Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Call for More Virtuous Video Games

I am not a fan of video games.

Mindlessly falling away into a realm of flashing lights and sounds of illusion is often a means to mental decay. Modern video games have become more concrete and closely parallel to society. People blast away at the avatars of others with artificial guns, peppering virtual bodies with imaginary bullets. The sights and sounds are brought to life before our eyes and the lack of abstraction takes us to a place we can perceive, without much thought, as reality. While this is often the basis for arguments against violent video games, I am not trying to debate against the content of these games, simply the premise and existence for them. At their core, they lack ingenuity. They are largely based off of war, sports, or racing, and while we typically may not  have access to the full extent of these activities in real life, the fact that these games are simply reflections of this reality does not aide in the mental development of players.

Video games need to be more intuitive, leaving more to the imagination and less to graphics. While technology becomes increasingly easier to use and manipulate, a higher creativity is required for furthering greater development. With fresh and innovative ideas, we can form technology as not only as a wondrous tool to eliminate grueling and grinding work (such as mindless data entry, etc) but a refreshing toy that teaches us how to think and learn.

We need technology to better our minds, not help them. VectorPark.com is a beautiful example of what improved technology can create. It breaks the mold for what video games have popularly become. It defines something new and strange, something that makes us think and learn, like children, developing a greater plasticity in which we can continue to learn and figure out the unknown. There is a small niche of these games in existence and they revolve around a philosophy of thought and intuition, rather than a dexterity of control. It challenges the mind by pushing the player into a flow state. If we, as a society, can learn to embrace the unique, the strange, and the challenging, we could develop a whole new line of video games and draw in a more intellectual audience that benefits society, rather than detract from it.


So start by playing Feed The Head, both for your intellectual and visual enjoyment. This game, like any form of art, holds the potential to inspire you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Religious or crazy?

Religion is not viewed as crazy; praying to someone who is not there, putting all your faith and belief in a figure who you have never met or seen, performing acts that this "God" tells you to do for the good of mankind, etc. But believing in ghosts and spirits and extra terrestrials is viewed as crazy. Or if you are a schizophrenic and believe that you are seeing a person right in front of you speaking to you, even if that person is "god" perhaps, you may be classified as "insane" rather than religious... How on earth has our society become so disconnected from our spiritual side and so afraid of alternate beliefs that the answer is either religious or crazy?

We watched A Beautiful Mind in class the other day and got into this discussion... What is classified as crazy? Are artists crazy? Do we have to be crazy in order to create our most compelling art? What about the fact that I personally have seen a UFO? Or what about the fact that my sister is a medium (can see spirits and ghosts) and I have had a personal encounter with a ghost where they moved right through my body and apologized for it? What about aliens? Do they exist?... Do you think I'm crazy for stating/believing in these things?...

How can we be so naïve to believe that with the size of this universe and the history of this earth that we are the only beings that can exist or that there can be only one set of logical belief systems?

I continued this discussion with my roommate and good friend, Ian, last night. We got into a discussion of people in general, and how most of us refuse to acknowledge things in ourselves that we don't want to deal with. For example, if a boyfriend cheats on his girlfriend, they will then not want to talk about it and therefore pretend it didn't happen. But it did happen, and them not acknowledging it and dealing with it is avoiding the pain and of their actions and a denial of truth within themselves. I believe this applies to belief systems as well. Perhaps so many people cling onto religion because they are not ready to deal with a possibly painful truth that they are alone. Or perhaps so many people are adamant about others' beliefs in ghosts or extra terrestrials because they are afraid that they might actually exist.

