Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: mythology

Silly Symphonies: It’s Research!

Yes, research! In the interest of social and behavioral science, I watched a few of the Silly Symphonies mentioned in Disneyanity  on Disney+ yesterday. I was tired and just couldn’t seem to get my butt in gear (Mom! Remember my brother and I wiggling our butts around like a stick shift when you used that figure of speech on us? “I’m having trouble with my clutch!”), so instead of grumping about what a lazy person I was all day and feeling bad about myself, I decided to try something different.

No, I did not use my amazing willpower to get up off the couch and do what needed to be done!

I decided to take the day off from other activities and read more of my book, watch some of the shows mentioned in it, talk on the phone with my mom and my brother, and just generally chill. I did feel a twinge of guilt for eating the rest of the oatmeal cookies AND the last of the peanut butter pretzels, but that’s what happens when I read. I must nibble! Which reminds me, I really need to find better reading nibbles. Any ideas? Raw veggies are boring but probably a good bet.

silly symphonies
By Walt Disney Productions – Published by The Walt Disney Company, Fair use, Link

The first few shows mentioned in Disneyanity are Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy which I’ve seen about a thousand times. Both are shown in Main Street Cinema at Disneyland, and between my own childhood and my children’s I’ve spent quite a bit of time in there. No need to rewatch those, so I skipped to the Silly Symphonies. The Ugly Duckling I still remember well so I moved on to Flowers and Trees, The Goddess of Spring, and The Grasshopper and the Ants!

In Flowers and Trees, the animation was beautiful, the story told without a word, beautiful. I loved the feminine tree dancing, the curve of her “breast” seen each time she turned, so subtle. The old tree stump getting jealous and starting a fire, and the reaction of the forest. He only hurt himself in the end, just as jealousy does to us.

And then there was The Goddess of Spring. I will admit watching the character dance made me laugh. The animation of the 30’s, I’m not sure what it is, but her arms and body are elongated and moving in such a strange way. Just a tad creepy, really.

In the book, Brode writes “And yet numerous critics, professional as well as (in the age of the Internet and IMBD) amateur, complain that ‘Disney gets the story all wrong.’ Which is a naïve approach to the continuing art of storytelling. In fact, there is no original version of the Persephone tale in existence. During the Greek Golden Age, poets drew on oral versions of fables dating back to Mycenean and other early agricultural societies, existing long before anyone set down narratives in writing. What Disney achieved is what those storytellers earlier did; take a tale with ongoing/universal appeal for humanity itself and relate this so as to ring true for the citizenry of the artist’s own time.”

That’s what we do, it’s why we tell stories in the first place. We all know that there are no completely original stories. If my kids and I had seen this version, I would have become curious about its origin, and looked up other versions and shared them with my kids. This version is 90 years old. How would it be rewritten and presented today?

The Grasshopper and the Ant. Man, I can envision an entirely different kind of story. I do understand the point of Aesop’s fable was to encourage citizens to work together, not slack, help the community prepare for winter, but wouldn’t that have been better told as an errant fellow-ant instead of a grasshopper? I would retell the story as a cautionary tale about how different people (insects) live a different kind of life, all according to their own principles, each having its own motivations and outcomes, but all respected. An “I’m not crazy. I’m just not you.” story.

That reminds me of us making fun of tv shows and cartoons to that put WAY too much emphasis on “diversity” and not nearly enough on the content of the story. There are clever storytelling ways to get a point across without being too preachy or obvious, and Walt was the master of that.

As an afterthought (I really wasn’t ready to go make dinner), I decided to watch one more show, Ferdinand the Bull!

I distinctly remember reading this book as a kid. I know…you’re surprised that I loved books a kid too, but it’s true. This was one of my favorite picture books, one of the hundreds of classics I bought and read to my own kids as they grew up. The short movie was every bit as cute. I haven’t seen the new movie, but I think I’ll watch it today and see how they remade it into a longer feature.

Now…here’s where the author of Disneyanity and I part ways. He says shows like Ferdinand the Bull (1938) and The Reluctant Dragon (1941) were a statement on Walt’s position on homosexuality. I disagree. Ferdinand was a passivist, not homosexual. He simply wasn’t interested in fighting. As to the Reluctant Dragon, I haven’t seen it lately, but I do remember him being rather “effeminate” as well, but I do believe it was also, at the time, more of a statement about being different.

And THAT is a universal topic, one on which we could all use some continued education today. Just because someone looks a certain a way, here a bull and a dragon, doesn’t mean they will act like you believe they should. We should all be taking people at who they actually say they are, not what we think they should be.

