Quote for Today: Thomas Merton

[ C ] Caravaggio - Narcissus (1597) as a mirror © cea+ with CCLicense

 Caravaggio, Narcissus (1597), as a mirror
© cea+ with CCLicense

The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

Thomas MertonNo Man Is an Island

Quote for Today: Jess C. Scott

I suppose it’s not a social norm, and not a manly thing to do — to feel, discuss feelings. So that’s what I’m giving the finger to. Social norms and stuff…what good are social norms, really? I think all they do is project a limited and harmful image of people. It thus impedes a broader social acceptance of what someone, or a group of people, might actually be like.

Jess C. Scott, New Order

Quote for Today: Anthon St Maarten

© Chèvre with CCLicense

© Chèvre with CCLicense

There is no need for us all to be alike and think the same way, neither do we need a common enemy to force us to come together and reach out to each other. If we allow ourselves and everyone else the freedom to fully individuate as spiritual beings in human form, there will be no need for us to be forced by worldly circumstances to take hands and stand together. Our souls will automatically want to flock together, like moths to the flame of our shared Divinity, yet each with wings covered in the glimmering colors and unique patterns of our individual human expression.

Anthon St. Maarten

Quote for Today: Hugo Hamilton

Cliff Dwellers, George Bellows, 1913

Cliff Dwellers, George Bellows, 1913

Maybe your country is only a place you make up in your own mind. Something you dream about and sing about. Maybe it’s not a place on the map at all, but just a story full of people you meet and places you visit, full of books and films you’ve been to. I’m not afraid of being homesick and having no language to live in. I don’t have to be like anyone else. I’m walking on the wall and nobody can stop me.

Hugo HamiltonThe Speckled People: A Memoir of a Half-Irish Childhood

Humans are Not Ants: The Need for Individuality

We like to draw parallels between ourselves and animals, perhaps because it makes us feel less alone. Is this dangerous?

© Hamed Saber with CCLicense

© Hamed Saber with CCLicense

There are many articles and papers being written today about the benefits of emulating ants in the workplace, and no doubt some of them have merit. We may recall one of Aesop’s fables in which a workaholic ant is praised over the grasshopper who spends all his time singing and dancing. But does all of this interest in ants really help us understand humans? Can we empathize with another species so vastly different from us or are we merely projecting our own prejudices?

Let’s consider three traits of ants and try to apply them to humans.

First of all, ants are born into a particular job. The queen, who cannot even feed herself, lays all of the eggs, fertilized by a male consort who subsequently dies. Upon his arrival at the colony, worker ants first try to kill him, then merely tear his wings off so he can get to the interior chamber where the queen lays. The largest of the workers are the soldiers, who protect the colony and often have stingers as well as strong mandibles. These are the ants we most often come in contact with. There are others: foragers, builders, nursery workers, and those that distribute food in the colony. Each type has a slightly different physiognomy and doesn’t perform duties outside of their job. There are no polymaths and no one is actually in control.

Human instincts and purposes have been altered by the development of society. The need to survive is muted: we don’t need to raise our own food, make our own clothes or build our own houses. We are however, easily manipulated by those who would sell us those things, especially if we do not possess an idea of their value. Money and the pursuit of it, as well as many of the jobs we find ourselves doing, are human inventions rather than natural stimuli. They were created by an inborn behavior, competition, which makes the selflessness of the common ant impossible in the average human. On the positive side, the human spirit seems to have a deep desire for self-determination, which remains alive and kicking even under the worst of situations.

For ants, vision is the least developed and least useful sense. Ants don’t rely much on their very limited compound eyes, which produce very low resolution images, but instead use highly advanced pheromones that tell them where to go and what is going on. Eyes aren’t all that useful under the soil, but being able to locate foraging trails and sense danger by smelling these chemical flags is vital. Their antennae are their chief sensory organs, used not only to smell, but to taste, touch and hear.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Humans are visual creatures. What we see is extremely important not only to our physical movement and well-being, but to our imagination. Visual thinking activates the part of the brain that is emotional and creative and helps us put things together in intuitive and unusual ways. Humans are apt to daydream and be distracted like the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable, but those daydreams are part of the way our mind works. We can never truly be the ant, working tirelessly and constantly, and when we approach that goal, our productivity is actually reduced as our sanity wanes. Our lives require singing and dancing as much as they require purpose, and sometimes that purpose is singing and dancing.

