2008-03-26

the true soul is impregnable

This post by Vanessa at A Fanciful Twist got me thinking about this yesterday... please take a lot of this as hypothetical, I don't mean any of this blog to refer to anyone specifically, I'm simply talking about ideas in a more or less abstract sense.

I think that two of our biggest fears as humans are these:


  1. That someone will see who we really are and disapprove of it, reject it.

  2. That external forces will make their way in to our real self and change it without our consent.


And so we build ourselves into a fortress to guard against those possibilities. But, we don't need to, and I don't think we were meant to. We can make a lot of choices in life that will allow us to start to dismantle the mass of stuff we pile on ourselves to make ourselves unrecognizable. I think the first step is to want to really know who you are.

Kierkegaard talks about the spiritual sickness unto death being despair, and specifically despair at being oneself, or despairingly willing to be oneself. That there is a relationship of oneself to itself (that you have a relationship with yourself), and that this relationship was brought into being by God, and therefore, in relating to yourself, you also relate to God, who brought the relationship of self to itself into being. So, the spiritual sickness unto death is the imbalance of that sort of triangle of Self-to-Self-to-God.

So, it seems to me, the first step in getting well from this sickness is to want to know who you are, who is really you, under all the things you and others have piled on top of you over the years and which keep you from seeing who you really are. We grow up in a particular culture and potentially one or more sub-cultures, and we just assimilate the values of those cultures without thinking and assume they are a part of who we are. We are told things about ourselves by the people around us, and by ourself, and we take them to be a part of who we are. We are given roles in society and we take them to be a part of who we are. We do all of this without really even thinking about it, and before we know it, we have this sort of shell on that represents what we do, but not who we are.

It's pretty easy to just continue in this path, and most people do unless something kind of jars them out of it... it's the path of least resistance, because it's supported by the whole system of things. We often think about, in the back of our minds, who we are and what we were meant for, but because we've spent so long pushing that away, we're frightened of all the things that might happen if we really tried looking - we would have to go against the grain of society, break habits, potentially lose friends, jobs, not to mention actually look ourselves honestly in the eyes and see ourselves clearly - and since it's been a very very long time since many people have really seen themselves clearly, they don't really know what to expect. There is so much unknown in the process, and humans are not good at handling unknown.

So if you have an experience to jar you out of this path - for instance, you decide to go live in another country (there are a lot of other possible ways this could happen), and you actually engage in the culture there - you start to realize some of the things that you believed were a part of yourself were actually just cultural values, beliefs or customs that you had assimilated, that it really doesn't have anything to do with you yourself. You may find that things which were socially unacceptable in your own culture (including things you enjoyed but were you pushed down because they were "nerdy" or "unprofitable" or "useless") are welcomed in another. You may realize that something that was socially acceptable in your own culture, that you had adopted because it was socially acceptable is irrelevant or has negative connotation in another culture. This may get you wondering what else there is that you had believed was part of yourself that really isn't - and you start to pick away pieces.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery (who wrote the Little Prince) made the comment, talking about the evolution of airplanes (he was a mail pilot in the 1920's-1940's) that as they developed, their design become more and more minimalistic, and he made a more general comment that a thing reaches perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

I imagine this process of picking away what is not really a part of you usually starts as a rather tentative search, maybe even not entirely conscious... but as you start to evaluate and pick away what isn't a core part of who you are, you start to realize things that are a core part of who you are. If, along this process, you decide to look deeper into those things that are a part of who you really are and experiment with them, you find that they bring you a lot of satisfaction. At some point, you probably get pretty excited about them and you decide it's time to let other people know about them.

When you do this, you probably get a very wide range of reactions, from "oh." to "why on earth would you _____?" and maybe every now and then "that is fantastic, it fits you so well!" However, you find that the last response is likely by far the least common of the three categories.

