Articles / IMOW

The following poems and articles by Mary Jo Magar were part of the 2006 / 2007 exhibit titled Imagining Ourselves: A Gobal Generation of Women sponsored by the International Museum of Women of which Ms. Magar is a contributing member.

To Imagine Myself

– Mary Jo Magar –
I looked into a sky of black
And saw my eyes staring back;
Suddenly then the sky turned bright,
And stars appeared as glyphs of light;
Colors and words glowed with meaning;
A universe awaited gleaning;
And then my finger touched a key,
Like Ali Baba’s “sesame;”
Before me opened a brave new world,
Pennants of ages freshly unfurled;
There revealed, my unconscious mind
Self-conscious of yet more to find;
And then I knew the night was day;
Stars were icons to which to pray;
Time was nothing, dimension gone;
Space was infinite, life was long;
Nothing was false, nothing was true;
Knowledge was all yet nothing too;
Rather, information was there,
A godly presence, aloof and bare,
For me to make what of it I willed,
Creation supreme, destiny stilled;
Technology’s divine essential
Revealed upon my own potential
To imagine myself beyond reflectionAnd cast my spirit with cosmic projection.

The Future Is Now
– Mary Jo Magar –
We expect the future,
Await it by name:
“Then,” “When” the same.
The time line stretches,
One way, it seems,
But the line alone is two parts dreams.
Like the line of this poem,
No moments are gone;
The line stays still though you have read on.
So where are we now?
The same place as past:
Time ending and beginning,
Still first and last.
Great changes,
Great history,
Great events yet to come:
The times in their total remain at one sum.
That march that we hear,
Always thinking it a race,
But the march of time only marches in place.
Yet more aliases
When time’s real name is our own,
Each face in the mirror,
Humanly known,
Not the clock’s face at all,
Nor the mirror’s face alone.

The Road to Love is Paved with Discipline
– Mary Jo Magar –

Part I
Faucets and Freedom

Inaccurate is the common expression “love is blind;” rather it is we who are blind, we earthbound humans who, with fearful, almost frightening obsession, seek the fulfillment of an oceanic love with which our souls are already swimmingly familiar while our physical existences suffer separation in being vessels afloat, terrified of sinking.

Like the Ancient Mariner, we cry “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

We seek love the way a ship seeks harbor, blind to the ocean itself as harbor for those who know how to navigate reality, swim through myth, and dive to live, not drown.

Mysteries of the deep call to us like sirens begging to redeem themselves from classical reputation; the ocean’s glowing horizon suggests that heaven and earth do indeed meet; thrashing waves promise an ecstasy beyond mortal description; yet all this we limit to poor imitation: small, constructed streams passing through faucets of differentiated human love. And all the while true love, like myriad deities that personify it – all seeing as well as all encompassing – compassionately and infinitely waits to be recognized amid our distractions of folly that include endless tempests of broken faucets.

We blind ourselves to true love primarily by personalizing yet objectifying human love through tunnel vision – my love for my family, my spouse, my child, my god, etc. – when in reality true love is cosmic: essence rather than emotion, existential rather than personal, practical rather than romantic, natural rather than effected, and spiritual rather than religious. Furthermore, “love,” as we commonly know it, is often a psychological maquillage applied over unattractive emotions and weak states of being, which of course are also personal.

Even the world’s great spiritual traditions endure evolving personalization and objectification as the respective beliefs and religions of their followers, religion being a form of romanticism in the classical sense of romantic as ideal. And certainly within such evolution human error is inevitably manifest as the proverbial road to hell paved with originally good intentions.

The intellectual and cultural biases and worldly agendas of organized religion can function to blind to true love the very seekers of truth – or lies, as the case may be – who yearn for a great “Passion” (Christian or otherwise) no differently than a schoolgirl yearns for a knight in shining armor, whatever his modern profession or attire. And, as always, true love, everywhere at once, stands witness from a manmade wayside as its pilgrims peripherally glimpse its truth while traveling that needless but popular road to hell.

Too commonly, our conditioned “romantic” ideals, whether courtly, marital, sexual, religious, artistic, political, etc., become their own conditioned saboteurs.

Consider the ideal of unconditional love, a uniform ideal highly regarded and encouraged throughout all spiritual traditions and religions. Indeed, as an ideal alone, unconditional love encompasses true love and vice versa, but as a practical aspiration, disillusionment is more likely to be encompassed for the reason that the state of being unconditional is as much a condition in itself as earthly love is conditionally bound to human experience and definition thereby.

Perhaps it is better to recognize, clarify, and ennoble conditions that by human nature are inevitable in our lives than to attempt to dismiss or deny conditions in pursuit of an ideal that exists without pursuit.

For example, a realistic mother would not say to her child, I love you only if you do what is right; rather, she would recognize that love is the primary inherent nature in nature, inclusive of all of us, and therefore fundamentally unaffected by given and received human love, and in fact fundamentally unaffected by the ambiguities of mundanely defined right and wrong; she would clarify and ennoble her conditional, maternal love by saying to her child, I love you because it is natural to love you, not because you are “mine;” however, because I am your mother, my ego, my purpose, my human love desires fulfillment by desiring the best for you, so to the best of my ability and with least expectations for any intended result, I shall provide you with the best conditions in which and with which to grow into a healthy, productive adult of strong character. This example of recognition, clarification, and ennoblement of conditional, maternal love would be just as applicable to a mother who might give up her child for adoption as for a “traditional” mother, a single mother, a feminist or post-feminist mother, or a lesbian mother.

We are all already “in love” literally and simply by existing: life is love, with no more to know and no effort to be made in this regard. It is the human realm of conditional realities, for good and ill, that incorporates knowledge and effort – and ideals.

To apply the conditions of our human love to a glorification of true love existing eternally within us and without is surely the point of living and also dying.

The majority of common, timeless mistakes made of human love could be prevented or corrected by recognizing, clarifying, and ennobling intentions and conditions rather than idealizing them. Unfortunately, this approach requires a certain degree of wisdom that is rarely present at the very time when we humans – and we women, still in particular – are most susceptible to romantic ideals.

The stage of life termed “youth,” so celebrated and coveted for its energy, not the least of which is libidinal, is commonly the stage over which passes drama after drama, comedy and tragedy, of multi-dimensional romantic idealism, disillusionment, and frustrated if not dissipated energy. Complicating the drama further is the addition and subtraction of thematic elements according to the times.

Where our grandmothers found protection in such virtues as modesty and such provisions as chaperones and women’s hotels, our mothers found liberation in denouncing strictures that protected women primarily for marriage and motherhood. Now, we as their descendents bear the overwhelming bequest of their combined dramas. The theme of our performance is unadulterated freedom, its disciplined use and furtherance as choice, regardless of whether freedom seems a gift in full or still a struggle. But beware we must, for there is no more formidable a responsibility than freedom, with no greater reward than its wise use – and no greater curse than its taking for granted or abuse.

Here in the West, we women of this generation can express ourselves, support ourselves, serve ourselves, all under the condition that we manage ourselves, for there is less and less to do this for us in a global society that grows increasingly liberal while at the same time increasingly challenged in its collective freedoms and increasingly influenced by corporate dominion and inundative “expert” media.

Elsewhere, women still struggle for even a small percentage of the relative freedom and equality enjoyed by women in the West, and thanks to organized activism and technological exchange, Western example can be brought to even the most remote of lives; hence, all the more reason to bear the responsibility of freedom with as much humility as pride and with no advantage ever taken for granted.

Perhaps in continuing to eulogize the mores of pre-feminist culture as well as the vanguard of feminist fundamentalism, we should nevertheless leave open some portal of opportunity for spontaneous resurrections for the reason that in managing ourselves we may gain more efficiency and suffer fewer ironies by better communing with our ghosts and elders and even emulating them appropriately rather than reinterpreting their legacies too freely or inappropriately. That is to say, were the genteel modesty, sexual reserve, and “soft” femininity of our Victorian foremothers, for example, really all that “bad” compared with the “bad” girl image that is so commercially popular today? And is it necessary that all women pursue that ambiguous yet fashionable goal of “having it all” simply because feminism broadened our educational and employment opportunities?

Active freedom is at once an individual state and a social state, for individuals are what form society; therefore, in the criteria of applied freedom it is paramount that every individual be able to choose the most personally practical ways for interpreting the offerings of a quantum society, past, present, and future. At the same time, it is well to remember that the only purpose of freedom is itself, as with true love of which freedom is part.

Women of every era have forged individual paths of freedom, many of which became collective paths, while other women freely chose to sentry tradition. Liberation has never been new and in fact is as much a tradition as tradition itself because freedom, like love, is free, and those women (and men) who best understand this precedence live most authentically, regardless of their times; so let us not condemn the definition of love to the faucets of our lives without at all times venerably acknowledging the greater, independent body of source that is love true and free.

Part II
Shoes that Cross the Bridge

Countless stories throughout the history of literature, stage, and cinema have addressed women as both practical romantics and idealistic romantics, feminists and traditionalists. Certainly countless true stories have been written and dramatized – history has never been nor will ever be short of the accounts of women who feel both conflict and synthesis between a traditional feminine role as nurturer, keeper, caregiver, lover, wife, mother and an otherwise individual role, a worldly role, however right or wrong, feminine or unfeminine it may appear to others’ eyes.

For this article, I have chosen two classic films that are personal favorites and that address the respective main characters, each female protagonist, as being confronted with two opposing standards of romantic love: creative self-expression versus earthly love, career versus marriage, art versus life.

Both stories end tragically, and one wonders, had the choices of each protagonist been different and/or had cinematic details influencing those choices been different, would the endings have been happier, still tragic, or just different.

Both stories are products of their times and yet timeless, especially with regard to their portrayals of art and life as reflections of each other, reverse-facing sides of one “coin,” no different from tragedy and comedy, the two masks of one drama that never face each other yet inseparably perform together.

The first film, from 1940, is titled Waterloo Bridge. It is one of three film adaptations of the 1931 stage play of the same title by Robert E. Sherwood. The 1940 adaptation is by far the most outstanding, in part because of the plot’s timely incorporation of the beginning of World War II.

The title has double significance in that the main character of the story, similar to Napoleon a hundred years earlier, “meets {her} Waterloo,” her defeat, at the place of the bridge, figuratively at the beginning of the film and literally at the end.

The film opens as a British colonel, on the eve of World War II, stops on Waterloo Bridge and remembers the ballerina that he met by chance on the bridge during an air raid when he was a young officer about to return to frontline duty in the First World War. As he remembers, he stares at a carved, painted trinket in his hand, a silly, grinning rabbit that had been the ballerina’s “good-luck” charm. From this point, the viewer joins the colonel in flashback.

As an air raid signal sounds, pedestrians are running for shelter, including the young officer and the ballerina who drops her purse, spilling its contents; she is almost hit by a vehicle as she retrieves her good-luck charm from the street. The officer, having stopped to assist her, chastises her for her carelessness and accompanies her to the nearest shelter. There, while waiting for the air raid to end, the two converse.

On a wall of the shelter hangs a poster that reads, “Madame Olga Kirowa International Ballet.” The ballerina reveals that she is a dancer with this company, and the officer, now captivated by the ballerina, comments that he wishes that he could see her dance. The ballerina invites him to the night’s performance, but he explains that he cannot attend because of a colonel’s dinner that he must attend.

In significant lines of dialogue as they discuss the war, the officer tells the ballerina, ” … There’s a certain amount of excitement about it {the war} … around the corner of every second, the fascination of the unknown; we’re both facing it this instant,” to which the ballerina replies, “We face the unknown in peace time too.”

“You’re rather matter-of-fact, aren’t you?” says the officer.

