Friday, October 26, 2007

Walk the Walk

Scientists have a tendency to prove what common sense and life experience made you suspect even before it was researched. This seems to happen every couple of months. October's revelation is that Lack of sleep is a lot like mental illness. It is. I know that I feel a little bit crazy when I didn't get enough sleep. Although I'd also say that I feel more drunk than insane when I'm sleep-deprived - with shorter attention spans and less concentration, feeling like I'm walking through mist and am less connected to the real world.


I read That Very Mab, a fairy story by folklorist Andrew Lang and May Kendall for my diploma thesis. It's delightful and very "Victorian". It tells how the fairies left England because of the Puritans and moved to Polynesia. When this country gets conquered by the English, too, Fairy Queen Mab decides to go back to England, which she finds profoundly changed. An owl shows Queen Mab all these changes and you can't help but enjoy the critical comments the authors make on late Victorian life through the characters of Mab and the owl. Some of it is distinctly applicable to the 19th century, but a lot of it seems universal, like the owl's explanation on education:

"We are being educated up to a very high point. It saves people the trouble of thinking for themselves, certainly; they can always get all their thoughts now, ready made, on every kind of subject, and at extremely low prices. They only have to make up their minds what to take, and generally they take the cheapest. There is a great demand for cheap thought just now, especially when it is advertised as being of superior quality."

Which reminded me very much of an Austrian newspaper, which advertises by saying that through buying and reading the newspaper, you will quickly and easily gain an (/their) opinion (causing me to wonder why I would want that, as opposed to being able to make up my own mind).

Or this wonderful paragraph about "dynamiters":

It is one of the problems of the nineteenth century. Even the dynamiters themselves don't appear to have gone into the whole logic of it. I suppose that they are tired of only blowing things up on paper, and they are people who have a great objection to things in general. They complain that they can't get justice from the universe in its present state of preservation, and therefore they are going to blow as much of it as possible into what they call smithereens, and try to get justice from the smithereens. It is a new scheme they have hit upon, a kind of scientific experiment. The theory appears to be, that justice is the product of Nihilism plus public buildings blown up by dynamite, and that the more public buildings they blow up the more justice they will obtain. [...] It is reported, also, that if the Nihilists can't obtain justice enough by any less extensive measures, they will lower a great many kegs of nitro-glycerine to the molten nucleus of the globe and then [...] the globe will explode, and all the inhabitants, even the dynamiters themselves; but justice will remain; according to the theory, that is. But it is rather an expensive experiment."

When I first came across older texts that showed people's fears of terrorists I was surprised that they pretty much showed the same attitudes and emotions concerning the topic that are spread in the world now. And this text tells me to a degree that it's not just something that was present in the mid- and late 20th century, but also already appeared in the 19th century.
I guess that's how we are; we like to think we're so high and mighty, and above all special, that we are the first to go through certain troubles and feelings. But the more I read the more I feel that everything we experience has been here long before us. We're just recycling thoughts, mindsets and emotions of our ancestors.
Looking at it logically, it's not so much of a surprise. Everyone lives their average 70+ years and uses this time to develop their thoughts. We start when we are born and don't stop until the end. We don't have much more to help us on this journey that people 100 or 200 years ago didn't have. Makes you realize how little we really learn from the past, as every generation goes through the same development again and again.
Could we accelerate our individual development? We read the books that people who made these experiences wrote, which pushes us into a certain direction. But often we don't fully understand their deeper intent and insights, especially when it comes to philosophy. I imagine this means that you need life experience to really understand it - walk down the road to see and understand what you previously only read about.
That's demotivating and exciting at the same time. It makes you realize that there are many experiences ahead of you that are just waiting there to be discovered, but you also get a glimpse of how much life experience is lost with every human being and that when you're old and dying you'll know that those who come after you will make the same darn mistakes that you made. Sweet circle of life.

So - Carpe Diem, and put your foot on the road.


And, as always and lastly, today's painting results. I actually wanted to do the fairies, but then didn't feel like tackling a bigger painting. So I just ended up scribbling away. The character turned out more androgynous than intended.

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