I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness

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Nowadays, it is considered very cool someone who proclaims himself a hipster, who lives an apparently alternative lifestyle, listens to “indie music” and dresses in an “unconventional way”. Upon this dramatic definition, one comes to the obvious conclusion: these people are a counterculture; they are rebels; they are intellectuals who do not agree with society. Wrong. The moment this routine became popular and accepted by society, their existence became absurd and contradictory.

Because of my frustration towards these septum- pierced, thrift shop explorers who enjoy vegan cookies and think they are actually fighting society instead of being the most accepted and cool members, I decided to dedicate this blog post to the most real non- conformists of all time: the Beat Generation.

To start, I seriously recommend listening to the poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg, read by James Franco and animated by Eric Drooker: Howl- Allen Ginsberg

The Beat Generation is everything the contemporary cool hipsters pretend to be.

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They were a group of American writers whose primary activity developed just after World War II ended, in the 50’s. It was during that time that society, after living the horrors of war, returned to conservative traditional values and aspirations. These young authors did not agree and were willing to break all the rules and conventions in order to be free. They were in the look for novelty and alternative lifestyles, their life would constitute a constant quest for new experiences: mental, through the use of drugs such as peyote and LSD; spiritual, by exploring eastern religions; and physical, as they were the beginning of the sexual liberation. All of this was a great influence for the later hippie movement and the 68 movements around the world.

This group excluded themselves from society in order to create an alternative world of their own: more anarchic, less judgemental and free. They expressed themselves through Literature; the novels The Road by Jack Kerouac and The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs express perfectly this insatiable pursuit of new experiences, almost as if life were an endless journey.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Kerouac, The Road

Happiness is sometimes about searching for it, often in uncommon places. But make sure they are actually uncommon, not only mere appearance.

-ana-

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The universe is a mess

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When I was 9, I earned the nickname “Teresa Tornado” from my summer camp counselor because my bunk bed used to look like a tornado rushed past. I was possibly the messiest camper in the cabin, or even in the whole of camp.

Since then, many things have improved about me- I no longer have long tangled hair where flies can find a home, I can swim more than 100 metres without getting exhausted and my English has improved quite significantly.

But there is a part of me that is the same as that little girl in oversized camp t-shirts:

I am still a mess.

My room gets attacked by tornadoes of lesser intensity nowadays, but it is undebatable that when you step into my room after I’ve had a tough week you will have to make an effort to recognise the material my desk is made of or the pattern of my bed covers.

It’s not out of carelessness that this comes about. And to answer all of the people who have criticised me for being a mess: Yes, it does stress me out, and no, I can’t concentrate with all that mess around me. But I find that as I get more and more preoccupied with other things, my room’s state goes from decent to post apocalyptic ruins, no matter how hard I try to keep it tidy.

Now, you can imagine the delight I felt when I read the following sentence in my chemistry notes:

Disorder is the natural state of the universe

The next time my family have me grief for being such a disaster I would be able to counteract with an argument that is supported by science:

“Well actually, disorder is the natural state of the universe and you wouldn’t want me to go and get in the way of the universe, would you, dad?”

It turned out that all the equations I was about to learn weren’t exactly going to justify the pile of clothes that were currently obscuring the floor of my bedroom. Instead, they introduced me to a interesting concept that has sparked other thoughts within me.

What does it mean when chemists say that the universe prefers a state of disorder?

As all messy people will know, it requires energy to be organised, and things that require less energy to happen are more likely to happen.

Chemists are interested in knowing which reactions will happen with more ease, which ones will need effort to get going and which reactions simply will not happen.

In a universe that tends towards disorder and that favours things that don’t require much energy, one can predict that reactions that end in more disorder than there was to begin with will be more successful, and reactions that take less energy to get started will happen more often.

Learning about Entropy in chemistry, I ended up jumbled up in a bunch of different equations and calculations which I might explain some other time, but I want to keep this short for now, because this post isn’t about entropy, it’s about the links that we make day-to-day as we discover the world.

Aside from learning how to answer the questions that will come up on my answer paper, that Chemistry lesson I learnt that when I can link my memories and previous experiences with new topics that might seem uninteresting at first, I can see my whole learning experience in a new light.