Ants collaborate constantly. There seems to be a collective mind that builds a colony, an architect that shapes their home, a drive inside each ant that helps them fall into step with the foraging team. This is impressive.

When people work together we can achieve greater things than when we work apart, but I would question the notion that our collaboration can or should be comparable to that of an ant colony. It may be that ants are so small to us that we cannot see their individuality, but the apparent lack of it is disturbing when applied to humans. Humans have a variety of individual goals and motivations, that sometimes conflict and sometimes come together to create powerful waves through society. If there is a collective human mind, it must be that which Carl Jung called the collective unconscious, which is not readily available to us, except perhaps in dreams. It is consciousness itself, with all of its distractions, that ultimately makes us unable to labor together like the ants. The unique strength of the human being lies in the ability to interpret things and draw individual abstract conclusions. If we give this up to better fit in with the “colony”– be it the state, the corporation, or the place of worship– are we becoming less human?

The Creative Clock: Parallels Between Artists and Parents

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Is your creative clock ticking? Learn to listen and adapt to its messages without becoming fearful and completely stressed out.

We often hear of the biological clock. Women, or, less frequently, men, wake up mid-life with the blinding urge to have a child. Artists frequently have the same urge, but it manifests in the desire to create a new thing rather than a new person. This need is both a gift and a vulnerability. The would be artist and the would be parent can fall victim to the same traps, some of which are explored below.

I found someone who is the answer to my problems!

Aging can play tricks on us if we focus on the clock. We may feel miles away from our dreams or maybe we have fulfilled or outgrown those dreams and are in need of new ones. This realization can dawn suddenly with panic or creep in with a sense of dread. Either way, we can become easy prey for insincere people who sense and may even share our desperation. Any human being who claims to be your savior probably has ulterior motives. Seeing another human being as such may mean you yourself are operating with ulterior motives.

See yourself in a more positive light. You are not a victim and you don’t need rescuing.

Everybody is doing it!

No, they aren’t. Take a closer look at people outside of your regular circle. If you are attempting a way of life solely out of peer pressure, it will never feel like it is yours and you and your offspring, human or artistic, will suffer. Most of the time the skill set we have been given and have further developed is not suited to what our neighbor is doing. If you have been slugging away at a particular career for a while and it doesn’t feel right to you, consider something that uses the skills you have honed while converting the weaknesses you have found in yourself into strengths.

© Brian Snelson with CCLIcense

© Brian Snelson with CCLIcense

The world around you needs you and your genuineness, not another clone. Keep it real!

I have found my path, so now it will be easy!

I teach voice lessons. Every now and then I see one of my less motivated students catch the fire of inspiration and start working and owning their work, only to get a smack at their next performance or contest. Why, they ask, didn’t they get rewarded when they applied themselves? Creative acts are not about instant gratification. Sometimes there is no gratification at all.

© Erik Solheim with CCLicense

© Erik Solheim with CCLicense

Once you decide to get creative, realize that this new baby is going to take loads of time and energy. She’s going to keep you up at night for years because she cannot take care of herself. You’re going to be cleaning up her mess for a long time. Then she will get to the age when she may disappoint you.

Anything I make will be beautiful, smart, and high quality! 

There is one guarantee: your offspring will not turn out as you expect. A child has a life outside of you. So does art. As your art matures, it will go places you never dreamed with people you never imagined. Sometimes this is an amazing experience and sometimes it is a nightmare. You have to let go and let your offspring enter the world, where they will be judged, loved and hated. There will be bullies who throw rocks. You will need to stand by with unconditional love, even when you can see faults and shortcomings. Not only is it okay to be an imperfect human, it is what we are supposed to be. Art is our creation, so it is imperfect too.

Paisley Abbey Gargoyle Image © Colin with CCLicense

Paisley Abbey Gargoyle
Image © Colin with CCLicense

If I ignore my creative clock it will stop ticking and leave me alone!

Perhaps, but the price for silencing a basic human need is expensive. Things like addiction, violence and apathy can muffle it. We can distract ourselves, but we will never be whole people without the creative impulse. When you find a direction for that impulse, take it. You may lose your way, but what you will find might just be better.

No one understands me!

Remember to look around you. While no one has the same exact path you do, others may be close by. Synkroniciti is out here and if we see you we will wave, say Hello, maybe even walk with you for a little while. We hope you will do the same for us. There is plenty of daylight left and we have lights when it gets dark.

