This blog has been created to discuss the topics covered in my book : Beyond Discouragement-Creativity.
My goal is to post relevant news articles which both reflect and refute my opinions and observations. As a visitor, your comments would be most appreciated. - Bienvenue. À vous la parole.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Children have a right to violence. . . . . . .

 It seems that in California it is important that the "rights" of children to play (virtual) violent games be protected. From the mouths of those who advocate such a right, (it seems) that the damage done to their thinking and emotions and empathy and socialization abilities is negligible. . .

Have people who voice such thoughts given any consideration to how ludicrous this sounds? Has anyone considered that (possibly) the real violence done to children is that we routinely abdicate our responsibilities where children are concerned? As I have repeated at nauseum : It's simply easier that way. . . (Sigh)

Nonetheless, I cannot be defeated in my obsession for staring ahead positively. . .  I still work hard at finding stories to counterbalance the stupidity that human nature seems to embrace now and then. . . (more often than not. . . now.) And EUREKA! They exist.

Visiting the following site will prove that there is still sanity in parenting out there and environments in which kids can actually "grow" enthusiastically. The following is uplifting. I hope it adds to your day. It certainly made me smile. Free Your Kids.

Signing off - your slmost daily Curmudgeon

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As the world turns. . .

And as the world turns things don't change much. Silliness increases and normality wanes. . .

Why do I say this? Let's take a peek at this week's news which highlights what humans are about these days. 

  1. Bumper cars in three amusement parks in Britain have banned people from "bumping". They must drive slowly and "avoid" other "bumper cars". . .  Sigh. . .  
  2. Seriously Obese (I thought obese in and of itself was serious) children in North America are being offered stomach stapling. . .  No interest, it seems, in preventative measures, training parents to say "NO!", healthy eating or lengthening the school day (as it was in the past) to permit time for recesses and physical exercise, etc. No. . .  That would be too simple. Rather, we wait until 12 year olds near 300 lbs before reacting. .  . Sigh. . . Dr Maggie Mamen (psychologist) says parents can't say no. and actually find the thought abhorring. . . And so the old warnings remain - children with adult onset type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, cyst-filled ovaries. . . . I guess that's how we like our kids today. . .
  3. Then, there's a refugee claimant and migrant from China who, in Canada, can't answer the question: "What is Jesus like as a person?" His fate, it seems, is to have his Canadian citizenship application reversed and possibly be sent back to China. . .Interesting. I didn't know that to be welcomed to Canada today, the government must assess your religious beliefs.And who, pray tell, assesses theirs?
  4. Then there's the art student from the Ontario College of Art and design who places a bomb (fake that is) on the doorstep of the Royal Ontario Museum. (It's a conceptual piece. . . . . . ) You can get a degree in fine arts at our loftiest Universities without knowing how to draw or paint or sculpt but you can play conceptual mind games and be perceived as "creative". (I think I am getting sick to my stomach. . . )
  5. And in the same week, there's the article by the Globe and Mail"s Margaret Wente (entitled : "What's Wrong With Us? Not Much Apparently")  It seems that every sniggly symptom deserves immediate attention lest you discover even worse. . . The whole basis for this interesting article is to point out that our health concerns are less real than they are figments of our fear-mongering environment.
  6. Then there's the animal protectors telling us to STOP the abuse and verbal violence against animals. . .  We are being told to STOP the name calling. Vermin are not vermin. . .  They are "differentiated beings". . .  Are these the same peoplewqho ignore the fact that even in Canada many children go to school hungry? Even the word animal is perceived as abusive. . .  Sigh. . .  Can someone tell me why we perceive our modern democracy to be a sane environment into which our children are made to grow? Isn't that abusive? The Journal of Animal Ethics" invites us to meditate on these ideas. . .  Hmm. I thought they said "animal" was an abusive term. Why is it therefore in the title of their organization?
  7. And then we come to a British elementary school which disciplined two 7 year olds for pointing. . .  pointing in the manner of a gun. . . that is.  "Finger guns" are banned in this school. . .  This means that no child may allow himself (usually boys, wouldn't you know) the urge to create a finger gun by raising a thumb to the sky while pointing the index of the same hand (I would presume) at a potential victim. . . Doing so constitutes (according to the authorities at Nathaniel Newton Infant School in Nuneaton, Warwickshire) "threatening behaviour" which merits severe disciplinary consequences. . . (And our children are left in the hands of such minds for teaching purposes? We must really hate our children!)
  8. And yes, when reality is too insane to accept, there is always reality TV where "rich, pregnant and stupid - the perfect people to hate" can be ogled and fawned over as we are wont to do when TV reality is being broadcast. (see article on TV listings by John Doyle of the Globe and Mail)
  9. Then there's the teen-aged mother phenomenon. It seems we like to watch girls (not old enough to handle their own lives) screw up the lives of their offspring. This week, one of them has had her profile go viral. How did she do that? She attempted suicide- or so the media is promoting the "event". (What better way to get even more attention and ratings than your rival tv show starlets.
Yes, this is a short review of the past 10 or so days. . . .courtesy of the local, national and international press.  And I haven't even touched upon other things such as war allies, government spending and policies or business practices of the day. Yes. We do live in the most forward thinking democracies in the world. . . don't we. . . . That's what we're told, anyway.