And as much as I continue to try and keep my room organised, when it gets difficult, I like to remember that the universe is messy, so who cares if I am too?

-teresa-

15 Minutes

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Would it make a difference if I stay up for 15 more minutes?

I might close my eyes and conjure sleep, but my mum always said that sleep is like a dove, you have to remain calm and give it a reason to trust you.

Stop wriggling about in bed or those 15 minutes will soon turn into 30 minutes.

But then again, what difference does it make? 15 or 30 minutes are all the same when you’re chasing doves away.

Before you know it, the plushest bed has become a prison and your idleness sits trapped and locked into your skin. Stick your leg out of the covers and a demon might snatch it.

It’s funny how when you’re younger you are told that nightmares will fade away but there are some fears that you can’t shake with a promise, so you ask your parents to stay with you a little longer.

Well now you’re promising away THEIR fears as you bid farewell to their superhero capes. They got caught in the wind while you looked away but there’s no point in chasing them because before you can pick up a sprint, your stillness has attracted that dove you’d called up and you don’t know it, but you’re asleep.

Or maybe you’re dead. You’d never know the difference because as soon as you know it, you’re safe and condemned to keep on living.

None of this matters anyway because it will all be gone in the morning and the 15 minutes made no difference to your life.
Unless maybe…

-teresa-

Frankenstein: evil scientists and lonely monsters

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Illustration by Bernie Wrightson, 1979

“How ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!”

The XIX century was a time of immense innovations and improvements. It was during this time that the human race developed a strong and almost religious faith in science, seeing it as the key to progress and a foundation of a new and better world where everything was possible. Mary Shelley, through her novel Frankenstein, makes a sharp critic against this mentality that believes men is all-powerful, focusing on the consequences this may have. The bottom idea of the book is that science should have certain limits, otherwise it can be dangerous; this is a notion that is still very much present nowadays. When Frankenstein finally gives life to his creature, he suddenly realises the implications of his actions- “I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”

Viktor Frankenstein is a student with great ability and skills, who becomes obsessed over the idea of providing life after seeing the power of a lighting bolt striking a tree. However, he does not think thoroughly about the repercussion of his actions. Later on, he even despises his creation and regrets it. Shelley denounces how science gives man great power; however, this power may hunt him in his sleep later on.

It can also be argued it is a simile- God is Frankenstein who created life but later abandoned it because it no longer found it perfect or capable of good, and the monster represents humankind who feels lonely, left alone in an inhospitable world where he does not feel loved. The feelings the creature experiments are often the most human of all, even though he is called a monster and despised because he is not human enough. Through the monster’s thoughts, Shelley communicates the worries and afflictions all men have:

Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man! 

‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?’

The loneliness and the search of love and acceptance, as well as an explanation of the meaning of our own lives, are true human feelings. The monster is not good or bad in the beginning; it merely turns evil after his contact with the world. Mary Shelley gives Science the role of power and creation, which can be associated with God.

There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.

Furthermore, Shelley goes beyond her time preventing the dangers that the careless use of science may have. Science and technology are not things to play with without proper weighting of consequences. Think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where it was proved that science does not necessarily imply progress and can even cause barbaric actions.

“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” Mary Shelley foresees the potential problems that the rapid advances of Science, which began in the XIX century, may bring. The author manages to present Science as the villain and well as the hero of the story.

Was Science the real monster?

-ana-

My Lost Leaf

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Last week, a friend and I decided to take up a challenge by the artist Nathaniel Russell, proposed on the Youtube channel “The Art Assignment”.

We made a handful of fake flyers advertising made up clubs, requesting help for imaginary scenarios and displaying some ridiculous ideas. We hung them up around our school and sat back to see the reactions of people.

Some people thought they were hilarious, others thought they were pointless.
This was all just as we had expected.

What we did not foresee was that some people felt so passionately against them. They claimed that the flyers were the most ridiculous thing they’d seen. They spoke against them throughout the day, they called us childish.

I guess it makes sense.

When I tried to explain that the flyers were based on artwork and were trying to be art, we were told we were pretentious.

I found all of this very interesting, because what was a harmless bit of experimental fun for us, caused a serious reaction out of  some people.