I am in no way against religion. I actually do have some kind of faith in something, though I don't know what exactly. But I think this is something that needs to be questioned and discussed and thought about, if not to find some answers than to simply create some honest awareness.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Alone in Union Station


Sitting in Chicago’s Union Station is interesting.  I am here alone, but not really alone, there are a lot of people who rush around me.  Yet, I feel alone.  I feel kind of uneasy.  I feel that I just want to be back in Ann Arbor, in my familiar Ann Arbor city, with my familiar buildings and streets and people and knick-knacks.  Even thought I want to be somewhere I am not, I also regret those feelings.  It makes me feel weak and I hate feeling weak.  It makes me think, and sometimes I hate when I think. I hate when I think mainly because it leads to more uneasiness.  Not just uneasiness from the unfamiliar and big city environment, but also uneasiness within myself. This happens because I am not able to talk to anyone else; I just have myself to listen to.  Memories and worries, ambitions, and regrets seem to always leak out of my soul and into my brain when I am alone.  I wonder how many others around me have similar feelings? Looking around me, there are a lot of people who are also “alone.”  But they have families, they have worries, they have goals, they want to be somewhere other then here.  If all the people disappeared and all that was left was the feelings of people, I believe it would look like swirling ghosts; I believe these ghosts would find connections amongst each other and make friends.  I believe the room would no longer be lonely; instead it would be friendly and exciting.  Isn’t it amazing how flesh and bones so easily tear us apart from making friends? That hair and fingernails stop us from saying hello? That cloth and rubber acts as force fields from sitting near each other? If the flesh and bones melted away, if the hair and fingernails fell off, if the cloth and rubber dissolved, what would the world be like? What problems would we have, if any? If we could only see emotions and nothing else, would the word be happier? Safer? Hmmmmmm it is interesting to think about, and these thoughts overrule my uneasiness, which is nice for a minute.  I decide to give into my rumbling tummy and buy food, pay the cashier, and pick a spot three seats away from the nearest person.  Funny how thoughts and actions are completely unrelated in real life. 

....These thoughts continue to inspire my end of the year project....the first being a series of ceramic pieces and the second a series of white t-shirts.... I want to use each to explore how different types of media can be used for expression, where some pieces represent how others perceive me, and 

Sound as an Object

Lately in my film class, we've discussed how sound is treated like an object by filmmakers. Viewers often anticipate that a sound is dictated by, or connected to, an image; it is jarring or unexpected for a sound to seem inorganic. Yet the most creative teams match sound and image in ways that are both unexpected and narratively important. Playing with this idea for a while gave me a stronger direction for my project to teach myself how to animate. I had several ideas for videos, but really wanted to play with the relationship between image and sound. So, I decided to pick what I think to be an abstract song, and come up with a narrative guided by the sounds.

Here is what I picked:

This song is a good representation of how music can exist without a traditional verse, bridge, chorus format. I particularly like it because of this absence of words, and I will maintain this in my project. Image and sound will be used to create a narrative--a short narrative--that I hope will be as effective in telling a story as a book. Film and music are different formats than something written (which we've agreed on in class is the best definition), but I do not think it eliminates them from being effective story-telling mechanisms. 

My new Blog idea

Check out of new blog idea- quotes!!! - CHECK IT OUT! :) See you in class tomorrow!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Vlogumentary

Considering we spend so much time in front of screens, we might as well turn all of reality into screen life.
I have an idea for a long-term project. An ongoing documentary/vlog about the mundane aspects of reality that the Internet does not fully capture yet. Toothbrushing, showering, making the bed, walking, pressing elevator buttons, opening doors, tying shoes, preparing food, eating food, releasing food, talking, plugging in laptop chargers, breathing, zippering a backpack, folding sheets, pouring laundry detergent, drinking water, driving cars, filling cars with gasoline, opening cans, shaving, holding hands, buying groceries, mopping a floor, and smiling.
Each piece of this vlogumentary will highlight a different aspect of everyday living. There will be an entire segment focused on covering all aspects of trimming toe nails, for example, or swiping a Visa card at stores. Every time I clip a chunk of nail or fumble for my wallet, it will be recorded. The duration of each activity will vary on the topic. Toothbrushing may require 3-4 weeks of intensive filming while turning keys in locks may only require 48 hours.
I hope this project will help capture the fullness of what it means to be a modern day human. A 21st Century Homo Sapiens. Perhaps it will say something about the Do Easy method of living or the pointless amount of time we waste on simply surviving as opposed to prospering.
I think I will begin this project by filming myself eating. There is a lot to go off with this topic. Does the time of day I eat affect my appetite/mood? Does the food I consume affect my mental state, alertness, and/or emotions/personality? Is there a correlation between the type of food I consume and the time of day in which I consume said food?
I'm sure there is a proper scientific method for answering these questions and lots of thorough experiments I could apply to test and measure this, but I'll let more intelligent people do that job. I'll just start by recording.
The little red dot is blinking.

