More than Just Words

More than Just Words

2018.09.24.

The Creative Soul

 

“Your Turn – 3”, the creative encounter I asked you to undertake Sunday, Sept 16, involved using a list of common words.  The challenge involved pen, paper, and your imagination in writing something in the form of prose or poetry.  I included a total of seventy-five common words found in the English language, twenty-five each nouns, verbs, and adjectives.  The words from the list that I used are underlined and yes, I did sometimes change the tense of the verb.

 

Here are my two poetic responses.  The first is a haiku, a three-line poem in which the first and last lines have five syllables while the middle line contains seven syllables.  Haiku is a very short Japanese poem with seventeen syllables and three verses. It is typically characterized by three qualities: The essence of haiku is “cutting”. This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.  In English haiku, this may or may not be found.

 

He felt time go past

The child of old now a man

Finding the good next to come

 

An ABC Poem is a poem that has five lines and creates a mood, picture or feeling.  Generally, lines 1-4 are made up of words or phrases while the first word of each line is in alphabetical order.  Line 5 is one sentence long and can begin with any letter.

 

Able to delight for hours

Big smiles found within

Come inside the walls beckon

Day passes quickly in fun

The joys found within a child’s playroom are important and endless.

 

There are approximately fifty-five different types of poetry.  The sonnet has fourteen lines; the limerick, seven; the haiku, five; the couplet, two (and can stand alone or as part of a larger work).  There are strict rules for some types and none for poems known as free verse.  A poem can be about anything.  There are metaphor poems and creative poems, historical poetry such as many of the works of William Shakespeare and humorous poems often heard during a child jump roping or on the school yard.

 

In a fast-paced high tech world, poetry may seem antiquated.  However, the lyrics of every song are a type of poetry and music does not (thankfully) seem to on the way to oblivion.  Rappers create their own poems to rap.  It has been said that poetry is the budding, flowering and ripening of human mind in the social setting.  Poetry is of paramount importance to society and has been considered by some anthropologists to be a refinement of character evident as progress in society. Poetry can move the human mind through emotions easily and quickly.  The study of poetry from other cultures can help one understand universal truths, as well as cultural differences, and provides a unique and fascinating window into that world.  Poetry could be described as music of words, readable art, the painting of a scene with words, the dance of linguistics upon a page.  Can you tell I love poetry? LOL

 

As a young child, I saw poetry as a way to know my life, the good and the bad.  At an early age, I made a poem and never looked back.  By using poetry, my way became my own; the young child I was had a sense of right and importance.  [This is my paragraph of prose and the words italicized are from the list.]  An expert of this type of prose that was also poetry is the inestimable Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.  I have used his books in teaching everything from diversity to acceptance and each lesson ended with complete understanding and a smile.  Truly, words have power and we should always use them carefully and thoughtfully.

My Favorite Poem

My Favorite Poem

2018.09.17

The Creative Soul

 

Rudyard Kipling once remarked “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”  Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist.  Born in India from whence came the inspiration for most of his writing, he would become one of the most popular writers in the British Empire, famed for both his prose and his poetry.   In 1907, at the age of 42, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient for over one hundred years.

 

Editing a collection of Kipling’s works in 1941, the poet T. S. Eliot wrote in the introduction to the published collection:  “An immense gift for using words, an amazing curiosity and power of observation with his mind and with all his senses, the mask of the entertainer, and beyond that a queer gift of second sight, of transmitting messages from elsewhere, a gift so disconcerting when we are made aware of it that thenceforth we are never sure when it is not present: all this makes Kipling a writer impossible wholly to understand and quite impossible to belittle.”

 

My favorite poem was written by Kipling and first published in ‘Rewards and Fairies’.  Written in the form of paternal advice to the poet’s son, John, who was at the time age twelve, the poem is considered a classic.  It regained popularity after the death of 2nd Lt John Kipling during World War One six years later.

