Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Being Right Won't Make You Happy

Reading opposing comments on an online article lately, I was struck by how these two supposed sides (which don't really exist, most people have mixed feelings and viewpoints on a variety of issues, and those viewpoints change over time) demonize each other and are so blind to their own erroneous reasoning. I easily took the word "Liberal" as used in one of the posts and replaced it with "Conservative" to get a sentence that was equally true (or equally false):

The original user's comment was:
"Liberals are so hypocritic­al when it comes to choice. It is choice until they disagree with it and then its a federal mandate."

Changing the word makes it this:
"Conservatives are so hypocritic­al when it comes to choice. It is choice until they disagree with it and then its a federal mandate."

So, this statement could be considered true of people labeled as "Liberals." But, if so, it's equally true of people labeled "Conservatives." Conservatives say they want small government, but not if it's for issues they support. They're fine with a bloated military and having the Federal government raid state-approved medical marijuana facilities, etc. So many of these statements can have right/left or Liberal /Conservative interchanged. People are being blinded by their erroneous sense of self-rightness and the erroneous sense of wrongness of "the other side."

I would suggest everyone calm down, get off your high horse, realize we all want very similar things in life and try this ego-busting, enlightening exercise: take "the other sides" point of view and argue for their case. Do it SINCERELY. Even if it's just in the privacy of your thoughts.

No doubt the thought of doing so brings up feelings of fear or resentment. All the more reason to do so. At the very least, you might find "the other side" are not a bunch of stupid/evil/corrupt/irresponsible troublemakers. (They are human beings, your fellow human beings, and in this case, your fellow Americans. They  love their families as you do. They want peace and an abundant life as you do.) At the most, you might find your concrete views softened enough to allow for real dialogue and you will stop being the source of the problem (unceasing conflict) and part of the solution (creative, cooperative thinking and communication) . If we don't stop this violent verbal barrage and fake polarizing of the country, things are going to get worse and worse.

The answer is not for one of these fictional sides to win, the answer is for us to learn to live together respectfully (if not lovingly) and create a brilliant society for all with the incredible human resources we have at our disposal. This begins with open minds and respectful, open dialogue. It begins with caring more about everyone's wellbeing than your own point of view. It begins with letting go the idea that you have to be right. Being right won't make you happy. Loving and being loved will.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Something Wonderful Is Coming

Tonight, I awoke and lay in bed in the darkness with a delicious expectant feeling, as if the happy memories of a thousand lifetimes flirted at the edges of my mind. It was a wonderful, mysterious longing, wholly devoid of any melancholy, full of blissful expectation. Not just a feeling, but an abstract vision within my mind implying space, place and experience.

I closed my eyes and tried to be still, to hold at bay the mundane wakeful thoughts that I knew would chase this apprehension away. It flitted at the edge of my thoughts and emotions before finally being replaced with a curious, questioning calm.

I have experienced this several times before. It was like the unfocused memory of a dream that was far more real than the reality into which I was again awakening. But I knew without doubt that it was not the memory of a pleasant dream. It was, in fact, the opposite: an awakening into some truth about reality that I could only remember as a vague feeling in that state of consciousness that lies towards the end of that short period that lies just between waking and sleeping.

This experience (I can think of no better word for it) was the lingering presence of something hidden within me that holds the answer to everything in this life, or something that makes all our questions irrelevant. If it can be called an answer, it is one without words. And so, even this vague intimation of "the answer", expressed with words, can only yield this unsatisfactory recollection. As soon as I got out of bed and began writing, I could feel the words and myself already getting in the way.

Perhaps, I have tried too hard. Perhaps I should only say:

"My friends, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not despair...

Something wonderful is coming."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Female Romantic Archetypes of 1960's Television Shows, Part 3 of 3: Julie Newmar's Catwoman, Kitten With Claws

Julie Newmar was beautiful as Catwoman. But beautiful does not mean sexy. What is sexy is partly a subjective perception, but also, I believe, partly an inherently archetypal recognition of someone that is sexually desirable in a primal way that almost transcends culture.

Why, as a child, I was able to perceive Julie Newmar's Catwoman as a captivating feminine sex symbol is beyond my understanding. But the point is, it was not preconditioned by something else. I was too young to have seen much anything else. In my story, "Cat and Canary," from The Romantic Adventures of Jack & Dora, Jack reveals something about himself that I drew straight from my life, concerning his memories of watching Julie Newmar on the Batman TV show. It bears quoting.

"I think I had my first sexual stirrings from seeing her, possibly this very episode, as a child of six or seven. I actually remember sitting on the dark olive green carpet in the living room, or more specifically, lying on my stomach, face held in my hands with my elbows propping me up. I also remember the episode in color, but that's not right because we only had a black and white TV back then. Maybe it's partly an imagined memory, but mostly I think it's real. I don't remember specific feelings or thoughts, I just know that I was mesmerized by her, that there were stirrings. Mind you, they were very, very distant stirrings. Probably I was thinking,"I wish she was my mommy!”

