Monday, March 29, 2010

Procrastination

Yesterday I discovered for the second time phdcomics.com. I now understand that grad school is not only a lot of work it is also a torturous maze of procrastination, self-hatred, and slow intellectual, emotional, economical,  and physical deterioration.  I am challenging myself as such to build a sturdy foundation before I make it to grad school, because otherwise that will be who I am for the next ten years. I do not want that.

I am unwilling to take drugs so Ritalin, Procrastin-X, and suchlike are out of the question. Hypnonotism is also a bit sketchy. Self-control does not solve the problem because it is the problem.

I shall use a notepad document and a planner. There are many good, free planners online. I prefer software to hardware (hardware in this case being a notebook) because it doesn't get lost and there is always enough space to write. The notepad document, seen to the right, helps me keep track of what I am doing. Right now I have noted that I am considering writing this blog article. Before I do anything I try to write it down. If I do not write it down before hand I write it down after. This is not prescriptive. I do not use this sheet to plan how I will use my time. I use so I can learn how I use my time, because trying to force myself into a schedule has been as yet a failure. Once I have a few weeks worth of these lists I hope to go through them, rearrange, reconsider, and so on. The important thing right now is simply being conscious of what I am doing.

Hobbies and social activities are important. It is true that I am a student, but ten years is a long time. I am willing to make it eleven and be mentally stable at the end. Furthermore I think that it might go up even more if I attempt to do nothing but study. Cooking, dancing, gardening, and writing are an important part of my well-being as is social interaction and some degree of cleanliness. Even my random web-surfing is not entirely useless, as it does at time render interesting results.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community garden protest Part 2


The Uvic Courtyard has a number of sculptures on permanent display from the Matlwood's modern and contemporary art collection. Elza Mayhew, a UVic alumna and member of the Royal Canadian Academy is featured with large bronze sculptures including "Coast Spirit". Also featured are the totem poles carved by Tony and Henry Hunt, as well as Charles Elliott. 

Around the very ugly 'coast spirit' statue protesters built a garden yesterday. I work on campus. I finished at 7:30 pm and went to see what had been done to the campus lawn. I encountered students planting strawberries in a plot that looked like a pokeball, the tidy beds I had expected, and  a girl who tramped through the muck in high heels singing 'I can garden if I want to, can leave my friends behind...' with those around her shouting lines to rhyme with carrot.

With the crowd gone it was a pleasant little garden. All the ambivalence I had felt towards the act of vandalism felt out of place with regard to the garden. Anarchy I may not like, but I cannot resist fresh soil. I joined the students planting strawberries in the pokeball, to the amusement of my coworker who teased me about being a 'dirty hippy' before going home with his somewhat confused wife. Oh those students!

I talked to the people there. They were hopeful that the garden would remain. One pointed out the turtle-like tendencies of bureaucracy, and the others agreed that it would probably take a week or two before the garden was taken down. It hadn't been taken away yet, after all. The police had been by but had not done anything. It might stay for a few weeks, maybe longer.The University could not remove it until there weren't any students around to get involved.

These people are so naive! So hopeful! Did they really think the campus would let us keep it? I got home thinking that I should bring beans today to plant in the garden. When I arrived at 7:40am it was gone. Of course it was gone.

But that's the brilliant part! I do not know whether it was planned or not but it worked perfectly. Hundreds of students who have never been to the community garden thought that this little piece would stay. I knew it wouldn't and I still became attached. That is exactly what the protest wanted and needed. Here in the center of campus the university has taken away the community garden. Not across the ringroad behind a fence. This garden was real, the more so for it being temporary. I still cannot decide if it was ethical.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Protest for the community gardens

I finished medieval philosophy and my friend and I walked back into the main part of campus together. When the fountain in front of the library became visible we also saw a large crowd. Someone was talking on a loud speaker and the protest band was playing. I feel a moment of pride. UVic has it's own little protest group. That's something special. The protest band is a group who attend various events on campus with drums and sometimes trombones. They attended the career day in protest of capitalism which made me, really not wanting to be there at the time, rather happy until I realised they had destroyed a Canadian flag. It isn't illegal to destroy the flag of Canada but that doesn't mean it doesn't have an effect. Canada for me is like those old friends you have had since middle school who just cannot get their lives sorted out. You love them and you desperately want them to succeed, but sometimes you just cannot stand being around them. So I am not the most patriotic person there is, but I can't see the symbol of Canada destroyed without feeling hurt and upset. So the protest band always puts me on edge, and so do loudspeakers.