 

If

If you can keep your head when all about you  

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;  

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;  

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,  

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Your Turn – 3

Your Turn – 3

2018.09.16

The Creative Soul

 

Last week I challenged you to use yarn and perhaps two other items.  One easy project involves yarn, a straw, and a piece of cardboard.  For this exercise you also need scissors but I am not really including them as one of the items.  Wrap the yarn around the cardboard and then when several layers are completed, slide the yarn off the cardboard and tie off in the middle.  Cut the loops on each side and then tie onto the straw.  You can wrap the straw with green yarn as well.  There you have yarn pomp om flowers on a yarn covered green straw!

 

Another project involves finger knitting, a centuries old craft.  Finger knitting is a great way to learn how to knit. It’s easy to do and you will quickly have something that you can wear or play with.   Finger knitting is quite simple and requires only about nine feet of yarn and your two hands.  Step 1: Turn your non-dominant hand palm-up. Leave a 6-inch tail of yarn between your thumb and palm.  Step 2: Use your other hand to wrap the yarn over your pointer finger, back behind your middle finger, over your ring finger, then behind your pinkie finger.  Step 3: Now wrap the yarn back around your pinkie, behind your ring finger, over your middle finger and behind your pointer finger. You should now have a loop over each finger.  Step 4: Repeat Step 2, starting at your knuckles.  Step 5: Wrap the yarn back around your fingers to complete two rows of yarn.  Step 6: Pull the lower loop over the top of your finger. Repeat for all four fingers.  Step 7:  You have just completed your first row of finger knitting and can release the yarn you are holding with your thumb.  Step 8: Push down the top row, and repeat steps 4-8 until you have the desired length.  Step 9: To finish the rope, carefully remove the remaining loops from your fingers. Cut an extra 6 inches of yarn and thread this through the loops and tighten. Add a double knot to secure in place.  When you’re finished, you’ll have a beautiful rope of yarn that you can use for lots of different things, such as a cool headband, a belt, bracelet, necklace, or even a scarf. Since there’s no need to worry about pointy needles, it’s a great craft to do on long car trips.

 

This week’s challenge involves pen, paper, and your imagination.  I’ve included some popular English words here and I want you to use them to write something – either prose or poetry.  For my non-English speaking readers, please make your selection from popular nouns, verbs, and adjectives in your native language.  Remember, the challenge is to be creative, not to write a Nobel Prize-winning piece.  Enjoy!

Nouns: 

  1. time
  2. person
  3. year
  4. way
  5. day
  6. thing
  7. man
  8. world
  9. life
  10. hand
  11. part
  12. child
  13. eye
  14. woman
  15. place
  16. work
  17. week
  18. case
  19. point
  20. government
  21. company
  22. number
  23. group
  24. problem
  25. fact

 

Verbs

  1. be
  2. have
  3. do
  4. say
  5. get
  6. make
  7. go
  8. know
  9. take
  10. see
  11. come
  12. think
  13. look
  14. want
  15. give
  16. use
  17. find
  18. tell
  19. ask
  20. work
  21. seem
  22. feel
  23. try
  24. leave
  25. call

 

Adjectives

  1. good
  2. new
  3. first
  4. last
  5. long
  6. great
  7. little
  8. own
  9. other
  10. old
  11. right
  12. big
  13. high
  14. different
  15. small
  16. large
  17. next
  18. early
  19. young
  20. important
  21. few
  22. public
  23. bad
  24. same
  25. able

 

With Pen in Hand

With Pen in Hand

2018.09.11

The Creative Soul

 

Today is a day that affected the world seventeen years ago.  The victims were citizens of the world in that they came from over eighty countries.  For those of us in the United States it seemed like a personal attack and yet, it was really an attack on humankind.  The grief still lingers as does the fear.  Writing poetry (or any literary format) can be a great therapeutic tool for such events.

 

In 2009 Richard Alleyne explored this in an article written for “The Telegraph”, a UK publication.  “Putting pen to paper is said to help the brain “regulate emotion” and reduces feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness.  Researchers claim the act of writing about personal experiences has a cathartic effect because it inhibits parts of the brain linked to emotional turmoil, and increases activity in the region to do with self-control.”

 

Now if you are like most of us, you are thinking “I can’t write!”  However, you can because research indicates that the quality of the poetry or prose is of little importance.  In fact, some researchers believe the less descriptive, the better in therapeutic benefits.  Most writers have gone through those periods of self-doubt.  As we saw in last month’s series, the important thing was to keep writing and reading.

