Category Archives: Humanities

Into the Light of the Dark Black Night

My slightly, hrmm, abstract shall we say, statement of purpose for grad school:

Who am I?  I am the Walrus.  When my creators handed me over to my parents they laughed and said ‘Good luck figuring this one out.’  I am a lovely little puzzle not meant to be solved, but to incite curiosity, bewilderment, even frustration and anger.  I open doors to thoughts and possibilities others are too afraid or ashamed to seek.  I challenge myself and others to dig deeper, go beyond the expected to find the spectacular, and think in new ways.
I returned to school to complete my Bachelor’s degree in nutrition to supplement my knowledge as a personal trainer.  I wanted to open my own gym.  I wanted to continue teaching gymnastics and children’s fitness.  I wanted to keep walking around on my hands instead of my feet.  But Maxwell had other plans for me; his silver hammer threw me into a wall and changed my life forever.
They called me Broken Wing.  It amused them to play off my heritage, but at least it was better than ‘the injun girl’ as I was often called.  But although the name was given in jest, Broken Wing is not an insult or a nickname to me.  It is a part of my identity.  Although I still try to fight it, I am no longer the woman I once was: physical, athletic, always running, looking for another challenge; physically, I am broken.  But maybe this is the moment I’ve been waiting for: though bound by physical limitations, I have learned there are no limits to my mental abilities.  My mind is still free to explore, create, and grow. I want to learn.  And I want to share what I learn with the world.  I want to express myself, understand myself and others, and share the joys and sorrows that are the essence of life.
Who am I?  I am Broken Wing and I am a fighter.

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Ode to the iPhone

Completely my own work, a photo of my iPhone.

In my Humanities class this week we were asked to imagine an individual who is completely cut off from modern society and to pick an item from pop culture for them to find, much like in the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy.  Many of my classmates wrote about giving this person an iPhone, which I find to be a ridiculous idea.  To leave someone who has been completely cut off from modern society an iPhone is illogical; unless you also intend to give them the USB charger, wall adapter, (with the correct voltage, assuming they have electricity), and cellular service or access to Wifi capabilities, an iPhone would most likely be completely useless to this person.  It was late, and I was on pain medication when I read all of the posts about dropping iPhones from the sky, and so I responded, without much thought, with the following Haiku:

I found an IPhone

I can see myself in it

It makes a good brick.

Admittedly, not a very good haiku, but I still think it gets my point across; I mean really, what’s some guy living in a dirt hut without electricity or modern technology going to do with an iPhone??  Talk about crazy!

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Pain as Pleasure? Hedonism Reconsidered

I’ve never been afraid of physical pain and have willingly signed on for numerous activities and jobs where pain is commonly expected. Growing up I was a dancer, gymnast, runner, and basketball player; aside from shin splints from running and a broken nose mid-basketball game (still got the three-point shot before they pulled me from the court though! Bam!) these activities didn’t involve much pain. In dance and gymnastics however, pain is a daily occurrence and often associated with success in these art forms.

Heart-Shaped Bruises
My bruises love me as much as I love them!

As an adult working in a children’s gym teaching and coaching dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading, pain again became a part of my daily life. Bruises from spotting gymnasts on the uneven bars, fractured wrists from spotting back handsprings and tucks gone wrong, a broken nose from getting kicked in the face by a new flyer falling from a full lib, muscle pain and dislocation of my knees in order to demonstrate proper form in a split, the list goes on and on. I also have to mention that while I was routinely injured, not a single child I worked with ever experienced an injury under my supervision. I used to come home from work every day with a new injury, but I wore them with pride because I absolutely loved my job and not even 2 fractured wrists could stop me from working.

I have to disagree with the hedonistic philosophy that physical pain is worse than mental pain (and therefore physical pleasure is better than mental pleasure) (Janaro & Altshuler, 2012); I would much rather be in physical pain than mental anguish any day. Physical pain can be controlled: mind over matter; but, mental pain is much harder to command and can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can circle back around to cause physical pain, creating a paradox in the hedonistic view of pain and happiness.

Janaro, R. and Altshuler, T.. (2012).  The Art of Being Human.  New York, NY: Pearson Education Inc.

