27.4.13

Repost from the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research - "Dreams and Hysteria: An Introduction to Freud"

25.4.13

Sharing The Myth of Sisyphus With Kids: The Original Rolling Stone

I’ve been teaching Greek myth to a class of 8-12-year-olds since February, and it’s been so much fun, hearing what the kids have to say about myths when they process the psychological insights that I’m able to share with them. One of the primary themes of our class has been how and why the myth is still relevant today, thousands of years after these stories were first told. A particularly useful recent lesson was on the myth of Sisyphus, which is such a great metaphor for human struggle.
A Detail of an Ancient Greek Vase Depicts the Story of the Trickster Hero Sisyphus Who was Punished by the gods for Attempting to Cheat Death
The Myth of Sisyphus
Sisyphus was a Greek king, in the evil trickster mold, who found trouble with Zeus when he traded his knowledge of where Zeus was cavorting with a river nymph to her father, in exchange for a spring of pure water for the people of his kingdom. In anger, Zeus had Sisyphus carried away to the underworld, but once there, Sisyphus tricked Death into wearing his chains. No one could die until Ares released Death and gave Sisyphus to him.

Sisyphus tricked Death once again (Death must not have been the brightest guy), persuading him that since his (Sisyphus’) wife hadn’t performed the proper funeral rites, he must return to the upper world to correct the situation. Once there, of course, he lived happily for another 50 years or so.
For his offenses against the honor of the gods, Sisyphus is punished by being forced to push a large rock up a steep hill, only to see it roll back down again. He must trek down to the bottom of the mountain and start pushing still.

French-Algerian Writer Albert Camus Reinvents the Myth of Sisyphus for Modern Readers
Camus writes about this myth in his seminal essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, arguing that Sisyphus’ fate is the fate of every human. Every day we must do the same tasks over and over; going to work, cleaning our homes, making our meals. We roll the rock up the hill; each day, it rolls back down, and we must start again.

However, Camus argues, Sisyphus is not truly cursed, because he isn’t unhappy with his fate. The gods can force him to repeat this task over and over, but they can’t force him to hate it. He is content, and therefore Zeus’ punishment has failed.

Teaching the Myth to My Kids in the Classroom
When I explained all of this to my kids, it was refreshing because they asked brilliant questions. They always want to know why the characters in Greek myths didn’t make different, better choices. One question that came up: why doesn’t Sisyphus chip away at the rock to make it smaller, make it easier for himself? I compared that to working less hard on studying for an exam and getting a “C” instead of an “A”. You can always take steps to make things easier for yourself, but you’d be cheating yourself at the same time. They got it, and it was really cool to see them getting it.

24.4.13

Alighiero Boetti On Reality

First of all I prefer thought. This is the basic thing. I really think manual skill is secondary …. It’s taking things from reality. Everything, however small and humble, always has a beginning and stems from reality. 
Alighiero e Boetti
PDF Copy for Printing 

8.4.13

Carrot Black in Soho

Stumbled onto Carrot Black's street art again today in SoHo right next to the Mulberry Branch of the New York Public Library. Wonder where I'll see Carrot next.

That's Boring! - A Propaedeutic

First off, I have done fuck all. It's very Zen. To do is not to do. My inner Zen boredom master says, "Overcome the urge to be productive, Greig." It looks good on a resumé. Don't leave the house. Lie in bed and don't think. This induces boredom.
Clearly inspired by boredom
Mourning
There is a mourning though that occurs first. After resisting the urge to do stuff, to be productive, the brain clicks into mourning, a low grade melancholia - it’s like the experience of loneliness - because ideally boredom like the kind I am talking about also requires solitude. I want to connect with another person and I have this insistent urge to be with someone, or someone to be with me. Kurt Vonnegut said it this way: “When I am alone I want to be with others and when I am with others I want to be alone”. Resist! It’s not that hard. Really. Tell your friends you have something really important to do and unfortunately you can’t do that really fun thing. They’ll insist. The creative spark comes with being with others. I am with my friend and I have a creative idea and I wish I were in solitude to pursue it but I am with my friend so I put it aside. The creative nugget that surfaced is there waiting for solitude to bring it out afresh. For me it is a nasty business to be creative.

Boredom  
Boredom was anathema in my mother’s vocabulary. She would punish us with laps around the house if we said the word - “You’re bored? OK. Run two laps. I want to see you pass by that window every few minutes.” The punishment didn’t work well for me because after three quarters of a lap I was distracted, a tit mouse in the garden, a glint of light from a water puddle, or a red fire engine charging down the street to the station, or my friend Clay walking his dog on our friendly suburban street, and I would say distractedly, “Hey, Clay!” By the way "red fire engine" is for me the quintessential metaphor for childhood. I'm sure the phrase is laden with hidden unconscious meaning that I have yet to plumb. Red. Fire. Engine. Figure it out.

About the laps:
I would forget about the laps but then, maybe Mom was right, because the boredom was gone. Until it came around again. I would spend many hours in my room as a child listening to books on record players. I loved reading Hans Christian Andersen's “The Tinderbox”. Even as a little kid I knew there was something seriously transgressive about transporting a sleeping maiden to your bedroom. The color of the storybook with the words that matched the narrator’s strong masculine voice accentuated the sexual power of the tale. I think this is when I realized I like men. Something about summoning, maybe? Fairy tales are friggin' powerful vehicles for raw desire. No wonder Plato in the Republic forbade the telling of certain tales to be told in the city. Something as simple as a narrator’s voice can shift attraction, help form identity - the power of the tale, the desire to wake a sleeping princess, to bring her to your chambers, the fallout and punishment, and lastly, the reconciliation with hero and lover. All that in the idle wiling of one day. Boredom is awesome and filled with potential for unbridled creativity. Human beings have formed their identities through idleness - it's the stuff of tales.

Boredom is an emptying out.
To be creative it is necessary to carve out a creative space to create what the Classical Greek philosophers called leisure time. By boredom what is meant is leisure -  when nothing that is done has immediate value. The highest form of boredom is leisure.  It’s a special time because everything else has to be accomplished first. I can’t be bored if I am worrying about a package due to arrive by FedEx or if I have a class to teach in an hour. Boredom requires true relinquishment of responsibility. To get to that leisure time - the true elixir of creativity that boredom promises - is to get past the urge to fill up time with useless crap. Like check email or check the post or check text messages. I know. It’s nearly impossible.

Bartleby the Scrivener
In literature I most identify with Bartleby the Scrivener, Melville’s famous office clerk who says, “I prefer not to” - until the very end of the story where he is put in the loony bin for saying, “I prefer not to”. This is why I have trouble with cover letters. 

I’ve accepted my mediocrity. My averageness.
Life Lesson: Just because it don't look like "work" don't mean it ain't work, bro.
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

7.4.13

All Ready Made (Building #7), 2012-2013

View from the New Museum, The Bowery, New York City, 2013
Carrot Black
b. 2011 New York, NY

All ready-made (Building #7), 2012-2013
Brick, mortar, steel, concrete, sheetrock, living people, found objects

Art is meta. Looking out the window at the New Museum on Bowery the other day, the back wall of a building is in view affixed with a ginormous title card, the same style and font found in museums. I like how the title card makes me think of the wall it is affixed to as art - as if the card itself authorizes the wall as an art object, perhaps a swirling Rothko or a new experiment in Abstract Expressionism. Or maybe it's just a wall. Hmmmm. *scratching my chin*