“This is going to be my last one,” I said to my tattoo artist. We were sitting in his new studio, in the basement of a parlor in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; the walls still smelled like paint, in addition to the oddly intoxicating inky, bloody, sweaty animal smells that go along with tattooing.
“You say that every time,” he laughed, raising his eyebrow and tearing a piece of tracing paper off a long roll, getting ready to sketch. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Myles is the only person I’d trust to put a gun against my skin, and he’s been doing it off and on for me going on 10 years now. In fact, he’s one of the few people in the world I can honestly say I trust explicitly, though I don’t know him very well once I slide off the table at the end of a session…
I get surprised every week when I walk into youth and there are around a hundred people milling around. Wearing their most fashionable shoes, and their coolest clothes, they congregate in a room, the buff Polynesian guys next to wispy Asian chicks, and sing praise and worship songs. It blows my mind.
I think that being a religious teen is hard in our generation. Might as well start with a clear statement. In an era where we are bred from birth to be independent and learn who we are as people, religion is often seen as a stifling set of rules which demand conformity. Technology means selfies as a medium for narcissism, birth control and condoms create a safer environment for sex and lust, and science a platform for greater thought but no longer a need for a Creator. People openly tell you they disagree with what you’ve decided to base your life on. I feel like the religious kids are the ones being ostracised in a society attempting to compel individuality but scorning those who do not subscribe. There is a certain idea of individuality, and freedom. If you’re not part of it, you’re wrong. Slight paradox. But still, that’s our society. And what was hard for the generation before us, I feel, is harder for us.
So, this leaves a lot of us [and by us, I’m talking Christian teens but also Muslims, Buddists, Hindus, etc.] in the lurch. Kids are discouraged from searching out a faith with the notion that it’s antiquated. What was thought so long ago surely can’t have any relevance to contemporary first world society. Then, once you’ve got one, you’ve got to defend it, and in a world that’s constantly throwing distractions at us, each which vie for attention, that’s really hard. How can I engage in a meaningful discussion on spirituality while we’re thinking about where to go for dinner, or we’re on Facebook? How can I convince you how much this means to me when you can’t hear it in my voice? How are we meant to portray our worship and prayer which is silent, when we’re encouraged never to spend a moment silent- in a world full of noise, the little things, the quiet whisper of such a big God, gets drowned out.
If we do manage to defend our faith against others, we are faced with having to defend it against ourselves, because in a world where we’re so consistently connected with each other, it’s hard to remember what you believe. Why need I think of my own jokes when you liked a funny meme that’s on my wall? Why should I find my own clothes when you tweeted a picture of my favourite celebrity and where to get her clothes? Why should I ponder a God, a greater being, a greater purpose, if it’s not what my friends are doing- after all, I don’t want to get left out. I don’t want to not tell a joke because it’s dirty or includes a swear word that I don’t want to say. I don’t want to not go to parties because they’re when I have youth, or church, or Sunday School.
We live in a society bred to be cynical. I live in a generation raised to be self-sufficient. Anything there isn’t proof for isn’t worth my time. If I have an opinion, and there’s evidence against it, then I have to be open to being questioned, no matter how tiring it is. No matter how scary it is, people are immediately allowed to tell me that they think I’m wrong. Sometimes they just tell me I’m wrong. And it is tiring, and it is scary. And my faith, the size of a mustard seed, is quashed under countless heels. Sometimes I understand why people go off to monasteries and nunneries- this means something to you, but the constant shout of the world can blow your eardrums out. Escape. But I don’t want to escape. Not from the people I love.
What do I do?
I guess the only advice anyone can ever give you is be strong. Some relationships will have to end because they are poisonous to something you realised a long time ago was worth it. Sometimes you’ll have to turn around and ask people to stop. Nothing anywhere says that only half the world has freedom of speech. Sometimes we all just need quiet. Don’t get into arguments that have no purpose. Indeed, arguments by their very nature often have no purpose. I let go of a friend who was trying to kill my faith. Is it worth it? Can you do it? If you don’t have the strength or the courage on any given day to engage in such a discussion, make it known- it’s okay! You don’t have to defend God, he can do that. Just stay strong, and be courageous. Yea, your book may have been written thousands of years ago, but the people in those books- David, Gideon, Jesus, Mary, Muhammad, Buddha- all faced persecution, even by people who didn’t mean offense, and all got through it because they knew that at the end of the day, there was something more worthwhile. More worth their attention. Something better waiting.