Seven Common Assumptions That Chain Creativity

Would you like to be more creative? Some common assumptions can chain our creativity and limit our experience of life.

Fragile Brain Shield by AllAllucinations with  CCLicense

Fragile Brain Shield
by AllAllucinations with CCLicense

We have incredible minds. The mind helps us perceive and make sense of the world around us, constructing a worldview and processing information to support that view. For this reason, the mind can also be a powerful weapon of oppression. If we hold particular beliefs without any power of review or adjustment, we become easier to control, less independent, and less individual.

Here are some common assumptions which bind creative people, presented with some pop culture slogans for a little whimsy.

Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids! Creativity is only for artists.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

From Fortune 500 companies to parents interacting with their children, everyone benefits from creativity and a sense of play. Projecting the attitude that “normal” people are hard-working and dull while artists are colorful children is a wonderful way to divide creative people from the masses and devalue both groups. Lean in, I’ve got a secret. You can be as creative and as playful as you want to be, wherever you are. I’m not saying everyone will like it, but the potential lies within you.

I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too… If you want to get ahead, you need to conform.

In any profession there are role models. They can be inspiring and wonderful people. Unfortunately, we tend to try and emulate their success by becoming their clones and submitting ourselves to the worst side of peer pressure. Trying to be someone else is an excellent way to be unhappy. Wouldn’t it better to be yourself, even when it means you don’t fit in?

No place for second best. If I can just be perfect, I’ll get the job.

CCLI by HikingArtist.com on Flickr

© HikingArtist.com with CCLicense

Young people are advised to pick one thing in life, concentrate on it and try to be the best at it. This is a trap. Focusing on being number one at all costs will alienate your neighbors and destroy the moral fabric of your life. Cheating to win isn’t really winning; ask Lance Armstrong. It’s the simple things that we forget to be grateful for that are the building blocks of life and creativity… our families, our friends, our pets, nature… The list is endless. If we can’t enjoy these things, no amount of productivity or success will fill the void created by their absence. Why not be a dreamer and stay interested in people and the world around you instead?

Where’s the beef? Everything that isn’t “serious” is fluff.

CCLI by alexik on Flickr

© alexik with CCLicense

To build and maintain a human body takes nutrients that come from different foods. Eating only beef for a week would not help us feel or be healthy. Some question whether beef is good for us at all. The body requires a more balanced approach. Is a human spirit any different? Go ahead, have a salad. I won’t tell anyone.

Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener… That is what I’d truly like to be… ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener… Everyone would be in love with me! Fame brings love and satisfaction, and with it greater artistry and artistic freedom.

Our culture idolizes celebrity. Conventional wisdom says if we reach more people and make them like us, we will feel better about ourselves. What we overlook is that, in order to “sell” ourselves to great numbers of people, we have to become a mass-produced commodity. Who really knows what is in a hot dog?

No pain, no gain. If it doesn’t hurt, it can’t be worth anything.

CCLI by slim45hady on deviant art

© slim45hady with CCLicense

This isn’t to say that we should avoid pain at all costs. There will be things in life that hurt us and make us want to quit. I’m talking about courting pain. Some examples? The guy that exercises every day until his body screams for him to stop. The artist who thinks exacerbating her own mental suffering or loneliness will make her art better. The actor who thinks he has to be an alcoholic to play an alcoholic.  Pain is there to get our attention so that we can  do something about a situation that isn’t working. So if something really hurts, try doing it in a different way or not at all.

Leggo my Eggo! The success of other people poses a threat to my success.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Siblings get into arguments simply because of proximity. Maybe X is feeling a little tired and irritable when Y walks over. Pretty soon both are screaming at each other, “I hate you! You are breathing my air!” We like to think that we outgrow this behavior. The truth is that when someone is successful we tend to react as if there is a limited amount of success to go around and that person is bogarting it. Relax. Be happy for other people. When you have some success it is nice to be able to invite true friends to the party.

Sound familiar? At Synkroniciti we seek to free people from the chains in their minds. Would you like to join us?

In the near future, Synkroniciti will be announcing some new experiences available to our fans and readers, including web-based projects for those around the globe who would like to collaborate remotely, and workshops for those in the Houston area. We are very excited to take the next step in our journey.

Slogans are from Trix Cereal, Dr. Pepper, StockRunway, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer, Jane Fonda’s Workout Videos and Eggo Waffles.