Silicon Shuttles to a Synthetic State

On average, we spend <insert shockingly high but hopefully accurate statistic here> hours in front of a screen every day. These screens are windows to whatever we wish to see. The internet offers us places we’ve never been and people we’ve never met IRL. Our lives exist in front of them, our eyes scanning spreadsheets and two-dimensional newsfeeds when they were designed to perceive depth and location of prey we used to hunt. We have no reason to search after running animals when we can purchase preservative-pumped meat through online retailers. Computers take away our need to move beyond the glowing pixels in front of us.

With several hours spent before screens each day, one begins to wonder the aesthetic appeal of such devices. Is it the great graphics that draw us in? New Apple products are perpetually improving upon display and interface design. Is it the simple appeal of the Internet and the indirect connections we can make with other humans? Constant improvements on social media sites and web browsers are adapting to make these experiences increasingly easier to access, speedier, and more enjoyable. Whatever the case may be, we are spending exponentially more time before screens as “better” technology continues to develop. In this sense, a significant portion of our minds and presence exists within this virtual realm. We take up residence in our homepages and online media sites, but when we exit out of our browsers, we are faced with an image that overtakes our field of vision—our desktop.



Most often, these pieces of art are beautiful depictions of the real world, whether it is a panoramic view of mountains or oceans or a photo of family or friends. These pictures can be cycled and rotate, becoming abstract shapes and designs, but in whatever case, they are what we perceive as visually pleasant. If these images are constructs of actuality, as art is most often based off inspiration found in the real world, why is it that they make such a dominant presence in our virtual existence? Perhaps we are setting up a home in the screen, a place to find peace or silence when the world is loud or find action and life when reality goes dim? If computers are the places for our minds to explore and wander, the world is left to be a simple provider. Rather than be enjoyed or explored as a primary passion, it is a place we are simply stuck in and thus escape to the virtual realm. Beautiful desktop images serve as enjoyable views when glued to the screen. These pieces of art can be seen as indirectly evil, as they are offering a Land of Lotus leaves to our visual senses, enticing them to spend more time before the screen. For this reason, I have set my desktop to the most atrocious scene I could spawn:
 

Rather than waste away my years before a screen, lulled into satisfaction by misleading visual art mimicking the true beauty of the real world, I hope to spend less time in front of the screen and more time in reality. Despite the many great tools it can provide, the computer is a double-edged sword. We ask it questions and it answers them. If we ask it why we should spend more time in reality, it will give us an answer, perhaps even a good one, but it will lure us back to our virtual desktops.

Google, why do I ask you my life questions? And how does Yahoo always have the answer?

Maybe that’s why I spend so much time in front of this screen?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Creativity, Erasure, and Altruism

In class, we are often asked to question the idea of creativity and originality: to be liberal in this definition, to look at what limits it, and to commit to it as a lifelong habit. Claiming originality defines it as something that chance alone could not produce; the creator is the only party capable of doing what has been done (sounds similar to using God to explain what evolution does). There is beauty produced by the human hand (and heart)--don't get me wrong. Recognizing how incalculably small of chance there was for such an alignment of parts only heightens this beauty. Yet the most important part of creating anything is recognizing that it can be done, by anybody.