Keep following the rules. They’re there for a reason. Seek counsel. You’re not alone. Pray. Someone’s listening.
It took me a while to realise that not everyone is going to think the way that I do. It was around the age of eleven, for instance, that I found out not all of my friends could understand my mother’s dialect, which I had grown up with and didn’t even consider. Your background shapes you in ways you may never notice. My affinity for rice, my ability to use chopsticks, raising a bowl to my lips instead of searching for a spoon. Well, that realisation slowly spread to the rest of my thinking until I realised in every aspect of my life, there is likely to be someone out there who disagrees with what I think, from the colour of my curtains to the meaning of life.
Now, dear reader, it is clear from what I’ve written what I think of presenting ideas. I believe it should be done with mutual respect- keep your temper when you’re saying what you’re saying and hearing what you’re hearing. But this was tested recently. Is respect enough to ensure continued peaceful coexistence? I mean, can it always work?
A few years back, I found myself roped into a discussion about sex. Oh, it’s always the utmost fun to rope a Christian into an argument and watch them try to manoeuvre their way into expression without offense. While it was easy for me then, as a single young girl [many would replace “young” with “naïve” or perhaps “foolish”] to say, when asked, that I would never have sex before marriage, even at the ridicule of my peers [they clearly did not subscribe to my opinions on presentation with respect], it has recently come back to the forefront of my life. The sex thing! Oh what a minefield of danger.
And now we come to the crux of this musing. What about when it’s hard to present your ideas with respect? Is it still possible to get through such a discussion without cussing and swearing and carrying on and hurting each other? When you’re right in the middle of it, what do you do? Because, this discussion was very personal, and very passionate, with some very passionate people, and I was smack bang in the middle of it. And my natural instincts wanted to survive. They wanted to claw and bite and scratch and fight [watch “the Lorax”] [and, actually “Frozen”- people will bite you and curse you and cheat you] and hurt everyone around me before I got hurt. And I realised that, in the case of a discussion that isn’t clinical or run of the mill, it’s much harder. But is it possible?
Well, this is when I’m going to come back to the upbringing. Because for the people around me, it was hard, and some hurtful things were said. But I remembered what I was told, and I can tell you with a certain amount of relief that the whole “treat other people how you want to be treated” worked, even though it was completely one sided. Even, dear reader, if it’s just you who is trying hard not to offend, and to step carefully and treat them with respect [no matter whom they are, they deserve it], you can come out of it for the better. I came out of the discussion without regrets, and [I think, anyway] with a stronger relationship because it survived “the hard topics”. I hate being serious, but I did it and it was okay. And I know I felt much better if I’d done what I oh so wanted to do and just let go. And so, of course, do the other participants in the discussion.
So, this is a continuation of something I said a while ago, but didn’t test until recently. Present your ideas to others with respect, even if they refuse to. Love your neighbours and your enemies. It will be okay, and you’ll feel better for it, and trust me, you’ll come across situations like that many times in your life. Just try.
It seems only a talent politicians possess to be able to screw so many things up in one sentence.
At the end of last week, Tony Abbott proposed an idea whereby people suspected of terrorism could have their citizenship cancelled without a fair trial. That’s right- without even putting someone before a jury, Abbott wants to make it constitutional to strip someone of their dual citizenship so they have to get out of our perfect country and go back to where they came from to be dealt with. What?
There are three points [only three?] wrong with this that I’d like to point out. Firstly, why is terrorism special? Why should we stop trial for just terrorists and get rid of everyone awaiting justice who could be another person’s problem? Indeed, why do we even bother with trials? Abbott said on the radio that some people can get past trials- slip through the cracks so it were- so we should push them out without even bothering. Because this whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing just isn’t worth anyone’s time. If guilty people can get through trials without persecution, why bother with them at all? And on whose suspicion would we be acting upon?
