I don’t think there is a big picture…

Search for Gestalt. What a funny title. Funny being peculiar, or strange, or particularly amusing due to a sense that things line up just a little too well, or because I’ve found a particular angle to look at something that causes a twinge in my chest – like bewilderment, like a bemused, blank stare that’s trying not to gaze too deep but unable to comprehend what depth means. It means I’m looking for some unnameable whole made up of all the bits of pieces that make me feel this vague and fathomless confusion.

Perhaps I don’t mean anything by it at all. It was a pretty word I read in a book once, explained as a way of perceiving something as a whole that is greater than just the summation of its parts. Something that takes on a life of its own beyond its component pieces.

Consciousness is a collection of neurons firing and communicating with each other, signals and feedback loops and glitches and energy. A lot of science is about taking these grand, almost incomprehensible ideas – consciousness, repertoires of behavior, odd coincidences, repeating patterns – and parsing them down to their most base forms. An atom is the smallest unit of matter that cannot be broken down by chemical means. But what is an atom made of? A nucleus, containing protons and neutrons, orbited by electrons. But what is a proton? A proton is, by my understanding, a unit of positive electrical charge. An electron, a unit of negative electrical charge. A neutron, a unit with no electrical charge at all.

What the hell do I mean by unit? A bit of matter? A current of energy? What’s smaller than these little electrically-charged bits? Quarks? Little “strings” that somehow bind everything together? Units of energy vibrating so fast and so frequently that they attract and repel, attract and repel, until some form of physicality begins to just… happen?

What the hell do these details even mean? I am no chemist, no physicist. The closest I get to science is being aware that fats cut gluten strands and thus make for more delicate baked goods. But these little details catch a snag in my mind and I keep reeling them back in, long after I’ve decided to live a life where such matters are ultimately unimportant. What are neurons? Why do they buzz? Why do they transfer information on to other neurons? Why do billions and billions of these neurons and the connections they form within my brain cause me to be aware? Are the individual neurons aware? Am I simply the combined perception of every single one of them?

If there are enough people in the world, all communicating with each other and passing information back and forth and reinforcing each others’ perceptions and behaviors with feedback loops, do we create some kind of unified consciousness ourselves? If you really parse down the behavior of the neurons that create our consciousness, don’t you see something somewhat similar to how we ourselves behave?

Why do these questions seem so important to me? What does it matter when I have bills to pay and tests to pass and a job to find? What’s the practicality in such impractical questions?

Why are scientists studying the possibility of physiological components to spirituality? Why is there such a chasm between concepts of the physical and concepts of the mental, emotional, and/or spiritual self? Why is the idea that somebody could look inside of themselves with such rapt attention and focus that they can sense the flow of energy within their bodies and map it so absurd to a culture that believes it can map that same flow by monitoring it from the outside?

Why is that person capable of looking at a flower and then transferring that visual information into lines, shapes, space, and shades, but this person, looking at the same flower, can only see the word flower and map, perhaps, a basic three-petaled representation that means flower but bears little resemblance to the actual plant? Both have in their minds a gestalt idea – a whole idea of flower that is more than ‘rose’ or ‘dandelion’ or ‘stem’ or ‘petal’ or ‘thorn’ – but one of those ideas can reproduce a detailed, accurate drawing and the other idea is… abstract. It has nothing to do with what’s visual, with what’s sensed.

Why?

Why am I neurotic? Paranoid? Spacey? Selfish? Why am I all of these things, but also capable of selfless thoughts and loving actions? Why do I dissociate during harmless social situations but pay full attention to my surroundings when I’m on a long stretch of freeway, capable of thinking clearly and making plans and remembering minute details in the landscape as it flies by at 70 miles an hour? Why am I only at my clearest in thought-processes when I’m alone, away from all potential of sharing? (Even writing takes away some of that clarity. It doesn’t bring on as much fuzziness as interaction with other people, but it still brings some.)

Why do I still, after five years, believe that the answer to all of my doubts and fears and inquiries lies in one simple, yet astoundingly mind-boggling idea:

If you take the perspective of a beam of light, you are everywhere you are ever going to be. There is no time. There is no space. If light were in any way conscious, it would be omniscient… and it would not exist at all.

 

(The cat is simultaneously alive and dead. You are simultaneously full of meaning and absolutely meaningless. You are a good person and a bad person. You are worthy of love and you are not worthy of love. This is the right thing to do and this is the wrong thing to do.

