Wednesday, September 27, 2017

So it's #WorldTourismDay -revisiting my Aarhus trip

Apparently,  your humble blogger's July post about the trip to Aarhus, Denmark  was deleted. Since it's World Tourism Day, it seems like a good time to go back down memory lane to yours truly's first ever time across the pond



What brought me to the second largest city in Denmark? My best friend, that's what (make that who). She was out there for two months, and far be it for me to not come out to visit. To sum up Aarhus,  it's a great combination of big city flair and small town charm. 

On a related note,  it's fair to say there's more than good reason Aarhus was named European cultural capital of 2017.

 For one thing, the food is incredible.
(A sandwich from one of the river cafès)

The variety of cuisines to choose from at the numerous restaurants and food spots can whet
almost any appetite.

Then there's the art.

(Sculpture by the sea)

There's also a plethora of clothing and other  shops guaranteed to have any traveler leaving with something to bring home.

At this point it's best to note some housekeeping details.  Denmark is fairly pricey,  with Aarhus not being an exception. As any travel resource will tell you,  do your research to find ways not to burn a hole in your pocket. Also, the usual travel tips apply in terms of courtesy and the like.

With that said, I had a blast in Aarhus and you will too.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Some more food for thought

(Image from hallr.com)


The following quote from Vanessa Denha Garmo was just begging to be shared
Communication can be the kiss of death or breath of life 

 Though this has been said for time immemorial, such a truism behooves me to not our challenge is to choose wisely what we communicate.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A (maybe) little -known secret about Queens Bar

How about this for some irony? Your humble blogger has frequented this establishment picture above since it opened last year and not long ago found out one of the co-owners is black. Gotta love heartening news.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

#OOTD Festival Edition


It's the unofficial beginning of Summer, do you know what that means- festival time! For your humble blogger, it's all about Movement (the " Techno Fest" in local Detroit speak) Since it's a nice day in the Motor City, yours truly decided to go with a jumper and crochet vest. One can't really good wrong with such an ensemble for festival wear as it's pretty simple and simple is good for festivals.  Even better,  it can be dressed up or down for when you're not owning the dance floor. Get your favorite  shoes, accessorize and enjoy the season !

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Talk: "The Culture of Narcissism" by Christopher Lasch's

Your humble blogger decided it was time to dig in her vault for this month's post.  Here is a book talk assignment from my graduate school days on The Culture of Narcicissm by Christopher Lasch. Side note: to echo a point from my essay, the book is definitely one to read now in light of it's timely subject.


American culture has for years been seen as shallow, hedonistic, and narcissistic.  This has been especially true within recent years, with many within our country and around the world decrying what is seen as our self-absorbed attitude.  In The Culture of Narcissism, Christohper Lasch defines the narcissism of American society not as self-absorption, but a form of self-loathing stemming from a lack of a sense of history and rooted in the decline in the family.  He chronicles how this has resulted in a form of dependency on outside forces and life becoming theater.  Written in 1979, Lasch seems to be the godfather of modern social critique.  His ultimate message, in my opinion, is that thought has an important, if not singular, impact on life.

            In the book, Lasch compares modern American culture to the psychological disorder of pathological Narcissism, asserting that the character traits associated with it “in less extreme form appear in the everyday life of our age” (Lasch, 1979).  This narcissism is not a form of selfishness or inordinate self-love, it is a seeking for meaning in life (Lasch, 1979).  The search is in vain, however, since the narcissist is in a state of constant yearning.  Psychology describes narcissistic personality disorder as one possessing a grandiose sense of self-importance (Widiger, 2000).  Traits include the seeking “excessive admiration from others” and fantasizing about limitless success and power (Widiger, 2000). Again sourcing psychology, Lasch discusses to the development of narcissism from the infant experience to put his theory in context.

 Lasch sites Freud’s description of narcissism beginning in infancy, in which the infant is unable to distinguish his existence from its mother. This results in the infant confusing dependence on its mother with its own omnipotence (Lasch, 1979).  Over time, the infant comes to separate itself from its surroundings, which results in frustration.  The narcissist develops the aforementioned traits as well as others as a way to cope with the frustration and/or regain that sense of omnipotence from infancy (Lasch, 1979).  Observing a parallel between these behaviors and the behavior of modern American society, Lasch sees a culture suffering from a kind of self-hatred. 