“Yes, you’re rather romantic, aren’t you?” replies the ballerina.

A few moments later, after the all-clear, as they are about to part, the ballerina gives her good-luck charm to the officer, wishing him safety. When he at first refuses to accept the charm, she tells him, “You’d better have it, I was beginning to rely on it too much.”

The irony here is that at this point the ballerina is not really smitten with the officer, rather she is just being kind; however, in making a gift to the officer of her good-luck charm, the objective metaphor for her own charm, she has invited the particular kind of flattery that will bring confusion to her already established definition of romance; for it is not until she sees the officer in the audience of that night’s performance that she feels attraction for him for the reason that he has made great effort (in missing a mandatory dinner) to see her and appreciate her as an artist. Where as a woman (in the air raid shelter) she was matter-of-fact, as an artist (on stage) she is romantic.

The officer sends a note backstage, asking the ballerina to dine with him after the performance. The pivotal scenes that follow are of significance not only to the story but as commentary to any philosophy of life and love.

The ballerina, among the corps de ballet, returns to the communal dressing room after the performance.

Then enters the mistress of the ballet, Madame Olga Kirowa, portrayed as a dramatic, authoritarian figure whose countenance, hairstyle, and attire convey a rigid personality even before she speaks.

Madame Kirowa begins to criticize the dancers one by one for their performances, ultimately dissatisfied with the entire corps’ performance. As she delivers her harsh critiques, the note from the officer is delivered, received by another dancer, the close friend and roommate of the ballerina. The friend tries to slip the note to the ballerina but is caught by Madame Kiowa who demands that the ballerina read the note aloud.

After hearing the note’s text, Madame Kiowa responds sternly (in thick Russian accent), “I must emphasize that if you want supper parties, officers, and the lights, then you shouldn’t be here with me but in other occupation. A war is no excuse for indecorum.”

Madame Kirowa then stands over the ballerina, forcing her to write back to the officer, declining his invitation.

Despite the note of refusal being received by the officer, the ballerina manages to meet him that night at a restaurant where they dine and dance.

Revealed to the officer, before their date, is that the “Old Dragon,” as the dancers call Madame Kirowa (she is also referred to as the “Old Broomstick”), forced the ballerina to write the note of refusal.

The “Old Dragon” has more to say the following morning after having discovered that the ballerina met the officer after all: “When I made you send the note to the military gentleman last night, it was you I was trying to protect.”

Of course, the viewer’s sympathies lie with the ballerina, certainly not with the “Old Dragon” who represents an obstacle to romance and love.

But is Madame Kirowa really an obstacle to romance and love, other than as an archetype for the benefit of the film’s bias?

Perceived another way, the “Old Dragon” could be the “Guardian Angel,” protectively nurturing romance and love by a different standard, in this case artistic.

Furthermore, had Madame Kirowa been portrayed as having a different appearance, even with the same personality, would she still be perceived as an antagonist?

Instead of a crone Victorian spinster, what if Madame Kirowa had been shown as a “beautiful” woman, of course older, but of the same delicate type of beauty as the ballerina herself, played by Vivien Leigh? Would then her discipline and advice still have been disregarded or perhaps given more credence by the dancers and viewer alike?

To interject, for the sake of consideration (no relation to the film’s plot), it is possible that not all the dancers may have viewed Madame Kirowa as the “Old Dragon” or “Old Broomstick,” the consideration being that in life we each perceive what we choose to perceive in support of our true desires, not our apparent desires. No doubt in art we perceive the same; hence, not every viewer would sympathize with the ballerina’s choice of life (and death) over art.

The film’s downturn comes after Madame Kirowa dismisses the ballerina.

Given that this dismissal leads to suffering and prostitution for the ballerina, followed by an untimely death, only the most masochistic of romantics would not regret that the ballerina had not heeded the advice of Madame Kirowa and stayed with the ballet or at least been prudent in her attraction for the officer, in the way that she was “matter-of-fact” in the air raid shelter before she felt attraction.

Hence, an indirect moral of the film’s story could be that romance and love are not always the typical “pas de deux” while typically being more often the results of proximity to circumstances and persons thereof than of objective attraction, or as the ballerina’s friend states, “C’est la guerre.” In other words, in the film, had the ballerina realized that the “winds of war” were influencing the times, and her unexpected attraction for the soon-to-leave officer as a member of the ballet’s audience that particular night was in reality a circumstantial reflection of her already passionate and adventurous love for dancing, she might have listened to Madame Kirowa who in her own way was a superior romantic in being pragmatic and dedicated as opposed to fanciful and impulsive. In Madame Kirowa’s own words, “A war is no excuse for indecorum.”

The second film The Red Shoes, released in 1948, is widely considered one of the greatest films in cinematic history. Different from Waterloo Bridge in being a complex art film rather than a straight drama, it is similar in being a romance about a ballerina; however, the romance in The Red Shoes is more distinctly that of idealism in art as opposed to realism in life, i.e., involvement between persons. In fact, art itself is the abstract protagonist of The Red Shoes and the characters, its antagonists.

The story, an allegory within an allegory within an allegory, centers around an ambitious ballerina whose artistic drive is matched by the impresario of an esteemed ballet company. The impresario recognizes in the ballerina the same creative force as resides in his own temperament and hence hires and covets the ballerina as his special ward for cultivating.

Whereas the ballerina in Waterloo Bridge is portrayed as an ethereal character, the ballerina in The Red Shoes is very much worldly and egoistic in a determination to bring high art to earthly expression.

Another interesting contrast: the subtleties, sentiments, and sorrows of Waterloo Bridge are conveyed enchantingly through the light and dark grays of black and white. The Red Shoes, filmed in vivid color, conveys its titular theme most distinctly through the ballerina herself whose artistic zeal shows as intensely and metaphorically as her red hair, red lips, and red shoes throughout the film: “She’s a flame” is a comment made by one of the film’s minor characters after seeing her dance.

Boris Lermontov, the impresario in The Red Shoes, is portrayed as imperially Russian, like Madame Kirowa, with the same authoritarianism, in fact more, the only difference being that in appearance Lermontov is not, like the “Old Dragon,” a disheartening representation of single-minded commitment to art, but rather a handsome endorsement of shrewd business sense coupled with inspired and disciplined creativity.

It could be said that Lermontov is more the main character of the film than his protégée, the ballerina; though she dances the ballet, he embodies it, in particular the ballet of the film’s title,The Red Shoes, which is created specially for the ballerina to showcase her talent, and in the context of the film’s allegory, to showcase the bittersweet romance between art and life, ideality and reality.

As in Waterloo Bridge, and as in life, circumstance incorporates conflict: the ballerina and the composer for The Red Shoes, in working together, fall in love and decide to marry, which infuriates Lermontov who also has fallen in love with the ballerina but unlike the composer is disciplined enough not to allow his personal feelings to interfere with his creative ambitions for art, his company, and his prima ballerina. A genuine though conditional idealist and also a businessman, Lermontov is more devastated in losing the creative and marketable asset of a gifted dancer than in losing any opportunity for personal indulgence in a potential love affair.

In an act of protective more than personal jealousy, though nevertheless irrational, Lermontov dismisses the composer who has nearly completed an original ballet for Lermontov’s company.

Because Lermontov owns the performance rights to The Red Shoes, he is able to take vengeance on the ballerina for marrying the composer and leaving the company by preventing her from elsewhere performing this ballet that has made her famous.

Although the viewer’s sympathies tend to lie with the ballerina, as in Waterloo Bridge, Lermontov is such a charismatic, pivotal character that in comparison with Madame Kirowa (who, though equally significant, is only a supporting character) it is less easy to dislike Lermontov as an obstacle to romance for the very reason that he embodies romance by intelligent and high standards; in fact, it is more likely that in perceiving Lermontov as arrogant, rude, seemingly heartless, creatively and monetarily avaricious, one also perceives him as no more demanding of anyone in his company or in his presence than he is of himself; that is to say, he is impressive proof of the practical value of his own philosophy and discipline and hence, respectable even when unlikable.

Moreover, as with Waterloo Bridge, no one in the film or watching the film can say that the ballerina is not given fair warning as good advice.

For example, when the ballerina is still in the corps, not yet groomed for a principle (though Lermontov has already secretly chosen her for prima ballerina), she overhears Lermontov say, ” . . . I have no interest in any {prima ballerina} imbecile enough to get married. You cannot have it both ways. The dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great dancer. Never. ”

A choreographer/dancer standing nearby replies, “That is all very fine, very pure and fine, but you can’t alter human nature.”

Lermontov has the last word: “No? I think you can do even better than that, you can ignore it.”

If one can think past the melodrama in this dialogue, one can understand the allegory: contrast and conflict between ocean and faucet, cosmic love and personal love.

Later, Lermontov speaks with the ballerina just before appointing her prima ballerina of his company: “I want to talk to you about your future. When we first met, … you asked me a question to which I gave a stupid answer. You asked me whether I want to live, and I said yes. Actually, . . . I want more, much more. I want to create, to make something big out of something little, to make a great dancer out of you. But first I must ask you the same question: what do you want from life? To live?”

“To dance” is the ballerina’s reply.

Lermontov remembers this reply, almost as a bond between the ballerina and himself, even after she leaves the company to be with her husband, the dismissed composer.

In knowing himself, Lermontov knows that the ballerina’s passion will soon become frustrated with the narrow expression of connubial love compared with the broad expression of dance as artistically inspired love for a worldwide audience – faucet in contrast with ocean. Lermontov uses this knowledge to lure the ballerina back to performing The Red Shoes, the ballet that is the allegory for the film’s allegory derived from the Hans Christian Anderson fable of similar title about a girl possessed and consumed by desire to dance.

Near the end of the film, the ballerina is forced to choose between her husband and her art: life or dance, faucet or ocean.

Both her husband and Lermontov do love her, but of course conditionally: her husband desires her as a trophy wife to be a traditional wife, while Lermontov desires her as a promotable trophy in his own collection of achievements as impresario.

And what are the ballerina’s own conditions – realized, clarified, and ennobled as part of true love?

As her husband solemnly states, after the ballerina tells him that she loves him, “But you love those {the red shoes} more.”

The ballerina’s state of romantic confusion compels her to suicide, and as in Waterloo Bridge, the tragedy is enacted with mystic implication, as though the red shoes themselves dance the ballerina to death.

An interesting irony: Moira Shearer, the dancer who portrayed the ballerina in The Red Shoes, and who died this year, 2006, ended her career with London’s Royal Ballet at the peak of her fame to marry and have children. By contrast, Vivien Leigh, the actress who portrayed the ballerina in Waterloo Bridge, married at age 19 and before she was 20 had a child, her only child, but soon discovered that an international career was what she felt to be her true calling.

And what of today’s “romantic?” How does the modern woman define and organize her personal conditions without making faucets of them and without missing the point of true love?

Great satisfaction should exist for the modern woman in knowing that she has many choices available to her and the freedom with which to make them, but of course, she has as many challenges as choices, for the two are parallel and proportionate, even when seemingly disproportionate.

A tried and true means for managing both choices and challenges is basic discipline.

The more choices and challenges that are created by a society, the more needed is individual and collective discipline as prevention and management of chaos in two forms: passive paralysis and active avarice, both resulting from an availability of too much from which to choose and/or an incurring of too many challenges as consequence.

As my own Russian ballet teacher insisted, “Discipline is the soul of the ballet.”

For that matter, discipline is the soul of just about everything, including the appropriate and intentional forgetting of discipline (as different from lack of discipline), or to paraphrase the Delphic Oracle’s advice, in all things moderation – including moderation.