The man with the loudspeakers said, 'just keep walking. Go to your next class. Do not look at what we are doing. This is subversive activity. Just keep walking. That's right.' I decided not to make a challenge. Later I come back. As I walk by he says, 'just keep walking.' I stop. "Okay, stay there but do not come any closer." I step closer to him. A girl behind him starts laughing. "Very, well, you can step closer to me but do not look at what is going on behind me." I stand there laughing as he continues his speech. "Just go back to your studies. Study is what is important. Do not look at what is happening here." A little crowd starts to listen to him. He is not so serious and he is not so threatening when people are listening to him. Eventually he gets bored and leaves. I leave too.

I want to tell him I agree with him. I want to ask more questions. I want to talk to the people, but I do not. I leave.

The protest is about the community garden and as I approach I can see people digging to the music of the trombine and pouring soul into little 24" by 24" box plots.

Recently an article ran in our student newspaper: Campus Community Garden calls for support.

So today in protest the students are digging up a section of land near the fountain and setting up a garden.

Isn't it a waste? I ask. It'll be gone by nightfall after all.

"But they are making a point!" Replies a friend. Everyone is so enthusiastic.

I think of how the University will respond. It will lash out not only at the group responsible but also fringe groups. But this is because I am pessimistic right? The loudspeakers and large crowds scare me. I am an incredibly passive person. I hate making a show and making a fuss. I look even at benevolent authorities as dangerous.

Everyone else is enthusiastic.

"It would be great to have garden in the middle of campus."

Yes, I say, but it won't last 'till sundown.

"It's making a statement even if it doesn't last, and everyone is having so much fun."

Yes, I say, they are. It makes me want to join in. Students with big buckets are running to the pond behind the library to get water. Most of the crowd do not even know what is happening. They do not realise it is a protest. They think it is the 4:20 group having a good time. That's what I thought too when I heard the loudspeaker. I'm glad there are people protesting, but I am upset as well. I have all these reasons that they should not be and all of them seem to be things I picked up in passing, and not my own conclusions. Societal bias, it always scares me when I find it in myself.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Being studious

 1. Assiduous in study; devoted to the acquisition of learning.
{dag}Const. in, of.
    b. Of the nature of, pertaining to, or concerned with learning or study.
    c. Of a place: Devoted to or suited to study.

 2. Giving careful attention; intent on a purpose or object, heedful, solicitous.
    a. with agent-n.
    b. const. to with inf., of, {dag}for (rare), {dag}in.
    c. Characterized by or exhibiting careful attention.
    d. Planned with care; studied, deliberate.
-OED

I've always been hard on myself. I was rarely disciplined so I learned  to discipline myself. Having artistic desires I am well in tune with the impossibility of ever succeeding at perfection, and the failure to apply myself as I should.

This year I started joining study groups. I decided to go easier on myself. I would prepare for the study session. Go to the study session. Take what I could and review it, and be done. I practice lowering my standards to something manageable. I believe that if I set achievable tasks for myself I am likely to become a stronger and more studious person. It has not worked so far. So far I have simply managed to achieve less. My standard seems to be connected to how well I achieve. If I am aiming for perfect I will get 75%. If I am aiming for 80% I will get 70%. I should aim for 90%, then I might get 80%. It really does not work. I am supposed to be a philosophy honours student. I darn well know I'm bright enough, I just can't seem to work hard enough.

In Latin 101 I learned the word estudiar and loved it. This was a word loved by the Romans. It appears as studious around 1350. Studious women are to go to the convent where they may satisfy their love of knowledge. It never goes away. Part of the problem might be the religious connotation. I cannot find the original latin use, and as such I am for lack of a pagan understanding.

I lived with a highly religious girl for four months. She played the piano six hours a day, which was not enough. She worked at night as a nurse. She took classes at the university. Sometimes she even went for jogs with me! I know how she managed it. She has a God.

My beliefs do not work that way. I have always linked religion, writing, and study. I do, however, not have the support of the two thousand year Church behind me and that is a powerful thing to lack. Furthermore I cannot replace God with myself. I like myself well enough but there is no respect and certainly no love. If only I finished that novel, if only I worked a little harder, one more hour, one more reading, one step closer to finishing an essay, then it would be different.

