Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Enough With the Gangsters Already (or Moving On and Up with a Little Help from Others)

Reading is my escape right now, and blog ideas are at a minimum. I am always pleasantly amazed at the intelligence of the ideas articulated by comics artists. Their stories as to how they started are often similar, but their insights are also similarly well-thought out and well-stated. So here are some quotes I found to be worth writing down - lucky for me I have a blog to write them in. One is from fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi whose talents I have already praised here. The last three are taken from the latest issue of The Comics Journal. If you like discussion about art, and you like comics, TCJ is must reading.

"Right now all of our myths are focused on how to become rich and successful -- we tell stories about ourselves as explorers, as adventurers, as extractors. So I'm wondering about the creation of another set of myths and models, where we start to get excited about the possibility of being a sustainable species rather than a rapacious species." - Paolo Bacigalupi (From www.grist.org, "Stranger Than Fiction", Interview by Michelle Nijhuis 2/21/08)

"The problem with reality is that it is too chaotic. Too coincidental. Art is supposed to make some order in this chaos we call life.To give it some sense, some meaning. Life, reality, has no meaning, at least not one we can be sure of. I better say it like this: Life has no subtext. And a story without subtext is a soap opera." - Rutu Modan (From "An Interview with Rutu Modan, Conducted by Joe Sacco", from The Comics Journal No. 288, pg. 33)

"The films show these Mafiosi as calculating greedy killers, but at the same time portray them as a sensitive if somewhat dysfunctional family whose moral corruption is justified by family honor. Even in his last moments Don Corleone is shown in the sun-drenched garden playing with his adorable grandson. Heave a sigh and cue the fuckin' violins. Some might call this a well-rounded family saga of moral complexity. I call it a complete cop-out trying to cover your bases. Don Corleone was a motherfucker to condemn, not a Badass Motherfucker to lionize." - Paul Karasik (From "An Interview with Paul Karasik, Conducted by Michael Dean", from The Comics Journal No. 288, p.52)

"When you live in a culture that embraces terms like "evildoer," that calls cheese "protein" and bread "carbohydrates" then you know you've got problems. We assign dark consequences to everything, and it stems from a fear of our own mortality. It's a very debilitating undercurrent if you aren't consciously aware of it." - Cathy Malkasian (From "An Interview with Cathy Malkasian, Conducted by Kristy Valenti", from The Comics Journal No. 288, pg. 100)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Path to Enlightenment

My sage, a steadfast supporter of my academic quest, passed away recently. He was a pillar of wisdom, though never knew all the answers, and he understood that in not knowing answers, all we can do is keep asking questions. In the midst of my search for graduate school, he was one of very few people who accepted and supported my need to expand my world.

He was also my sounding board. He actually liked to read this blog! We discussed everything, and his major interest - how all religions have a fundamental teaching on how we should treat each other, but how they all become convoluted in people's hands - led to many spirited discussions. We wondered together how anyone can truly believe there is one, true way, when there are so many people, so many beliefs.

My grief at his passing is only lessened by the immense nature of the responsibility I feel to continue on my way. This week I should be hearing from at least twograduate schools to see if I have been accepted. If the answer is yes, I only wish I could have told him I was accepted. If the answer is no, I will follow his lead and continue to look for a new path.

It is amazing to me how at these moments there is always a confluence of ideas, circumstances and often, revelations. Whatever we want to call this, a synergy exists in this world. If we look for connections, we usually find them. This may all be our mind working to make those connections, but if it is useful for us, all the better.

I was introduced in a very direct way to Buddhism in the last few days - my sage had been a Buddhist. They say that there are 84,000 different ways to enlightenment, 84,000 being a code for Infinity. So for each person, there may be a way to enlightenment. Apparently they also say, if I am understanding this one bit of knowledge correctly, that the enlightenment is all around us - we only need to look at things the right way. And this is where the confluence makes sense. And our interpretations of the connections we see. If we take their meanings to be positive, we can grow. If we see only doom and gloom, our chance for enlightenment shrinks.

I return to the question my sage and I often discussed: How can there be one God, and only one way to God, when there are so many different ideas and beliefs around the world?

It seems to me that God was a reaction. When there were multiple gods of mythology, the pantheons - from Odin to Zeus to Isis to Ameraterasu - they each had a name. Who decided that the one, true god would have the name "God"? Or Allah, or whatever one name means "God" for each existing religion? It seems to me that the one true god would not take God for his name, as that is a generic term. A distant corner of my mind tells me there are probably passages in holy books talking about how the Supreme Being has no real name. But if you explore the construction of religion, I would expect a name other than God to be placed on that being. Or on that idea. Perhaps we forget that men make their gods, and their God.

And so - with new ideas constantly spinning forth, the path I traveled with my sage will never, ever end. I will just have to find new companions to travel it with me. Maybe just for awhile, I will walk that path alone and still converse with my sage.