You probably find this discouraging, and you might consider just diving back into the stream of everything and the old way of life, because you feel like you found bits of who you really were, but it didn't make any real difference. This is a moment of decision, when you decide whether you will continue to seek out who you are and what you were meant for, or whether you will give it up and go back to how things were. A key thing to remember at this point, is that change starts with you. Remember that satisfaction you got from exploring the pieces of you that really make up who you are? Remember how excited you got about them? In those moments you weren't thinking about whether they would make a difference to other people - they made a difference to you.

If you, at this point, decide to continue digging into who you are and what you were made for, you may eventually find yourself at a point where you have to make some decisions about life circumstances. You may find that you have friends who prefer you the way you were, because it was more convenient, beneficial or comfortable for them. There might be other friends who you keep relationships with but who just kind of fade to a bit of a distance because your life changes paths and so your lives just don't cross very often. You may realize that what you had been doing for a job isn't what you feel you ought to be doing in the future. You may realize that there are certain other activities that you feel are more important to do that things you are currently involved in. You may feel the need to give up or not renew previous commitments, and it might take some real give and take and a lot of talking about things with people you care about to get them to understand the direction you've taken, or at least to trust that it's ok - in general, you may just feel the need to make some life changes.

All of these things should be done with as much care and grace as possible if and when they come up, but it is possible that they will be quite difficult and may not make you well-liked with certain people.

On the other hand, those people who you spent the effort to bring along with you will be closer than ever - and you will find other people in the course of doing what really excites you and putting yourself out in the world (rather than behind a fortress) who will be inspired, encouraged and excited by what you're doing.

So, now to bring this all back around to the beginning of this post and the title. I think that as we dig deeper into who we are and why we are here, and we see it and process it and become ok with it, not just begrudgingly, but start to be excited to be who we are and to discover more about ourselves, and to learn and grow, we find it easier to give grace and forgiveness and support to other people. We find it more exciting to help someone else become what they were meant to be than to cut them down so we feel better about ourselves. Besides that, I believe that we were all put here with a purpose, and the more we know who we are, and live with that in view, the closer we get to doing just what we were meant for. We begin to see that there is a place for us in the scheme of things, and we find circumstances in general to be much less threatening to us than we had previously, which allows us to handle them much more calmly, to not feel the need to be defensive about everything, or to be right about everything or to control everything. We feel less need to join the race for approval from as many people as possible, and more need to join the group of people filling their place in life. I think we also come to find that it is not our true selves that change due to external influences, but only the artificial additions that pile up on top of it.

The true soul is impregnable. We can look into it or open it wide without fear. Everyone has a process to walk through to get to this point, and I daresay none of us really reach the end of the journey here. We all walk different paths to get there, but we can encourage each other along, give each other safety to grow in, provide our own experience and judgment if asked for and in general, use our energy to urge people on, rather than control them.

Let's do that. I think it's a good idea.

2008-03-24

easter eggs 2008

Well, we made some Easter Eggs Lithuanian style on Sunday. We did things a bit differently this year, and the eggs turned out (I suppose, not surprisingly) differently than we expected, but they were still good. Saturday it was bright and sunny out, so we went around our apartment complex and collected some bits of plants, flowers, leaves, etc to use in the egg-dying process.



We also pulled out some rice



and something new - some circular dried pasta we had laying around



We pulled out the eggs and lined up the nylons



and we were off!







Placing things in the nylons around the eggs, then pulling the nylon as tight around the egg as possible and tying it off with string, then starting on the next egg...





The fun thing about doing eggs this way, is you're never really sure how they are going to turn out until you are finished with them.



The main thing we did differently this year, was to use paste food coloring instead of clothing dye, as we wanted the eggs to be edible, and we couldn't find any food-safe clothing dye.



We did one batch of leaf green, and one batch of sky blue.





You put the eggs in raw, into cold water (with the dye and some vinegar mixed in), bring the water to a rolling boil, put the lid on, and remove from the heat and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

Pull the eggs out of the water and cut open the nylons, remove the eggs, rinse them off, and place back in the carton to dry.