My solution today was to go searching for the concept of studiousness. Maybe if I understood it I would become it. There are very few blogs that discuss studiousness, and even fewer websites. I was redirected to studio. I liked the Oxford English Dictionary 'devoted to the acquisition of learning.'

I am devoted to philosophy!

Philosophy is everything I want to do and be. If I have a soul I have given it to whatever god is the philosopher's God, and I consider giving away one's soul to be immoral so that ought to be a very impressive sort of devotion. My trouble is I am devoted like a dog. Philosophy is my master and I shall do as it says, but it says I must think for myself and that is not what I want. The other definition of studious is 'characterized by or exhibiting careful attention' and this is certainly not me.

People think that I am studious. The people close to me who see me making tea, and who go for walks with me, and see me fall asleep after 15 minutes of trying to read a book think that I am studious. I always assumed that that was the image I gave off, but really if studiousness is devotion to study I am devoted. Everything I do, no matter how flawed or misguided it is, is for the aim of becoming a better person and a better scholar. I am weak of will but I am as a dog, utterly loyal to a day-dreaming master. Half of my life I spend in justification and excuses for my failures at careful and deliberate study, but when I do apply myself and manage to understand something of the world those are my favourite moments.

But isn't that like the woman who tries to write a novel? She sits there staring at the page and cannot think of a thing to do. Is she a writer or just a fake? What about when she cleans the house? Makes dinner? Cleans the fish tank?

Yes, it is like this woman. This woman gets a phone call from her agent. He wants the next chapter. She disappears for two days and there is the next chapter. This is what I do. It is not a healthy way of doing things but there is progress. I am moving forward. I am learning more. Maybe this is a handicap I most accept. I want to be perfect. I never will be, but I want to be. I'm going to aim for somewhere beyond human conception and fail every single time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

People who disbelieve mental illness

I am interested in the connections between mental illness and philosophy. I am currently studying medieval philosophy. One interesting if not necessarily correct explanation for mysticism is, if I remember correctly, kidney failure. Too much toxicity in the blood leads to visions. Doesn't mean it can't be visions of something, but here is a biological cause and here is a way of understanding that might get us in the vicinity of some truth.

So it is an interesting topic. Unfortunetely I made the mistake of googling it and came across a discussion on insanity on the  Philosophy Forums. This is not the sort of philosophy with which I am acquainted. If my professors and peers express an idea which is radical, it is in a gentle and intelligent manner; it is at the same time honest and also inoffensive. I have taken this as my ideal manner of communication and seek to follow it as a model, however, I hold that there are times when screaming and crying are the only appropriate reaction and times when the only appropriate reaction is silence.

Anger in an intellectual discussion is not appropriate. As such I knew when I read that forum that I could not respond. People believe that mental illness is simply a fabrication! Real, intelligent people who can spell and forum coherent thoughts and yet still continue to believe such a foolish and destructive thing.


I once assumed that the only homophobic people were misinformed rednecks off on the cattle ranches. I did not really believe that misinformed rednecks existed and as such managed to disbelieve in homophobia. Then I went to university and encountered a boy who was openly homophobic. Now I know that many people share this view although most will deny it or do not even realise it.

Why would people think that mental illness is a fabrication? Psychology may be somewhat new and sometimes it is wrong, but that is the nature of what it is to be science. If it were cut in stone it would be a religion and that is no help to us at all. It frightens me that people think this. It frightens me because I know there are people suffering because people who I cannot call anything but stupid and ignorant. These people do not need to be victims on top of what they have already. Why should you be so unlucky as to have a mental illness and the disbelief and scorn of those around you also?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thought

I recently joined Toastmasters International. My first speech is an icebreaker. I need to tell the club about myself so that they can appreciate the context of my later speeches. From attempting to write the speech I generated a great deal of material that, well fascinating, completely ignored the question at hand. The most interesting portion was a phenomenological description of abstract thought. I think that telling a group of people this tells them who I am, and in a sense it does but not directly. Through this exercise I learned a great deal about how I think about people and why it is useful to tell a person things like your birthday and your maiden name, which I had always before considered useless information the purpose of which is to make conversation for the sake of conversation instead of communication.