What I mean by this is that events, miraculous events, can be reproduced and explained with the rules of probability. I like best the "Infinite Monkey Theorem" which describes a circumstance where random typing on a keyboard by another primate could produce a line from Shakespeare. Repeated often enough over a hilariously long stretch of time would reproduce his entire life's work. At first, this is disheartening (and kind of funny). But then you think about how limitless putting a limit can be; there is essentially an available set of combinations to bring to life anything that can be thought, or was already thought.

There are those who take this realization and use it as terrain to explore playing with other's work; if everything is unified as unowned under such probability laws, then each hand has a right to what's been made. Philosophies similar to this--though perhaps they do not overtly state it--support the concept of a public domain, open source technology, and other free resources that allow for unbiased, accessible information flow on and offline. Where does an attitude of ownership come in, and when are we infringing on another's right to originality? Would people be as driven to create were their accomplishments not promised to be tagged with their name? Does rejecting ownership--and authorship--lead to altruistic creation? It could boil down to a simple generational question: is a model like 4chan and Reddit better than Facebook?





Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When I fall, you call it flying with style

My wings unfurl in an impressive display
Of privilege, of power, of perfection
Muscles trimmed to an angular array
Ideal for flight in any direction
You assume I can soar
Go above and beyond this door
Out the window into the sky
Beyond the clouds, where the heavens lie
You think I'm some celestial Seraphim
Since I hold myself confident and trim
A book with a pretty cover and empty pages
Born in beauty, lacking substance for ages
A sham, a fake
No fish, a lake
A con with fidence
A mis with guidance
You think I'm the Tooth Fairy
And Santa with a beard so hairy
Like some epic hero with perfect flaws
Not a half-assed demon with unsharp claws
When I step off the ledge and spread my wings
You think I'll fly
But really I die
Plucking my feathers of potential
I fall

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

colors of nature / part 1 response


After reading the introduction to this book, I had a vague expectation of what the contents would be like. Well– technically I guess my understanding of the introduction was influenced by “earthbound” and “Tarsenna’s Defiance Garden” because I read those first. In any case, I felt like the introduction should serve as my key (like key on a map) for the rest of the book– like the main components and ideas covered were all presented in this intro and that as I went along with the reading I would recognize themes that were hinted at and now expanded upon. Don’t know if this makes sense. I have a weird headache right now. Basically I read the intro and it made me think this anthology (is that what this is? Is that the right word?) was all about certain things. But after finishing Part 1, it seems like it’s about a lot of things, more than just the difference between white and non-white people’s relationship with nature, or respect for the earth, or seeing nature as either one with or separate from oneself, or the way [white] people colonize everything and give names and narratives to things that already have names and narratives in order to feel comfortable and secure in their surroundings. Basically I now see that there are going to be some common themes in a few of these stories but that those themes do not necessarily define every piece in the collection. So far the one that has stuck out to me as being “different” in this way is the Fred Arroyo piece. The descriptions of hard labor and the rest and contentment that accompanied it resonated with my own experiences, which surprised me because I had not been expecting to be able to relate to these stories because I am white and as the introduction suggests, the purpose of this volume is to document specifically non-white experience. “Working in a region of lost names” reminded me of the two summers I worked at the Kroger by my mom’s house, where I spent most of my time sweating in the parking lot tending to flowers and customers and pallets and 40lb. bags of soil that I surely would never have attempted to lift or become good at lifting if I had not worked at Kroger those two summers. These were my first two college summers and I appreciated not being in school more than I ever had during high school summers. Unlike the school year, during which I felt like a prisoner to coursework that goes on and on, you go to class and then you go home and you have to do work there too, you can’t fall behind or else you’re screwed, semesters are cumulative and even if you had a good streak of doing all the readings for a few weeks it can all be negated by getting mono or just not caring anymore. I hate that school becomes my life. Work, on the other hand, is in this way at least, separate from life– you go to work, and do your work, and then you come home and not only do you not have to do more work, you don’t even have to THINK about work! I realize this isn’t the case with all professions, or any profession, because this was simply a job, Kroger Floral clerk, and that’s why I loved it. My work was all physical labor, and at the end of the day I was satisfyingly exhausted. I never felt like my mind was idle or atrophying from lack of stimulation. On the contrary, being bored was the greatest thing ever! It led me to what actually interested me and most importantly was the complete opposite of what I did during the school year. Anyway, I am now off topic and am just talking about myself. Signing off–

Floating...