The colors came out quite a bit lighter than previous ones we had done, which was ok - but we decided we do like the darker colors better overall. We'll have to try something else next time :) Here are some individual pictures of the eggs to leave you with. If anyone made their own eggs and wants to send pictures, please do! (my email address is in my blogger profile). Hope you all had a lovely weekend!







































2008-03-23

another wine recommendation

look for pictures of eggs tomorrow, as well as our dinner tonight, which is a white wine version of Coq au Vin - with which we're having a 2005 Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet Sevre et Maine. It's a really nice white wine, and cheap ($10-12 per bottle). We had it with dinner the other night, and decided to use it for this recipe, and we're also having it with dinner. Anyway, hope you all had a wonderful weekend :)

2008-03-21

calendar girl - stars

Another song I really like by the group Stars - the recording isn't great, but was the best I could find. Enjoy!


If I am lost for a day, try to find me
But if I don't come back, then I won't look behind me
All of the things that I thought were so easy
Just got harder and harder each day

December is darkest and June is the light
but this empty bedroom won't make anything right
While out on the landing a friend I forgot to send home
Who waits up for me all through the night

Calendar girl who's in love with the world Stay alive
Calendar Girl who's in love with the world Stay alive

I dreamed I was dying, as I so often do
And when I awoke I was sure it was true
I ran to the window, threw my head to the sky
And said whoever is up there, please don't let me die

But I can't live forever, I can't always be
One day I'll be sand on a beach by a sea
The pages keep turning, I'll mark off each day with a cross
And I'll laugh about all that we've lost

Calendar Girl who is lost to the world Stay Alive
Calendar Girl who is lost to the world Stay Alive

January, February, March, April, May I'm alive
June, July, August, September, October I'm alive
November, December, all through the winter, I'm alive
I'm alive


2008-03-20

shoes revisited

So, at the request of Mikhail, and following the suggestion of Niki, I went home yesterday and asked a few of Trina's needle-felted creatures if they wouldn't like to take a bit of a drive, and if they wouldn't mind me photographing them. They jumped on the idea, as they really don't have the chance to get out much most of the time.

Charlie and Maggie decided they would like the classic roadster, and a nice Sunday drive through the winding country roads...







Harriette and Franklin decided they would like the shiny black sports car, and a very long stretch of straight road to go very fast on:





2008-03-19

more thrift store luck

I had forgotten to mention this pair of shoes I got the previous weekend at Goodwill (yay for shoes at Goodwill lately!). They are by the company Aldo, and are just a great basic black dress shoe. They were basically brand new when we found them.



Thrift Store Luck

This last weekend I found these shoes at Goodwill for... wait for it... $7.





I think they're fantastic, and I'm super excited to have them. Whee!

Happy Wednesday all you lovely people :)

2008-03-18

Easter Eggs...

If anyone does decide to make the eggs, send me pictures, it would be great to see what other people come up with :) Cheers!

2008-03-17

Lithuanian Easter Eggs

Since next weekend is Easter, I thought I'd post a little post about the Lithuanian way of making Easter Eggs - it's completely different than anything you're likely to have seen, so here goes.

What you do is, gather all kinds of small plants, leaves, flowers, get some rice, buckwheat, any other grains you might want, onion skins, you can try just about anything you want. You are going to use them to make colors and patterns on the eggs. Cut the legs off an old (or new, if you want) pair of nylons. Roll the leg up so you can easily get to the bottom (the toes). In the bottom, place some of the objects you've gathered, then place the raw egg on top of them. Place some more things around and on top of the egg, and then twist the nylons off tightly around the egg so that it mostly stays in place against the egg. Now, place another egg in the nylons on top of the other, and repeat. Make sure each time that you twist off the nylons very tightly so the stuff you placed around the egg stays there. Here's our friend DeimantÄ— to demonstrate:

Easter Eggs

You can see how she's placed some leaves and grains and onion skins around the eggs in the nylons. Once you have filled up the leg of the nylons, tie it off at the top, and then boil the whole thing in a pot of dye until the eggs are done. If you find a natural, food-safe dye, you can eat them afterwards, otherwise they will be just for decoration. The things you put in with the eggs will not only create patterns on the eggs, but will lend their own colors as well, and you will end up with eggs that look something like this:

Easter Eggs

Note - none of the eggs were boiled in more than one color, all the multiplicity of colors you see is from the items placed in the nylons with the eggs. You can see the patterns of the onion skins and the rice on some of those eggs.

