On Love, Bravery and Equality

I like stories that require a character to be brave, and which give them the opportunity to be a hero, their own or someone else’s. Sometimes that means killing the monster, sometimes that means outwitting the evil mastermind, sometimes that means telling unpopular truths, and sometimes that means being emotionally vulnerable.

Loving is an often overlooked act of bravery, and my favorite romances show that. I am a connoisseur of stories about romances that require a little extra bravery, that in some way challenge stereotypes. Loving within our given social boundaries is hard enough, but I have so much admiration for the people who find love that doesn’t fit into the boundaries prescribed by other people.

I have a theory that most of the unhappiness in the world comes from moments of cowardice when facing the pressures of societal rules. Not that societal rules are bad in themselves. In many ways, they are our primary safety net in any interaction with other human beings. And because of this, when faced with the choice of being unhappy or of going against societal rules, it is easy to take the way that is safe, to follow the rules.

Love is never safe. Even if our loved ones return our feelings unconditionally, agree with us on everything of significance, and never betray our trust, the world does not let love remain a safe activity. Every day people get sick, die, move to new places, face new challenges, grow and change. Loving someone is one of the most dangerous and bravest things we can do, and something the human brain is programmed to seek out. And yet love is also frequently twisted and misused. Perpetrators of the worst acts of terrorism, abuse and violence often attempt justify their actions with twisted misinterpretations of love: revenge for a loved one lost, or against a loved one who didn’t see love through the same lens; jealousy and fear of losing love; or out of love of a deity, homeland or ideal.

It’s cliche to say there’s a fine line between love and hate, and I go back and forth on whether I truly believe it, but I see a parallel to the line between bravery and cowardice. I like the definition of bravery as acting not without fear but in spite of it. Both bravery and cowardice occur in the presence of fear, and in the moment of choosing between the two, that line can be infinitely wide or almost nonexistent, depending on the choices available in the moment.

And there is no clear line between the kind of person who will choose bravery or the kind who will be cowardly. Someone who always faces monsters bravely may shrink from telling unpopular truths. Someone who can outwit any evil mastermind may throw up every shield available when faced with emotional vulnerability. And yet, even when a character follows these patterns to a T, there is always room for growth, for facing up to a challenge previously avoided at all costs. That is often the greatest type of bravery, for it faces the greatest fear. We always have a chance to be braver than we were yesterday.

All of my favorite romances that challenge stereotypes also have an element of equality. I believe that when there is a perceived/constructed/chosen imbalance of power in a relationship, the love and the risk it brings are unstable as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhealthy, just unstable in some way. My interest in equality does not mean that all my favorite romances are about people who are the same. In fact, what interests me most, and what I am exploring in my own stories is how to weight the scales of power so that both parties come out equal, even when they both thought they were too different to ever find equality.

Advertisements

Perception

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been ten months since I posted. I have been struggling with finding my voice in several mediums lately, and I appreciate finally having something to say and knowing how to say it, even if it’s short.


One of my favorite quotes is by Edward de Bono:

“It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humor, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perceptions, but the humor process is involved in changing them.”

This quote rearranged my mind a little when I read it, and has stuck with me. I am often surprised by what changes I see in my perception when I encounter moments of humor. In particular, I have a very dear friend who always redirects my thinking with off-hand but hilarious comments.

Today I was reminded that art can also change perceptions while watching a contemporary dance routine on SYTYCD called Change is Everything. Change is an uncomfortable process, and usually comes with uncomfortable emotions, even when the change is positive. In that routine the song, the choreography and even the quality of the movement were uncomfortable for me to witness, but at the same time it was so beautiful that I couldn’t look away. It had my full attention, and made something uncomfortable somehow more bearable because of its beauty.

I have noticed that I tend to spend a lot of time in the land of the sticky-sweet, especially when it comes to reading and writing fiction, but I am hoping that I can find more of a balance and willingness to look those uncomfortable emotions in the face and make them more accessible. There is so much potential to connect through art, and to make emotional space for each other, especially as so many cultures around the world, and most especially mine, are sanitizing emotion, or turning the emotions of others into a distancing kind of entertainment. I am so glad to see art like this in the mainstream, and I hope that these pieces that transform discomfort into beauty without diminishing the experience can help us heal some of the damage created by distancing, stoicism and xenophobia.

Aeschylus Wrote

I was inspired by a quote from Aeschylus, which I found here: Aeschylus Quotes

Written August 4, 2016.


“My will is mine,” he wrote.
“I shall not make it soft for you.”
And I, across two thousand years
Feel fire in my blood.
How can I be
As sure
As strong
As honest
As those words taste?
They stand so tall alone
Spread wide
Like branches
Like wings.
The beauty of the hero’s might
Woven into black on white.
How can I make them part of me?
How can I be
That thought?

The Speaking Tool

This was written after attending an open-mike-type event on October 10, 2008. One of the performers did a really nice spoken word piece about women. I think. I don’t remember the topic particularly, but I remember getting caught up in the way rhyme was used in the piece. It inspired this poem, which is not much like my other work, but is only a tiny bit like the spoken piece that inspired it. It does work better aloud though, in my opinion.