I guess this happens often, when people don’t enjoy a piece of contemporary art, they claim that it isn’t art. Nobody claims that a Rembrandt painting isn’t art simply because they don’t like looking at it, but people criticise contemporary artists all the time just because their art is not as straightforward as people would like.

I’m not claiming that my friend Poppy and I are contemporary artists who have been misunderstood. We simply copied an idea and tried to engage with it, but the response we received helped us understand the concept that art isn’t just what the spectator makes it to be.

Art is in the intention, art is in the thoughts provoked by a piece.

Art shouldn’t just be about the physical object that has been created.
If it has incited some thought in you, then your thoughts are also art.

Let’s break down the boxes that we have built up to categorise things.

Let’s relax a little and stop jumping up to disagree with the things we don’t understand.

It’s ok to be confused, let’s not get hostile when presented with the unfamiliar.

And if you find my leaf anywhere, please let me know.

Hurt

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Weeping- Edvard Munch (1913)

With a physical wound, sometimes even the lightest finger stroke over the damaged area is enough to make you shiver. Your senses sharpen in order to protect you. The injury can be felt at all times: walking, sitting down and even sleeping.

This is not at all different from an emotional wound.

If you have ever experienced a broken heart, a loss of a close friend or a broken soul due to depression, you will know this is true. No matter how hard your friends try to distract you, you still feel this pressure against your chest, an uncontrollable pain that makes your spirit crash. Emotional pain is real pain. Just like with physical pain, you cannot just “try to think about something else” and “get over it”. Sensitivity increases in order for you to take care of yourself and become more aware.

Pain awakens and sharpens the senses. You feel more deeply. When being hurt and feeling extremely vulnerable, nothing is more appealing than either staying at home and turning your back to the world, or keeping extremely busy in order to avoid time alone to think and feel.

Don´t.

Instead, how about focusing the increased sensitivity to explore your creative side? If pain means a deeper and more intense connection with the world through sensorial experience, make the most of it: taste, smell, listen, touch, feel. Look out for new things. Remember that many of the great masterpieces of art and music were produced due to a personal crisis.

You’ll never feel more alive that when you are hurt.

Embrace the pain.

-ana-

Untitled

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I tried to paint
the scent of your jumper
Tried to sculpt
the colour of the sky
but failed

So do not ask me
to explain the way I’m feeling
Or I might disappoint there too

You do not hold a breeze
in your hand
you cannot turn a moment into stone
Don’t expect me to transform
buzzing emotion into
simple words

Blind balance is not my strong suit
I may need to get used to the current
maybe if we both swim
together we might stay afloat
lest tiredness drags us both

If I can’t feel the spicy taste
of ginger in the stroke of
one of my fingers
If I can’t weave a carpet
using just my eyes
well I can’t explain how I feel
and maybe I shouldn’t try.

-teresa-

Discover

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Choshi in Shimosha, Hokusaki

It was four months ago, browsing through a second- hand book fair, that a friend selected a book from a pile and said “this one is very good”. Yukio Mishima: had I heard of him? Maybe, but not really. After reading Confessions of a mask, I was surprised of how little I knew about Japanese culture. That particular book opened my eyes to a whole new reality that I had once overlooked.

Perhaps this is the best part about literature: you will always find new exciting things that remind you that there is so much you ignore. Especially whenever you step out of your comfort zone by seeking new authors from different contexts.

Think about cultures you feel very distant from, of which you know nothing about or maybe of which you would like to learn more. Instead of doing a quick Wikipedia search or watching a documentary, how about selecting a few iconic pieces of literature? Fiction is a great teacher as it allows you to immerse yourself fully in a whole different world, as if seeing life from the eyes of another. And it is not only about what the story is about but also, how it is told and the ideas that are behind; moreover, what is important to the one telling the story: what the characters eat and drink, how they feel or their perception of others.

So, next time you want to start a book, consider avoiding the safety of your favourite writer and pick instead a more adventurous piece. Have you read any Indian authors lately? Nigerian? How about female writers?

Reading is discovering.