 

Dr. Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist at the University of California, outlined his findings regarding the use of writing to ease social fears and phobias at an American Association for the Advancement of Science convention in a lecture called ‘Putting Feelings Into Words’.  He said that expressing yourself in print was “a sort of unintentional emotion regulation”.  “It seems to regulate our distress,” he added. “I don’t think that people sit down in order to regulate their emotions but there is a benefit.   “I think it could play a role in why many people write diaries or write bad lyrics to songs – the kind that should never be played on the radio.”  Dr. Lieberman proved the therapeutic power of writing by scanning the brains of 30 individuals while they described distressing pictures.  He found that the act tended to reduce activity in the amygala, a part of the brain connected with emotion and fear and increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex, the mind’s regulator.

 

Alleyne also reported that in another trial, writing was used in conjunction with exposure therapy for people who had a phobia of spiders.  It was discovered that writing about their fears actually boosted the effect of the therapy compared with people who did not put pen to paper.  “We do think that it has clinical applications,” Dr. Lieberman said.   “People expressing negative emotional responses in words while being exposed gave them greater attenuation (reduction) of fear.”  Dr. Lieberman said that the effect was negated if the writing was too vivid or descriptive because it led to people reliving their trauma. Also, typing was not as good as writing long-hand.

 

Whether journaling thoughts, chronicling the day, attempting poetry or starting a novel, old-fashioned pen and paper has an immense impact on emotional well-being, helping students organize their thoughts and even improve their moods.  Despite being viewed as an old-fashion activity, writing by hand is still considered a valuable skill that has many cognitive benefits both in and out of the classroom.

 

One of the primary benefits from writing by hand is stress relief.  Additionally, writing by hand has been proven to increase brain activity and creativity as well as increase memory and retention.  By using long-hand, one activates certain centers in the brain that involves more senses and motor neurons.  Writing about one’s feelings can improve one’s mood and lead to a greater sense of well-being, sorting out and bring together one’s thoughts as well as prioritizing and viewing one’s fears in a proper perspective.

 

Even writing a thank you note and/or recording reasons to be grateful before bedtime has led to better sleeping in recent studies.  Journaling has been proven to be more than just a simple diary of the day’s events.  It can be a way to organize the day’s events and view them from a less emotional standpoint.  This in turn opens the door for rational and logical movement without fear and a sense of security.

 

Electrical engineer and financier Ganesh S. Nagarsekar has led an interesting path from a chawl in Mumbai to being recruited by J. P. Morgan upon graduation and now by Goldman Sachs.  Writing poetry is integral to the founder of the website ‘On a Platter by GSN’.  Nagarsekar explains:  “For starters it makes you feel great. There is something peaceful and liberating about writing poetry.  A decent vocabulary as well as a clean flow of thought will take you far in life. A good poem demands both.   A poem can be interpreted by different people in entirely different way. This gives you a lot to play with.  They are relatively less time consuming. I can write a few verses in the last five minutes of a boring lecture.  This last point applies to all fields of writing, not just poetry. Sometimes when you are writing on a particular topic, you come to a verse, and by the time you have completed it you have a whole new perspective on the issue.”

 

The owner of the NBA team the Phoenix Suns may seems like an odd proponent for writing poetry but Richard Jaffe firmly believes in it.  Jaffe is first and foremost a businessman.  He was most recently the CEO of the medical technology company Safe Life Corporation.  He also founded Safe Sink Corp, a latex glove manufacturer sold to Kimberly-Clark and Nutri-Foods International, a frozen dessert company sold to Coca-Cola Co.  His first published book of poetry is entitled “Inner Peace and Happiness”.

 

Jaffe spoke about his feeling for poetry in an article published in 2013 on a website run by Americans for the Arts which serves, advances, and leads the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America.  “We would be wise to celebrate America’s poetry because it’s an art form that does as much—sometimes even more—for the writer as the reader. Poems inspire, educate, and cleanse.  The process of exploring my thoughts and feelings and expressing them in symbolic word images exercises my creativity in a fun way. I think it makes me sharper and, the more I explore the well of my imagination, the faster it fills again.”