Following, I shall conclude this article with my personal “seven pillars” of discipline (in no specific order of importance), but first I should like to state that although I have written this article as part of an exhibit for my own generation, it is my great hope that the young women of succeeding generations will read these thoughts and benefit from them in the same way that I, as a girl seeking guidance and answers, benefited from the writings of women whose experiences preceded mine.

1. Always be acutely aware of your times and their themes and seek to make the most of these realities. Your greatest opportunity is yourself in the “here and now,” wherever and whenever you are. At the same time, remain true to yourself by cultivating creative, individual, free thinking, with little regard for cultural or peer pressures, especially of a “faddish” nature. Think classically yet creatively, with modern twist, and remember that there is no greater constant or classic than love itself and hence no greater resource when love is recognized as a pervasive energy rather than a personal emotion.

2. Keep open your mind, your senses, your life overall, as much as possible at all times. Embrace vulnerability as opportunity, not weakness, for being vulnerable means that you are at least able to be reached. Also, do not confuse responsibility as an attitude with responsibility as a state, usually a burdened state. A responsible attitude engenders freedom of thought and action, even in the midst of great responsibility. Unnecessary responsibilities incurred unresponsibly only inhibit freedom, which restricts life. Paradoxical as it may seem, disciplined responsibility is more exercised in maintaining an open and simple life than in becoming restricted to the juggling act of an overcommitted life. Stay attuned to the free-flowing ocean, which despite its vastness is self-managing, as opposed to faucets, which must be maintained by the owners who install them.

3. Give yourself plenty of opportunity to commit to yourself and to your interests and talents just as you might commit to another person in relationship or marriage.

At one time, a requisite of certain professions was singlehood; that is rarely so now, but nevertheless, singlehood remains a powerful means of accomplishment when well applied and appreciated.

Giving yourself time to form a loving, reliable, and productive relationship with yourself allows you to best understand and fulfill your purpose on earth, thus contributing to others on earth, and also preparing you for relationship with one other, when or if a time for partnership arrives.

And what if such a time does not arrive – by choice or chance?

Remember that the days of the “spinster” or “old maid” are gone. One would hardly label the current U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, a spinster.

While Madame Kirowa and Boris Lermontov are overdramatic characters for the sake of fiction, they nonetheless represent that single-minded (and single), unwavering disposition of authority that most people automatically dislike but at the same time inherently crave, if only as cause for rebellion, which is often as good a cause as any.

Unfortunately, such characters, if not fictional, seem relegated to the past because the standard of discipline that they represent is no longer highly regarded. No matter, though, because one can become one’s own impresario, as need demands, one’s own teacher, exponent, critic, or tyrant.

Ballerina Extraordinaire Suzanne Farrell, among the greatest dancers of the twentieth century, gives this advice to her twenty-first-century students: ” . . . You have to be your own cheerleader, you have to create your own motivation.”

Good advice for anyone, and what does freedom’s ever-expanding, ever-consolidating smorgasbord offer but the opportunity not only to choose one’s path but self-create the motivation to follow it. The only discipline: be neither a glutton nor a Buridan’s Ass in partaking of the smorgasbord with self-reliance.

4. Try friendship more often in more ways.

First and foremost, establish closest friendship with yourself, and by extension, with “God,” meaning the Universe, the “Force,” Natural Law or whatever name you may wish to attribute to that indisputable supreme power of pattern that takes matters into its own “hands” whenever necessary, regardless of people’s personal beliefs or disbeliefs and especially regardless of formal religious beliefs or disbeliefs.

Most religions, at least superficially, encourage a master-servant relationship with “God” or gods, which is mortally disempowering in that supplication or winning favor becomes the primary spiritual, if not material, approach to gaining earthly blessings and a sense of divine love.

Perhaps atheists have the better idea in the sense that they at least think that they are able to act amorally; only the results of their actions prove moral or immoral.

In a sense, winning favor with “God” has similar implication to winning favor in courtship: persons try to woo and win each other as romantic partners in order to feel desirable, blessed, and loved.

How unnecessary!

How much effort is wasted in trying to attract and gain what preexists and is therefore already inherently possessed.

To be alive is to be essentially desirable, blessed, and loved; everything else is bounty.

Friendship can actually come closest to the ideal of unconditional love in that, when genuine, it is free of both vested interest (the practical element) and vested intimacy (the romantic element).

To quote Anthony Storr, “It is only when we no longer compulsively need someone {or something or a ‘God’} that we can have a real relationship with them.”

Try expanding friendship exponentially. Try going about your daily life with yourself on one side of you, rather than alone inside of you, and “God” on the other side, rather than up in the “heavens” looking down and lording over. Then try friendship with not only those to whom you feel obviously attracted for friendship but also those to whom you feel attracted romantically, and even those for whom you have no attraction whatsoever – you may be surprised!

Many marriages or relationships end because the two persons were enthusiastic sexual partners or ambitious business partners but lackluster friends; and paradoxically, many couples become friends once they part or divorce.

Genuine friendship transcends duty, legalities, and protocols; its only condition is free will, and even better, it is not limited to only two people!

When really considered, we all at heart need friendship, with ourselves, with others, and with nature and the universe, more than we actually need any of the “formal” relationships that civilization has conventionalized, historically for convenience, recourse, and profit more than idealistic reasons.

5. Neither overestimate as good or bad nor underestimate as good or bad any particular stage of life.

Consider that little girls, the world over, in their innocent fascination with seasoned femininity, play “dress up” with makeup, only to years later spend time and money pursuing that innocent skin that did not need time, money, or makeup.

What fools we mortals be!

If one considers life as a quantum whole, not a sum of experiential parts, then there are no stages of life, just as there are no rewards or punishments – only consequences.

To restate the importance of discipline, it can be a veritable miracle worker in effecting and accruing consequences that are more rewarding than punishing and in maintaining a salvational balance between realism and romanticism, practicality and frivolity, all of which are important in different ways at different times.

Use discipline to live the whole of life, in on-going present tense, with little importance placed on its parts. Remember that time-defined stages and statistics fundamentally do not exist; rather they are manmade points of reference for the sake of measurement of one form or another.

The only requisite for a human existence is a pulse, and the only requisite for living is to usefully maintain that pulse through constructive thoughts and actions; therefore, one stage of life is essentially as good as another, or in other words, a pulse is a pulse. It is never too early or too late to make the most of life’s rhythm and start dancing to one’s own beat or to change the “timing” of that beat.

As Einstein proved, time is not only manmade but relative, and as Einstein himself said, “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”

6. Use discipline absolutely to guard your health.

The body alone is a machine, the mind, its computer, the spirit, its programmer, and the soul, its technician.

Feed the machine with simple, wholesome fuel, keep it well-oiled, its parts strong and supple; program its computer with positive, creative, task-specific disciplines; maintain strong firewall and virus protection against negativity and fallacious distractions; regularly, permanently delete outworn thoughts, habits, and belongings while keeping open to new ideas, which include old ideas redeveloped and newly applied; in general, keep open to the worldwide web of possibilities, potentials, and choices, and you will find that essentially you will have changed little over “time,” and what changes there are will be for the better.

7.  Respect imagination, which is everything!

We, and everything around us defining our world, are products of imagination; all creation was and is conceived as a natural potential or a human thought before becoming a person, place, or thing.

Unfortunately, the active human imagination can be its own worst enemy.

Consider that a complex allegory of basic sexuality in the sense of natural opposites scintillates around us at every moment: masculinity is equatable with light, heat, activity; femininity equatable with dark, cold, passivity – examples are endless of course.

All opposites, as dynamics and phenomena, at once stand alone, merge, and reproduce, creatively defining the natural and civilized world. It is only human imagination that interpretively makes romance of all this; therefore, be aware (not necessarily beware) that what is imagined, by its very nature, is often more alluring, and in this allure more fulfilling, than is “reality.”

Imagination, like love and as part of love, is a vast resource, and the more recognition and appreciation given to it through its constructive use, the more enriched, colorful, and livable life becomes in return. But the practical “key” – the condition – to this return is discipline; one must recognize, clarify, and ennoble the use of imagination in order to open to more of it as its own creative and practical reward.

Any dream, even “wildest dreams,” can be manifested and lived provided that one pays the price of condition without corrupting the ideal that first inspired the dream.

As any dancer will tell, there is great transpersonal ecstasy in interpreting music spiritually and emotionally through one’s body. Equally there is great agony in performing this interpretation with such artistry that the agony is obliterated in the body of the dancer and therefore obliterated to the eyes of an audience so that only pure beauty is expressed and seen. Such approach bears similarity to the Christian concept of transubstantiation in which ordinary bread and wine are believed to become consecrated into the actual body and blood of Christ who suffered on the “stage” of a cross in an allegory of human performance that offers little, if any, rehearsal despite timeless, renowned repertory.

The same agony is essentially experienced in any life pursuit; in fact, life itself can be a quantitative agony without some qualitative force to balance the suffering and consecrate the ordinariness; therein lies the purpose of idealism, romanticism, imagination – all related “bare particulars” of the human heart and mind, and all subject to worldly corruption if not defined and regulated with discipline, the best discipline being self-discipline.

I conclude with a quote, with reference to the film The Red Shoes its main character, the ballerina referred to as “a flame:”

A candle can only produce more light by lighting other candles. A consuming passion provides “illumination” for others, and yet only by consuming itself can a candle brighten the way.” (from Magical Tattwas by Dr. John Mumford)

Yet a further final word: indeed, the road to hell can be paved with good intentions but so too can the road to heaven (on earth) be thus paved; hence, never allow agony, discipline, or virtue to become vice, nor ecstasy to become addiction; and know that right now, in these times, imagination has created the invention of a candle that never burns down or out.

May your chosen shoes dance on and on . . . bridging any and every challenge . . . eternally . . .

Riches of Simplicity
– Mary Jo Magar –

Overwhelming the current culture is a vast money media that publicizes and commercializes itself as a provider of financial information and guidance.

Though true that knowledge is power, information alone is not necessarily knowledge or power, especially when untempered by wisdom.

Our age of global information exchange offers tremendous proven benefits (the Imagining Ourselves project being a case in point); however, an unfortunate effect of deluging financial information, often contrived, is the abuse of both knowledge and power manifested as more economic confusion and mass excess and greed than would ever be possible without corporations, institutions, and individuals making fortunes by showing others why and how to make fortunes.

Historically, money has been called a “false god,” yet to live is to worship money, at once willingly and unwillingly, through need and desire for money. The more inflated the world economy becomes, the more mandatory is this worship, hence the ever-implicit, ever-evolving “religion” in economics. Indeed, inflation further elevates money to deific proportions of omnipotence, omnipresence, and especially dangerous virtuality in that money is never really real but represented as cash, credit cards, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, commodities, etc., and unfortunately even as personal net worth, despite scientific estimation of a human body’s actual value at $4.50 (USD).

We all need and want to live well, and we all deserve to live well, but the catch or trick to living well lies in the definition of “well.”

Of course, different people have different notions of living well, but all people, even remote-living peoples, become inadvertently though consciously engaged in “comparative living” in which the definitions and objectives of living well become influenced by elaborations and limitations of a cultural, communal, familial and/or religious nature.

Therefore, if one were to attempt to reduce the definition of living “well” to an independent fundamental – some sort of equation with which to bridge confusion at any social or economic level – I wonder, what would it be?

In my own life, I have settled on two practical equations for living well, the first being a complete philosophy embodied in just two words – simplicity and common sense – and the second equation being a complete science embodied in Einstein’s E=MC squared.

To address the first equation, it is amazing how well one can live for today and invest for tomorrow by living simply and applying common sense to all one’s dealings including one’s financial endeavors – or adventures, as the case may be.