Easter Eggs

and the way it comes out when you get a leaf or a flower just right in the nylons to create a beautiful pattern on the egg.

you can try brown and white eggs too, as they will each come out differently.

If you have any questions or you want to try this on your own, feel free to write and ask any questions or whatever :) cheers!

Hopefully we'll post our pictures of this year's eggs once we've done them.

2008-03-14

what a night!

so, this evening after work, I came home, and we made pasta with sun-dried tomato cream sauce, and our friend Theresa came over to eat with us, and to work on craft stuff with Trina... Theresa ended up designing the cover to my book of poetry, which hopefully will get its finishing touches and get published once we replace the laptop we just lost - anyway, after we were finished eating, we realized we didn't have anything for dessert, and we were also out of milk, so I decided to walk to New Seasons and get some milk and get something for dessert. Following is a recounting of things that I found on my way.

Today is cold and rainy in Portland, but this evening it's just been a light mist, so the air is cold and damp, perfect walking weather. The first thing I noticed was a house right behind our apartment complex whose chimney was smoking like a campfire. I have a thing for those sidewalk pieces that have the company who laid the concrete and the year in them. Tonight I found two that I had never seen before, one was "Elwood Wiles 1909," and the other was "Lyons -29-." There is a high school near us, and I could hear some kind of game going on there, with buzzers and whistles and shouting off in the distance. There was a beautiful white flowering tree that was growing out over the sidewalk, and so I walked underneath it, it was amazing, and looked a bit like it was glowing in the darkness. There was a house that had these beautiful white wrought iron railings going up the steps, with a really pretty curvy pattern. At one point, I was walking on 28th street, between Woodward and Clinton streets, and I came to a driveway, and I looked down, and it was a street corner. It was exactly the same as the street corners in the area, and it even said "Taggart St" in the concrete. To the left of me, across the street, is a giant house, if the street continued that way, it would go through their side yard, and to the right of me, on my side of the street, is another house, of which the street corner is the driveway. For whatever reason, I found it really interesting that they had just put houses right where the street used to be. So, I got to New Seasons, and I got a cheesecake brownie, two espresso shortbreads, a box of little chocolate cookies, and a gallon of milk. On the way out of the store, in the parking lot, I saw what appeared to be a little yellow duck, painted on the sidewalk. Upon closer examination, I believe it was a yellow marshmallow peep duck that someone dropped and had just mostly melted away, just leaving a duck-shaped residue on the pavement. Up a few blocks from the store, I just happened to see into someone's living room, and they had Herb Alpert and the Tijuana brass record albums up on his wall.

Finally I made it home with all the desserts and the milk, and I unpacked them, and poured milk for us all, and we had a fantastic dessert. We all decided the cheesecake brownie was the winner.

When I got home, I found that Trina had finished this little needle-felted mouse, who we have decided to name Harriet, and who will hopefully be in the Doormouse Designs Shop before the end of the weekend, along with a few other friends:



And Theresa had gotten this much done for my book cover, which will then need to be inked and scanned.



How did I get to know such exceptionally talented people? I may never know. I'm lucky :)

Last, but not least, I figured I should post a couple pictures of the new hat I got this last weekend. Here goes :)



And here's me scratching my lip - whee!





I was feeling a little hyper, sorry about that :D

Just as a reminder, again until we replace our computer and I can finish up the last songs for my album, you can listen to the ones I have finished on my page at last.fm.

Hope everyone has a beautiful night - dream of sparkles and raindrops and streetlights through tree branches. Much love.