I have so many ideas floating around my head, bouncing off the walls, hiding in corners, disappearing and reappearing. I have been struggling with finding the actual content of my book with so many possibilities that could become a reality--What story do I want to tell my audience? What do I want them to leave with? What do I want them to learn/understand from having "read" my book?

This semester I have been feeling myself floating in a sense as well. My mind, body and soul expanding in a way. All my classes, my relationships with friends and my mindset on life have shifted since a few months ago, in a good way. Last semester I felt as if I was in a constant fight, battle, struggle with myself; it was between the me I was showing to the world, and the me I truly was inside. Winter break was a sort of rebirth for me. I had acknowledged the change that needed to take place, felt the pain of that awareness, and this semester I began putting into action the things I needed to do in order to change...

It's just like when you have a tight shoulder. It's all locked up and tense, and has been that way for so long that you don't realize it is locked at all. Then the day comes when someone massages that shoulder. Painful. Oh so painful. Your body doesn't want to let go of the tension because it has been there for so long it feels like it belongs there. Then you are aware that it is there and you can't ignore it. It hurts every day and you just want the pain to go away. You have two options: A. ignore the pain until the shoulder locks up again a bit tighter. Or B. address the pain and move through it until the shoulder releases the tension. Option A will always be easier to do in the short term, but option B will always be better in the long term. Ignored tension only get greater and more difficult to deal with when shoved away and locked in a box.

So, I chose option B, and have never regretted it for a second. There were those sad and painful times of releasing that "tension" bit by bit, of course, but I feel like a phoenix reborn from my own ashes. I needed to light myself on fire in order for the rebirth to begin.

The reason I write about this (my life) is because I think that the content of my book may be living within the circumstances and struggles I have had to endure through this past year. Writers always say: "write about what you know," so perhaps the reason I am having trouble finding my content is because I am so close to it that I somehow can't see it. It's "right under my nose" so to speak.

The lessons that I have learned this past year (the books that I have read, in a sense) exist on many levels: literal, spiritual, inward, outward, thinking, action, ect. If I can find a way to condense these levels into a story to tell, then I think I may have my book...

Class Input on Nature Writing

Here are some of the ideas we had in class today on nature writing and race:

"It's about trees and stuff...not just trees. Flowers and grass too...anything can be interpreted as interpreted as nature."

"Anything natural."

"Nature has to be defined for the purpose of having a book called Colors of Nature. As we distinguish it, nature has to be outside."

"Don't we all have encounters with nature? Should everyone be allowed to write about nature."

"It's useful as a genre."

"It's at the discretion of the editor of the book."

"It depends on the type of anthology you are creating."

"There was a gap in the genre of nature writing that was created because of political or other external reasons, so for whatever reason the editors found it large enough that an anthology should be published to fill in the hole."

"It makes me wonder about the definitions of nature writing and what that says about race in the US."

"There's something to be said about the title itself...nature writing isn't just a white topic. It's a topic that anyone can write about."

"I would ask for anonymous submissions and only know the writer's name after the fact so that it would be unbiased."

"I don't want to go as far to say that cookbooks should be written by people that aren't cooks."

"When you look at a particular part of our culture, the values of our culture at large are likely to be represented there."

"[Creating an anthology to create equality] is not a particularly producitve way to change race relations...it's something that will change over time."

"The civil rights movement was 50 years ago, and I think we've come a long way from there...I think our generation is the pivot generation."