Which makes me think again. Isn’t that the better way to tell a story? Lately it seems everything around me, every book, movie, club, etc. is segmented into narrower and narrower niches. If I don’t see exactly myself in the story, and if the story isn’t exactly about my likes/dislikes, culture, or situation, then it isn’t for me, and I can’t learn anything from it. At least that’s what I feel I’m being told.

I think that this is the kind of thing the keeps us all separate and fighting. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to make stories that help us realize that we are all different in a million different ways, but one greater thing unites us? We are all human.

That made me think of a story I’d like to see. One that shows us how much we all inadvertently misunderstand each other and that’s what creates the conflict.

Picture this: A large community that seemingly speaks the same language and fights constantly, but as the story progresses you realize that they use the same words but each has their own, entirely different meanings. When one character says hand me the salt, another character throws it toward him. This opens into a fight because the original character believes that the thrower is hostile. The thrower just thinks the asker is completely crazy. Then somehow, they learn that “hand me” means something totally different to each of them.

I think Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, and Jim Carrey need to be in this.  

Misunderstandings about meaning and intent, assuming that you know what a person wants or needs, and overstepping each other’s personal boundaries, are what start 99% of the battles we are facing right now. Good storytelling can help us here.

Disneyanity: New Read

It’s been a while since I bought a book because I saw in advertised in a magazine, but when I saw Disneyanity: Of “Walt” and Religion by Douglas Brode in Reason magazine two months in a row, I had to have it.

Background: Just in case you don’t know this, I am an avid Disney fan. How do I explain this? Here is one photo from high school to shed just a little light.

This is my “backpack,” or what I called it back then, “my travelling locker.”

I had everything I needed in here. All my books, my binders, my pens, along with various high school sundries. I had a locker at school, yes, but using it would require forethought and planning. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I kept everything with me, just in case.

Me. Backstage as always. The “magic” maker.

Just in case what?

Well, what if I were in math class and already done with the assignment? I could work on history instead. And what if I were in the theater, which was where I was most of my day, and I found some downtime between rehearsals? I could work on whatever needed to be done…if I didn’t have to run to my locker and find it.

Knowing me, I’d forget what I was looking for while walking to my locker anyway, wander off and get a coke and a cookie instead.

Writing this I just realized something. This squirrel brain is not being caused by old age.

Like I was saying, I was (and still am) a huge Disney fan. You might even say more of a devout worshipper than a fan. I’ve fallen away at times, especially recently, but I always come back around. Don’t even get me started on the effects of the pandemic on my pilgrimages.

When I started working there, I was seventeen years old. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, “maybe I should take my shoes off” kind of awe in my whole being. When I was ceremoniously cast outside the gates (fired) at 20, I was a “lost toy,” one of the darkest moments of my life.

And again, when I returned at 26, and finally chose to be home with my kids at 30. And then today…

Well, let’s say I’m worshipping from afar, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to return to the source of the magic.

disneyanity

When I saw this book promising, “a cogent and thought-provoking meditation on Disney Magic as Religious Belief,” I swooned. Could that feeling I’ve had since I was kid be a real thing, not just something I created for myself? Could others feel this way? I had to know more.

I’m 67 pages into the book already and loving it. It’s not what I expected. I’m not sure how I’ll share pieces of it with you, but something will come up, I’m sure. As the religious say, the spirit (or the muse) will speak somehow, if I allow it room.

I’ll leave you with one quote for today, one that sums up my feelings about fantasy and storytelling.

“’Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality,’ philosopher Lloyd Alexander stated, rather a ‘way of understanding it.’ As Disney realized, most people find everyday reality so unbearable that they must seek what appears merely blithe escapism as an alternative. Then again, what’s wrong with that? ‘Why should a man be scorned,’ J.R.R. Tolkien asked, ‘if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out or go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls?’”

from Disneyanity by douglas brode

Does this sound familiar, dad? I’ve heard you say it a million times. “I don’t watch movies to see real life.”

In some ways, it is an escape. And there is nothing wrong with trying to move away from what is hurting you, to get some relief. In other ways, fantasy and story helps us explain our reality. It’s easier to hear the underlying problem and solutions offered if we’re talking about aliens instead of foreigners, talking trees instead of gods.

Disneyland was my escape in high school, my happy place where I wasn’t just another theater nerd, not another kid at school to be corralled and contained until I was old enough to be let loose on the world. I was a whole person there, especially once I started working there. Then I was “part of the magic” that millions came to see every year, one of the chosen.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this gem cover to cover. It feels like more of a collection of short essays about each film, so I may just pull out my favorite pieces, the ones that speak directly to issues that are dearest to me. I’ve found a few I completely disagree with already, so I’m sure you’ll read at least one where I disagree with Walt’s vision of the world.