If Mrs. Peel gave me an appreciation for strong women, Julie Newmar's Catwoman gave me an appreciation for seductive, crazy ones. Or maybe that appreciation came from somewhere else (my mother's own, occasionally, unpredictable, wild nature?). Either Catwoman embodied it or exacerbated it, or both. Catwoman goes beyond even Jeannie (from I Dream of Jeannie) as a completely moral-free character who promises a life free of society-created guilt and obligation.

Julie Newmar had a fresh, effortless, unpretentious sexiness that is rare. No other woman that has played the role has even come close to her performance. The honesty of both her passion and her callousness are well illustrated in perhaps the most wonderful scene of the series between Batman and Catwoman. Batman seems to finally be succumbing to Catwoman's charms. She suggests they go away together, just the two of them. Batman asks, "What about Robin?" Catwoman replies, completely without malice, "We'll kill him. Painlessly, of course."

One cannot call Catwoman evil or hate her for her cruelty any more than one can hate a cat that has caught a mouse. She is not evil. She is completely and totally self-interested. Somehow, this adds to her sexual allure. Perhaps it is the fact that she is completely undivided. She suffers no guilt. She knows completely who and what she is. We, with our guilt, mixed feelings, neuroses, fears and unfulfilled longings, envy such a state. I myself have stared at a cat, envying their self-sufficiency and self-completion.

Thus, even Catwoman's callousness makes her more attractive because it is naturally part of who she is. And that brings us back to the idea of what is sexy. Someone is sexy when they are self-assured, undivided, without malice, pretense, motive or intention, a being complete within themselves, sexual for the sake of being sexual, not even aware that they are sexy. Catwoman invites us into this undivided world of self-gratification, unhindered by the present mores of society or the psychological baggage of our past experience.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman represents uninhibited, uncomplicated, honest, passionate sexuality. Who doesn't want that?

She is the Puritan's nightmare. She was, and always will be, one of my heroes and one of my greatest desires.

Robert Szeles (saylesh)


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Female Romantic Archetypes of 1960's Television Shows, Part 2 of 3: The Inimitable Emma Peel, Man's Best (Sexy) Friend

When the producers of The Avengers were looking for someone to replace the character of Cathy Gale, as played by the tough and lovely Honor Blackman  (who herself was a feminine icon, though the show was not yet popular anywhere but Britain), they knew they needed to find someone with Man Appeal. That's how they came up with the name of agent John Steed's new companion: Emma (M. for Man-A) Peel. They found Diana Rigg. And man appeal she had.

But Emma Peel was no sex kitten, no plaything for a man. Of course she had to be strong, since she was a British secret service agent. But they went far beyond that. Emma Peel was the equal of Steed in every way, if not his superior. She could match any man in brains, resourcefulness, charm, courage and even physical prowess. Many were the episodes when she was judo chopping, flipping or even tossing a man around a room. Yet, she did not forfeit her feminine charm, beauty and grace. For a time in the late sixties, every man wanted Emma Peel and every woman wanted to be her.

But in what way did every man want her? What, exactly, did Emma Peel represent?

Emma Peel was very much an archetype of the Goddess whose name was shared by the actress who played her: Diana. Emma was basically an Amazon. No doubt lesbian women found her as attractive as heterosexual men. But to either, she represented not only the female warrior, but also, the sexually unattainable woman (like the Goddess Diana).

They set her up at Mrs. Emma Peel and thereby solve the issue of her sexual availability. She is supposedly a widow, her husband lost in some unnamed (as far as I can remember) military campaign. She is thus free to flirt with John Steed or any other man, but it remains unspoken but implied that she is unavailable, perhaps because not enough time has passed since the loss of her husband, or even better, because he was not surely killed, but lost and assumed dead (SPOILER: This turns out to be the case, as her husband returns at the end of the last episode with Mrs. Peel.). Thus, she has the perfect set up to be sexually unattainable and morally admired for that, as she is honoring her husband's memory, or hoping for his return. She is also, therefore, free to be a completely independent woman, free of society's previous limitations upon women, yet not judged as immoral or unwanted because of her single status.

As a romantic archetype, she is the ultimate, equal companion for a man, admired, perhaps even desired, but never giving herself sexually to anyone. She remains not a sex object, but an object of admiration, a sexual ideal. Of course, this fits in perfectly with the British sensibility. Mrs. Peel and Mr. Steed flirt and there is double-talk and sexual innuendo going on between them, often done with an air of false naivete or modesty. This is the sexual human, fighting to break free, or at least cheating enough to not grant complete victory to, the inhuman Puritan sensibility.

On the positive side, Emma was a symbol of women's liberation and empowerment. I was quite young when I first watched The Avengers and I believe Emma Peel had a very positive influence on my young psyche that stayed with me. I grew to admire and be attracted to strong women. But even now, I do not feel sexual desire for the character as much as admiration and an indefinable romantic longing. One longs to be in love with Emma Peel. But one cannot even imagine fucking her. At least, I can't.