Consider the basic needs of living: food, shelter, clothing.

There are places in the world where these needs are not met even simply; such places offer nothing to the people in them, and yet in comparison (surprisingly not contrast) other places offer too much of enough.

The “successful” urbanite whose lungs are hungry for oxygen depleted by smog-cocooned gridlock and whose body is glutted with nutritionless food and whose monthly debt towers as daily threat is just as starving, deficient, and impoverished as any plainly deprived counterpart in an underdeveloped nation. Perhaps the only difference between the suffering affluent and the suffering poor is that the affluent have better means with which to change their situations – and potentially better the situations of the poor; however, for unthinking sufferers, rich or poor, doom is the bodement, with mercy favoring the poor.

Og Mandino, author of The Greatest Salesman in the World and A Better Life, wrote “… true security lies not in the things one has but in the things one can do without.”

Modern culture does not encourage doing without “things” but rather doing without the ease and peace inherent in simple living; in fact, satisfaction and peace are the enemies of a commercial society despite being objectives of a free society in which commercialism is allowed to express and thrive, presumably like everyone and everything else.

The United States was founded on the beautiful American Dream originally (and simply) defined as freedom of opportunity – all opportunity, not just extrapolative free enterprise.

The ideal of “liberty and justice for all” became an international standard, a flag of freedom hoisted as proof that collective development, including economic development, is a result of individuals being free to fulfill their respective dreams and thereby nurture a greater or national dream. Over time, however, the ideal lost its innocence. A new flag became sewn and hoisted – that of money alone.

The inevitable corruption of free enterprise by cold capitalism and its contagion has distorted the American Dream through exploitation of its ideal as a marketable commodity capable of suffusing other commodities – even charities – with artificial promises of expanse and progress, towering optimism, and embracing wealth.

Yes, this new empire of economic globalism has everything to offer but nothing to give. Money is its pulse, greed, its survival, and the only defense against its seductive demands is the power of refusal, which is an incorruptible part of the great benefit of individual choice still made possible through a free society and through ideals such as the American Dream.

We moderns embody a perverse trinity in the religion of economics: we are the creators, the sustainers, and the victims in many a money mania.

We popularize “celebrity chefs” who complicate our tastes and our pantries despite our knowledge that simple diets, “peasant” diets, have kept people in health and happiness for centuries.

We patronize supermarkets and superstores, all aspects of the super money market that is indeed super in the crafty ways that it convinces us to rob ourselves of the very thing that we think we most need – money – yet we pride ourselves on being good “shoppers” and getting the best “deal” when in truth the best deal of all is a peaceful, simple life guided by common sense.

Certainly, there is joy in luxury as celebration and treat because that is the point of authentic luxury, to diverge from simplicity, not to replace it. As Juvenal in his Satires counseled, “voluptates commendat rarior usus,” which translates literally as “rare indulgence increases pleasures.”

How easy it can be to fall prey to our culture’s temptations and proddings and indulge in “luxury” (what we are told is luxury) too much, too often, and too impulsively with the excuse that “the devil made us do it” while forgetting or else interpreting too literally the statement “In God we trust,” the very motto of the United States of America, printed and engraved on U.S. money, though not without controversy regarding religious freedom. Perhaps there should be less controversy about what is on money and more controversy about how it is spent – nationally, corporately, and personally.

Finally, to address the second equation for living well, E=MC squared, the idea here is that if energy and matter are equivalents, then energy and money must be especially equivalent because, as mentioned previously, all money is virtual (energetic) in being represented in its possession and trade. Therefore, the business of money has more to do with conceptuality than actuality, more to do with human nature – the energies of emotion, thought, and will – than to do with any mined or minted objective reality.

I firmly believe that the location of the great “Money Tree” that we all seek is within each of us individually, and the only directional map needed to discover the buried roots of this treasure is that of self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-reliance.

In this belief too is presented authentic equality, for the “roots of wealth,” literally and metaphorically, are as available to any woman as to any man (of any class or race) who chooses to recognize the roots of wealth and cultivate them; that is to say, favoritism has no real power when one’s earning power ultimately derives from oneself, one’s self-knowledge and well-applied capabilities, rather than from any social, corporate, or national standard.

Furthermore, and in conclusion, it is most important to recognize exactly what wealth is. Is wealth money or is it the virtual feeling of having money or more precisely, is it the real feeling of abundance – in general, in living, and in being free to live and express as one chooses?

At best, money is a means of creatively recognizing the abundance that money symbolizes. At worst, money is a potent distraction from recognizing abundance that already exists existentially but also potentially for trade and profit, though not necessarily in the financial sense alone.

Like Della in O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” whose sole material wealth was her hair, we each individually and through our respective cultures have attributes that define us as wealthy regardless of whether we monetarily trade upon these attributes or not.

In Della’s case, her existential wealth was her abundance of heart in selling her abundance of hair to buy a platinum fob chain as a Christmas gift for her husband who, also being abundant of heart, sold his watch to buy combs for his wife’s hair: hence, example of the synonymy between “blessing” and “wealth” and further example of the ever-implicit religion in economics – at its spiritual best.

The Individual Voice of the Heart
– Mary Jo Magar –

I have always been curious to know the motives for people’s choices in life, and I have wondered how great a percentage of these motives were unconsciously influenced as opposed to consciously based, socio-culturally conditioned as opposed to individually inspired.

So often it is difficult to recognize, much less claim, a thought or idea as original because one’s senses are continually bombarded with stimuli, overwhelming the mind with overt and covert messages of universal and timeless proportions, though not necessarily of universal and timeless truths.

In the broadest sense, there exists no primarily original thought or idea for the reason that every thought and idea occurs, of course, within the confines of human experience which itself is limited to a certain spectrum of repeating themes, much like in the zodiac wheel of Western astrology that reduces all life experience to a mere twelve houses or the major arcana of the tarot deck that illustrate human evolution in twenty-two stages with the greater part of the deck as minor commentary.

In the context of the individual, however, every thought or idea is original when specifically new to the person subjectively conceiving it or for the first time objectively experiencing it despite any number of predecessors.

Indeed, the five senses are the primary conduits for human experience and thus material inspiration; however, it is ironic that the mystic, mythological “sixth sense,” when trusted, is more reliably real in delivering the kind of definitive inspiration most needed by every individual when seeking motives for correct choice and action and ultimately antecedents for a best possible future.

It could be said that the physical senses are resources while the “sixth sense” is THE SOURCE, perhaps best described, best humanly metaphorized, as the individual voice of the heart.

Interestingly, the nature of this voice is what is often in the West called “a woman’s intuition” while other cultures draw similar association through traditional beliefs in feminine inherency or primacy in nature, religion, and worship.

While it may be true that intuition and many other archetypal functions of the human heart belong to the receptive feminine nature, we all nonetheless incorporate elements of the feminine and the masculine in our holistic physical/mental/emotional/spiritual makeup; therefore, a perhaps somewhat utopian hypothesis is that the more universally expanded women’s roles and lifestyles become, the more opportunities are thus created for a diverse yet balanced society in which the masculine proactive force becomes as well represented through feminine expression as the receptive feminine nature, in turn, becomes represented through masculine expression.

Fundamentally, however, the voice of the heart is not a matter of gender, especially gender as a form of collectivism, but a matter of individuality, and in any culture, in any time, it is often the individual who is most at stake.

A dominant and unfortunate condition of modern life, with all its burdensome formative history and fantastical uncertainties for the future, is that men and women have gained virtual equality in the amount of individual conflict that they collectively, culturally endure in being deafened to the individual voice of the heart.

Little wonder that heart disease is rampant, particularly in the West where this vital organ can hardly hear a word of its own truth over all the noise that shouts from the desperate mouths of corporate greed, political fanfaronade, and artificial intelligence.

The din of the past, personal and impersonal, gathers arpeggio in its chord, and the present can seem so deafening that the pulse of the future becomes unrecognizable as the individual voice of the heart.

I remember a true story that I once read about five generations of women who all used a specific type of oven pot for baking. Birth of a sixth generation was approaching when the fifth-generation mother-to-be, upon query from her individual voice of the heart and ergo, upon research, discovered that no great mystique or even deep tradition lay in ritual, hand-down use of the oven pot; rather, the initial woman of the family had used such a pot only because her particular oven would accommodate no other.

This story, among others, greatly impressed upon me the moral of independent thinking, the idea that whenever one becomes engaged in habitual thinking or behavior that in its lineage leads not inwardly to the heart but outwardly to protocols, commercialism, or expectations of one form or another, then one should stop, consider, listen to the individual voice of the heart, and then with that voice question, for in questioning one may discover and ultimately destroy a long tyranny of “shoulds.”

Where exists a realm, a place or culture without “shoulds,” as in “I should be, do, or have . . . ?

Morally there are the “shoulds” of being a good person and even the “shoulds” of being a bad person.

The rebel (with or without a cause) who brandishes nonconformism is no less of a conformist than conformists, for rebellion also has its “shoulds,” just as honor exists among thieves.

A majority of “shoulds” are inherited, as in the aforementioned story of the five generations of women, and as with the ancient belief in “the sins {or virtues} of the father” being visited upon his sons and daughters for them to further bear and bequeath.

Consider the “shoulds” of being a woman, depending on where the woman is being.

In America, many women feel that they “should” be, look, and act younger, even when they are already young. In many Asian countries, women lie about their ages, making themselves older, because they feel that they “should” have more respect in these cultures which value age.

Moreover, standards of feminine beauty that create “shoulds” in women’s thinking – and habits in women’s behavior, toilette, and economics – are relative to the culture that breeds the standards and the women enslaved or liberated by them.

The Hans Christian Andersen story “The Ugly Ducking” is a most beautiful, universal and timeless allegory for enlightening all “ugly” women to the fact that they might well free themselves from a tyranny of “shoulds” and resulting sadness simply by changing cultures rather than changing themselves.

Here I speak from experience in having been tauntingly called “the milk bottle” by my darker-skinned relations and adolescent peers, until I became a swan – literally – in ballet class when amid swarthy Russian girls I was admired for my anemic appearance that never required rice powder for white effect.

Certainly it is not always practical, feasible, advisable or even effective to change to another environment solely to change one’s experience, but certainly one can change one’s thinking, the origin of one’s motives, wherever one happens to be, and it does seem, as has been metaphysically proven, that when one changes one’s thinking, suddenly circumstance and even one’s preexisting environment begin to change in accordance with new, more individual thoughts.

Never is it a waste to subject every detail of every influence of culture to the individual voice of the heart and thus examine one’s thinking and motives by listening to the response of this voice while encouraging the heart’s ready volume to increase and ultimately predominate over so much noise that affects all of us these days.

There are few rewards in life as great as hearing the healthy individual voice of the heart speak out and sing out, loud and clear, with the pride and triumph of its own rhythm, its own choices in life.

I conclude with a quotation from Carl Gustav Jung:

“ . . . I say to any beginner: learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories, but your own creative individuality alone must decide.”

We, Technology
– Mary Jo Magar –

As much as each of us likes to be a unique individual, and as much as each of us is a unique individual, we are, throughout life, subject to collectivism of various forms and degrees, which functions to bond us to impersonal, statistical realities while at the same time imbuing us personally with a broad, perhaps abstract, but nevertheless distinct sense of community.

Certainly generation is among the broadest and yet most designative collectivisms, never more evident than in a group setting of persons, young or old, of a particular generation who perceptibly share a common “culture” however vastly their individual cultures, backgrounds, and personalities may differ.

