Friday, June 10, 2011

On success...

To some, success means getting in to an Ivy League college, landing a dream job, and getting that promotion. To some, it comes in the latest model of Mercedes-Benz, that private yacht for transportation to and from a private island. To some, it manifests in a having family, being a loving parent, and boasting the greenest lawn in a five mile radius. A person's concept of success will take on multiple forms depending on his or her stage of life simply because human beings are so incredibly adaptive. We can grow used to the harshest of conditions, but also to the luxuriest. We become accustomed to praise, approval, to a new job, new car, new spouse, the easy life. If success were an immutable object, the ultimate gold star one can reach out and grab and declare, "look here, I've finally got it - Success," I'm not sure I would want it. What happens after success? Do you bathe in its wonder and sweetness until death? Or do you stop living because you've crossed the finish line with years still left in the bank? I doubt I'll stick around knowing that I've done everything I needed to do in this life.

However, we know from exemplary individuals in human history, that as nature has given us the will to live, to cling to life however much we may already be dead inside, it has also given us a basic urge to work. Success in material form is not enough to satisfy the immeasurable power of the human spirit. Will never be. Maybe we feel the need to regain some kind of a paradise, a utopia, once ours but now lost, seemingly forever. However, our need to work doesn't and shouldn't come from perfectionism, a sense of inadequacy, a need to prove ourselves, or any motivation of that sort. It comes from taking life seriously (although one should never take himself seriously), stuffing it full of experiences from the widest spectrum, stretching the limits of Man set by previous generations, and not by putting it aside because you're "bored", "haven't got time", or "tired". When we can steadily improve in the face of both criticism and approval, working not for some external aim, but out of a deep sense gratitude at being alive, then maybe we will have succeeded. And by then, I dare say, the journey towards "success" would render the reward meaningless. Those who have truly succeeded have always been the least concerned with their achievements. Therefore, work because you can, out of joy, gratitude and need. Of course, we have to define work, but that's for another time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cheers to an insect

She taught me how to believe. In dreams, in people, in storybook ideals.

It all started with a tennis ball, one summer day by the pool. Wet clothes, watermelon, walls taken down. There was instant recognition as if we have known each other before, a long, long time ago. And the digging started that day, layer after layer, lasting until the present. Colors, foods, hobbies, pastimes, aspirations, worries, sorrows, fears, insecurities. She knew my deepest secrets as well as my proudest achievements. We fought over silly things mostly stemming from my selfishness, often making up an hour later. We cried together, late at night underneath the safety of our covers, sometimes out of mutual sadness, often out of joy that fate brought two physically distant people to a meeting point. We created music, art, stories, imaginary worlds and fantastical adventures. Mostly, we laughed.

With any serious friendship, you give a part of yourself. Some may take a cursory look and move on. She looked, stared, examined every flaw before deciding she still liked what she saw. There is tremendous comfort in realizing that someone in this world knows you well, perhaps not completely, but well enough that you continue to communicate, reveal, share with others. She taught me it was okay to take a risk with people and friends forever, it is not just another cliche made false by the harshness of growing up. For that, and reasons too many to name, I'm eternally grateful.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On Arts and Teaching

"Crank it out the night before it's due" dance responses...

