Renewal and inspired, by whom?

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I crept into the back of the Hall as the speaker began. I had made sure I would be a little late so everyone was seated and facing the stage at the front. I didn’t want her to see me, not quite sure what that reception was to be – pleasure, anger, embarrassment…

This was not my usual type of occasion, as if I had a type. A little ill at ease possibly from the nature of the proceedings and the fact she was unaware of my presence (and wanted to keep it so), I scanned the audience hoping to catch a glimpse of her. No such luck. It was not easy to spot her amidst the hundreds in attendance.

After a couple of minutes, I noticed myself settling into my seat; a certain calmness overtook me. There was hardly any talking, instead music flowed through the hall. There was a sense of solemnity and also relief of what was to come. The restlessness I expected was absent. For what seemed a long time, I allowed myself to be transported to times of old, when this gathering was familiar and comforting. To be drawn to the sounds and sights, to nostalgia. What had happened in the intervening years? Do I no longer trust or believe? Was it easier not to? Dare I again?

Then I saw her rise and walked to the stage. Instinctively I slunk lower into my seat. The last thing I wanted was to distract her should she see me then, especially when she would not have time to digest the fact of my presence. Looking composed contrary to what I knew she must be feeling, she began. A silence filled the room as every person seemed to focus on her, mesmerised by the timbre in her voice and the magical way she appeared to have commanded our attention. I saw people craning their neck to catch a glimpse of the owner of the soulful voice.

She was the closing vocal performance at the Easter Chapel Service. At a tender age, she had stepped up and held her ground. Fearless and unabashed.

And I was brought back to times when I had been in her shoes, and am inspired.

Life is ever changing, always full of interesting challenges. I see them and, like her, I will be fearless and unabashed in claiming my ground.

 

what is belief
when the world does not
must we see
must we touch
is there proof
do we feel
the spirit moving
the senses alight
of love, peace and grace
is that proof
of man’s science
or of faith
in the divine.

 

For those who celebrate Easter, I wish you a time of rebirth and renewal. Happy Easter!

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

There is magic

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Looking out
into the grey mountain skies
remembering where I’ve been
wondering where the road will lead;
There is magic
in the shimmering rain that falls
in the light peering through
the future remains.

~ FlorenceT

 

I am not my mistakes,
But God knows, I’ve made a few. 
I started to question the angels,
And the answer they gave was you. 

I cannot promise there won’t be sadness,
I wish I could take it from you. 
But you’ll find the courage to face the madness,
And sing it because it’s true. 

I love my life
I am powerful, I am beautiful, I am free
I love my life, 
I am wonderful, I am magical, I am me,
I love my life.

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Intellectual, maybe not

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I grew up in a family of “intellectuals” and in a society which prized the intellect and intellectual pursuits.

By “intellectuals” I do not mean a class of people by their profession, I guess academics come to mind, but rather of their behaviour – the constant asking ‘why’, the emphasis on logic or rational discourse, and as the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “given to study, reflection, and speculation”. There are various motivations for doing intellectual – “I am not good enough and need to make myself better”, “I want to be admired”, “I have a love of learning”, “That is all I am good for”,… and so it goes.

My mother is still embarrassed about her ‘neglect’ of her then preschool-aged daughter for refusing to answer to the incessant “whys” as she went about her homemaking chores. And my father till today is never far from the whys and hows of things.

I had no cause to question this way of being, even though I questioned almost everything else, ever curious. For a long time, I could not see how everyone else wasn’t like me, or why anyone would not want to study or reflect on stuff, or to see the benefit of learning all the time.

Nature or nurture, I was lucky to be able to embrace this “thinky” way of being. Yes, there is a ‘but’ in here. There was a time when I wanted to be a ballerina (and I apparently have the “strong thighs” for it 😁, then) and a classical singer (I was told while I might have the voice for it, singing opera is a tough gig and I should stick to my intellectual pursuits, sigh). Oh, there were less than successful stints with sprints (yep, those strong thighs again!) and competitive swimming, alas not for me.

All of us have an intellect, and if we practice, we could be adept at this particular of looking at or approaching the world. But as the saying goes, “all things in moderation” and the same goes for being intellectual. Nothing is ever all good or all bad. It is a matter of being flexible and adaptive. A full-time intellectual is tiring and I can imagine, not conducive to social interactions and relationships. Might work for an introvert like me, but even I need something or someone beyond myself!