Secondly, I feel there are a lot less terrorists out there than we’re being made to believe. Radical, I know. In the past century, Australia has had two people die of terrorist attacks. About 4,000 women [according to domesticabuseshelter.org] die every year due to domestic violence attacks. Which should we be concentrating on? Instead of putting $450 million of this year’s budget into terrorism [what’s done is done, but doesn’t have to be done next time], and focusing on who to send home and who to keep [this isn’t an episode of Masterchef, Abbott], why not spend the money on better prevention and dealing with domestic violence- you could save a lot more lives, but of course, women getting beaten up isn’t much of a front page headline. How about spending that money on making sure the refugees, [of which last year, we had 3,624 of] are safe, healthy and taken care of? And maybe instead of just leaving them in detention centres, you could spend some funds hiring people and getting resources to figure out which of them can be in this country and which can’t instead of leaving them in an indefinite state of detention? And maybe just one of those millions of tax payers money could be spend figuring out what they’re supposed to do if they do get in, not having the language or skills to get jobs or housing? I’m just saying, there are better things to focus on than the Isis Crisis [really just a hangover from “Reds Under The Beds”].
And the third point is, what if everyone’s a terrorist? Because also last week, while everyone was looking up every woman who passed them in a hijab, and scrutinising every mosque around the world, a white, average looking guy, walked into a church and murdered nine African Americans. He did so [allegedly] on the basis of his white supremacy. Sounds like terrorism to me- “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”. And no one was even looking his way. Anyone could be a terrorist, harbouring ideas that could be harmful to others. In 2013, there were 249 murders in Australia. Why did we put those people through trials? Why not just banish them to some far off land where we needn’t even look at them, the despicable scum. I mean, isn’t that what our government would have us believe? That anyone could be an extremist? Humanity is waning, and we’re all turning into little politicised robots? We should be suspicious of every neighbour, especially if they’re not white. Parents should be afraid of their children, teachers of their students, women of every man on every bus. It doesn’t work that way. Nothing works that way. And having our energy, and anxiety, focused on one group of people obviously isn’t working.
So, in conclusion, what is going on with the Australian government? Why do we have a Prime Minister so intent on spreading fear instead of actually dealing with issues? Is it all a ploy to distract us from his incompetence- “look at me deal with an issue that doesn’t exist because I can’t deal with the ones that do!” Come on Australia, and as for you, PM, “where the bloody hell are you?” We need someone to do something, because no matter what we do as a people, the man leading us and making the head decisions is clearly not prepared.
So, if you’re doing the HSC and you’ve got to read this book, it’ll be hard enough. But what I realised is that you can’t appreciate so much of it because it’s in black and white. While struggling through the novel, you don’t want to read a dozen pages on what Van Gogh thought of colour only to come across it in black and white. So, whether you’re done, haven’t started or you’re getting there, here is a bit of mental restitution.
Presenting: a visual guide of all of the pictures in Alain de Botton’s “Art of Travel”.
De Botton contemplates how boring his life is. Life sucks in England. Let’s do something about it.
Possibly reflected by the colours he chose in the painting to represent his feelings on his holiday, Alain finally decides to go on a holiday and decides it’s not how he thought it would be. Is it worth it?
Travelling, the idea of getting there. Lonliness as you wait for what is on the other end of your journey.
Once again about getting there, but also about what is on the way, and is often overlooked. Isolation in journey, and that not being such a bad thing. “In this last stop before the road enters the endless forest, it is what we have in common with others that looms larger than what separates us.”
Being able to think on journeys. Getting lost in our thoughts, in ourselves, sometimes in nothing at all. Just thinking about nothing in particular- especially the things you were travelling to escape. “Habits of mind.”
Thinking. Being yourself. Finding yourself. Lack of rigidity and schedule as you’re in a new place.
No online images for “Doors and Bay Windows in an Arab House” by Eugene Delacroix, I’m afraid. But now we’re talking about wishing we were places we’re not right now. Exotic, different. Dreaming of how different things must be in “other places”.
Having ideas of other places being better for us. Perhaps they reflect what we truly desire. Perhaps we’ll never really be happy where we are because the grass is always greener on the other side. Something else will always be more appealing. The concept of “appealing”.
A lithograph, so not overly colourful. But De Botton does point out the sand, and the different palate from the West, so here you go. The “Exoticism of Chaos”.
No colour images of the Private Houses in Cairo, so we’ll leave that out.
What are we looking at? When we go on travel, are we looking at what is important? In the video version of the book [there is one on Youtube], he talks about being so heavily influenced by your tour guide, that’s all you think of. They’re all you listen to, and, in the midst of what everyone is telling you to look at, you miss what you could be looking at. What is the purpose of your travel and how are you using it?