I know you completely and I do not know you at all.)

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aaaaaaand… the answer is relative.

I am interested in too many things. Starting projects might be one of my greatest talents. Finishing them… well. My dad bought me a shirt that says ‘I never finish anyth’ and it is without a doubt my best self-defining shirt.

 Image
 
This would be the second best.
 
Recently, I’ve been cross-stitching, and reading Anatomy and Physiology for Dummies, and contemplating using beer as the yeast in my next homemade bread. I’ve been thinking about buying a brew kit and learning how to make my own beer. I insisted on making and decorating my own wedding cake and crafting my own centerpieces/favors for the wedding. (My favorite thing about the wedding – the actual wedding, not the after party – was wearing the dress that I watched Jon make me over the course of a couple weeks.) I have an incessant itch to learn how to quilt. I want to start a garden and grow tomatoes, chamomile flowers, lavender, peppers, basil and garlic (and that’s just to start out). I’m obsessed with books about Tai Chi, alternative healing, philosophy, and sociology. I want to learn massage therapy. I’ve already detailed some of my travels into the realm of computer programming and theoretical physics is basically my religion. Fantasy and science fiction created my morals and drive my passion for travel. I’ve crocheted, attempted to knit, obsessively studied abnormal psychology and dreamed of majoring in everything from creative writing to mechanical engineering to equestrianism. I love building things with my hands – one of my proudest achievements is contributing to the construction of a horse shelter. I taught myself how to draw (although I can’t really draw so much as copy black-and-white photographs in graphite) and study shadows and colors and space. Someday, I want to be a yoga instructor. I want to own a bakeshop. I want to pick up my violin and relearn music I haven’t played in well over five years and join a bluegrass/jazz/Celtic metal band. I’m in a technical writing class right now and I truly believe I could make money from the skills I am learning. I hope to become a major part of my dad’s business, which films conferences all over the States (and some of Europe) and posts them online.
 
I fucking want everything.
 
And this is part of the reason why I never finish anything. Because as soon as I’ve started on one thing, I become terrified that that thing is going to prevent me from all of the other things I want to do. So I have to go do something else. Sometimes it’s a matter of consciously giving up what I’m doing in favor of something else. Other times, it’s simply a matter of attempting to juggle too much at once and having bits and pieces fall by the wayside. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve stopped doing something I love for months or even years, and when I realize it’s gone… I freak out and need to start doing it again. But then something else falls away. My life can often look like it’s in shambles, and the people who know me know not to take me too seriously when I become obsessed with yet another thing. Because it’ll fade out. The more intense the obsession, the quicker it goes away.
 
Some things stick. Some things come back again and again. I have to learn how to manage my time.
 
There’s never enough time.
 
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Valjean, at last, we see each other plain!

So there is a recent abundance of movies coming out based on books. Good books. Really good books.

The Hobbit is coming out on December 14, I believe. Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings is responsible for my love of movie adaptations of books, because it introduced me to Lord of the Rings and gave me a deep respect for fantasy. It’s not that I hadn’t previously loved fantasy, but when the first movie came out, I was 12 or 13, nearing an age and an attitude where fantasy seemed more and more childish to me (I don’t like tweens, they’re ridiculous). After taking a journey through the sweeping landscape of New Zealand, my love for fantasy was renewed with fervor, and I am happy to say I will never consider myself too old for magic. The hero’s quest is and always will be one of my favorite products of humanity.

Then, on Christmas, Les Miserables is finally hitting theaters. My high school did a performance of Les Miserables when my sister was at the peak of her drama club experience. She played the woman who buys Fantine’s hair. I grew up listening to Castle on a Cloud, wishing for a lady all in white to hold me and sing a lullaby, never knowing until that year where the song came from. I attempted to read the book a few years later, but the bombardment of French names and French history and French politics threw me, and after about 100 pages I gave up, declaring that the book was simply too hard for me.

It’s the only book I ever gave up reading because it was too hard for me.

Jon picked it up for me two days ago at a book store where we have a lot of store credit (a store called ABC, which amuses me because of the connection to the group called ABC in the story itself). I’ve been reading it since, hoping to finish it by Christmas, as unlikely as that is. I’m fortunately finding it much easier to read. xD Perhaps those two years I spent as a Creative Writing major are paying off. Perhaps I just have more patience than my fifteen-year-old self.

