Posted in Miscellany

Musing on Earth Day

Glass globe photographed in a moth forest

With the power of the mind put into practice for conserving nature, we can make the whole world a better place because we are part of nature, made of fire, water, earth, and air.

In our annual celebration of this year’s Earth Day, we want to spread the spirit of Mother Nature. We want all to find the beauty of life in music from the trills of birds in the rhythm of running brooks, words of wisdom in the susurrus of trees, and books in the vivid scarlet twilight of the sunset lingering in the west. The wonders of nature tame belligerent brutes and soften the hardened hearts of cynics.

One-touch of nature makes the whole world kin. In the arms of Mother Nature, we are all her children, so keeping the earth clean and livable is our filial duty to her.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Believe it or not

The morbidity of cannibalism is often associated with the primitive obscure tribes living on a faraway island or in the deepest heart of the darkest jungle over the other side of our comparatively Atlantis-like world. To put it more blatantly trenchant, it was a practice of uncivilized non-European races reported by European explorers of the age of voyage until the mid-twentieth century. As it is always dark under the lamp, the idea of eating human flash ipso facto overrides the fact of consuming it in one way or another yet purposefully. The evidence is the existence of mummia in recent Europe.

Mummia was human flesh or excretions mostly imported from the Middle East as medicinal palliatives in apothecaries’ shops, a prototype of a modern-day drugstore. It was made of desiccated human corpse matter from mummified bodies and ingested for its supposed healing powers in the same sense that the ancient Egyptians and Romans crushed up mice to put on cavities to cure toothaches. Farther to the east, people believed that the leg of a fresh corpse was to be a panacea to any incurable disease during the Chosen Dynasty in Korea. For mummia in the 16th and 17th Europe, it was recently deceased bodies of executed criminals, a youth of violent death, or unfortunate socially disfranchised. The former two kinds are the flash of passion that rushed thru the veins to the brain, resulting from a sudden frenzy of instantaneously leashed sensations. Such corpses were believed to possess magical feeling power akin to aphrodisiac or love potion, aka pharmaka, enveloped in an Egon spell with the aid of a demon. Mummia of the corpse was famous for abscesses, carbuncles, menstrual problems, and pestilence, all of which are directly or indirectly connected to blood circulation-related illness.

Believe it or not, the presence of mummia was conspicuous in British pharmaceutical catalogs until 1908. I think some people might have bought it without the information about the source. But even if they knew about it, if the poor people could not afford to see the doctors cure their painful illness, the abomination of a corpse would yield to the need. The intuitive preference of judgment by resemblance applies to the folk religion, especially in the form of magic or witchcraft to which ordinary villagers often had recourse in need of an instant response to their wishes without rigidity and arrogance of the church putting dogmas before hearts. So, I like to believe that the use of mummia was on the same continuum. After all, it was different from Druids, Mayans, and Aztecs, who killed humans in the most defiantly brutal ways as sacrifices to their devil gods.

Posted in Miscellany

ages of man

No matter how many leaves have fallen from a tree as the wind of changes has been blown – sometimes placidly and many times harshly – I still feel like a girl who has refused to enter into adulthood, shunning away from the nature of things. Cicero said the ages of man have their stages of nature with sovereign rights, so anything you fly in the face of them will ask for troubles. But then Cleopatra declared to reject the forces of mortality, and Shakespeare thus praised her courage and fortitude by saying: “Age cannot wither away, nor customs can stale her infinite varieties.” Oh, and there is also Cher, now rightly revered as a dame of celebrity, and she has recently decried acknowledging her age on our evolutionary scale. So why not me with my consistent resistance against the fate of a mortal in all aspects with all my might, with all my soul, and with all my heart?

It’s not only the inevitable awareness of the passing of generations by me. With the recent death of Sidney Poitier, the eminent actor famous for his unforgettably charismatic roles in ‘In the Heat of the Night’ and ‘To Sir with Love, it has begun to dawn on me that those who lived through WW2 and pre and post Second Vatican Council are now gone with the wind to the haze of time, a new breed of generations has germinated, sprouted, and dispersed across the lands and oceans, just as mammals began to stage after the extinction of dinosaurs. It’s a nature of the universe, but still hard to accept it, especially when everything else but I change, or seems it so. The difference between the millennials and the Me generation seems as far and wide as that between the Victorians and the Flappers, so to speak. Less than 50 years must have felt a great leap of 100 years to the opposite generations, I gather. But that’s not hyperbole, I believe.

Greek gods knew too well about such a human yearning to be agrasia and played the weakness in favor of their everlasting egoism. Otherwise, why did they keep nectar made with ambrosia to themselves on the Mount of Olympus? Demeter, the goddess of harvest and corn, put the baby of her master who took the goddess in the guise of a poor woman as her baby son’s nurse in a sacred flame on the pretext of making him ageless as a favor to the kindness of her lesser mortals. And it doesn’t end with Greek gods. Jesus never became old, preserved in his prime days of preaching travels with stylishly long hair that reminds me of a famous musician or poet. So was Mary, the mother of God. In the end, only humans stand in the audience, appreciating the agrasia beauty and immortality, comparing the presence of eternal youth to the absence of it.