 

Jaffe sees these benefits  from writing poetry. 

·         “1. Improves cognitive function. Learning new words (I’m never without a Thesaurus), working out meter (math!), and finding new ways to articulate our thoughts and feelings (communication) are all good for the brain. Want to get smarter? Write poetry! 

·         2. Helps heal emotional pain. Grief is one of the most painful emotions we experience, and it’s also the source of some of the world’s most inspirational poetry. When I have experienced a profound loss, the act of putting my feelings into words or memorializing and paying tribute to those who I lost is extremely cathartic.

·         3. Leads us to greater self-awareness. Most of us don’t have the time or desire to just sit and aimlessly ponder the meaning of our lives or what makes us deeply happy. Writing poetry gives us a constructive way to do that. Not only does it help us explore and gain insight, we have something to show for all that “inner reflection” when we’re done.

·         4. Provides a gift of inspiration or education to others. One thing we know—we are not alone! Universal questions, fears, and emotions are called ‘universal’ because everyone, no matter what country or culture they’re raised in, experiences them. Once we’ve done the work of exploring and finding our own answers, we can help others by sharing them. I like to share my poem ‘Eternal Happiness’ because it describes what I’ve found to be the source of my own eternal happiness.

·         5. Helps us celebrate! For some things, balloons and cake just don’t suffice. Proposing to my wife, the births of my children, their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, falling in love—these were among the most emotionally powerful, joyful times of my life. Thanks to the poems I wrote at the time to capture those feelings, I can experience them again and again.”

 

I once passed by a sign at a Mexican restaurant while stuck in traffic.  Sitting there staring at the sign while counting to ten twenty times to reduce my stress level, I realized the sign was advertising a contest.  “write a limerick and win fifty chalupas!” the sign read.  To be honest, the sign actually read “Quintilla Comica! Enscribe un Limerick y gana cincuenta chalupas!”  Fortunately, beneath it was the English translation: “Write a limerick and win fifty chalupas!”  All day I wondered what a chalupa was and as I drove home, again getting stuck in the construction zone back up, began composing a few limericks just for fun and again, stress relief, in my head.  The next afternoon I wrote one down on paper and picked up a couple of tacos at this restaurant for supper, submitting my limerick at the same time.  A week later I drove by the restaurant and to my surprise, saw my name on the marquee.  I had won the contest and happily I discovered I loved chalupas!  Carve out a few minutes for yourself today or before bedtime and put pen in hand.  It not only will benefit your brain but also your mental and emotional health and maybe even your taste buds!

 

 

 

 

 

Rising and Phenomenal

Rising and Phenomenal

2018.07.03

Pentecost 2018

 

She was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri.  She took the name of a husband who was a Greek sailor and used a form of it professionally.  She was the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco as well as the author of the first nonfiction bestseller by an African-American woman.  She was also the first African-American woman to have a screenplay produced for a film.  We know her as Maya Angelou.

 

This activist, author, and poet is known around the world for not only her works and soft-spoken voice but also her strength and the voice of her writings which is as strong as any ever put to paper.  Maya Angelou wrote several autobiographies and various volumes of poetry.  Her third is titled “And I Still I Rise”.  Of particular interest to us today is the poem “Still I Rise”.  While it speaks directly to the decades and even centuries of oppression of people of color, it specifically speaks to the oppression of women.  Angelou was a singer, dancer, producer, and director in addition to being a writer and, in my humble opinion, all of her experiences come together in this poem.

 

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

 

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

 

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

 

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own back yard.

 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

 

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.”

 

 

Whether we are black, yellow, brown, red, or white, male or female, Angelou’s words are a challenge and lesson to us all.  Her life and her work provide inspiration and exemplify the determination that one must have in order to succeed at anything.  We can truly be a phenomenal woman.

 

 

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

 

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

‘Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.”

 

Comment Concert

Comment and Concert

Easter 48-49

 

This series on mindfulness has been an interesting one for me and I hope for you as well.  The comments have also been interesting, especially those in the last few days.  “Okay so I did some mindfulness exercise; my life still stinks.”  “I lived in the moment, experiencing each second and it did not change a thing.”  There have been several others but most follow along the lines of these two.