So far, this book is filling me with a sense of peace, and a sense of sadness. The characters are lovingly, insightfully drawn – the bishop, who has all of thirteen lines in the musical, has an entire fifty page section dedication to a self-portrait. Yet when I listen to his section of the musical, I find that he has been characterized with loving respect for Hugo’s writing.

The idea of a large, Hollywood type production for this musical is both thrilling and a little worrisome. I’ve read a bit about people’s thoughts on Life of Pi, which I have not read or seen, and about how people are worried that the philosophical depth of the book will be lost. In Les Miserables, there’s a lot less to fear than that – I know what the musical adaptation looks like. I already love it with all of my heart and soul. I haven’t read the book and probably won’t have finished it by the time I see the movie. Still, I’ve heard that Jean Valjean has a new song. I don’t think he needs a new song. I worry they’ve taken out Gavroche or downplayed the Thenardiers or subjected Eponine to far less screen time than she deserves. Or, worse, given Cosette and Marius more focus than they deserve.

But it’s hard to be concerned. A movie can’t ruin a story for me. I hated the third Harry Potter movie, but the third book is still my favorite. What I hope for, though, is something akin to what Lord of the Rings gave me. Those movies are so good, I don’t compare them to the books. The books are their own world, full of intense, meandering descriptions and beautiful language. The movies are a pleasure for their visual appeal and the musical score. I enjoy the later Harry Potter movies, despite the fact that they do not tell quite the same story or inhabit quite the same universe as the books.

There’s something about the relation of books and their movies that I relate to the various stories told in comic books. I can read and appreciate six different Batmans and never get bored. I enjoy each story separately, and while the knowledge of one increases the pleasure found in the next, these stories are regularly not about the same Batman, or the same Gotham. They are tweaked interpretations, and they are made the better for their differences and the skill that is used in relating their similarities.

That’s something like what I expect from movie adaptations. I expect to be told a story about a somewhat different Frodo, a somewhat different Jean Valjean. These stories enhance each other because the two different interpretations give rise to a conversation between artists, which in turn gives rise to conversations between all members of the audience.

Those are my thoughts for today. Now, I’m off in search of a conversation between Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman, because it happened on Halloween and I have to believe there’s a video of it somewhere on this here wide-world interweb.

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Why should I care?

So I must admit, after two weeks, eight posts, and far too much time obsessively checking my stats page finding cool blogs to read, I still don’t really know what I’m doing here. I’ve written some about programming, and books, and religion, and I-don’t-even-remember what else. Oh, and I wrote a short story that needs about six revisions in order to be what I actually envisioned it being when I first hit ‘Publish Post’ on the damn thing.

I don’t think a single one of my blog posts carries a consistent voice or tone from the previous one. I’m still scrambling to find a way to tie it all together, as was clearly my intention two weeks ago. At least, that’s what I can safely assume given the title I came up with.

The question that keeps bouncing around in my head like… I don’t know, a three year old on a sugar rush… is a question that my boyfriend often uses when he looks at my writing and can’t quite figure out how to tell me what it’s missing. Why should I care about this? It’s not bad, he says. It’s well-written, he says. You clearly are trying to say something. The most common reaction I get to my writing, from teachers, peers, my boyfriend, even my mom, is… this is good but it’s missing something.

Some draw, some appeal, some pivotal piece that, if it clicked into place, would create the bridge between what I’m trying to say and why you, my audience, should care about what I’m trying to say. Now, I journal a lot outside of this blog. I know what I want to share with you. But I’m unskilled in the art of implementation. I started this blog because I wanted to find my missing piece, the thing that draws together all of the marvelous things my scatterbrained self wants to tell you, show you, ask you, share with you.

A lot of this stems from a desire for the grandeur I felt the first time it really hit me that my mom is a published author. The first time I held her book in my hands, or the first time I flipped through an anthology and found her essay, with her name right there and an About the Author section that I recognized as a very simplified version of my own home life (also, way too much information about my mom’s teenage years). Holy shit, I thought, or felt, my mom is a bad ass! I loved to read. I loved to write. Why couldn’t I share that writing, too?