If you can. . .  have a great week. B

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quand l'école fait mal"

Intimidation and violence  in our schools - but who cares!

So what's new today. Nothing actually. . .  Except maybe that the brutality of bullying is in greater focus. If Le Droit (Ottawa)n newspaper's 3 page spread is anything to think about. . . (Quand l'école fait mal - Louis-Denis Ébacher - June 08, 2011) children are under siege right below our noses and, it seems, no one gives a damn. We have 2 generations of children who have been raised on fear of strangers but none who have been made aware of standing up to those they know - including school (child) acquaintances and or other adult 's known to them in the spheres of their own lives. Fight back? You become the bully. So what's to do? In the minds of some pre-adolescents and teens - suicide has been the only answer. After an initial "honest" reaction on that front, we sigh and all go back to our daily routines. . .  sending money to save the lives of teary-eyed children from war-torn or famished countries while ignoring the emotional needs of our own sanitized and worry-free "looking" children of democracy. I may not be the most religious man in the world but this is more than slightly sinful.

For those who read French, this article is most revealing - but then. ..  who's listening anyway.

Other interesting articles:

Preschoolers aware of their status (!!!) (National Post- Misty Harris, June 08, 2011) It seems that 4 year olds know what to do to get attention - at least middle-class kids raised via contemporary parenting standards do. They disrupt and interrupt, treat adults (even those in authority) as their equals and use "adult words" rather than their own age appropriate words to get their points across - and to get all of the attention. Children from less fortunate backgrounds get the short end of the stick in schools. All the 4 year olds seem aware that  this "power behaviour" gets rewarded - whereas more submissive or courteous or independent behaviour does not.

It seems. . . (I'm trying to be fair. . . . . yeah right) those who are more forward and demanding get all of the attention - whether that is adult-child attention or academic attention. And as this seems to be the case, it becomes easier to surmise why certain children (read : less advantaged) begin their gradual disinterest in schooling. . .  Why bother. It doesn't get you anywhere (and that is in a 4 year old's moldable mind).


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today, I was lucky. I was privileged to hear the voice of a real artist. . .

I generally rant about various problems inherent to contemporary life but today. . . I am (trying to be) less of a curmudgeon.

I saw and heard something extraordinary; something which is most ENCOURAGING!

And so. . . I share it with you.

All of us have the capacity to be creative. Whether that creativity is expressed in mathematics, science, sports, music, writing or the visual arts is irrelevant. Creativity is that which allows us all to  survive and thrive in a demanding and difficult world. That we are creative neither makes us geniuses nor does it make life easier. It simply makes us wondrously human. It helps make  life more livable, more challenging and more exciting. Without it, we would all become discouraged and life unbearable.  But does being creative mean we are all artists?

No. It simply means that we are healthy. It means that we have not lost our capacity to be exhilarated by discoveries as much as we are excited about communicating our findings. It means that  sharing, giving and conversing with others on topics and feelings that move us is essential. Creativity is not a requirement which is solely associated with “Art” making. It is, rather, a universal ability which nurtures our need to marvel at and profit from the lives we find ourselves living. It goads us to constantly better that life and to offer to others the same possibility. In essence, creativity encourages us to better anything and everything that we do normally. De facto, being creative has nothing to do with “being” anything other than positively human.

And yet, this talent and effort normality aside, we must admit that some people do "have it" more than others - whatever “it” is. These people not only are curious and talented, they seem to know something we don't. As we do, they work hard at assimilating skills required to poetically transmit their individual messages. . . But. . .  They also seem to have a special capacity to say, through their own chosen medium, ordinary things in an extraordinary way. And in so doing, their creative abilities loom larger than life. The reach their statements make even has a universal appeal.