            Connected to this self-hatred is modern culture’s declining sense of historical time.  Of particular note is loss of the feeling of being part of a continuation of generations (Lasch, 1979). The past, in the narcissistic mind and contemporary American thought, is of no importance The primary concern today is to “live in the now”, since not only the past unimportant, but the future is uncertain. According to Lasch, the prevailing notion of society not having a future “…incorporates a narcissistic inability…to feel oneself part of a historical stream…”(Lasch, 1979).  This view of the world, then, contends not only is there no reason to live for one’s ancestors given the unimportance of the past, there is no reason to live for those to come (Lasch, 1979).  Lasch exemplifies this in his discussion of the pervading fear of aging and death (in particular, the aversion to old age) describing attempts at staving off the process such as the urging of couples to postpone or forgo parenting, taking early retirement, and medical efforts to lengthen people’s lifespan.   

            At the heart of the rise of the narcissistic nature in our society is the breakdown of the family (Lasch, 1979).  Lasch attributes this to the modern capitalistic structure, which has shifted the worker from being a producer to being a consumer and made work duties routine.  This created a need for a people “educated” in “the culture of consumption (Lasch, 1979). Over time, this “education” became the job of mass media, schools, psychologists, government agencies, and other entities (Lasch, 1979).  Given this, parents are no longer parents, and the tensions between men and women are exacerbated.  This phenomenon culminates in society’s dependency on entities outside of the self to deal with the problems of everyday life.

            Lasch chronicles this dependency at every stage, beginning with childhood and parenting.  He describes a school system focused on inculcating life skills, as seen in the introduction of such courses as health, physical education, and vocational skills on the K-12 level and “multiversities”providing not only an academic education, but a variety of enterprises (Lasch, 1979).  Marriage counselors, family therapists, and social workers now serve as the resources to turn to.  Even in the most important area of the family relationship-parental imposition of boundaries on the child-these entities are there to take on the task once belonging to the parent (Lasch, 1979).   This reliance on others continues as the child develops and enters the work force.

The environment of the workplace, Lasch illustrates in his discussion of the “Changing Modes of Making it” is one in which the way to the top is for one to have a good image (Lasch, 1979).    It is a competition in which how one is perceived means more than how one performs (Lasch, 1979).  Company loyalty is nonexistent; given anyone who wants to “make it” can use it to achieve his goals (Lasch, 1979).  Lasch goes on to devote a good deal of the book to how this behavior has become a part of interpersonal relationships.

His description of modern society in his discussion of “The Art of Social Survival” is one in which personal interaction, like the aforementioned workforce, is a competition.  Emotional connection gives way to appearing personable. Personality is “sold” in the same way as tangible goods (Lasch, 1979).  This trivialization of relationships, he contends, is rooted in narcissistic need to avoid feelings. Of note is his account of contemporary male-female relations.

            Democracy and feminism, according to Lasch, have “stripped the courtly convention of the subordination of women”.  As a result, womanhood is “demystified” along with sex itself (Lasch, 1979).  This, along with the aforementioned narcissistic lack of feeling and competitive nature saturating contemporary thought, sex as an end in itself has become permissible, even encouraged, as “liberation”.  One quote says it all-“It is symptomatic of the underlying tenor of American life that vulgar terms for sexual intercourse also convey the sense of getting the better of someone, working him over, taking him in, imposing your will through guile, deception, or superior force ”To condense Lasch’s discussion of the aforementioned topics into one phrase, it would be a title he uses in one of the sections of the book-“The theater of everyday life”.

            One of the telling ideas presented in the book is how in the mind of contemporary society, there is a feeling that life is a performance.  This is made so, it contends, by the aforementioned prevalence of the narcissistic dependency on presenting an image, creating a kind self-awareness (Lasch, 1979).  Even sport, which Lasch promotes as legitimate source of escape from the routine of work life, has become little more than entertainment.  One look at American culture today reveals a multitude of examples of Lasch’s description of a narcissistic society.