A point which stood out to me in Carol Becker’s lecture was that people who pursue a subject matter with dedication, love, and “a spirit of play” will always have a better grasp of the subject “at its core” than those who rely on “information, quantification, and objectification.” She later talked about failure and success, which directly relate to this idea of pursuing a subject with passion. Much of entering adulthood has to do with loosing a sense of idealism and learning to deal with failure. For many, failure is something to be avoided at all costs. If one sticks to the routine, the commonplace, there’s little chance for failure. The fear of taking risks, of stepping outside of the norm stifles creativity and fetters the human capacity to achieve greatness far beyond what is immediately practical. As a result, our motivation for work comes not from an internal drive, but from our bosses, bills, reputation, societal status and the like. There is nothing wrong with “making a living” since artistic endeavors can only began after the most basic biological needs are met, but for many, the lost of motivation or passion comes from a fear of repeated failure more than anything else. For some of us, we shy away from expending maximum effort on a task – any task – because we are afraid that our efforts will be in vain should the outcome prove to be unfavorable. This focus on reward rather than process produces mediocre work, unsatisfying relationships, and a never-ending search for fulfillment. If we were to engage ourselves fully during work, challenge our selves by taking creative risks, and never settle for mediocrity, then we will discover, or rather rediscover, the “spirit of play” that Becker spoke about. Passion or love for a subject is simply dedicating as much of your attention as you can to it. What is utterly beautiful about a child at play or an artist at work is that both are completely engrossed in what they are doing. To them, there exists no distinction between work and play. In putting love into everything we do by always trying despite failures, we’ll have already succeeded.

In “The Role of the Arts in the Invention of Man”, Eisner discusses how “those who teach the arts must have skills that are never required of an artist”. I find that the best teachers are those who teach the student to teach himself. Much research has been done on how to handle different learning styles among students. Significant differences exist even within the broad categories of “visual” learners, “tactile” learners, and “auditory” learners. Therefore, it takes people who are incredibly sensitive to the uniqueness of each individual student to teach the arts because as Eisner mentioned, an artist must be able to see, understand, capture, before rendering his subjective experience of the world to others. In a sense, the student needs to learn how to become intensely aware of the world around him in addition to other more technical aspects of the art form. Good teachers cultivate that awareness by encouraging the student to explore, pointing him in directions he otherwise might have callously overlooked. Most importantly, they must evoke in their students a natural curiosity towards life, diminish any fear of making mistakes, and not smother their creativity with their own established way of thinking. Oftentimes, the room for miscommunication between teacher and student can be enormous. In academics, facts and information can easily be obtained from textbooks. In arts, it’s difficult to grasp certain concepts unless you’ve personally experienced it. For instance, I never understood what it meant to “feel as if your violin bow is pulling through molasses” until suddenly one day, I felt a consistent vibration of the string, the resistance, through the wooden stick of my bow. The teacher may guide, but ultimately, it’s up to the student to discover. The teachers I’ve had who really taught me something worthwhile, were not the ones handing me facts to memorize or exercises to practice. They were the ones who showed me a different way of viewing the world. Through example, they inspired me to always have faith in my abilities, yet always be humble because there can never be an end to learning. And I think that’s what all the great teachers in history have in common. They inspire.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

6 Reasons for Blogging...

1. This is all part of the "quarter life crisis", of picking up bits and pieces of childhood in hopes that what had worked then will work now. Dancing, singing, playing in the dirt, making up stories, writing.

2. Writing is therapeutic to a lonely soul. And who isn't lonely when the headphones come off, and Edward Maya stops dictating how you should feel? When friends walk out the door, and the only thing you see is the computer screen, black and white words in Times New Roman, the few things that really belong to you, their intended meaning?

3.The most potent cure for my personal loneliness, or rather, one of the less destructive cures, is to talk to myself. I assume most people probably refrain from talking to themselves in public in order to create less confusion. To save my roommate some confusion but still maintain some level of sanity, I must resort to writing down the chatter in my head silently.

4. My biological sister separated at birth, who has read almost all my journals and diaries, also has a blog. Since I don't write to her nearly as much as I would like, this blog will keep her updated.

5. Regardless of how life changing it would be to take creative writing with the Great Joe Hurka and listen to the story of how his dog "humped him and would. Not. Stop." first hand, reading my work aloud in front of fellow Tufts folks doesn't sound too appealing. Blogging will hopefully continue in lieu of that class, which was supposed to save a pathetic Math major from forgetting how to write in coherent sentences. QED.

6. Instead of mathematical proofs, essays arguing for/against the existence of God, I want to write about beautiful things. May these posts be a reminder to me, and to whoever happens to stumble across my blog, of how much we have to be grateful for...