Now this capacity to reach out, touch and move people in an extraordinary fashion is actually achieved daily by corporate America through their incessant advertising and promotions. So what makes individual "artists" so incredible? Is marketing and promotion to the masses more creative simply because they reach and effect astounding numbers? Is this what is art? Innovative and powerful, it definitely is. Creative and artistic? Well, that's another question. Is it artistic to lure the masses into minimizing and even eliminating difference and individuality through the homogenization of thought and action?. . .  That's a topic already covered by Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. 

Individual artists are those who, above and beyond all the pressures of contemporary homogeneity, strive to impress upon us the privilege and right to individual thinking, dreaming, curiosity, discovering and simply “to having a say”.  And so, though many of us paint, sculpt, sing, dance and write with superior talent and energy, the varying degrees of notoriety we achieve is more often than not based on our being skilled painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers and poets - not artists.  But then, do we have to be “artists” in order to enjoy what we do? Most of us don’t crave stardom to validate our existence. We simply find pleasure in being creative. We “do” things to the best of our abilities and skill and are proud that our creative efforts are, in addition, of value to others.

Artists, as stated above, are a rare breed. They are the same, yet different. Their processes are similar yet the outcome of their concerted efforts is extraordinary. Their work exudes a  “je ne sais quoi”. They tend to step back to let their artwork sing. (They have already had their say in creating the artwork and, anyway. . .  They’re already off thinking, considering and feeling another communication). Artists are a rare breed. Despite popular lore, most are not those who say they are artists or those who say they create “because of suffering” or those whose lives are problematic or Hollywood-style reality in stature. No. Artists are those who would rather concentrate on presenting to us what they have discovered, how those discoveries have made them feel and how they consider these discoveries will impact upon our lives. Artists are sharing individuals. Despite their often times monastic work habits, rarely do these individuals deny their connection with the world or public at large.

In essence, being called an artist is not the same as saying we are an artist. The former implies that a general public appreciates a level of artistry which has the ability to communicate a message powerfully. And because it does, that public shows its appreciation of excellence by bestowing upon out-of-ordinary creators the most revered title : of “artist”. On the other hand, the latter suggests that, being impatient, we have absconded with the title - simply because we wanted it. 

Commenting further on the concept of suffering and victimhood in the arts, it is impossible to deny the importance of creativity and self-expression in surmounting turmoil and healing. These are part of a respected therapeutic process which gives “body” to a hurt. They introduce the concept of real and “tangible” to pain. Subsequently, through such a concrete incarnation, the possibility of defeating or taming suffering becomes real. Creativity, in that sense, helps heal wounded souls through the creation of a tool called : "artwork".  And the reasoning behind such therapeutic processes is to eliminate or minimize pain and to defeating a sense of victimhood.

Victimhood, as it is too often promoted by our reality TV environment, actually minimizes real pain and suffering. It has become so ingrained in our contemporary psyches that differentiating true victims from pseudo-victims is proving itself to be more and more difficult every day. Being a victim (or playing at it) should not be a status or tool to promote oneself - not if our society is healthy. And it is certainly even less a state which is desired by real artists. If anything, victimhood should be something we desire greatly to overcome - not take advantage of. It is only through its elimination that we become strong as individuals and as a collective.

Where artists are concerned, hurt and suffering can be part and parcel of their human existence, as much as it can be part of ours. There is nothing extraordinary about an “artist” being in pain. The role of hurt or pain, in most of our lives, is that of an inconvenient annoyance which, depending on its intensity, can dictate (or not) whether our lives are positive and creative (or not). In the life of any victim, creativity may exist in tandem with pain - and through this connection a healthy therapeutic expression may begin. But in the life of an artist who also happens to suffer, the “raison d’être” of pain seems different. True artists have always created “despite” pain, not because of it. For many years I have spoken on this very point - though some have pooh-poohed my assertions. 

Today, I was somewhat vindicated. I heard the voice of Sung Bong Choi. (see You Tube link).  And I heard the young man’s story. I knew then that I was listening not to a voice in pain but a voice which rang out, which existed and exploded with a powerful sense of life-giving energy - “despite” the serious emotional pain which afflicts him. An artist’s voice is never anti hope nor desperate nor despairing nor filled with discouragement.  I repeat : A true artist’s voice exists despite pain. And when pain is involved in the life of an artist, THAT “despiteness” is what makes creative genius ART. And, subsequently, an individual an artist.