            The power of The Culture of Narcissism is the fact that despite being published in 1979, it speaks directly to 21st Century culture.  “Reality T.V.”, celebrity obsession, self-help books, and psychotherapy permeate every aspect of our lives.  It makes us take a look at close look at ourselves as a society, and makes us evaluate what makes us what we are. For me, it called me to a deeper look at the power of thought..

            The book, to me, was a somewhat difficult read, given its focus on psychological theory.  In my opinion, it talked about a lot of problems, but did not seem to offer any solutions.  However, a recurring theme popped out at me- the narcissistic personality is rooted in thoughts and perceptions created in mind, and Lasch’s solutions to deal with the repercussions of its saturation into our culture-for people to “take the solutions of their problems into their own hands”-requires a restructuring of the mind.   From a psychological perspective, treatments for personality disorders such as narcissism include techniques that alter one’s perceptions and assumptions about oneself (Widiger, 2000).  As I explore this approach to the book, I find my belief reinforced that how one thinks impacts their life

References
Lasch, C. (1979). The Culture of Narcissism-American Life in An Age of Diminishing
Expectations. New York: Norton.

Widiger, T. (2000). Personality Disorders. Microsoft Encarta.   CD-ROM.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Jumping at the sun

 ( image courtesy of iampowerliving.com)

A couple of Sundays ago, a gentleman engaged me in conversation while waiting on the bus. The subject turned to church attendance.  He said he doesn't go to church because he's an alcoholic and knows he'll go to the liquor store right after if he went.  My immediate thought went to "You'll never know what will happen if you go". That ended up being my response to him. Since then,  the idea of taking the step in the right direction despite the likelihood of veering off has weighed heavily on your humble blogger's mind. The above quote sums up the reason why. No matter what holds you back from doing what's beneficial for you,  that first step can orient you towards  positive change.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Update -Lessons from a plant

Over a year ago,  your humble blogger shared some musings  on her desk plant. Here's an update :

Ms. Stronàe is holding up fairly well. The coworker who gave the plant supplied some miracle grow, which definitely did it's job. Despite some browning in some spots that had to be trimmed, here's how she looks today




Until next time! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Charles de Peguy on Mysticism and Politics: a summary

Leave it to First Things magazine to bring up a topic intriguing to your humble blogger that begs sharing. This time, it was one of the subject options for their most recent essay contest. It was a quote from Charles Peguy

Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics

Firstly, who is Charles Peguy? He was French essayist and poet who lived during the late 19th and early 20th Century.  A great background on him can be found here. The linked article also makes a well argued case for why he matters. As for the aforementioned quote, it will be argued here that it is an example of how he, as Robert Royal contends, '...tried to bring simple truths to bear on the whole modern world".

Peguy's famous quote comes from his essay Memories of Youth, which is available in a larger volume of his work appropriately titled Temporal and Eternal. In the work, he addresses his concept of "la mystique", or mysticism, and "politique", or policy.  The two are illustrated as linking the transcendent and earthly. What's more, they are discussed in the context of the fundamental issues affecting modern life-religion and politics, tradition and liberty.

Mysticism according to Peguy, is a reality beyond the temporal. Notably, he uses the term in the same context where he mentions being, soul,  principles and ideals. Alexander Dru, in his introduction for Temporal and Eternal, describes it as "an 'operation' which links the eternal and temporal spheres, a movement which is the sole guarantee of freedom".  Flowing from this "operation", Peguy continues, is action. That action is politics.

Here, politics is illustrated as a taking "of one's ticket on departure in a party, in a faction...never to bother where the train is rolling to".  The "mystique" is "devoured" and "degraded". It becomes a debate over which policy should prevail. In a brief saying, the process is summed up.

Charles Peguy made his notable observation at the dawn of modern society.  At a time where the essence of things were coming into question, he saw non-temporal realities at the heart of that essence turn into political action. In many cases, such actions were of a nature not conducive to liberty. The years following that time, up to the present day, have seen many and universally known scenarios which have confirmed Peguy to be ahead of his time.

Sources

Peguy, Charles. Temporal and Eternal. 2001, Liberty Fund

Royal, Robert. The Mystery of the Passion of Charles Peguy. Crisis, December 1, 1996