To analogize with music, it is as though the individuals of a generation are variations on a theme, a singular yet polyphonic presentation of a mode and mood of progress in time, repeating and reiterating with harmonic, melodic, contrapuntal, rhythmic, timbral, and orchestral differences throughout the generation’s movement into history and throughout the lives of the individuals composing the generation.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that we commonly identify a generation by its style of music, among other distinctions.

In Western astrology, the “sign and seal” upon a generation are revealed through the zodiac signs of the outermost planets, particularly Neptune and Pluto and to a lesser extent Uranus, which changes signs approximately every seven years.

The sign position of Neptune is believed to indicate the spiritual destiny of a generation.

The sign position of Pluto, the slowest moving of all known planets (astronomically demoted to dwarf planet as of August 2006 but no less significant astrologically), is believed to indicate the historic destiny of a generation in the sense of how the collective unconscious or mass thinking of a generation becomes expressed through the conscious lives of the generation’s individuals and hence, through the events and produced materials of these individuals’ full adulthood.

The generation in focus as the Imaging Ourselves project encompasses Neptune in two signs, Scorpio and Sagittarius, and Pluto in two signs, Virgo and Libra.

The Imagining Ourselves project itself is actually a generational manifestation – a pioneering collectivism – that practically illustrates the aforementioned astrological influences.

To briefly elucidate, Neptune’s sign position indicates the kind of cultural expression manifested by the imaginative and creative faculties of a generation. The sign Scorpio, through its traditional association with sexuality, is modernly associated with gender issues and equality as power. Sagittarius is the “global” sign representative of a worldwide exchange of cultures and ideas, inclusive of publishing. Hence, behold an uncanny, predated interpretation of the name “International Museum of Women” and the title Imagining Ourselves: A Gobal Generation of Women.

Virgo is the sign of practical application in any field, with modern emphasis on technology, and Libra is the sign of art, justice, human relations, and social expression.

Again, the Imagining Ourselves project is a literal embodiment of its women’s generational indicators, astrological and otherwise.

Presentation of a global generation of women as an interactive exhibit expands the mass significance and use of technology (Pluto in Virgo) from detached science to human art (Pluto in Libra), thus creating a simultaneously objective and subjective human experience of universal proportions and mass involvement and appreciation.

Inspiration from this project is in part my reason for choosing technology as my answer to the question “What defines your generation?”

Technology is more than knowledge, tools, and systems for improving the quality of people’s lives; rather technology IS people – all of us – who participate in creating and using anything or any dynamic that reflects and aggrandizes the true power of the collective and individual mind.

Technology is an allegory for human evolution.

No realm of existence or human experience is independent of the need for an inherent or developed technology to engender and maintain progress.

Nature is technology, religion is technology, relationships are technology.

Unfortunately, crime, conflict, and war are also technology, and when we use our creative, constructive powers to sophisticate misdeeds and destruction, we are perhaps not always immediately – or individually – diminished by the achievement alone, but ultimately we each and all suffer the consequences of collective self-insult and self-abuse.

We are the first generation of women and men to be able to commonly recognize technology as ourselves, our own physics: the subjective deployment and management of human energy in parallel with free energy’s objective application through matter.

We are also the first generation compelled to personally and professionally recognize the vital importance for developing and maintaining standards and codes of ethics within the use of technology, particularly the Internet where “virtuality” can and has become an excuse and a means for arbitrary freedoms.

It is our generation that will substantially expand the vocabulary of technology and more importantly expand the fields of law, security, and intelligence in accordance with Internet growth and the subsequent questions and challenges of intellectual property and virtual crime and its prevention.

Our preceding generation fostered a male-dominated field of technology that served only professional, corporate, and institutional domains.

Our succeeding generations will take for granted at least the matrices of our technology as it exists today, just as we, as children, took for granted television that our parents and grandparents literally viewed as a phenomenon.

Our generation is the first to know technology as pervasive – publicly, personally, and casually – not only with increasing mainstream ease, but with all the tout and enthusiasm and fascinating problems and perplexities that accompany the focal progress in any epoch.

To quote D. T. Suzuki, who introduced Zen Buddhism to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” We of this time in technology are neither absolute beginners nor absolute experts (if such ever exist in any field), which constitutes the perfect status for resourceful and adventurous experimentation.

Even more particularly why I feel that technology defines my generation is the influential presence of the personal computer to the point of animistic experience on a daily, or at least regular, basis.

As the first generation of young adults to name the computer among our personal belongings and household appliances, we have before us more than just a technological tool and more than just an allegory for human evolution, as previously stated; in fact, we have an actual, reciprocal metaphor for ourselves and our universe, individually and collectively.

What is the human body but an intricate technological system programmed in its functions by some divine intelligence determined to share its miraculous powers as manifest energy? And what is the human mind but exactly this energy, an aspect of universal consciousness – cyberspace – where thoughts and ideas are at once preconceived and reconceived to exist virtually as ever-ready and ever-new real potentials long before they become the realities of human expression or physical mass?

Like the legendary wishing machine in G. Harry Stine’s Mind Machines, the Internet, upon being given a thought by computer, can release that thought both to and from space, search a target, and return a desired result, even if the result is no result. Hence, what is the Internet but the energy of human minds progressively defining it?

When each of us meets our own gaze in the mirror, what are those eyes but “Windows,” software to the soul, and thus windows to the world, true monitors that see more and reflect more than we could ever imagine.

Or can we imagine . . . ourselves?

In Defense of Conflict: Adaptability as Peace
– Mary Jo Magar –

I had been wondering how to begin this article until this early morning when I heard the “clatter” of shouting voices, and like the father in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, “I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.”

My new neighbors, a couple, across the street were having an argument in their driveway; though I could not distinguish words, I listened and watched as the woman argued her way toward her car, climbed in and sped away toward the dawn, leaving the man shouting after her.

I felt uneasy in having witnessed the argument, and I felt sorry for my neighbors – not only the two that had argued, but all the others who had probably been awakened and watched as I had.

My first thought was what a waste argument is; as the yogis say, it “boils the blood,” leads to ill will and no good end. However, on second thought, I reconsidered, remembering times in my life when argument had been (or at least seemed to be) my only means for change – justified change – and in fact did lead to good end as well as good will, but ultimately, once the blood-boiling stage had past. Further thought extended to this month’s theme “War and Dialogue,” and I considered how argument as human dialogue is a primacy of war regardless of scale – personal, civil, global – as well as the true identity of diplomacy, which associates itself with peace even though self-evidence would indicate that natural peace would be unnecessitating of diplomacy.

As with every human dynamic, result is determined not by the dynamic itself but by the intention with which it is put into effect; hence, argument in and of itself is not always a waste, neither is war, proof being the many nations of the world that would not exist as we know them had their identities and/or independence not been gained through the means, the dynamic, of war.

Even the principle of nonresistance requires that one resist the impulse to resist, or in the words of Gandhi, “My nonresistance is active resistance in a different plane. Nonresistance to evil does not mean absence of any resistance whatsoever but it means not resisting evil with evil but with good. Resistance, therefore, is transferred to a higher and absolutely effective plane.” Perhaps therein also lies a utopian, though certainly not impractical, reinterpretation of Orwell’s dystopian slogan “War is Peace.” Moreover, perhaps peace itself, in general, could be better served by regarding it, not as a human ideal to be won, much less preserved, through competitive contrivances of conflict, sacrifice, and compromise, but as a natural state that actually prevails even in the midst of its seemingly opposite effect however unnatural, prevalent, or necessary.

Lyrics to an old Christian song state, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me . . . ” which is exactly the point: to let peace be, with least interference, even when interference must also be.

Rather than overemphasizing, over-idealizing, or over-contributing to war and peace by trying to outwit one with the other, a more realistic, practical approach might be to simply adapt to the natural order of things in the same way that animals adapt to environmental changes and circumstances over which they have no control – but they do have the instincts for attempting to control their survival. When floods, winds, and other havocs of nature wage war upon the earth, animals seek to adapt to their own survival – no less a war in itself.

We, of course, as thinking animals have a greater degree of control over our environments and circumstances, but as is so often the case, our “rational” thinking, as opposed to our intuition as the higher expression of animal instinct, becomes our secret enemy in life’s endless “holy” wars (all of which are allied, seemingly unbeknownst), and hence, we often forfeit or waste our personal power and our humanity by complicating rather than adapting to what is.

It should be stated that to adapt is not the same as surrender, resignation, or even compromise – not at all! To adapt is to serve circumstance and allow circumstance to serve you – but not in the cannibal sense! Adaptability is indeed opportunism of a sort, to survive and thrive with what is available and necessary, including conflict and resistance if those are the circumstances, but the nature of the opportunism is natural, nature itself, as opposed to devised.

True, a fine line could be drawn between adaptability and conformity, but not really if one makes distinction between consciousness and ignorance; that is to say, the motive of conformity is usually based on ignorance (or at least limited understanding), which is not always bliss but too often fear, while adaptability is always a conscious, fearless state based on assessment and understanding of environment and circumstance for the purpose of not only survival but achievement of results. Put plainly, conformity involves social considerations, usually in the context of artificiality; adaptability is impartial and in effect and virtue more relative to empathy than exploitation.

Take for example great spies in wars hot and cold: most were distinguished by their ability not to be distinguished – their ability to adapt, both mundanely and idealistically, to circumstances in order to survive while procuring results required by the times more than the participants. Conformists they were not, especially knowing that the governments they served would deny them upon capture and also knowing that capture would mean death at the extreme.

Consider too famous expatriates of history who made their names and fortunes by “going native,” not at the expense of individuality (quite the contrary), but at the expense of resisting environments and circumstances, which often involved resistance and conflict.

A question often asked in interviews and surveys is what one character trait best insures a good life, good in the sense of least conflicted. Many responses to this question I have read: honesty, integrity, a sense of humor, courage, etc., but my own response is adaptability, which in my estimation (and experience) encourages and even insures just about all positive traits and thus good character in general.

Adaptability can be a reliable maintenance of personal honesty and integrity in the midst of whatever truth circumstances are interpreting, honestly or dishonestly. Where conformity depends on the honest or dishonest opinions of others, adaptability relies on itself as a sole determiner of what is appropriate and correct despite any circumstantial inappropriateness or error.

Adaptability secures a sense of humor by allowing one to recognize the universal humanness of genuine good humor and laughter even when the particular nature or source of the humor is not familiarly evident or understood. Surely among adaptability’s greatest expressions – and contagions! – are a heart-felt smile and joyous laughter, which speak every language, in war or peace. Even more, adaptability is a cultivation of perspective and behavior that expand one’s sense of humor, inclusively, no less. In the words of the classic thespian Ethel Barrymore (renowned for her adaptability to roles), “You grow up on the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.”

As for courage, adaptability is that, for what is greater courage than to have made peace with oneself and thus merge that peace with whatever environments and circumstances present themselves, regardless of eternal arbitrariness and the relativities of “good” and “bad, “war” and “peace?”

Adaptability can make the most of any person, place, thing, or situation, depending on environment and circumstance, whether they necessitate the most from the least or the least from the most.

The best dialogue, the best diplomacy, is always what needs to be said – nothing more, nothing less – and to know this is at once an intuitive and commonsensical experience that comes only through real understanding and practice of adaptability.

“When I am {in Milan} I do not fast on Saturday; when I am in Rome I fast on Saturday,” so stated Saint Ambrose, but, I dare say, sometimes even saints must speak their peace in the interest of remaining adaptable and in the interest of remaining saints!

Motherhood By Any Other Name . . .
– Mary Jo Magar –

About fifteen years ago, while traveling, I happened to be in a café for breakfast on the Sunday in May that was Mother’s Day. When a waitress brought a menu, she also gave to me a long-stemmed red rose and wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I noticed that every female in the café had been given a red rose, even children.