…sigh…

It feels good to be back here. Thanks for reading with me!

Want read more posts about the book Disneyanity by Douglas Brode? Check out:
Storytelling in the Form of Movies
Silly Symphonies: It’s Research!

Nudity and Purpose: Final Thoughts on Disneyanity

Using Words: Is the Art of Communication Lost?

The art of communication and the legend of the Tower of Babel quote on a desert background.

“…the world is faced in fact with the problems mythologically represented in the Bible legend of the builders of the Tower of Babel, when the Lord so confused men’s tongues that they had to abandon the building of their secular city and scatter…
Only there is no room today into which we might scatter away from each other; and just there, of course, is the rub and special problem of our age.”

Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell

And, again, this was written fifty years ago, before the 24-hour news cycle, before the internet, before social media.

Is the art of communication lost?

Time and time again I wonder, with all the new ways to communicate, why do we still not understand each other? Lately it feels as though we aren’t even trying.

Words are tricky things. They don’t always mean the same thing to everyone. Even if we’re both speaking English, we come from different backgrounds, different context gives words different meanings. Throw in a translation from a different language, some emotional words, a few cultural references, and you have a mess.

Public discourse as a communication tool?

The internet is proving to be no place to communicate with other humans, especially in an open forum with a large group of strangers. You may as well stand on the floor of New York Stock Exchange and start asking questions.

Communication isn’t about simply speaking our minds, telling our side of the story, writing out our version of events, our wants and needs. It’s more about listening and asking questions. With so many people making noise, it’s hard to hear what’s being said, even when we get a chance to ask.

What about personal communication?

Admittedly, I’ve never been a good listener. I forget to ask questions. When I do remember, I’m often an impatient listener. I’m not hearing what’s being said and thinking about it, I’m listening for words that trigger my own thoughts and remembrances. I rarely walk away from a conversation knowing more about people than that they seemed to like my stories or not.

I want to do better. Something I’m currently reading is helping me with one simple idea: have compassion. Walking through this world remembering that everyone I see is a human being with the same basic wants and needs as I do: to be seen and heard.

We can’t work together until we can communicate effectively. And we can’t communicate effectively until we can have compassion for the people around us. That communication starts with one person stopping to listen, ask questions, and hear the human behind the words.


Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.
Read more of my thoughts about quotes from this book:
Are Our Cultural Differences Becoming Less Important?
Women Are Equal in Nature and Need as Men, Not the “Same As”

Women Are Equal in Nature and Need as Men, Not the “Same As”

Mythic woman quote on desert background.

“The woman is immediately mythic in herself and is experienced as such, not only as the source and giver of life, but also of the magic of her touch and presence.”

Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell

Women are Equal, Not the Same

I know it’s an unpopular idea, but I believe it’s true. Most of the problems of modern civilization can be traced back to the loss of the memory of who we are. Feminism has gotten us lost attempting to be the same as men, instead of equal in nature and need as a man. Instead of balancing the scales with male and female attributes and contributions, we have crowded all into one cup and knocked the whole natural system out of whack.

All Animals Have Evolved (or Created)
as Male and Female

We should not feel subjugated by the differences between the sexes but empowered. A goddess is not a lesser form of a god, but an equal power that balances out another. Two is always stronger than one. And three? Well…let’s not get into that right now.

We have so forgotten our true mythic nature that we even tear down other women when we feel they are stepping out of the line. Feminists tear down traditionalists. Career women tear down housewives. Mothers tear down the intentionally childless. Lesbians tear down straight women. Chosen sex against birth sex. The list goes on and on, and the violence against the other goes both ways in all instances.

Instead of seeing our fellow goddesses as they are, we see them as competitors, a threat to our own very personal choices. Why?

Have we completely forgotten who we are? Unadorned and untutored, we are capable of so much power. We can heal with a touch, move others with a look. For crying out loud, we can bring forth other humans and feed them! And yet, here we are making ourselves small.

No one took our power away. At some point we began to give it away and continue to do so. We have taught each succeeding generation that they have no power by attacking and ridiculing any one of us that attempts to take that power back.

How do we take that power back? It cannot be by belittling men, attempting to be like them, removing them from our lives, or treating them as an enemy. As a society, I’m not sure where we could start. I only know that whatever we’re doing right now isn’t working, at least not for me.

For me, I’ve started with accepting myself as a natural being, one that has flaws and weakness that can also be strengths. I’m getting older and not hiding it. I’m a bit chubby, I’ve had children and it shows. That’s a good thing. I’m a sexual being and that’s ok, even if my parents and children are uncomfortable with that. I’ve started reading myths about the feminine from different cultures across time. I want to learn how other cultures in the past have interpreted the feminine. How do they differ? How can it shape my thinking and improve my self-image? I wish I had started this journey earlier, but maybe I did, unconsciously at first.