Sometimes, things just are. Like faith. Sometimes, we need to trust – the person before us, the situation we are in, what has come before will be again – without the perpetual study. Sometimes, we have to let it be. Sometimes we have to hop on and go on the ride. Sometimes emotions take precedent. Sometimes, we just need to give our mind a good rest. And that is what I’ve been doing…in moderation ☺.

I was thinking (yep, that word again!) of how trite my past few posts were, lacking in substance, then it hit me, judgment with a capital ‘J’! They were fun for me, that was what’s needed, period.

A certain someone said he reads my posts because they always get somewhere, make a point… hmmm, guess he’ll be disappointed now 😊 .

This may just be rambling on a rainy Saturday morning.

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

It is not what it seems… maybe

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I wrote an email, somewhat scathing in tone, a few days ago. Entirely justified at the time, I thought. I felt I was being unduly taken advantage of, that the prospective recipient of the email was intentionally obstructive and perhaps malicious, at best unthinking and uncaring. Well, I had to defend myself, don’t I? I am entitled, don’t I? And anyone who knew the circumstances would see this and I would be justified in my action.

But no one saw this email. I did not send it.

My tapping away at the keyboard was cathartic, but catharsis could only go so far in making the situation “right”.

Thankfully, one of my habits is to never send an email drafted during an emotional flux.

Taking a large step back from the finished (but then unsent) email, these were what I realised:

  • Obviously, I was emotional. Of its own, perfectly acceptable and normal. But what happened when the emotions took over …
  • I turned inward and my mind took over. My thoughts revealed me at a low ebb – “I was being unduly taken advantage of”? Really? Have I in that one thought buy into a belief that I was a victim? That I had no say in this? Have I in that one thought about to give way my power?
  • Then, the construction of the “baddie” who was “intentionally obstructive”, “malicious”, “unthinking and uncaring”? This is judgment with a capital ‘J’. I’ll grant that my thoughts, being the rational person that I am, could be correct. Or they might not. But in the moments when I was drafting that email, my mind was closed to any other possibility. It was closed such that I (unconsciously) chose not to see an alternate perspective.
  • And really, what did it matter, if she was or was not? I was there to solve a “problem” not to make judgments about another’s motivations. Why would my actions be guided by anything other than respect for another human being, integrity and compassion?
  • Moving forward in a positive manner requires me to maintain a constructive relationship, moving forward requires me to let go of any and all of the history that could bind me, moving forward requires me to be able to look at myself in the mirror and not cringe or feel compelled to be defensive.
  • And that little voice in my head (?) or my heart said, “you are better than this.”

We have been there, this “feeling small” and “feeling helpless” place.

We have imagined the architects of our misery, rubbing their hands in glee with a malicious grin and gloating.

Well, in those moments we have also handed over responsibility for our self to another and blaming them for not looking after or caring or loving us.

So, this story ended with a phone call, expressing my concerns and being open to a response. The response – the words at least – was as I had expected but there was something else. The response was not “intentionally obstructive”, not “malicious”, not “uncaring”, perhaps a little “unthinking”. Okay, I can live with this, for now. And I (or my ego) would like to say that I had modeled an attitude and a behaviour which hopefully encourage reciprocity. Only time will tell.

What matters most to me is that, it felt right, it felt good, as the email if sent would not.

The lessons, which I keep close to me?

  • Be open to different perspectives and possibilities. There is a world beyond our experiences.
  • Proceed with the empowered self. Our words and actions will reflect this.
  • Let go. We can’t control the future.

 

Namaste.

~ FlorenceT

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

A different love letter…

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A letter of love which is somewhat different from the love letters (or emails or texts) that are being written now.  This letter is from 17th century Japan. 

Listen to the language of destiny, where ’till death do us part’ had greater significance, and the voice of dedication, and in particular, gratitude in love.

letter lady shigenari

This letter was extracted from ‘Letters of Note: Correspondence deserving of a wider audience‘, compiled by Shaun Usher. I did a book review on LitWorldInterviews about this book, if you are interested.

Wishing you Love,
– FlorenceT

 

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Love relationships for Valentine’s Day

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On such a day, I am compelled to write. But of what?

I could write about

  • the commercialism of this day known as Valentine’s Day
  • love renewed because of the call of Valentine’s Day
  • affection expressed when compelled by Valentine’s Day
  • faith in another inspired by Valentine’s Day
  • romanticism, cynic or believer, occasioned by Valentine’s Day
  • the many creative products from the idea of love which inspires Valentine’s Day
  • going through the day unaffected by Valentine’s Day
  • those who are hurt or disappointed on this day and why
  • those who find meaning on this symbolic day.