It is still my dream to be a published author by the time I’m twenty-five, but in my world, I’m kind of unsure what that means. I’m publishing blog posts, aren’t I? I’m reading all sorts of blogs and articles about how self-publishing can be a respectable route to take in getting your name out there. So this dream I’ve had that involves a million rejection letters framed on the wall over my desk, is it an accurate picture of the route my dream will take me on? Will I ever experience that day, the day I imagine as starting off like any other day, the day when I pull myself out of bed, pour myself some cereal and check the mail, innocently perusing through the letters – ‘Bill. Bill. Letter from Grandma. Oh, look, another rejection letter, I’ll put that aside and look at it in a second. Reminder from the vet for Herra’s check up.’ – until, finally, I open a letter and read We are pleased to inform you that… ?

Will I ever get to stare at that letter, spoon held halfway between the bowl and my mouth, utterly forgotten as I scramble to feel something, anything, other than shock. And then… a slow welling of excitement, rising like a scream in my chest, like tears to my eyes, like a slow smile to my lips. The letter tells me I’ve found the missing piece at last, and when the reader asked themselves Why should I care? they found an answer, and decided to help me through the process of publication and marketing, the process that leads to the road of holding my book in my hands.

Whether or not the dream will play out like that, or, given the age I live in, take a different road or end up with a final product that’s more digital than physical, I know I have a lot of work to do. This blog is a form of publication, but it’s not my dream, not yet. I haven’t found that piece which will tie together what I want to share with why my readers should care. But in the mean time, I am having a marvelous time reading blogs that inspire, that tickle my fancy and are extraordinarily well-written and well thought out. Two weeks I’ve been here; I have some followers, I’ve entered a contest, and I’ve read some truly incredible stories, thoughts, and insights from people, from complete strangers, whose posts sing with the answer to Why should I care? without me, as a reader, even having to think about it.

see Dee learn;

Today: Some ramblings on the attainment of self-confidence through learning for highly anxious individuals.

The process of learning to regularly express and feel self-confidence may or may not be easy, for some. There are scores of lists detailing everything from smiling more, to forgiving more wholeheartedly, to simply pretending to be self-confident. I wrote a few days ago about how I fully believe in the process of becoming what you want to be by believing you already are. Today, I am writing about yet another method: a method that can be far more humbling.

A few days ago I finished my first running JavaScript Program (or, at least, my first running JavaScript program created without the step-by-step guide of a tutorial). It’s a simple, rather useless program that uses little pop-up confirmation boxes to simulate the card game War between a user and a computer. It was fairly difficult to write, in that I spent several hours dealing with individual parts (or functions), researching methods I half-remembered or, at times, seeing if someone had already written a simple function (for example: a function that shuffled an array) that I could then modify to fit my purposes. It was important, for me, every step of the way, to write out as many interpretations of problems and of solutions as I could think of, in order to better grasp the nature of what it means to use JavaScript. Now that I am working on a new program, a simulation of the card game Go Fish, much of what I worked through in the War program has come in handy, and I intend to continue to build off what I’ve written, not to memorize but to construct and practice a certain method of thinking.

The attempt to visualize and wholly grasp an entirely new method of thinking in learning a new task is something I started using about two years ago when I became absolutely determined to learn how to draw. My reasoning, fueled by information in the book Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain, followed that if this is a task I have never succeeded in before, then I must try to find ways to simulate a thought-process I have never engaged in before. It also followed that, if it is a skill I am attempting to learn because I have seen others do it, then those others, whether they are consciously aware of it or not, have the information about that new thought-process that I need and it is best practice to attain it by figuring out, with them if possible, what it is about the way they view the world that led them to forming that thought-process. A long-winded explanation, perhaps, but that is my understanding.

I have never been consistently a good student in school. That is, as early as I can remember, I have never had any kind of working relationship with homework. Either I’d do it in-class or not at all. Either I’m dedicated for a week and then burn-out or I simply straggle along behind the rest of the class, grasping the material, even being excited by the material, but refusing to take the risk of making an honest effort. This has started to get better in college, but part of that is because, when I do forget to do my homework, I have the option of simply not going to class. I don’t have to face the knowledge that, despite my desire to be a good student, this teacher has direct evidence that I am not. Sometimes skipping class for the sake of not having to face the teacher without an assignment has helped. Knowing that I have an extra couple of days or even a week can be exactly the boost I need to get on top of something I should have already been on top of. Sometimes skipping class just meant I failed the class.