I’ll add one more thing before I go. I don’t hate men. In fact, I love them, possibly a little too much. I do wish more men (and women) could respect a powerfully feminine woman. What’s my definition of a powerful woman? One that knows her natural power, secure in who she is, she gives to and takes from the world around her in ways no one else can. She intentionally chooses her path, takes her time, and enjoys what comes of it fully. Other people’s opinions matter to her, but not at the cost of losing herself. She accepts others just as they are, as she does herself. She loves passionately, sings loudly, dances wildly, and stands her ground.

I am woman. I am the other side of the balance of life. And I will not be quiet about it.


Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.
Read more of my thoughts about quotes from this book:
Are Our Cultural Differences Becoming Less Important?

Are our cultural differences becoming less significant?

Cultural differences quote on desert background.

“The old differences separating one system from another now are becoming less and less important, less and less easy to define.”

From ‘Myths To Live By’ by Joseph Campbell

In my opinion, cultural differences were becoming less important.

The more we all were able to see each other, travel, read and experience cultural differences, religious and political differences, etc., the more we seemed to see our human similarities. It was rough at first, but felt as though things were going to get better. Maybe those differences wouldn’t be so important.

It seems, though, that in response, those that hold power in the old systems are getting worried. That worry translates into power grabs and sometimes violence. It’s a dangerous time to be living in, mostly because it seems so easy for one group to turn on another.

A common tactic, which we are seeing now, fifty years after Campbell wrote this book is to set up divisions, throw out land mines of opposition. False information, gossip, and scare news, are thrown around in ways far easier to accomplish than ever before, especially now that those that live in cities are being ordered to stay at home and not gather with others. People from outside the cities are ordered to stay out of city centers. We all get our information through “social networks” and the national and worldwide news media, through our phones and computers, with no way to confirm what we’re seeing there with the actual physical world around us, except those of us that refuse to comply with those orders.

We humans crave order to our universe.

We can’t stand not knowing what the plan is, who’s in charge, and what the rules are. In general, we’re much happier building up illusions and myths about the world around us, than facing the chaos and uncertainty that real life is. Strange isn’t it? I wonder what kind of evolutionary help that was. What was it about creating stories about the world around us that made it more likely the next generation would survive?

My opinion? The more you can know about others, the more you move outside your own circle, the more you realize that we’re all basically the same with wildly different ways of filling those identical needs of food, relationship, and procreation. Cultural differences slowly become far less important.

The more we stay separate, the more walls we build, the easier it is for us to be used as tools. There is, and always has been, a small group of people that believe they know what’s best for everyone else and are happy to take care of the rest, by force if necessary. And there is also a much larger group of people that simply want to live their lives without the burden of independent thought.

There’s a third group, though. One that wants to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit, take their own chances, and accept responsibility for their own choices. They want to explore the world of people and thought on their own terms, using their own resources. They don’t need a mythology to control the world around them. They want to embrace those cultural differences, the chaos, and live within it, as part of it, with no one to blame for the outcome but themselves. They believe anyone can, and would choose to, live this way if they were only shown it was possible.

I used to believe that third group was growing in size, as I feel Joseph Campbell probably did when he wrote this book in 1972. But this past year has put a lot of holes in that thinking. Maybe we aren’t so evolved as I had begun to thing. I’m still watching and waiting to see what happens. I still have hope that it’s only a minor setback.


Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.

Is This a Real Life? Yes, it is.

My real life. Knitting on my lap.
My Real Life POV

What is a real life, anyway? And who makes those rules?

“Gifted women, even as they reclaim their creative lives, even as beautiful things flow from their hands, from their pens, from their bodies, still question whether they are writers, painters, artists, people, real ones. And of course they are real ones even though they might like to bedevil themselves with what constitutes “real.””

“…a tree is real when it is still a seed in the pine cone. An old tree is a real living being. Real is what has life.”

Women Who Run With the Wolves – by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

There is some amazing stuff in this book. I’ve questioned my “real” myself. “Am I a real writer?” only touches the surface.

If I live simply. If I ONLY read, write, clean, cook, raise my children, love my husband, cherish my close friends, is that a REAL life?

Yes. It is.

I love reading anything by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She opens my mind to look at the simplest things from a broader perspective. You find Women Who Run With Wolves at Thriftbooks. If you’ve read it, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Edit: Looking back I’m amazed. Other than Behold! The June Newsletter!,” this is all I wrote about the beautiful book. It’s good to look around through old posts. I can see my progress, how much my process has changed, and that I’m becoming more consistent. Yay, me!


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