What with the flow of time and what with the present state I am in now, inching toward the end of the era, is already enough to blow me away into the twilight zone, where things are unlike Alice’s Wonderland but Vincent’s Price’s Haunted House. Magic is no joke and is real for sure, but you always have to pay for what you wish for. But I think it’s a mindset that significantly impacts physical reality, which is magic turning you forever young.

Posted in Film Review

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain according to Benedict Cumberbatch

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is joy and sadness, lightheartedness and seriousness, just like his paintings. It’s about love and art in the oddly beautiful vagaries of what it means to be a human (in the company of cats). Wain’s cats graced the epochs before Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse (and Minnie) and His Gangs) debuted. But Wain was not Disney, and would he have even wished it? Perhaps, that is why Benedict Cumberbatch decided to give Wain a second chance to shine his name once more on earth in the magic of moving pictures that resurrected him from the lapse of time through the chapters of his story in this superbly narrative of the artist.

Louise Wain was a brilliant artist, a contemporary of French impressionist artists, such as Monet, Pissarro, Degas, and Renoir, and Dutch Vincent Van Gogh, all of whom were united in the brotherhood of independent spirits and resilient creativity. Yet Wain’s was a different sort, more existentially debauched in the provisional circulation of works, in the crossroads of the reality of being the only male figure in the parentless family led by the dominant matriarchal sister and of the ideal of ensconcing himself in the solitary niche. All artists are by nature sensitive, but Wain was extraordinarily sensitive, and the world was too much for someone like him to deal with. His wife, the light of his life, was the only happiness and love he felt and shared, but jealous God took her away from him and left him in the lurch of the familial duties and responsibilities in the somber household. This house eventually drove him and his younger sister into the oblivion of reason to the end. Yet, notwithstanding the personal tragedy, Wain’s unique visual world articulated with the sonar modulation of impulse that sparked his creative spirit yearning to soar up to the boundless ether on a par with constellations with stars.

Wain’s wife encouraged and supported him because she knew of his genius despite other people’s ignorance.

Benedict Cumberbatch, now universally recognized as the Sherlock thanks to the phenomenally successful BBC series, proved to be a superb character actor who became Louis Wain rather than merely playing the artist’s part. Ancient Greeks and Romans regarded actors as an equivalent of a spiritual medium whose body could be channeled into another spirit for a willful possession during a mysterious rite of sacred ceremony. If that was the case, as it were, that was how I felt watching Cumberbatch being Wain as if he had summoned the soul of the dead artist from the beyond and asked him how the artist’s life would be told. His naturally mild, gentle deliverance of character nuanced the inner fear, confusion, and frustration that Wain must have felt in dealing with the realities of everyday life as a reluctant and unlikely head of household. Yet, his passionate eyes and particular diction dictate that Wain was an artist of force, a man not of an age but for all seasons.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Triumph of the Will

Like Hecate, the goddess of underdogs, I have a soft spot for writers and thinkers who arose above personal hardships and triumphed in the will. If they have not experienced human highs and lows, how could they write and explain the meaning of life? Take the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky whose near-death experience on the gallows and subsequent travails shaped how he viewed humanity, the purpose of God, and the dichotomy of good and evil. I compared the life of Dostoevsky with that of Victor E. Frankl, the father of Logotherapy, who survived five death camps during World War 2 because both men’s intellectual fervor saved them from self-destruction in the darkest hours of their lives.

Dostoevsky (hereinafter “D”) was a political prisoner sentenced to death for reading banned books. But the most incredible feat of luck pulled him out of the gallows, and he was sent to a Siberian work camp. He forced himself to channel a danger of hopelessness and resignation in such a squalid environment into the world of imagination. His characters were his alter egos trapped in a cycle of solipsistic containment of morality, religiosity, and social justice. In these attitudinal and creative values as a way of relieving himself from the slough of despond, D finds a kindred spirit in Frankl (hereinafter “F”), whose spirit never succumb to the hopeless situations in death camps where life seemed to be a curse. Instead, f kept himself busy by constantly devising his school of thought, analyzing it, and structuralizing the concepts in his head and on any writable medium he could find discreetly. The result is Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy that encompasses philosophy, religion, neurology, and psychoanalysis, whose nature and method are common to all humans and applicable to all regardless of age, gender, race, and culture.

So much so for the reading of the brief article, but the effect is magnanimous and resonant with a pellucid tenor of a victorious high human spirit with humor as a handmaid to intellect (wit), which would otherwise be grim and dreary subject to temperamental bouts of depression and pessimism. Both men in their prime of youth had their sovereign rights of individualities in tatters and shackles, but their willingness to live and achieve their goals exceeded the compass of the malicious fortune and triumphed in perennial glory. They are, as Ben Jonson in his humor might have concurred, men not of an age but for all time.