 

The purpose of mindfulness exercises is not to suddenly change the tides of time or the course of the world.  They do help us define the moment.  Rather like variations on a theme.  This evening I attended a lovely choral concert.  Throughout the program they sang three different variations of the same poem which was actually a hymn text dating back to 1784.  Sometimes our life is just like that.

 

“The tree of life my soul hath seen. Laden with fruit and always green. …For happiness I long have sought. And pleasure dearly I have bought.”  The words of the text might well describe our living.  Each day out own tree of life blossoms and grows and yes, some aspects do wither and die.  When we utilize mindfulness in our living, we bear the fruit of the moment.  With being mindful of each moment, we can then partake of the moment.  “This fruit doth make my soul to thrive.  It keeps my dying faith alive.”

 

Life sometimes requires us to take a detour and that is the subject of our next series during the season of Pentecost.  We will discuss the detours of life by using some of the world’s most ancient lyrical texts and our own updated versions, how being mindful can help us to improve our living.  Francis Bacon, Sr. once said:  “Begin what you want to do now.  We are not living in eternity.  We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.”

Vision

Vision

Advent 11

 

It’s been a cold, wintry day where I am, even though winter is still fourteen days away.  I suppose I could say it had been a blustery autumn day.  The perspective would most likely be a matter on your vision and how you observe the day.  For instance, if you were cold, then it would have seemed like a wintry day.  Likewise, if you were not really bothered by the temperatures, it would have been an autumnal day.

 

What we observe has a huge effect on how we encode that data and how we then act upon it.  It is perhaps the single most defining factor in the grace we then portray and share with others.  We’ve discussed before the various ideas and philosophies about how we learn and perceive things.  For instance, a bed is easily identified but only because someone at some point in time taught us that it was a bed.  Otherwise, we might call it a padded box or elevated pad.

 

I could have reacted to this blustery, rainy, and chilly day in a negative fashion.  If I had a trip to the park and a picnic planned, those plans would have needed to be altered due to the weather.  Most people in my area probably were disdainful of the weather and the problems it might have caused.  For those working on roofs or painting houses, the day was time off or time to be spent on inside projects.  Some might have griped but others might have been pleased.

 

What really matters is our desire to see the grace in life around us.  To understand that there is grace in all things, not just the things we agree with or like.  Recently many have found it hard to be civil to those supporting the opposing candidate and today’s announcement of TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year has not quelled those feelings.  It is hard to see grace in disappointment.

 

The challenge to us is not when things go our way.  The true test of maturity, of faith, and of grace occurs when things are not perfect.  Take a day in the park.  If the day is sunny and quiet with a gentle breeze, it is easy to enjoy and feel rested.  What if the park is in the middle of a large, noisy metropolitan area and the weather has turned cold?  Can you still find the grace in those moments? 

 

Here is a poem written and used with permission by M. Story.  (Remember this poem, like this blog, is copyrighted.)  The poet visited a park that was familiar, hearing the usual sounds, seeing typical sights and feeling a bit chilled.  On this day, however, Story saw grace in the being.  “The cold has never been so warm” the poet wrote.  On this day, this poet saw grace all around and, because of that, she “let myself fall into this beautiful colorful world.”  We should all take a lesson from her and do just that each and every day.  We need to live each day with grace and see the empirical evidence of it all around us.

 

The Park

Deep blue is rippling; Waves are crashing;

Rocks are beautiful; specks of color strewn around me.

The trains are bumping on the blue bridge.

It’s like music moving through the air –

Moving through my head: Cha-ching!

The cold, very cold, makes me bundle up;

Lots of layers, wool socks, a beanie on my head.

My friends are all around me, laughing in the sunshine.

Golden sun; honey leaves.  My world is of color.

How have I never seen this before?

The world needs places like this where you can get away

And relax and sing songs.

A fresh chicken sandwich; the tire swing.

I can’t imagine hair braided with pretty purple petals.

The cold has never been so warm.

I feel my heart beating against my chest

As I let myself fall into this beautiful colorful world.