"Before you know it, there is not as much distinction anymore. The more mixed couples there are, the more their children will be accepting."

"[After Birth Right] I've had a much deeper connection to the culture...when you're in Israel, you realize how connected everyone is and how important certain traditions are to people."

"3/4 of white Americans thought the aid was sufficent, but not black Americans...the response was racialized and the response was different based on race"

"I like how there's interest in naming the storms differently now. Hurricanes were all women."

"Do you think stating race makes the distinction and racial segregation stronger or does it make it less important?"

"On moving the books into the black section...more likely people are looking for a particular experience. In some ways it seems potentially annoying to go home and realize the book is not anything like what I thought it would be about. They'd probably think they got swindled."

"A lot of the reason genres exist is to help to find the things that I want."

"Black writers should be able to write on any subject without it becoming Black Literature."

"Couldn't a white writer write Black Literature?"



Soul Mate, The One....Or So I thought.......

Last week I wrote about how love can be so many things.  How our Soul Mate or The One doesn't have to be a person who we are emotionally and sexually involved with and attracted too.  When you think you have found The One wether it's a man, woman, or friend what do you do if it doesn't work out the way you pictured?  What if down the road you fall out of love, you get hurt, you are not treated as you should be, and you become unhappy?  Many people come to this crossroad in every kind of relationship.
What makes these crossroads so difficult it the decision to stay or to leave.  Some stay for many reasons.  If your in a relationship or marriage you may stay because you have low self--esteem, are afraid of being alone, feeling not wanted, or afraid of being on your own and independent.  With a friendship it may be afraid to not be a part of a crowd, or being alone and on your own, or fear of not being accepted by your peers.   So some people stay and are not happy, but are to afraid to break away and move on and be independent.  Afraid to start over or begin again.  And what happens when you stay and it's too late and you waste a life of potentially happiness?  This is more prone and in relationships and marriage.  All the time we see people staying in relationships and marriage where they are treated badly or unhappy and they stay.   Whether it's for kids or whether they feel like they are too old to get a divorce and find someone new.
The same can also been true with a friend.  Why stay friends with someone who is not a good friend? whether they are not trustworthy or truthful or loving.  Why have them in your life?

why waste time surrounding yourself with people who you know are not worth it and you deserve better?

Some people have the will and courage to get out.  To get out of hurtful relationships and marriages and to rid themselves of worthless friends, and focus on the people who are true, moral, trustworthy, and loving.  These people are not afraid of life and the obstacles it brings, they overcome them.

As I've gotten older,  I have learned to be a little less trusting when it comes to friendships.  I have been betrayed by many people who were supposedly friends.  My mother would say "As you get older, the less friends you have." And it's true, but it is also not a bad thing, it's a good thing.  Lately I've learned to rid the people in my life who are just not worth my time.  I've already got friends who I love and love me as well.  With relationships I am slowly learning hahaha.  I have never been in love, but I've certainly entered into relationships and settled for much less than I deserved and have gotten hurt.  I'm learning to be smart and know what I deserve and holding out for that.  Never settle in any relationship.

There are good people in this world--good friends, good lovers.  We just have to carefully find them and identify them, but they are out there.  All kinds of Love is out there, we just have to be patient and let it come to us and we will be rewarded in the end.


Transcendentalism

Hey guys, this is a link to the wikipedia write-up on transcendentalism, which informed my first sincere experience of nature inside myself, and awakening to what it means to experience this existence.

Woot!
(also, this is maybe derived from in some ways, but not at all the same as transcendental meditation in buddhist practices.)


Transcendentalism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the Eastern region of the United States as a protest to the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of theUnitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both people and nature. Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. They had faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed.