Gloomy with a tag of Sun

Singer Judy Garland in her dressing room at Gr...
Singer Judy Garland in her dressing room at Greek Theater Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Behind every cloud, is another cloud.” -Judy Garland

Eastern Mythology and the Hero Archetype

Oil painting on silk, "Hua Mulan Goes to ...
Oil painting on silk, “Hua Mulan Goes to War” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the study of humanity and culture, myths help us understand the beliefs and behaviors of a culture through the study of the archetypes and rituals expressed in their literature.  Myths are often ancient legends that began through oral tradition; stories passed from generation to generation through music, dance, and tales of great ancestors and powerful deities (Dong, 2011, Janaro & Altshuler, 2012).  When studying the myths, folklore, fairytales and fables of a civilization it is important to analyze them within the context of their time and culture in order to prevent making inaccurate judgments about a society.  Many civilizations around the world share similar archetypes; however, the meaning behind these themes can be very different (Janaro & Altshuler, 2012).  These differences are most clearly seen in the contrast between Eastern and Western mythologies.

“The Ballad of Mulan” is an ancient Chinese poem that tells the tale of a brave, filial young girl who defies societal norms by dressing like a man in order to join the army to save her aging father’s life.  Mulan’s story begins with news of a war and a call for Mulan’s father to join the fight.  Fearing her father’s certain death, Mulan resolves to take his place in the army.  Disguised as a man, Mulan spends 10 years fighting in the war, ultimately bringing victory and honor to her country and family.  She is escorted home by her troops, where, after 12 years, she finally reveals to her companions that she is in fact a woman.

Mulan offers her stunned comrades just one explanation:

The he-hare’s feet go hop and skip,

The she-hare’s eyes are muddled and fuddled.

Two hares running side by side close to the ground,

How can they tell if I am he or she? (Frankel, 1976).

Mulan has become an important mythological character in many cultures and various lessons have been derived through the legend’s retelling across cultures.  A modern American perspective on the story reflects the ideas of feminism and equality that American woman have worked so hard to achieve.  “Anything you can do, I can do better” is also highlighted in Disney’s 1998 animated movie about the Chinese heroine and the sardonic song I’ll Make a Man out of You (Coats & Bancroft & Cook, 1998).  While these are popular Western interpretations of the female hero archetype, they do not accurately denote the morals and norms of Chinese culture throughout history.

When analyzed in the context of its time and culture, The Ballad of Mulan tells the story of a filial daughter dutifully protecting her father’s life and honor (Dong, 2011).  While both Eastern and Western thought indeed designate Mulan as a mythic hero, the reasons for this entitlement differ greatly between the two philosophies.  Western interpretations believe a hero to be a young adult who has left home to accomplish great deeds; which is indeed what Mulan did.  However, Eastern philosophy regards Mulan as a hero for the sacrifice she made for her father’s life and her devotion to protecting his honor throughout the war by disguising her identity.  Where Western thought views Mulan as a female to be celebrated for crossing gender lines and proving women can be as powerful as their male counterparts, Eastern philosophy diminishes this alteration in gender roles (Janaro & Altshuler, 2012).  In Mulan’s speech to her troops, she notes the differences between male and female rabbits, but points out that in the midst of a skirmish, gender becomes indistinguishable and irrelevant.

Myths and narratives have served as historical records and moral guides for behavior all over the world for thousands of years.  Narratives serve as effective tools in teaching societal morals and norms.  Children learn valuable lessons through the fairytales and fables they hear throughout their young lives.  The lessons taught by these stories pervade the adolescent and adult psyche, guiding morals and behaviors throughout the lifespan (Janaro & Altshuler, 2012).  Narratives also evoke critical thinking and require the reader or listener to interpret the moral lessons and apply them to daily life.  Structured rules about what is “good” and “bad” limit the thought people put into their beliefs and behavior.  This lack of thought diminishes the human capacity for reasoning and logical thought when complicated issues arise in real life and the options are not as black and white as the “good” and “bad” rules that were dictated (Janaro & Altshuler, 2012).

Myths are universal; every culture, past and present, has its own mythology and folklore.  The details of the stories and the lessons they teach are varied, but there are still many commonalities, even between cultures that never had contact with each other (Janaro & Altshuler, 2012).  Mythic archetypes like the hero are shared in every culture and serve to tie the human race together as a whole; in turn, making the myth a mythic archetype in and of itself.

References

Coats, P.  (Producer) & Bancroft, T. & Cook, B. (Directors).  (1998).  Mulan.  [Motion Picture].  United States: Walt Disney.

Dong, L. (2011). Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9781592139729

Frankel, H.  (1976).  The Flowering Plum and the Palace Lady: Interpretations of Chinese Poetry.  Yale University Press: Retrieved from http://www.chinapage.com/mulan.html

Janaro, R. and Altshuler, T.. (2012).  The Art of Being Human.  New York, NY: Pearson Education Inc.