Whether these issues stem from my high-level of constant anxiety, or whether the anxiety stems from this being my relationship with school for as long as I can remember, I have no idea. I’ve been prompted towards seeking a diagnosis for ADD and I’ve been prompted towards seeking a diagnosis for GAD. Call it pride or call it determination, though, I am inclined to find answers for myself as often as possible. And in many ways, I have found methods of thinking, and doing, that work to strengthen my confidence that I am exactly what my teachers have always told me I am: very smart, very capable, and very lazy. And the lazy part tends to go away on its on when being lazy will cost you a meal on a daily basis (being broke may be one of the best things that ever happened to my work ethic).

Back to my paragraph about learning to code, not only is the thought-process behind programming something I am seeking to understand, but the thought-process behind learning to program is equally important to me, just like the thought-process behind learning to draw is what initially piqued my interest, not in learning new things for the sake of themselves, but learning new things in order to practice the very art of learning and adaptation. Because in this process there comes a sort of humility that is nothing like shame or fear – in the knowledge that I know very little, almost nothing, that comes with the process of learning something new, there is nothing like a fear of failure (or success), the likes of which terrorized me through public school to the point of mental paralysis. With every new thing, I have to let that thing become an integrated part of my daily life. The question of whether or not I’m good at programming, when I spend several hours a week dedicated simply to doing it, becomes obsolete, and loses its power over me.

Whether or not this is a typical assessment of how to gain self-confidence that is much more effectively practiced than understood, a fully-integrated understanding of what it means to let go of self-doubt has cost me years, not to mention frustration, sweat, and tears. I don’t believe that I’m anywhere near where I want to be as a person, but I’m no longer very afraid that I’ll never get there, because I make it a point to remind myself that I am always capable of learning more. The habits I am choosing to develop are about nothing more, and nothing less, than constantly being engaged, consciously and eagerly, with the learning process.

I had to edit this post severely because I didn’t feel it was the best it could be. 🙂 Now I feel that it is very nearly what I wanted.

this is Dee… see Dee blog.

This is Dee.

See Dee write. See Dee code. See Dee ponder and get a major case of ultra excite at the idea of

  • writing
  • reading
  • coding
  • learning

and, always, always

  • searching.

This week, I am building a horse shelter, writing some card game programs in JavaScript, applying at Hocking College for the baking program, reading Energy Psychology by Michael Mayer, PhD, and answering a prompt a day from Pocket Muse. This is the stuff of dreams, baby. Essentially, I’m interested in everything and can’t fathom a blog where I only get to write about this or that, just like I can’t fathom a life where I only get to focus on one thing or another.

Today, I’m writing about code.

I recently created an account at Code Academy, where kindly programmers post lessons/tutorials in JavaScript, JQuery, HTML, and CSS for beginners. After a couple of false starts attempting to learn how to program (starting as far back as seven, eight years ago), I’ve finally decided to get my butt into gear and sit my ass in a chair. What I knew about software and web development before attempting the tutorials on this site would have fit on the head of a pin (excuse the expression), but now, thanks to the wonderful Q&A forums, the handy-dandy scratch pad for experimenting and goofing around with variables and functions and what-have-you, my knowledge might feel more comfortable perched on the head of a ball-point pen.

It’s a huge leap for me. As I scramble my way through the code language, attempting to piece together a program that resembles the card game of ‘War’, what I’m finding most mind-boggling is the mindset of the whole thing. Logic. It is absolutely beautiful and, at times, absolutely frustrating, for this reason: the computer does absolutely nothing more, and absolutely nothing less, than what I tell it to do.

If God is a programmer, I’m impressed.

So, as I venture through the next month writing and editing and deleting lines and lines of code, not to mention lines and lines of prose attempting to translate the lines of code in order to get a better grasp, what I’m looking for are more websites for beginning programmers, challenges, examples of well-written code (and some answers to the question, what makes good code ‘good’?), and, perhaps most of all, some broad idea of what practical uses a skill like this has for a lady with minimal education and job experience.

Not interested in code? Tune in tomorrow for something different!

Oh, and one more thing – I feel like I should describe the title I’ve chosen for this blog. You see, I’m interested in quite a few things, and I’m a creature of perpetual identity-crisis. I don’t always see connections between the things I’m interested in, but when I do I feel a warm, sparkly glow all the way through, like something magnificent is trying to reveal itself. Concepts from one trade or branch of knowledge, applied to another trade or branch of knowledge, can do some pretty amazing things. I learned the word ‘gestalt’ in a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, an amazing book that actually taught me how to draw. The word means a composite whole, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. I am so in love with this idea, I’ve created a whole blog around my attempts to find examples of it everywhere.