Next week, I'll talk someone whom I feel quite differently about. A character, played by the indescribably sensuous Julie Newmar, that drove me and still drives me mad with sexual desire. A character that makes even Barbara Eden's Jeannie seem controlled and proper by comparison. I'm talking about the ultimate femme fatale: Catwoman.

Robert Szeles (saylesh)


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Female Romantic Archetypes of 1960's Television Shows, Part 1 of 3: Jeannie Out of the Bottle

Recently, I became curious about re-watching the 1960's T.V. show, I Dream of Jeannie, partly from nostalgia, partly because I love the imaginative romantic angle.

By the seven-minute mark of the pilot episode, I was getting choked up. Amazingly, by that point they already hint at the longing of love and possible loss between Jeannie and Major Nelson. This is accomplished by amazing performances by Hagman and Eden, a great story set up and an incredible musical score by Richard Wess. Within a few minutes, your emotions are moved as if you've already watched a full-length movie.
It was playful, erotic and hilarious; far better than I remembered it.

Strangely, it left me feeling forlorn. There was something I had suspected about myself and watching this show confirmed it. It may be true of you as well if you grew up anytime since the golden age of television.

My romantic notions of male/female relations were informed by certain shows I watched as a child. They may have helped form my ideal of female romantic figures. This wasn't only because I was young and impressionable. Not all shows had that effect. But some of the shows were very symbolically powerful and they were illustrating an archetype of romance that I believe already exists in the human unconscious mind.

I believe this was especially true of the shows from the 1960s. I will not try to explain why because I just don't know. There was something special about that time period in many ways. I don't think it is simply because I was a child then. I also saw reruns of shows from the 1950s as a child and was still at a very impressionable, formative age in the 1970s. I don't think the shows of those eras had the same power.

Of all the shows, the ones that had the strongest effect on me were I Dream of Jeannie, Batman, and The Avengers.

Barbara Eden as Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie was the most playful, warm, accessible feminine symbol. And her relationship with Larry Hagman's character Tony was also warm and playful. This show illustrated the idealized romantic version of the male/female archetype, though with delicious complications. There are complex dynamics going on between the two characters.

When Captain Tony Nelson's capsule crashes on a deserted island, he finds the bottle and inadvertently sets Jeanie free. She is bound by the law of the Djinn to become Tony's servant. After she uses her power to guide the rescue helicopter to the deserted island where Tony is stranded, Tony grants her freedom immediately. But Jeannie chooses to devote her life to him in return for the fact that he freed her from the bottle and freed her from slavery to him. She returns to the bottle and hides herself with Tony's belongings, going back with him to Florida where she turns his life upside-down.

Tony is constantly warring with his feelings toward Jeannie, trying to resist her but wanting her. He feels protective of her, which is brought out even more by her childlike personality. But if she is a child, she is one with almost unlimited powers, powers to permanently change Tony's life. But her real power in changing his life, the real threat to Tony's disciplined existence comes not from the fact that she is a genii but that she is an uncontrollable woman. Her powers merely magnify this threat.

Genii is mischievous, wanting to serve him, but crazy with jealousy and a desire to make him happy. He is sometimes comforted and other times threatened by her immense devotion and passion for him (At the beginning Tony is engaged to the general's daughter. With Jeannie on the scene, this quickly comes to an end). Half the time she is helping him, half the time she seems to be sabotaging his life, but sometimes that is due to her naivety of cultural norms.

Tony's reticence to become involved with her is understandable due to Jeannie's shortcomings and her sometimes-frightening supernatural nature. But after a time, one begins to question his resistance to this dream girl. Isn't this what every man is supposed to want? Isn't she just trying to make him happy? And it's clear that he loves her in some manner. But he just won't let down his emotional barriers and freely express his love to her. Is it because he doesn't really know what's good for him? Or maybe he feels he doesn't deserve it or hasn't worked hard enough to have her.

I believe the answer to these questions comes from the rogue element of Jeannie's power and personality. She is untamed and goes against society's mores and morays, of which Tony is a representative as an officer and astronaut of the United States Government — in fact, the military. So she is, in a way, trying to help free him from his own repression. At worst, she is a god of chaos and mischief, sabotaging his best-laid plans and threatening his false sense of control in an uncontrollable world. At best, she represents an escape from the joyless manmade world of duty, accomplishment and obligation into a world of pleasure and joyful abandon for life.

As the series progresses, you can see that Jeannie is bringing out Tony's true personality, helping him to become who he truly is by the nature of simply being who she truly is. This is an idealized notion of the romantic relationship when the right man and woman find each other.

Next week I will study another female symbol who is also uncontrollable, but very self-controlled. She represents the woman as equal partner in every way, the perfect comrade and friend. Her name is Emma Peel.