pieces that make it unique, not the pieces that are easily labeled. I thouroughly dislike "stock" characters... I feel it's a cop-out for those who don't want to put in the work of creating an actually interesting character. I dislike them when they're written that way (probably why I get bored of Commedia Del'Arte), and I dislike them even more when someone has dissected a perfectly complex character and turned him or her into a boring stick figure. :P

But then, I'm also a creature of Chaos- I dislike trying to sift out patterns and labels where they are not beneficial to my interest in the book. I enjoy Tolkien's work, and I applaud him for creating a world where war is explored (without the whole piece being a political allegory) and with meaningful philosophical and religious thought (without the whole piece being overly symbolic or religious).

That said, there are some things in his essay I disagree with, such as his assertion that fairy-stories should not be dramatized in plays (I think a play can successfully represent fantasy, IF it is done right) and other minor quibbles which I won't list. I don't worship the guy, but he does write some awe inspiring stuff. :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Being Grounded Vs. Interesting

It seems as if the more grounded and individual is, the less 'interesting' he/she is. After all, you can only talk about how nice and calm and contented you are for a short time. After that, you just end up talking about your wild cousin who crashed his motorcycle for the thousandth time and broke his arm... or about your adventurous friend who just moved to yet another foreign country and is learning how to skydive on her summer vacation... etc...

Also note how poets and artists, etc... tend to be less "settled" and more neurotic, quirky, and depressed. Personally, I tend to write and draw more when I'm angry, depressed, sad, or moody. Perhaps gloom motivates some people to be more "active" in life, to question and reflect on life. People who are contented and absorbed with day to day business don't tend to question or reflect, but simply accept their life.

There are disadvantages to being "grounded", such as failing to take new opportunities, thinking creatively and outside-the-box, and reaching above and beyond what you think are limitations. There are also disadvantages to being "interesting", such as discontent with life, mishaps and failures due to not thinking things through, and backing out of commitments when things get predictable.

And yet, finding a middle ground between the two proves to just be confusing. Perhaps some "grounded" people find ways to be interesting and bring out their personality, and "interesting" people find a few constants that make them happy. Perhaps it all boils down to finding what, in life, makes you happy. Maybe the confusing part is not that I try to find a middle ground, but that I don't really know what makes me happy in life, or when I do, I excessively question it.

For all my thinking, I might just as well be saying "blah blah blah"... :P