“I tried to imagine an uninhibited guide to Madrid, how I might have ranked its sights according to a subjective hierarchy of interest.”
Even things that deserve our attention usually don’t get them on holidays. We are too busy looking at what we’re directed to look at.
The beauty in simplicity. Why travel across the world when there are all of these beautiful little things surrounding you?
Nature. The sublime. Being overwhelmed by something so powerful, and reminded of how small and insignificant you are. Calls to question whether there really is a God- after all, there is an overwhelming sense of purpose to this.
And now we get to the gentlemen for whom I decided to make this blog post. Because you’re never going to truly appreciate Van Gogh in black and white. Half of the detail in this picture alone wasn’t picked up. So revel in the colours and ideas that Van Gogh saw when he looked at his cypress trees, and understand what Alain de Botton is trying to tell you.
You look at it from different angles- is it what you were expecting? You try and work out each of its functions. Press the buttons, poke or prod it, nudge it. If it’s a new person, it may look back at you with a little confusion, but the first step is to examine. Always to examine. Even if it happens in a split second, you will always judge something new and your brain will try to figure out if this is a good thing. Step one, complete.
Then you try and use it for the function that you think it’s used for. If it’s a phone, you take an experimental photo. If it’s a person, you try and start a conversation. If it’s a dog, you let it sniff your hand. Awkward movements. Nothing sudden in case something happens that’s not meant to. You could drop it, for instance. You wonder if you’re cut out for this. Anything could happen. You wonder if you’ll work well with it. That curry, much as you may like it, may not like you. You finish that initial action. If it goes well, step two is done.
Now comes the experiments. You don’t know where to go. All of the completely non offensive things you had to use have been used. The jokes you tell everyone, the apps pre-loaded, what people do in the movies when they get what you’ve got. It’s during this stage that they will start to experiment with you too. You’ll have to navigate yourself around a new operating system, or get prepared for a hug that they’ll give you because apparently they enjoy hugs. You didn’t know that, and you weren’t prepared for it, but here it is. The experiments. You learn about each other. You write your contacts on it, you try and put a collar on it, you try and give it a toy that the person at the store convinced you 100% of consumers adore. Some experiments definitely don’t work. Some others, you’re confused about. But after a while, you become less timid about experimenting, and, as you open up, things happen of their own accord. You get into a groove. Step 3, yep.
The BACK TRACKING. You did something you probably weren’t meant to. A joke fell flat. An expectation wasn’t reached. A button was pressed. You urgently try to undo it- is there a quick fix? Will it take a lot of begging and pleasing? With the dog, you wait a second and he turns back for a treat. With the new boyfriend? You don’t know what to do. It’s new. It’s all so new. And you don’t know what will work. Your mind frantically searches for a solution. Your fingers rapidly type, your eyes hurriedly dart for any hint of salvation. It’s the first time, so you don’t know how anything will react. WILL THE SPAGHETTI EVER COME OFF THIS PAN??? And so, you try to back track. And then something clicks, and everything is suddenly fine again. And a calm washes over you. And the adrenaline fades. Step 4, tick.
And so we come to the final step. The continuation. Every time you go over the cycle, experiencing new things and trying to work out how they’re meant to work out, things get a little easier. You learn the new characteristics, the new mannerisms, the new workings of a new mind. You learn, and you pick up on things, and problems that you thought you would have, you either have and fix or don’t have. And sometimes the solutions aren’t the ones you want. But you realise new things are quite common, and once you come to terms with that, they’re a lot less scary. Step five is one that will never be complete, and that may not be such a bad thing.
Walk through a door, the door closes behind you,
You look around, there are too many in here,
You want to go back, but the door is now locked,
So you continue to walk, ignoring the fear.
The people are talking and chatting and laughing,
You’re surrounded by notes and flashes of smiles
They’re all in circles, closed and rounded
And you’re not sure where to fit in to a crowd, stand for a while.
The while turns into a long time, the long time into minutes
The minutes tick past like sleepy ants
Each one of them slower, each one of them pants
With the exertion of movement, and walking and grinding
And you stand there, alone.
You stand there alone.
A look from across catches your eye
And a glint sparks to life- are they looking at I?