Contents

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[edit]History

The publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 essay Nature is usually considered the watershed moment at which transcendentalism became a major cultural movement. Emerson wrote in his speech "The American Scholar": "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; Divine Soul which also inspires all men." Emerson closed the essay by calling for a revolution in human consciousness to emerge from the brand new idealist philosophy:
So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth? and of the affections, — What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will. ...Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.
In the same year, transcendentalism became a coherent movement with the founding of the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 8, 1836, by prominent New England intellectuals including George Putnam (1807–78; the Unitarian minister inRoxbury),[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Frederick Henry Hedge, all of them from the same native town.[citation needed] From 1840, the group published frequently in their journal The Dial, along with other venues. Early in the movement's history, the term "Transcendentalists" was used as a pejorative term by critics, who were suggesting their position was beyond sanity and reason.[3]
The transcendentalists varied in their interpretations of the practical aims of will. Some among the group linked it with utopian social change;Brownson connected it with early socialism, while others considered it an exclusively individualist and idealist project. Emerson believed the latter. In his 1842 lecture "The Transcendentalist", Emerson suggested that the goal of a purely transcendental outlook on life was impossible to attain in practice:
You will see by this sketch that there is no such thing as a transcendental party; that there is no pure transcendentalist; that we know of no one but prophets and heralds of such a philosophy; that all who by strong bias of nature have leaned to the spiritual side in doctrine, have stopped short of their goal. We have had many harbingers and forerunners; but of a purely spiritual life, history has afforded no example. I mean, we have yet no man who has leaned entirely on his character, and eaten angels' food; who, trusting to his sentiments, found life made of miracles; who, working for universal aims, found himself fed, he knew not how; clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how, and yet it was done by his own hands. ...Shall we say, then, that transcendentalism is the Saturnalia or excess of Faith; the presentiment of a faith proper to man in his integrity, excessive only when his imperfect obedience hinders the satisfaction of his wish.
By the late 1840s, Emerson believed the movement was dying out, and even more so after the death of Margaret Fuller in 1850. "All that can be said", Emerson wrote, "is, that she represents an interesting hour and group in American cultivation".[4] There was, however, a second wave of transcendentalists, including Moncure ConwayOctavius Brooks FrothinghamSamuel Longfellow and Franklin Benjamin Sanborn.[5] Notably, the transgression of the spirit, most often evoked by the poet's prosaic voice, is said to endow in the reader a sense of purposefulness. This is the underlying theme in the majority of transcendentalist essays and papers—all of which are centered on subjects which assert a love for individual expression. [6]

[edit]Origins

Transcendentalism was in many aspects the first notable American intellectual movement. It certainly was the first to inspire succeeding generations of American intellectuals, as well as a number of literary monuments.[7] Rooted in the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant (and of German Idealism more generally), it developed as a reaction against 18th Century rationalism, John Locke's philosophy ofSensualism, and the predestinationism of New England Calvinism. Its fundamental a variety of diverse sources such as: Vedic thought, various religions, and German idealism.[8]
The transcendentalists desired to ground their religion and philosophy in transcendental principles: principles not based on, or falsifiable by, physical experience, but deriving from the inner spiritual or mental essence of the human. Immanuel Kant had called "all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects."[9] The transcendentalists were largely unacquainted with German philosophy in the original, and relied primarily on the writings of Thomas CarlyleSamuel Taylor ColeridgeVictor CousinGermaine de Staël, and other English and French commentators for their knowledge of it. In contrast, they were intimately familiar with the English Romantics, and the transcendental movement may be partially described as a slightly later American outgrowth of Romanticism. Another major influence was the mystical spiritualism of Emanuel Swedenborg.
Thoreau in Walden spoke of the Transcendentalists' debt to Vedic thought directly.
In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions. I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Brahmin, priest ofBrahma, and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in his temple on the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water-jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.[10]