Love exists in a myriad of relationships, not just those of a romantic nature which seems to be the focus of Valentine’s Day.

So for today, an exploration of love in relationships through meaningful quotes. Perhaps you will find one which resonates within.

Motherhood: All love begins and ends there. ~ Robert Browning

 

Do I want to be a hero to my son? No. I would like to be a very real human being. That’s hard enough.  ~ Robert Downey, Jr.

 

The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy. ~ Sam Levenson

 

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.  ~Orson Welles

 

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

 

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. ~ Robert A. Heinlein

 

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. ~ Thomas Merton

 

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. ~ Alan Watts

 

None of these is possible, unless we are in a love relationship with ourselves, as it is a necessary foundation upon which other relationships flourish.

Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers.
Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul.
~ Maria Quintana

 

Whether Valentine’s Day is significant to you or just another day, it means something.

May you have courage to romance yourself, love all that you are.


~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Love can bring out the best in you

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“You bring out the best in me”, many says when in love while many others quest for the ‘you’ that would bring out the best in them.

Ever wonder how you would bring out the best in me, and vice versa?

Psychotherapists speak of “the gaze”. The gaze of acceptance of your flaws, the gaze that speaks of your ‘perfection’ in another’s eyes. I know the value of non-judgment and acceptance, of seeing the best of my clients.

That is a necessary but insufficient condition. Do we not also see the potential? I certainly do, and my job is to facilitate a journey of self-awareness, that my clients may also see their potential, their resources, their abilities… and take personal action towards it. I am not attached to a particular manner of journey-ing for I cannot walk their paths for them; nor can I appoint the destination. But this does not prevent me from encouraging the process of self-awareness.

As with my clients, and perhaps more so I see potential in my loved ones. And is it my ‘job’ then to also facilitate their journey of self-awareness? Why would I not, in my love for them?

And as a recipient of their love and thus their gaze, should I revel at being seen, to their belief that I possess potentialities? Should I not welcome a loved one’s encouragement and teaching? Perhaps then we may be at our best and with each other?

So then why is it that often, the “encouragement and teaching” are perceived as criticisms and unnecessary feedback? Why do we lament that “s/he should accept me for who I am” … when we can be more than who we are? Don’t we want to be the best we can be for ourselves, and for our loved ones? Encouragement and teaching do not equate to non-acceptance or worse, rejection.

In the dance of love, each has the responsibility to teach and to learn to perfect our part in the dance.

Love is to be the safety within which we explore our Selfs together.

 

~ FlorenceT

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Naked… Nude… Pornography…

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(WARNING: Content for persons over 15 years old and may offend :-))

Naked… Nude… Pornography…

What’s the difference? Not a lot, and a matter of perception.

As I found out during a tour of the ‘Nude: from the Tate Collection’ exhibition, “naked” is merely without clothes and common and “nude” is an idealised artistic expression of nakedness. And “pornography” brings up the image of unacceptable nakedness and base.

Lord Kenneth Clark, one of the most respected art historians of the 20th century had this to say (in his classic book, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form),

“To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word ‘nude,’ on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled, defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body.”

So naked is vulnerable, nude is power?

What delineates one from the other? Is it a nude because it is deemed ‘art’ or is it ‘art’ because it has been idealised?

Does the classification as ‘naked’ or ‘nude’ make the subject or its message more or less powerful?

Here are some pieces of art (as they have been pronounced to be so and exhibited as such 🙂 ) from the exhibition.

The bath of Psyche (Frederic, Lord Deighton)

Nude, the art form as goddess (yes, usually female) and reverent beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude as a form of ‘style’. Naturalist, and gone is the marble-like skin. Real and vulnerable.

The knight errant

The knight errant (Sir John Everett Millais)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pieces from series in red (Louise Bourgeois)

 

 

Nude as body politics, and confronting.

 

 

 

 

 

Nude denoting distance or intimacy, pain or love. The power of the images speaks for itself.

The kiss (Rodin)

Job (Francis Gruber)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude as eroticism and love.

Etching L.16

Etching L.16 (Picasso)

Nude woman in a red armchair (Picasso)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Split nude (Fiona Banner)

What do these images say to you? Are you enticed, enliven, inspired, repulsed, embarassed,…? The intensity of your reactions to them is indicative of the power of their message, does it not?

 

And pornography? Well, pornography shall be invisible. It subsists in the underbelly of sexual desires, does it not?