-ana-

Lub-dub

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Put two fingers on your wrist.
Just where you can see a faint blue line, that should work ok.
You might feel a beat against your fingers.
Can you feel it?
Well done! I’m proud to inform you that you are alive.

This might not be news to you, but how often do you think about the organ that keeps you alive? How well do you understand the pulsing that you feel in your chest?

Let me offer you a small insight into this non-stop involuntary process.

A bit of background knowledge-
Your heart is an organ made out of muscle, it is the approximate size of your fist and you can find it in the middle of your chest pointing slightly to the left.

It has four chambers as seen in the diagram below-

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So what is a heartbeat? Why does it happen?

Cells in your body need oxygen to do their thing- be it skin cells, nerve cells or muscle cells, they all need the oxygen which is taken up in your lungs.
But as you may have noticed, your lungs aren’t close enough to your body that the oxygen might just magically get passed on.
This is why blood exists. Blood carries the oxygen from the lungs to all other body parts that need the oxygen. It must keep moving around, so an organ is in place that pumps the blood to allow it to pass through your body at speed, preventing it from becoming static.
The heart is this pump.

Every time your heart beats, it undergoes contraction (known as systole) and relaxation (also called diastole).
One round of these two is one heartbeat, and it happens in approximately 0.8 seconds.
In this fraction of a second many things happen:

1. Atrial Systole: The left and right atrium (1a & 1b) become smaller as they contract. This allows the blood to fall through the AV valves and into the ventricles (2a & 2b).

2. Ventricular Systole: The sides of the ventricles contract inward, pushing the blood out of the ventricles through the valves and up into the arteries- the aorta on the left side and the pulmonary artery on the right.

3. Diastole: The heart relaxes, allowing for blood to reenter it in order to complete the cycle all over again.

Where does the famous lub-dub noise come from then?

Lub: AV valves that separate the atria from the ventricles exist to prevent blood from flowing back into the atria, so when the ventricles contract, these must close. The noise these make when they close is recognised as “lub”.

Dub: After blood has been pushed out of the heart, the valves at the opening of the main arteries must close so that blood doesn’t fall back into the heart. The sound these make as they close is described as “dub”.

So next time your heart interrupts your attempts to fall asleep, take a second to thank it too for its hard work.

-teresa-

Street Art

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Ericailcane Mural in Mexico City

When my sister was little, she had a nightmare in which someone “grafittied her face”. She was terrorised by those strange letters and drawings that seemed so violent and threatening. And she was not the only one to think this way; in fact, it is kind of the point. For quite a lot of people, graffiti can be scary, a symbol of disrupted order: vandalism, as if declaring war to authority. However, for many others, it means safety: a territorial mark that says they are home. For them, it is also a way of expressing dissatisfaction and protesting. Graffiti is a way of communicating.

In the past 30 years, a new form of art has developed very much influenced by graffiti: street art. Purifying itself from territorial purposes and gang wars, this type of art seeks to express interesting messages, sometimes about political or social protest and others just to produce beauty.

Art is removed from its typical context of a museum where it is meant to be admired and celebrated as main character. Instead, street art is located in the middle of a busy environment where it is unexpected and often overlooked, and where its lifespan may be short. You might find a wonderful mural on a parking lot wall that is uncomfortable to look at with all the cars passing by and noise from the street, and tomorrow it might no longer be there. And precisely, that is the best part of it: it removes yourself from your busy life even if it is only for one second.

Street art is all about creating art that is democratic and belongs to everyone, stepping very far away from elitist pieces that are sold for millions in fancy galleries. It provides the city an opportunity to admire something meaningful in the middle of their everyday life.

Art is everywhere. You just have to look.

-ana-

I encourage everyone to find out more about what type of art is being produced around them. Currently, there are many tours and information focusing on street art in many cities.

Mexico City: http://www.streetartchilango.com/

London: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/tours/

Glasgow: http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=19649&

Madrid: http://madridstreetartproject.com/

Barcelona: http://madridstreetartproject.com/

New York City: http://streetartwalk.com/   http://www.saddleshoetours.com/

Los Angeles: http://grafftours.com/

San Francisco: http://1amsf.com/classes/art-of-graffiti-1-0/

Bogotá: http://bogotagraffiti.com/