It wasn’t what you said that made me cry
I’ve heard it all before a thousand times
Sometimes in rhymes
Beating on my ears
It was the way you made the words dance
And entrance me
New beats that don’t align
Twist the same thing into some new thing
That surprises
Your words
Dragged my words across my tongue
Dragged me along
Who cares where we end up? It’s all about
The way we walk the whole while we’re walking there
Talking there
Talking is our locomotion
Motioning us to take a stand and stand up
Who are we standing for?
Sitting for?
Who monopolized my mind
Into their own personal, extra special, all-the-same box?
Who allowed me to allow myself to forget
That language is a tool?
Take it out of that dusty tool shed
A tool is only a tool when you use it
And you make use of it to make me think
To take me to the brink
Of knowing
But you make me talk my own walk
Those last few steps across the line
You make me make this mine
It may take time
But because of you
The way you do
This word-game tap on my mental shoulder
Because of how you use the rhyme
And reason
And timing
I’ll talk across the line
And I’ll be free

Camus’s Question

This one was a homework assignment: Pick a specific poem format, and write a poem in that format. It had to be something with a specific structure, not a freeform poem. This was not the first time I wrote a sestina for a homework assignment. The first one was about frogs. I don’t know where that one is, but if I find it somewhere in my piles of papers, I’ll definitely post it for you all. I really like the cyclical structure of the sestina. I recently read that it was most often used for a complaint poem back in the day, which makes some sense, since whiners tend to repeat themselves ad nauseam. I haven’t ever used the sestina for whining, but I’ve certainly found that it’s not suitable for every topic. You have to find a topic that naturally has a cyclical feel.

This sestina is based on an internal debate I had after talking to a friend who thought she might commit suicide. Fortunately, she’s still alive and kicking, and more emotionally stable now. This was crafted over a two-week period, and finished on October 6, 2008.


Camus once said the only question
worth asking is Should I give up?
Does this world have depth of meaning,
and is that meaning now enough
to keep me in this world and living,
or should I just let go and die?

I know a girl who wants to die,
to answer that important question.
She says she cannot go on living,
it’s not worth it to keep this up.
The things she has are not enough
to keep this life enriched with meaning.

Before I never questioned meaning.
I haven’t had the urge to die.
The things I have are just enough.
With confidence I answer the question.
I watch the sun go climbing up.
I have no reason for not living.

In fact I find such joy in living,
in everything I find a meaning.
Every day I’m climbing up.
It’s not that I’m afraid to die,
it’s just that, facing this big question,
I don’t see why it’s not enough

She says she cannot find enough
of joy or meaning to keep her living.
She hardly dares to face the question,
‘cause after death there is no meaning.
I think that she’s afraid to die,
but wants the pain to give her up.

She struggles with just giving up
and tells me I don’t know enough
to understand her wish to die.
She cannot understand why living
carries for me the ultimate meaning,
how I rejoice and Camus’s question

Came once asked a question about giving up
I find that life has meaning and that it’s enough
I have reason to go on living until it’s time to die

Artist-hood

This one was written on July 25, 2016. There were a few years there where I didn’t write, at least not for myself, and there is literally nothing in my poetry journal between September of 2010 and this poem. This is my breakthrough, I-can’t-live-like-this-anymore piece. I’m rusty, I can tell, but getting back into it. The more I work on this blog, the more I realize how much writing is a part of what makes me functional, and how depressing it’s been to live without, having grown away from it as I did. Thank you all for being so supportive in my journey of returning to myself.

There are a few more of my old poems coming, and then it will all be new work. Most of the time I try to let things sit for a day or two so that I can polish them, but sometimes I just get too excited. I hope I’m not overwhelming anyone with too many posts. Happy reading!


It’s hard to be a starving artist
They said to me
Are you sure you want to put yourself through that?
They asked, and I let them
I let them change me

Years later, I feel lost, drained, numbed
I hold on
To moments of art like lightning flashes in a fading storm
I don’t want to put myself through
The pain
The anxiety
The frustration
Of Starving-Artist-hood

And yet…
As she said so succinctly
I’m not sure I can keep putting myself through
Non-Artist-hood
Soullessness doesn’t look good on anyone

Not Just a Different Color

This is a response to The Daily Post’s one word prompt: Paint


Sometimes I try to be different on purpose. It usually doesn’t work out very well. Most of the time, I get too focused on what other people think, and lose track of what I actually want. Sometimes, however, I do something very different, and don’t realize how different I am until later. That’s what happened when I painted my room. Read more

I see things that aren’t there

Written February 3, 2007. Just prompted by staring at my ceiling.


I see things that aren’t there
But I know better than to tell you so
In the lumps and swirls of paint on my ceiling a dragon swoops
From the knotted wood a little face peers at me
I see things that aren’t there
But I know better than to tell you so
I do believe in Wonderland
In magic places left to see
I see things that aren’t there
But I know better than to tell you so
Maybe I believe because it makes it easier
Not to give up
Not to back down
But I believe
And you cannot take that away
I see things that aren’t there
But I know better than to tell you so

A figment

The first one of my poems that has a date! It was written on September 1, 2006. It is now granted the title ‘A figment’. This was inspired by a philosophy class.


You know what I’m thinking
Of course you do
After all, I am only a fictional character
A pattern in your mind
And you make me what I am
You chose my curling hair our of the many
Picked it out and set it on my head
Do you care how I feel?
You made that too
But what if you weren’t in perfect control?
What if
Just what if
The rules you so carefully built
Had a crack
Not a gaping hole
No spreading abyss
Just a gap
Thinner than one of my mind-made hairs
Through which I could begin
In my own little way
To comprehend your world?

We are not the people we were then

This was written in May of 2006, sometime before my high school graduation.


We are not the people we were then
We’ve grown new hair
We’ve shed old skin
But in the time between the lightning flashes
We wander the same way we always did
We are not as fluid as clouds
Nor as hard as mountains
We are but small things
We run and slide through our scattered lives
Often forgetting to breathe
To smell the rain and the river
And the salt-rich sea
Admiration and wonder are the only medicine
That can keep our souls from withering young