Though I politely accepted the rose, saying thank you (as most mothers would encourage, however less than mannerly they themselves may have been before becoming mothers), my real reaction was rejection; in fact, as the rose lay on the table throughout my breakfast, its neutral reality as a fresh, elegant flower was lost to its representation of a path in life that I was determined not to follow.

When I left the café, I also left the rose.

I have since broadened my attitude toward motherhood, though personally I still have no desire to be a mother in the usual sense. However, I feel justified in saying that in the years since that one time that I have ever been wished a happy Mother’s Day, I have indeed experienced motherhood, though in indirect, unexpected ways.

Just as Karenna Gore Schiff in her article titled “Where Are America’s Family Values?” wrote about the thoughtless criticisms that she receives for being a working mother, I should similarly like to make my rebuttal against the “Women’s Identity Patrol,” as Ms. Gore Schiff describes, by asserting on behalf of myself and all other intentionally “childless” women, there is more to motherhood than is dreamt of in anyone’s philosophy; that is to say, no one should ever assume that just because a woman has never birthed or reared mortal children, she is unfamiliar with motherhood, its archetype and its demands. In fact, it has become my conclusion that all women have within them (literally and figuratively) the purpose and destiny of motherhood, but just as different people have different aptitudes and talents, different women have different ways of fulfilling individual maternity.

For example, my first experience of motherhood arrived when my own mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I became what is modernly termed a “caregiver,” but essentially and very much practically I became my mother’s mother. I performed every maternal task including changing diapers and spoon-feeding, but beyond that, on a spiritual level, I gained an understanding of what motherhood, I feel, really is. The greater part of that understanding came from role reversal – my mother becoming as my child – and also from a reversal of purpose, i.e., “maternally” preparing a person for death rather than life.

This experience evidenced to me that motherhood is much more than a socio-physical state; it is a spiritual inherency that incorporates an understanding of death as birth’s equal, for even in rearing a child to adulthood, one is still attending death, the death of immaturity.

Furthermore, while motherhood is qualitatively feminine, thus making females its instrumental sensitives, it is by no means exclusive of men; in other words, ultimately, maternity is an energy, a pattern of nature, not merely a role or behavior, and therefore it exists as available for all to appreciate and in some way express. This is surely true for paternity as well.

Stated many times in diverse ways and from diverse sources is that parents, in particular the mother of course, give birth to a child twice: first when the child is born and second when the parents die.

I remember once reading an article by the editor of a prominent political publication who, at the time, had recently given birth to her first child; she commented in the article that although she had cut her work load by half, she nonetheless felt chronically exhausted because of round-the-clock infant feedings; however, she added that she actually savored the exhaustion as joy, as part of the experience of new motherhood, because she knew that what she was doing and feeling would never come again exactly in that way, even if she were to have more children. Her point in this comment was assertion of life as a whole: whether universal or personal, political or familial, the essence of life is the same. Life’s uniform aspects, however timeless and repetitious, nevertheless, in virgin poignancy, only come once, including death. Therefore, it is the responsibility of us mortals to recognize and make the most of every immediate experience, great or small, pleasant or unpleasant, without any preconceived or even spontaneous judgments of “good” or “bad;” moreover, by doing so, we prohibit that notorious and dreaded loss of innocence that in effect is contributive, if not wholly responsible, for psychological ageing as an insidious path to the grave.

As long as we individually and collectively endeavor to experience every experience, personal and impersonal, exactly as it is as the first and only time, uninhibited by comparisons to the past or expectations for the future, we thus create and ensure the beneficial utility of a conscious, lifelong innocence tempered with ever-increasing maturity, which differs from decline as greatly as innocence differs from ignorance and birth differs from infancy.

In the Hindu pantheon, the mother goddess Kali, though among the most worshipped and recognizable of goddesses (looking very overwrought, as mothers often are), is considered the least understood. She is a mother, and yet she is a destroyer. Misunderstanding of Kali lies in what and why she destroys: she devours time and mass in order to maintain creative potential as the only primary, eternally “pregnant” reality. Her equivalent in modern physics is the theory of “enfolded order,” and Kali’s many worshippers (conscious and unconscious) believe that all mortal females possess her spirit and embody her powers.

Throughout the world, three kinds of priestesses tend the shrines of Kali: Yoginis or Shaktis, “maidens;” Matri, “mothers;” and Dakinis, attendants to the dying and to funerary rites.

The three stages of life, the three trimesters of pregnancy, the three lunar phases (etc.), all are Kali by name.

Following is a quote from Erich Neumann’s The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype:

The hungry earth, which devours its own children and fattens on their corpses . . . It is in India that the experience of the Terrible Mother has been given its most grandiose form as Kali. But all this and it should not be forgotten an image not only of the Feminine but particularly and specifically of the Maternal. For in a profound way life and birth are always bound up with death and destruction.”

My second experience of motherhood has been more pleasurable. It is my life’s work to date, my company named Boutique of Arts, the name given by my mother; hence, I shall always think of my mother in association with this name, just as one might name one’s firstborn after a parent and thereafter reverence and remember the self of that parent through the child.

To conceive an idea, an attitude, a solution, a business, and especially to conceive of one’s self, one’s purpose and potentials, and then give birth to that conception and rear it to maturity is no less the experience of motherhood and certainly no less a challenge than being a mother to mortal children.

Consider too that it is often “immortal” children that become mothers to the minds of masses.

An outstanding example is Gloria Steinem who many times has been asked why she never had children; her response is always that she made the choice of giving birth to herself rather than to someone else, but in fact by giving birth to herself through her activism and published works – her immortal children – she very much did give birth to others, many others, entire generations of women, with more to follow, who will always know her as one of the mothers of modern feminism.

In conclusion, I wish to address the concept of “immaculate conception,” not with regard to Christian Doctrine, but as the experience of intuitively, practically, and even monogamously accepting one’s highest potential as one’s greatest lover – a most exciting and satisfying lover.

A “misconception” is that in conceiving children of the mind, as opposed to the body, one inferiorly experiences what is genteelly referred to as “passion,” despite passion having many definitions beyond carnality, including the allegorical Christian definition with a capital “P.”

For me, one of the most passionate portrayals of the independent passion that can derive from inspiration as one’s highest potential is a particular scene in the 1989 film Camille Claudel about the French sculptress who unfortunately continues to be remembered first as Auguste Rodin’s mistress and second as an artist of great talent.

The scene is a love scene, in my opinion, the most authentic, intense, and provocative love scene in the film: Camille Claudel (played by Isabelle Adjani) alone in her studio, wearing only an underdress, her hair loose, her hands and arms plunged deep into wet clay as she embraces her art with all the passion of every emotion that makes her human and inspired. The work that she is at once attacking and making love to in the scene is a bust of Rodin; however, the scene is so powerful with Claudel’s raw individuality that one can forget Rodin as object and catalyst and, like Claudel, perceive that it is ultimately her own talent – her highest potential – with which she is at that moment engaged in passionate exchange. One might say that she is Kali at her best – as we should all be and can be.


Naked Beauty
– Mary Jo Magar –

I. As We Are

In a scene in the 1994 film of Alexandre Dumas’ novel La Reine Margot, Margot and La Môle, her lover, a Huguenot soldier, embrace in naked intimacy, mutually aware that although Margot is not yet queen of France and Navarre, she soon will be.

La Môle tells Margot, “I love you as you are now. Naked, in exile, forgotten by all. No past, no future. No family, no fancy clothes . . . ”

Is this not how we all desire to be loved? Indeed, it is how we all deserve to be loved. In fact, it is how we are loved, by life itself, in and of ourselves, despite our “real” world that overwhelms and confuses us with superficiality and artificiality – a seeming overabundance of emperors’ new clothes as well as “emperors.”

Nevertheless, it is this world of appearances that embodies our living potential, reflecting as material diversity a creative richness of which we are an integral part, albeit impersonally, and for which we desire to be appreciated personally through our individual endeavors.

So how may we reconcile “image” with “identity?” How may we “dress for success” while at the same time glorifying truth as naked beauty?

Perhaps a first step lies in realizing that nakedness has no more to do with nudity than clothes have to do with success.

Nakedness is openness, sincerity of self, a state of mind, not a state of dishabille, a philosophy of spirit unrelated to the body and its coverings.

While nudity and clothes function conditionally, nakedness as sincerity remains unconditional and therefore always appropriate: quintessential, eternal yet timely, for every day as well as every occasion (and every day is an occasion).

Too much we live by and for the presumedly significant events of life for which we clothe ourselves, appropriately, we think, in habiliments and deportment; such events define and misdefine our lives and ourselves; we anticipate events, eagerly or dreadfully, dream about them, even rehearse them without benefit of the unknown, and yet like life itself, as a whole, these component events of life, at once uniform and unique, pleasant or unpleasant, are fleeting, particularly at their floodtides. When the tides recede, we face ourselves again, naked, and it is then, when we are emptied of experience and emotion, that we are most able to see clearly through the naked eye: we glimpse the truth that “defining moments” are nevertheless just moments: drops in an ocean of time. To prosaically acculturated perception, this revelation can interpret as disappointment and/or stimulus for vengeful, frenzied attempts to make “more” out of life – get more, possess more, do more, ad nauseam – but to the naked eye, less is already more.

In the relationship of energy with matter, heaven with earth, spirit with flesh, it is not matter that matters; however, matter is necessary for energy’s expression and appreciation, directly or indirectly, actively, reactively, or passively.

To see beyond yet still revere the frail substance of skin and bones is to cooperate with the animating force of life in recognition of its precedence over everything and its presence in everything. Hence, to live nakedly is to live primordially, energetically more than materially, with a casual and causal appreciation for image but a deep commitment to identity.

II. Fashion Passion

And why worry about clothes? Notice how the flowers grow in the field. They never work or spin yarn for clothes. . . . And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
– Matthew 6:28 –
(God’s Word Translation)

No, clothes do not make a person, as has often been said, but they can coordinate the person with his / her inner nature and outer role and circumstance.

Much is made of the importance of a “first impression;” more important is a last and lasting impression.

While first impressions, based on genuine intuition, can be accurate to some degree, there is almost always more than “meets the eye,” and what more (or less) exists usually constitutes a lasting impression.

We all see a rock when we look at a rock, but even without being a geologist the average person can imagine that there may be more to a rock than its first impression: it may be a priceless gem or merely petrified mud; it may have the endurance of a diamond or the dissipation of dust.

In a similar sense, the passing fads of fashion at once seduce and jade our imaginations, but classic styles endure, even though all is costume anyway.

Nevertheless, how effective would King Lear be if the handsome young actor playing him failed to draw lines of age into his face or wear a wig and beard and costume himself in Elizabethan circumstance?

In the Bard’s own words:

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, . . .
(As You Like It: II, vii, 139-143)

We all play multiple roles within a lifetime, within the greatest role of all – LIFE.

Immanuel Kant observed that “To do is to be.” Observe also that to live is to “act” – doing as well as giving the performance of the doing – a not artificial but conscious way of enacting one’s life.

Every life role can be enhanced and refined to its greatest expression, primarily through the inward cultivations, i.e., integrity and enthusiasm, etc., but also by tending to details of outward coordinates: manner, attire, ornamentation, etc. Even in jungles, tribal chieftains, like “civilized” monarchs, wear headdresses or such to distinguish their roles of leadership, though not necessarily to distinguish themselves. “Aye, there’s the rub:” to always distinguish between what is being distinguished: one’s role or one’s self.