The first time I remember thinking it was summer. I was wearing nothing but a really big shirt that went down to my knees. I think I swore off dresses sometime before that, and this was clearly not a dress. I was in the forest, I think, and thinking about myself and probably the fact that I needed to go and take a bath because my hair was full of dirt and twigs from wandering in the forest. I have an image of thought at that moment. I do not quite remember the content but there is a certain way that thinking looks. You take objects and separate them in your mind, and order them, and draw them together. These objects are fuzzy rays of light, or circles and lines or real things and concepts.

For example I can think about a try. You have this branch. Now separate it from it's name. You have the name of tree and the tree itself. Now separate it from it's shape. Separate it from what it means to you. Have any of you succeeded here?

I can't, really. I try to pull apart these things and they stick together. This is what abstract thought is for me and what it might be for everyone, separating things that cannot be moved with the hands. Although it does feel like touching and feeling them.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Inner demons

Some people have the inability to function in particular ways. Some of these people call their problems inner demons. Thus objectifying they attempt to overcome their inner demons or keep them to themselves. There is a trite saying that we all have our demons. It does not mean anything taken either figuratively or literally. It is the sort of thing you will be given you write on if ever forced to write a provincial English exam. Meaningless. It gives you so much room for creativity! For once I shall take advantage of that.

I would like to kidnap that word for a moment. I do not have any inner demons of the sort that these people worry about. Some minor ones yes, but no major ones. The thing I do have is a very tedious inner editor. It isn't really an inner editor because I can usually shut it off when writing, for better or worse. I shall call it a demon, or daimon to borrow the Greek sense of the word. That is the sense I want. Daimon relates more to spirit then creepy thing lurking about wanting your soul. In this sense it need not be negative, and it still carries the negative connotation, which is important as you will see

So I have this daemon. 'Hello daemon.'

"Hello Jesse, you sleep too much. You have readings you should be doing right now."

'Thank you daemon. Now I not only are those things true about me but I am also upset about them.'

"Oh, also your essay sucks. You can't plan anything. And you should feel terrible about all those dishes."

'Thank you daemon. Now I shall wash dishes instead of doing anything else.'

See? It's terrible tedious. The poor thing has no imagination! It has no wonder of the world. It only cares about me. Me. Me. Me. Why can't it leave me alone and work on something more important for a change?

I think a lot of people have this problem. That rational part of ourselves instead of being focused on the world is focused on self-improvement. That is a very powerful piece of the human mind. Do you really want it turned on yourself at all times? I certainly don't. It is far more productive to send it off to think about Plato so that I can do well on this test.

Seven things about me

I read a beautiful blog called Sixth in Line. Recently Elisabeth won the Kreativ blogger award. It is not difficult to see why when you read her writing. Go and do so! 

The wonderful musician and writer, Mike McClaren from Annotated Margins has honoured my efforts with a Kreativ blogger award. My second ever. I am grateful for his recognition and will respond as I must but only in part. I will list the mandatory things about me but I will leave it up to all those wonderful bloggers whom I follow - I cannot choose among them - to take it upon themselves if they so choose to list seven things about themselves, here in comments or on their own blogs.
 I am willing to take up the challenge, although there is a level of reality I do not quite feel I can attain in listing things about me. It seems like the things I list are simply the things that everyone would write in one of these lists. They evoke the same feelings, call in the same memories, share the same sense of belonging or not belonging. It is good to know I am in the same place but it makes this somewhat redundant.

1. I have a phobia of helicopters and airoplanes flying over my head. Even as an adult try to hide under a building or a tree until they pass. My boyfriend suggests that this is because I grew up near a military base. It might be true. I sometimes have nighmares about our harbours being full of ships at war.

2. My name is Jessica but I have gone by Jesse since childhood. For years I regretted being born a girl.

3. I could not read until grade seven.

4. I realise that there are certain people in the world who are very fashion conscious. I have sympathy for those people but also enjoy subtly breaking fashion rules in order to drive them crazy.

5. I've never been drunk.

6. The moment I can pinpoint as a freedom is riding over a hill on my bicycle and seeing the Olympic mountains. I like to pretend that if I peddle fast enough I can get there.

7. I started to take philosophy in order to understand it so that I could defend myself against it. In Spring of 2008 ingested such a quantity of philosophy I became a different person and I can no longer remember what I found so threatening.