[edit]Criticisms

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a novel, The Blithedale Romance (1852), satirizing the movement, and based it on his experiences at Brook Farm, a short-lived utopian community founded on transcendental principles.[11] Edgar Allan Poe wrote a story, "Never Bet the Devil Your Head", in which he embedded elements of deep dislike for transcendentalism, calling its followers "Frogpondians" after the pond on Boston Common.[12] The narrator ridiculed their writings by calling them "metaphor-run" lapsing into "mysticism for mysticism's sake".[13] and called it a "disease." The story specifically mentions the movement and its flagship journal The Dial, though Poe denied that he had any specific targets.[14]
In Poe's essay "The Philosophy of Composition" he offers criticism denouncing "the excess of the suggested meaning... which turns into prose (and that of the very flattest kind) the so-called poetry of the so-called transcendentalists."[15]

[edit]Influence on other movements

Part of a series on
New Thought
Transcendentalists were strong believers in the power of the individual and divine messages. Their beliefs are closely linked with those of the Romantics.
The movement directly influenced the growing movement of "Mental Sciences" of the mid-19th century, which would later become known as the New Thought movement. New Thought considers Emerson its intellectual father.[16] Emma Curtis Hopkins "the teacher of teachers", Ernest Holmes, founder ofReligious Science, the Fillmores, founders of Unity, and Malinda Cramer and Nona L. Brooks, the founders of Divine Science, were all greatly influenced by Transcendentalism.[17]

[edit]Other meanings

[edit]Transcendental idealism

The term "transcendentalism" sometimes serves as shorthand for transcendental idealism, which is the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and later Kantian and German Idealist philosophers.

[edit]Transcendental theology

Another alternative meaning for "transcendentalism" is the classical philosophy that God transcends the manifest world. As John Scotus Erigena put it to Frankish king Charles the Bald in the year 840 AD, "We know not what God is. God himself doesn't know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being.".

[edit]See also

[edit]References

  1. ^ Gura, Philip F. American Transcendentalism: A History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007: 7–8. ISBN 0-8090-3477-8
  2. ^ "George Putnam"Heralds, Harvard square library.
  3. ^ Loving, Jerome (1999), Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself, University of California Press, p. 185, ISBN 0-520-22687-9.
  4. ^ Rose, Anne C (1981), Transcendentalism as a Social Movement, 1830–1850, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p. 208, ISBN 0-300-02587-4.
  5. ^ Gura, Philip F (2007), American Transcendentalism: A History, New York: Hill and Wang, p. 8, ISBN 0-8090-3477-8.
  6. ^ Stevenson,Martin K. "Empirical Analysis of the American Transcendental movement". New York, NY: Penguin, 2012:303.
  7. ^ Coviello, Peter. "Transcendentalism" The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Web. 23 Oct. 2011
  8. ^ "Transcendentalism".The Oxford Companion to American Literature. James D. Hart ed.Oxford University Press, 1995. Oxford Reference Online. Web. 24 Oct.2011
  9. ^ Kant, Immanual. Critique of practical reason. Trans. T.K. Abbott. Amherst, N.Y:Prometheus, 1996, p.25.Print.
  10. ^ Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Boston: Ticknor&Fields, 1854.p.279. Print.
  11. ^ McFarland, Philip (2004), Hawthorne in Concord, New York: Grove Press, p. 149, ISBN 0-8021-1776-7.
  12. ^ Royot, Daniel (2002), "Poe's humor", in Hayes, Kevin J, The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Cambridge University Press, pp. 61–2, ISBN 0-521-79727-6.
  13. ^ Ljunquist, Kent (2002), "The poet as critic", in Hayes, Kevin J, The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Cambridge University Press, p. 15, ISBN 0-521-79727-6
  14. ^ Sova, Dawn B (2001), Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z, New York: Checkmark Books, p. 170, ISBN 0-8160-4161-X.
  15. ^ Baym, Nina, ed. (2007), The Norton Anthology of American LiteratureB (6th ed.), New York: Norton.
  16. ^ "New Thought"MSN Encarta, Microsoft, retrieved Nov. 16, 2007.
  17. ^ INTA New Thought History Chart, Websyte.

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