An old, ongoing debate within schools of drama is whether an actor works best from inside out or outside in, meaning the relationship and ratio of importance between character and costume. No doubt the choice of approach depends on the actor, and no doubt it is logical to assume that no amount of costuming on the theatrical stage or on the life stage can compensate for a heartless performance. Conversely, a heartfelt performance, is the greatest adornment, which is not adornment at all but naked beauty complementing, or more precisely, radiating through any outer distractions. And perhaps this is merely what talent is – “talent,” that overrated, mysterious something that we assume gives some people an advantage over others, the only greater advantage, we again assume, being money, and if someone has a talent for money, then there is all the world, we think. But what is talent really but the ability to give a heartfelt performance? The performance of course may be specific to a profession, a “defining moment,” an “image,” even money, but ultimately it is not the channel that matters but the force and sincerity of the energy – the naked beauty of the performance itself.

To self-encourage one’s courage to be naked – self-accepting and serenely vulnerable as well as impervious to the world’s fickleness – is actually the only authentic talent that exists, and it can make anyone an effective thespian in life, regardless of endeavor.

III. Victoria’s Other Secret

It’s a brassiere! . . . brand new. Revolutionary up-lift: no shoulder straps, no back straps, but it does everything a brassiere should do. Works on the principle of the cantilevered bridge.”
– dialogue from the classic film Vertigo

Though the original brassiere, in concept, dates to the Greeks around 2500 B.C., the first modern bra, as an abbreviated corset, dates to around 1913, and the first sized bra, i.e., with cup sizes, was invented in the late 1920’s with the inception of the renowned Maidenform Company.

Twenty-first century bras are as high-tech as the society of women that they support. But do they support us, and do we need their commercially-defined support, and what more do bras support that is not to the benefit of commercialism to mention?

Proven (not to mention felt) is that bras can impair lymphatic circulation around breast tissue and thus potentially support development of breast cancer, epidemic in the West, which is where bras, especially “high-tech” bras, are commonly worn.

Of course, there is no single factor that can ever be identified as a cause of cancer, breast or otherwise; however, given that so many impersonally contributive factors such as pollution, pesticides, electromagnetic frequencies, etc., are practically unavoidable in urban daily life, at least the wearing of a bra is one factor that can be personally controlled.

The bra-burning hippies of the late 1960’s and 1970’s may have had the right idea in more ways than just making a socio-political statement at the time.

Annals of history present absolutely no testament of any practical or healthful purpose for wearing a bra; rather the invention and evolution of the bra have had little to do with support of women’s breasts and much to do with erotically objectifying breasts according to male standards.

Consider that women in other cultures, specifically unindustrialized cultures, do not wear bras and often perform strenuous daily tasks. In contrast, women of Western culture, particularly American culture, wear “exercise” bras and yet perform the least natural exercise, for even the Western concept of exercise and its means and methods are “manmade.”

I remember fretting much during my early teenage years because I was still wearing a camisole beneath my school uniform while other girls were wearing bras – and telling so.

As life educates us to the uselessness of fretting, it becomes evident that so much of what concerns us and motivates us from an early age is prompted, not by other people exactly, but by our own comparisons of ourselves with other people and what we assume to be the circumstances and actions (or non-actions) of others, regardless of what others’ personal “realities” really may be. We learn quickly not to be ourselves – individually – but to be like others in supposed accordance with what we assume others to be and what we think we “should” be in relation.

Similar to the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, one wonders, where does any standard of conformity really begin? How much of every Zeitgeist is merely the masses groping for answers as well as the questions, using whatever resources they have at the time?

Revelation comes when we understand that we are all alike, everywhere, at any time, by fact that no one has a uniformly correct answer to any question of being, though a uniformly correct answer is still what acculturation conditions us to seek, wrongly so, no matter how diversified or liberal the world’s melting pot modernly portrays itself.

So many of my school memories seem defined by “politics,” especially vain comparisons, more than academics; in fact the former often hindered the latter, but so it goes, the same story, on and on, a boon to retailers and advertisers and a bane to parents and other “authorities” who themselves were participants in the same early politics only to advance to politics at the adult level, which include being “good” parents and “good” authorities.

As children, we look to our playmates and classmates to imitate how to conform, and we look to our parents, teachers, and other elders to learn how to conform in adulthood, which from the perspective of childhood seems at once a freedom and a menace.

What we are unable to recognize as children and often fail to recognize as adults, particularly young adults, is that everyone else is also seeking how to conform; hence, the experience of “growing up” is commonly mis-experienced, in fact wasted, on vain comparisons in the context of vain struggles to conform; we merely graduate from one struggle to the next and thus slowly but surely bury our innocence and naked beauty through misunderstandings and misapplications of our true selves.

However, innocence and beauty can be resurrected; indeed, they can. Through the wondrous powers of free will and free thought, we can in spirit become naked babies again, living expressively and uninhibitedly without the pernicious, so-called “civilized” delusions of vain comparison and vain struggle.

In thinking for ourselves individually, living for ourselves individually, we can thus perform the roles of our lives in the way that they are meant to be performed – with naked beauty – no matter how many others have performed the roles before us, no matter how many others are performing with us, and no matter how conventional, traditional, or standardized the dictates of the roles may be. We, each of us, can imbue the world’s roles with uniqueness and sigularity particular to ourselves, regardless of our times.

In the folly of its ways, the world will always seem more than willing to give aegis and applause to the naked emperors of its creation, and yet in the mass heart beats a timeless demand, “Give us truth, give us beauty . . . ”

And what has this to do with the wearing of a bra?

The return to Paradise has many paths, some deceptively great and some significantly small.

When Adam in Eden told God, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid,” God responded, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Who told women to wear a bra? Certainly not God!

So take off your bras, sisters, and live unbridled!

The broken horse that ultimately rejects its harness and returns to the wild is only astray (immodest or unfashionable) to those who desire to control it, but to other horses of the same inclination, the rejected harness is an act of leadership by example.

And as far as men are concerned, like fish, they are attracted according to bait: a man is still a boy who is solely interested in the flesh contents of a seamless, high-tech bra beneath constrictive clothing; he is not much grown in the wisdom of maturity yet is in desperate need of returning to the wisdom of innocence of which modern adulthood and worst of all, modern childhood are heinously deprived.

IV. Malevolent Maquillage

God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another.”
Hamlet: III, i, 137-8 –

I once heard fashion designer Sonia Rykiel in an interview state that only sixteen-year-old girls look good without makeup. At the time that I heard the interview, I was only a few years past sixteen and wearing lots of makeup. Now, over twenty years later, I wear no makeup and feel that I look better than I did at sixteen, primarily because I am healthier than I was then.

To quote another fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent (who sells makeup as well as clothes), “The most beautiful make-up of a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy.”

To further Monsieur Laurent’s point, I should like to add that passion – the zeal for living life to the fullest, constructively, not recklessly or destructively – derives from health, and the endurance of health derives from passion.

Healthy passion, as a natural part of naked beauty, depends for its expression on a matrix of strong physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and I can state from experience that deficiency in any one of these departments of human affairs compromises the effectiveness and contentment of the entire human organism, not to mention the state of everyone and everything with which the organism has contact.

I remember reading a commentary about the effect of individual health on collective well-being; the author stated that few people realize that there is such a thing as “physical morality” in the sense that it is the responsibility of every person to maintain strong health and fitness if for no other reason than to contribute to the welfare of humanity (oneself included) by not burdening it. I believe this to be true, and I also believe that health remains the world’s most undervalued wealth, until perhaps it is lost, and even then, I wonder, for in this materialist society the loss of a body’s organ is actually small valued compared with the loss of a fortune (which may have been lost in having the organ removed!).

Very popular – very “vogue” – in these difficult times, precisely because of these difficult times, are “images” of philanthropy and social consciousness, and I dare say that I am often suspicious of what motives lie behind many of these images of generosity and activism. Regardless, one thing is for sure, all of us, rich or poor, wherever or whenever we may be, can daily and directly contribute to the greatest fundamental charity of all – the LIVING – simply by cherishing and maintaining individual and collective good health and productivity. We are the LIVING in life and legacy!

Consider that with health all things for all people are possible. This really cannot be said of much else, even money, though of course a healthy bank account is undeniably (and literally) an asset, but again, only when used to nurture health: the health of oneself and one’s loved ones, the health of one’s interests, and ultimately the health of humankind, all living things, the world, the universe.

Take, for example, the continent of Africa, the world’s second-largest continent with more countries and population growth than any other continent. A primary reason for Africa’s underdevelopment is simply disease. Excluding other diseases, malaria alone sickens over 500,000,000 Africans every year. The author Jim Humble in his book Breakthrough states that the majority of poverty in the world could be cured merely by curing malaria, and even more poverty could be cured by curing HIV/AIDS.

Materially, there is no greater personal wealth than a fit body, a lively mind, loving emotions, and a contented, optimistic spiritual outlook; only from this state of wealth can issue true passion – the kind that makes an authentically positive (as opposed to phony positive) difference in the world, the kind that comes from naked beauty and thus reflects all life as beautiful.

Whether we consciously recognize it or not (or would describe it as so), we are all artists in life. Living is simply creative expression, and through individual self-expression, we each add creatively to the world. I believe that each of us sincerely wants to add creatively to the world through a common sense of conscience and aesthetics, and sadly, even the uglinesses of the world are creative expressions resulting from frustrated endeavors and disillusionments that in prior forms were in some way beautiful.

From the human, egoistic perspective it is only natural to want to “paint” one’s signature into the world and with as much “color” (metaphorically and literally) as possible; however, given that color is a phenomenon of nature, how often do we naturally borrow from nature in our choice of clothing and decoration and in what we use to paint our faces? Are we returning the complement by enhancing nature as well as ourselves?

Color cosmetics are manmade, pure and simple, only they are not pure and simple; for the most part, they are chemical and toxic, as are the dyes in our clothing, but while there are truly natural dyes for fabric (more beautiful, by the way, than any synthetic), there really are, to date, no truly “natural” cosmetics.

Terressentials, one of the few companies in the world that is honest in making natural personal care products – certified organic and authentically plant and food based – states on their web site that ALL color cosmetics are synthetic to some degree, even those promoted as “natural.”

“Mineral powders” that are currently so popular and touted as “natural” as well as sun protective nonetheless contain iron oxides and mineral pigments that are used in conventional cosmetics and have been shown to be dangerous to human and environmental health. According to the Food and Drug Administration (which itself has much to answer for), iron oxides are synthetic, not natural, and can include arsenic, lead, and mercury, all known poisons and carcinogens approved for use in cosmetics. Furthermore, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, physical rather than chemical sunscreens promoted as “natural” and commonly included in mineral powders, are in effect just as harmful as chemical sunscreens and worse yet, more harmful than sunlight. Chemical sunscreens, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide have all been proven to generate free radicals when exposed to sunlight, actually attacking the nuclei of human skin cells, causing mutations, the precursors to cancer. And because titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are in nanoparticulate form when added to mineral powders, they can enter the body not only by absorption through the skin but through the nose, eyes, and mouth when powder is brushed or patted onto the face.

Something else proven: all cosmetic and sunscreen ingredients can mimic the effects of estrogen when absorbed through the skin into the body, thus disrupting natural hormonal balance.

Considering that from a strictly bio-chemical perspective femininity and masculinity are much a matter of hormones, it would seem that the best way to enhance one’s femininity (and masculinity) in these times would be to protect it.

As alluring as those color cosmetic displays in upscale department stores may be, the only safe and guaranteed effective color cosmetics are at the farmers’ market – nature’s palette to wear from the inside out!

For a peachy complexion, eat organic peaches, and if so inclined, make a facial cleanser, mask, toner, etc., from organic peach pulp and its juice.