And you race across, the ants no longer around
And the room is silent, barely a sound
And you want to be there, faster than legs can move
And you join their circle, so swift and smooth
And someone laughs, but smiles fade
You’re not meant to be here, in unison, they say.
Not with mouths but with eyes.
Not with voices, but with brows.
Not with actual words,
Not actually out loud
But they say it.
The world starts to fall apart.
You fall to your knees.
Everything moves so fast
As you fall to your knees.
They don’t want you, it says
This hole in your heart
As little by little,
It’s you who falls apart.
A hand out of nowhere comes close to your face
You grab it, because you’re too close to drifting
And it pulls you back up, doesn’t think you’re wrong
And in more ways than one, it’s incredibly uplifting
Because no matter what is said in your head,
Or what you think in your heart
And no matter what happens
When to feel comfortable, you start
To ignore the hurt in your soul,
You try just a little harder
All anyone needs is a hand
To hold, pull you along a little farther.
While walking the dog, I took these. Let’s add some colour and prettiness 🙂 [And while I’d like to say that I purposely focused on random things to be cool, I just got a new phone, so enjoy the artistic license I used]
A woman wakes up in bed, alone. It is a single, so it’s probably not the first time she’s done so. She has short hair, is not wearing makeup and the image is black and white, so we’re assuming that this isn’t going to be happy or light hearted- there’s a point trying to be made. She whines, begging to be pampered. Then she realises the room is empty and is disheartened because there is no one around to give in to her demands.
Recognise three things about this drawing.
Firstly, she’s a feminist. That’s clear by her dress sense and pixie cut, because in a stereotypical representation, a picture tells a thousand words, and this one says no self-respecting woman would have it that short. There’s some sort of distinction being made.
Secondly, she’s a woman, and women need to be pampered. She wants someone to bring her breakfast, perhaps, or give her a massage. She needs that, cravesit, and yet sacrificed it when she decided to actually hold some political opinions. Of course, no feminist would ever wake up to a handsome partner curled around them or some children ready to make her some coffee.
And that leads me to my third point- she’s alone. She’s sleeping in a single bed, so she’s not expecting anyone. There is no family represented in the photo frame behind her- think I’m overanalysing it? They bothered with
the checks on the blanket, the bush outside and the drawn curtains [despite the fact we’re assuming she just woke up]. Oh no, no one’s coming to this girl’s rescue.
This drawing cheeses me off on so many levels.
The artist is basically implying that to be a feminist you have to give up the life you could have had. Don’t expect anyone to be able to love you, because they won’t be able to deal with your political standings. “I think, therefore I am single.” Plus, she woke up and for a split second forgot how crap her life was, implying that feminism is something that isn’t deep rooted, or an instinct, but something you put on every morning like a jacket. Oh, great, I’ve got feminism today. She’s not looking forward to this at all.
They’re saying that feminists fit a stereotype- she has short hair, she’s not going to put on make up, and she’s not what you would draw if you’d want to represent a feminist as someone beautiful. Does she have long, flowing hair? No, because feminists aren’t “every woman”. Every woman wants beautiful, flowing locks- every princess wakes up with lovely curls in the morning. Her hair is scruffy and fluffy. What about noticeably thick eyelashes or great breasts? No, because, while they don’t prescribe to society’s standards of beauty, feminists don’t want to be beautiful at all, in any way. In fact, let’s take this a step further and say that only ugly women are feminists. Unshaven, braless, angry women who hate men because they can’t get them.
The artist is saying you’re going to regret it. You’re going to wake up one day, and you’re going to want someone to love you, and you’re not going to get it, because you used the F-word. Leave aside partner and children, she doesn’t even have parents. She has no one to answer her call- is that independence? And you’re going to regret whatever you did, because it was wrong, and unacceptable.
This picture says that women need pampering, that intrinsically, we’re not independent.
This picture says that when we are independent, we’ll suffer for it.
This picture says that feminists just aren’t worth it.
You want to know what “independent” actually means? “Free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority.” Therefore, no, I don’t need a man to control me.
Do I want one to love me? Sure! Do I want kids to love me? Damn straight. Friends, family? Mmhmmm. Do I want to wake up some day and ask to be pampered and be pampered? Yes, please. But can I still be independent, and a feminist? Yes.