Not quite.

Depictions of naked bodies and sexual acts have been around for centuries. But the concept of pornography didn’t really exist until the Victorian era when explicit sexual acts depicted in paintings were condemned for their licentiousness. Looking at sexual imagery became outlawed. Therefore, pornography is not a creation, rather a definition.

Society since then has prescribed acceptable ways for the display of our naked bodies and how to perform sex acts. As I see it, this does not make other ways “wrong” or “bad”, merely uncommon. And the stronger the “rejection” of this recent construct called ‘pornography’, the greater the attraction for its illicit ‘nature’. Fancy that?!

My opposition to sexually explicit images is their treatment of the subjects. Is it respectful? Is it exploitation – physical, mental, emotional or financial? Is it harmful as subjectively experienced (not “objectively defined”)?

So the dilemma is this: the human body, male or female, is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. A line is crossed when it symbolizes, or is in actuality, an ab-use of our bodies. What is that line? For you? Are we guided by societal norms or political agendas when we look at naked human forms – nude, pornography or just naked?

 

Art is conversation, so keep talking 😉
~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

The Plight of Solitude

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I often do things alone. I tell everyone who asked ‘why’ that I love my own company, and I do. I enjoy the freedom of ‘not minding’ and ‘not caring’ of another. I enjoy the opportunity for introspection and contemplation, as if I don’t do it enough.

Why? These statements are simple enough, yet behind each of these simple statements is a world of meaning.

 

Solitude is companionable. I have done this since I was a teenager. A (loosely) self-labelled introvert, I never did have a crowd of friends, rather a few good friends. And like me, they are introverts and a serious bunch. We spoke of ‘things’, discussed ‘stuff’ and we had fun. Then we retreat to our own worlds for respite. I remember being entirely happy with this situation, despite others beyond my world looking at me with pity in their eyes because I was a “loner” and “friendless”. They would not comprehend why nor understand me.

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’

 

Solitude is freedom. There is a certain independence and freedom being in my own company. The connection to my inner self, if you would call it that, or to my thoughts, feelings, senses… is heightened when I am alone. Perhaps I am conditioned to be more social that I am – that in the company of others, my attention is to them and about them; and for a long time, this attention was also worrying about how they were and how they perceived me. With a degree of hard-fought self-awareness and inevitable age and maturity, I am comfortable in my own skin now.

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Solitude is nourishing. Cultural, gender and familial norms dictated my presence – to be attentive to others and to serve. I do care, I do serve, I do for others and only to the extent I can and in the circumstance within my control. Beyond this I am merely fretting and worrying, over-managing and to be frank, somewhat of a pain to be around. It also taxed my sense of self, of not giving myself permission to do what I desired and what I would. I have learnt that being selfish is not a bad thing. All things in moderation and to each their own.

“I had told people of my intention to be alone for a time. At once I realized they looked upon this declaration as a rejection of them and their company. I felt apologetic, even ashamed, that I would have wanted such a curious thing as solitude, and then sorry that I had made a point of announcing my desire for it. … the decision to be alone for any length of time is dangerous, threatening, a sign of rejection. … Having never felt the need to be alone themselves, having always lived happily in relationships, they looked upon my need as eccentric, even somewhat mad. But more than that, they saw it as fraudulent, an excuse to be rid of them rather than a desperate need to explore myself.” ~ Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’

 

Solitude is growth. Those who know me will attest that I think a lot, some may even claim that I over-think. Being a lawyer and educator, academic and intellectual pursuits are part and parcel of my life, one that I am comfortably familiar and cherish. All this ‘head-y’ stuff can sometimes be overwhelming, or strangely addictive. Either way, solitude is my step away from the mentalising and cognizing, away from boundaried explorations to experiencing varied possibilities, where I can broaden my sphere of seeing, and to draw a thread through the many systems and structures in my world. Most importantly, it allows me to just be. And it is only in these emotional and spiritual states that I am once again reconnected to the inner me which gets forgotten or ignored.

We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real…and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 

I am practicing this often – to be at peace with my desire for solitude, no matter the consternation of the outside world. The “motivation” to be alone are many – because one has to, because one must, because one has something to prove, because one was forced to by circumstances…

Regardless of the cause, should you ever find yourself alone, revel in it. Take a deep breath, listen to the voice within, observe your self in this place, and allow yourself the joy (however tiny or great) of being your own companion for a while. There is always time to make friends with your self.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self-Reliance’

 

In solitude,
~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.