What could be simpler?

And if passion incites you further (and it will once you behold your natural beauty), you can even formulate your own authentically natural color enhancements, such as turmeric and cinnamon in coconut oil for lip color, oat or rice flour or even baking soda for face powder, but even these are unnecessary.

No substitute exists for the authentically natural cosmetic of radiant good health. Unfortunately, such health does not commonly come naturally anymore; in modern times, in modern culture, good health must be strived for, even struggled for; too often it is really hard won – but all the more appreciated.

Even more, though, naked beauty is a transcendent rather than physical state; there is more to the identity of good health than just an image of good health. To quote Saint Jerome,” The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.”

V. Mistaken Identity

Couldn’t you like me, just me, the way I am?”
– dialogue from the classic film Vertigo

One of the most intriguing, elegant, and simply entertaining, not to mention renowned, studies of the relationship and difference between image and identity is the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo based on the mystery novel D’entre Les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac.

Throughout the film, the images and identities of five women, each different and essentially unknown to each other, become mingled; it is the sorting of these images and identities that creates the film’s suspense through both subtle and direct revelation that is steadfastly fascinating, cinematically and psychologically, from beginning to end.

Vertigo has often been called Hitchcock’s greatest film, for it presents deep content in attractive form, which happens to be how the relationship between identity and image should function – in that order.

For anyone who does not know the film’s superficial story (its image, one might say), it is, in a sentence, about a police detective, forced into retirement because of acrophobia, who, for ulterior motive, is hired by a former college acquaintance to follow his wife.

The real story, however, weaves among the five women: Midge Wood, the detective’s plain, practical, former college girlfriend; Madeleine Elster, the mysterious, aristocratic, untouchably beautiful wife of the detective’s employer; Carlotta Valdes, a woman in a museum portrait to whom Madeleine is supposedly related; Judy Barton, the earthy “shop girl” who twice impersonates Madeleine; and finally, the real Madeleine Elster, known well in person to only one of the film’s characters, her husband, and completely unknown to the viewer until the second half of the film when her earlier murder is revealed.

Each of the women represents a feminine archetype as well as a general human archetype.

It has been said by many actors and other members of the film industry, past and present, that every filmgoer sees himself / herself in a movie’s characters, or more precisely, an image of himself / herself; that is to say, the allure of films is the allure of sensory human drama comprising human archetypes or images.

In the case of the film Vertigo, the drama is actually defined by mistaken “identity,” for none of the characters is the image that he or she at first conveys, and indeed, the character of Madeleine is not even her namesake. Hence, the metaphor of vertigo, so visually alluded to throughout the film, is the dizzying spiral of confusion among the characters’ images and identities.

Of all the suspenseful moments in the film, one of the best, and in fact the most important in really commencing the story, is when the detective first sees Madeleine, who of course is not the “real” Madeleine at all. The scene is not suspenseful in typical “thriller” sense, but rather is a lush tableau that gently mesmerizes the viewer with a musically scored visual foreplay, climaxing with Madeleine in close-up as seen through the eyes of the detective who initially was not eager to see her at all. Of course, once he does see her, he is all too eager to accept the job of following her, but as a secret admirer more than a detective, which is the plot – by dual definition.

What in fact the detective is following is a cosmetic image carefully, centrally placed within the masquerade for a crime.

Later, after believing that Madeleine is dead, which she is – the “real” Madeleine – the detective accidentally encounters Madeleine’s impersonator whose features seem familiar to him though her image is entirely different.

In an interesting and telling scene (allegorically telling as well), the detective persuades Judy Barton, Madeleine’s impostor, to dine with him at the very restaurant where he first saw Madeleine. While eating, the detective becomes distracted by a woman entering the restaurant who cosmetically resembles Madeleine; he remains entirely blind to the fact that the very woman whom he is seeking is seated directly across from him under her real name and under a different cosmetic image.

How often have we all done this: overlooked the identity of one thing while searching vainly for the image of another?

To quote from the Leon Russell song, “We’re lost in this masquerade . . . . ” Images are everywhere but a true identity seems scarce, or is that just one more image?

Perhaps the difficulty in consciously knowing naked beauty, inwardly and outwardly, is that it is so naked as to be transparent.

How often do people miss the natural beauty of a rainbow or just the ever-present sky itself because they are inside a house of worship striving for communion with God? Perhaps they could strive less by simply stepping out of the contrived into the natural – and thus into themselves.

Kim Novak, the actress who portrayed Madeleine Elster and Judy Barton in Vertigo was once quoted as saying that she wondered how people would react to her if they knew her as she really is.

Here is a quote from Kim Novak about Kim Novak, her stage name’s image / persona:

“I had a lot of resentment for a while toward Kim Novak. But I don’t mind her anymore. She’s okay. We’ve become friends. I even asked her . . . for some beauty tips.”

We all acquire images of archetypes throughout a lifetime, whether we like them and live up to them or not, earn them or deserve them, benefit or suffer from them.

How straightforward life seems for those whose respective images feel comfortable and compatible with their life roles at any given time, and how complex life may be for those who feel different from how they appear and what they do. Even being human is just an image, and there are people, like myself, who really feel more of spirit than flesh and hence at odds with being human.

Every image, however, has discrepancies, which derive from what is common to all images: virtuality.

No image is absolutely real, which is the only true identity of every image.

Archetypes are perhaps real by definition in a component sense of human cosmological consciousness, but nevertheless they remain human contrivances that the primacy and purity of naked beauty can obliterate in an instant.

Just as the detective in Vertigo becomes instantly cured of his acrophobic vertigo once he knows of his innocence, we too can be instantly cured of a lifetime of false images simply by looking into the mirror of the self rather than into mirrors that validate clothing, hairstyles, and makeup.

As the philosopher Hegel stated, “{when} the Absolute is already present, how could it be sought somewhere else?”

VI. In Conclusion

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”
– Anaïs Nin –

Consider a tree in a forest, the wood of the tree being in natural habitat; then consider that same wood intricately carved, polished, and finished into a piece of fine furniture in a manmade, luxury setting. The tree’s wood is beautiful regardless of its form or environment. From individual perspective, it is only a matter of taste which form and which environment is preferred, but in grand perspective, it is a matter of comprehensive aesthetics in being able to recognize natural beauty, inclusively, everywhere, regardless of environment and details thereof.

Different physical and emotional environments and settings constitute life experience, and certainly the way that we wholistically, not just outwardly, present ourselves in one setting might be inappropriate in another setting, hence the value of images.

We do live in a material world, after all, and part of the joy (as well as the sorrow) of materiality is participating in imagery. Like great impresarios, we organize, produce, and promote our lives, at once consciously and unconsciously, through content, direction, costuming, stage-setting, enactment, and of course, funding.

A paradox and an irony is that our greatest singularity, our greatest individuality, eternally derives from our greatest uniformity: naked beauty, which is free to the public.

Naked beauty, when truly recognized, neither subjectively nor objectively but existentially, is at its best, serving as a constant exquisite primacy unaffected by whatever images may be necessarily used in living. However, even when unrecognized or outright denied, naked beauty still makes its ever-presence known by seeping through intentional cracks in our many cemented false images to reveal glimpses of a truth that our hearts perceive beyond our five senses.

Ultimately, naked beauty is the only identity; all else is image.

With or without haute couture, with or without makeup, naked beauty is the defining essence of true beauty that can never be fabricated, feigned, diminished, or even enhanced, though it can enhance any sincerely favorable image.

When this truth is understood and lived, then the answer to the question “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” will always be “YOU,” singular and plural, because you are everyone, and everyone is you.

In ancient Greece, physical beauty was perceived as a facet of divinity or a mark of divine favor. I believe that physical beauty is still perceived in this way and will forever be so even though beauty remains in the eyes of its beholder and even though material standards of beauty are relative to culture and hence, for the most part, conditioned.

When we respond to beauty, in whatever form, when we feel enlivened and uplifted by beauty as an emotion, not as an object, it is actually naked truth to which we are responding, independent of physical source and independent of any standard or conditioning.

It is significant to note that the Phi spiral – the Divine Proportion – is thematically depicted throughout the film Vertigo, particularly through the special effects in the opening credits and in the hairstyles of Carlota Valdes and Madeleine Elster. All of these depictions allude, of course, to the film’s title, which allegorically alludes to the natural human desire and search for truth, a search that is never finite in any satisfaction or linear in any direction; rather, pursuit of truth is indeed a vertiginous experience by mortal standards.

Following is an excerpt from an article about the Divine Proportion, a natural, absolute, universal form and standard of beauty.

The Divine Proportion was closely studied by the Greek sculptor, Phidias, and as a result, it took on the name of Phi. Also referred to as the Golden Mean, the Magic Ratio, the Fibonacci Series, etc., Phi can be found throughout the universe; from the spirals of galaxies to the spiral of a Nautilus seashell; from the harmony of music to the beauty in art. A botanist will find it in the growth patterns of flowers and plants, while the zoologist sees it in the breeding of rabbits. The entomologist views it in the genealogy of a bee, and the physicist observes it in the behavior of light and atoms. A Wall Street analyst can find it in the rising and falling patterns of a market, while the mathematician uncovers it in the examination of the pentagram.”

Throughout history, Phi has been observed to evoke emotion or aesthetic feelings within us. The ancient Egyptians used it in the construction of the great pyramids and in the design of hieroglyphs found on tomb walls. At another time, thousands of miles away, the ancients of Mexico embraced Phi while building the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan. The Greeks studied Phi closely through their mathematics and used it in their architecture. The Parthenon at Athens is a classic example of the use of the Golden Rectangle. Plato in his Timaeus considered it the most binding of all mathematical relations and makes it the key to the physics of the cosmos.”

During the Renaissance, Phi served as the “hermetic” structure on which great masterpieces were composed. Renowned artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci made use of it, for they knew of its appealing qualities. Evidence suggests that classical music composed by Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach embraces Phi. Whether it was by design or intuitive is not known.”

Phi must be considered in its relation to the human psyche since it is the psyche that interprets this phenomena. Although Phi appears to be fixed in nature, it actually is not. The only reason it seems fixed is because it is fixed within our own minds. This proportion corresponds to the mental vibrations that are within us and dictate our sense of pleasure and pain, beauty and ugliness, love and hate, etc. The result is we are held captive by these memories fixed by both body and mind. For if we were to view nature from an altered state of consciousness, the proportion would also be altered”

“Therefore, the Divine Proportion presents itself in the very physical nature of Creation. It is seen as the beauty and organization within the cosmos. It is the harmony and glue that holds the unity of the universe.”

Following is another excerpt of interest, from the book Your Feet Are Your Fortune by Yo-Mo Kuan, a sub-chapter titled “The Curse of High Heels:”

Feet too long pent up in pointed shoes suffer bad blood circulation to the toes and lack of oxygen. Flat-soled shoes bring the body’s weight to rest on two points at the heel of each foot and one at the front. High heels reverse this weight distribution, forcing women into a stoop that results in injurious side effects. Among these the most common is hip pain, the result of the burden placed on the hip joints to compensate for the constant bend in the knees. Another is a disease called pes valgus, the bending over of the big toe toward the little toe. This condition causes bones to become disfigured and legs to hurt constantly from pinched nerves. . . . wearing high heels shifts the center of gravity to the front of the foot, . . . As well, wearing high heels puts pressure on the womb, restricts blood flow to it, and thus makes it feel chilled. This is a frequent cause of menstrual pain and uterine myoma, a noncancerous tumor common among women who have never been pregnant. . . . Humankind cannot flourish without healthy women. . . . Their health is and must remain a vital concern of everyone, and nothing should be sacrificed to it.”