Discovering needles of wisdom in the haystack of pop culture.


Where In the World?

Deer Gus

Recently, my boyfriend passed me a comic called Sweet Tooth, saying I should probably give it a read. I was like, “yeah, in a minute, after I read _______ (insert whatever other comic he had me reading at the time).” I took a quick glance at the cover, brandishing a boy with deer antlers, and what I thought was blood or something on the corner of his mouth. Obviously, I completely overlooked the chocolate bar in his hand. 

Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth is probably one of the best comics I’ve ever read. I’ve soaked in all I can, and all there is left to do now is wait for the next issue. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of things, and I’m sure this is true of anyone who considers themselves a writer. This is actually one of the reasons I appreciate the medium of comic book writing so much- it’s almost an exercise in restraint, or at least in patience. It’s easy to tell when a writer is panicking and pushing out too much at once, because a comic book is visual. The page will be a complete mess of illustration and words, looking like a poorly presented, overstuffed plate of food. Lemire has perhaps mastered minimalistic comic artistry, doing the writing as well as the illustrations himself. There are only 21 books so far (less than it sounds, these are short!), and yet so much has happened. A number of new characters have been introduced, and done so in a way that makes me actually care about them. I’m not just continuing to read out of interest of the storyline. Funny how they can be separate, right? 

Not to say that the storyline is bad! Far, far from it. What immediately grabbed my attention with this story, is the immediate clashing and joining of beliefs. God and Science- the siamese twins who can never make up their minds about what to have for breakfast.

Enter Gus. He lives in the forest with his pappy in a simple log cabin, where he has learned about the ways of God according to the Bible, as well as some personal prophesies from his father. The only information we are given as an audience is that Gus’s father appears to be dying, and Gus is forbidden from leaving the immediate area of the woods in which they reside, purposefully filled with fear towards the outside world. However, information about the unknown, no matter how scary it may sound, will lead to curiosity. 

In a world where there is suddenly a new form of people, a kind of half-breed between animal and human, it would be perfect for a protagonist such as Gus to be paired with an animal as innocent and timid as a deer. Within the ancient beliefs of India, there are three levels of purity called the Gunas- there is sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. Gentle, herbivorous animals are considered sattvic, carnivorous animals of prey are rajasic, and scavenger animals who eat putrid meat or dead remains are considered tamasic. The three most sattvic, or pure, animals in the entire animal kingdom are elephants, cows, and deer. It would be appropriate for a gentle-natured soul such as Gus to be a deer, given his surroundings and ways of life. He has very little worries, but the pressing matters he does have concern the outside world. His life changes within the first book, through the death of his father, which is short and peaceful. This is the first step into his new reality. Gus is a good God-fearing deerboy, believing that “the sick” which has taken over all of humanity (save for this new breed of people), is due to the power of the All Mighty. However, with each step out of the forest he is faced with questions about his own beliefs. What is God? What is science? What is he, and how does he fit in to either? For the first time, Gus must learn to socialize, and deal with the reality of “opinion.” Until this point, he has been raised by what he assumed to be facts, knowing only his father. When presenting these “facts,” he is either brushed off as stupid, or hit hard with an opposing comment. This is but one new piece of the world he is faced with…but I’d say that the first moment of outside influence was brought upon by the candy bar. It’s a tangible, edible form of sweetness, though it is also refined, impure, and addictive. Much like the qualities of life that each lucky American faces every day. As he discovers more, his faith in humanity wanes and picks up again, though he seems to keep a casual faith in himself. He’s not the only one either. 

A doctors point of view is generally science-minded, though somehow, one doctor in particular find himself believing in Gus. Believing in him as more than a genetic anomaly, but as something else which seeps into his soul. Where does faith come from? How much of someone is made up of their past? How much is developed independently? How much is genetic, and how much is just a total mindblow of a mystery? I love this comic, because in a certain angle, these kinds of questions are constantly asked. Read on, read on! Something tells me Sweet Tooth will all end in tears. And not necessarily the sad kind. 

Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, you will achieve.

 salt ‘n pepa

Mice, Men, and Everything Else.

Superman. You’d THINK the name says it all, but really it’s just an outsiders perspective. Superman has a name. Actually, he has three. There is the name he was given at birth, “Kal El.” There was the name given to him upon discovery on earth, “Clark Kent.” And then there’s the name give to him by the public, the name everyone knows, even if they’ve never heard of the other two. “Superman.” How does one begin to know who they truly are when so many angles are given to them? Simply remain within. In reality, this is the most difficult thing in the world to accomplish. In fact, it’s not exactly normal for most people to do. The magic in watching Superman is that we know he has a secret. Working at the Daily Planet, the main news source in Metropolis, he hides in plain sight behind a pair of Buddy-Holly’s- and it makes things more exciting for the reader. Why does this guy even have a job? He could have whatever he wants, easily taking the things he desires. The reason goes past how he was raised, though this certainly created healthy soil for his personal growth. The truth behind his humble nature comes from his own self-awareness, and knowing that he was meant to be here, not belonging on Earth, yet still here. Why is this? Surely there is a purpose. As Clark grows older, he learns that his abilities can assist in a planet that needs help. Superman knows Kal El, though is constantly learning more about him, and Kal El knows Clark Kent because he created him. Clarks job is to report the news, which often involves Superman. This is similar to the oral tradition in the Christian faith of the Holy Trinity, or the Vedic concept of Rishi (knower), Devata (process of knowing) and Chandas (the Known). Superman acts because he feels to act…and yet, he is clumsy and ridiculous at times when at his desk job. What does this mean? This is where the true power of this particular comic book hero comes into play. Superman, said to be completely invincible, somehow fumbles around a woman, drops stacks of paper in the hallway, and spills water from the cooler. This is an unconvincing image of invincibility. Yet, as “Superman,” suited and soaring through the sky, flawed motions are near impossible. You never find him running into buildings on accident or tripping on power lines. This is because he is acting out his full potential. When any living being, human or otherwise, stifles their capacity, they become further faulted and accomplishing nothing but their own image of themselves. I was once in a quantum physics class when the subject of “Support of Nature” came up. This idea suggests that when we are in tune with the universe, in tune with ourselves, then it acts within our will. When we aren’t, then it begins to act almost as an enemy- or so it could seem. What it is really doing is being a harsh Buddha- slapping our wrists, reminding us that we know we could be doing more. This is why we fumble. We could be standing tall, but embarrassment, social anxiety, fear of judgement or pain stands in the way. So, the opposite of standing tall happens. Standing low. sometimes as low as the carpet. Thankfully, when Superman is wearing his suit, there is no self-judgement because he can simply be what he knows he is. Superman serves as a symbol of all living creatures, including human beings. He peeks at us from behind his perfect curl and silently says, “If I can do it, so can you.” And all it takes is, as Jesus put it, “faith the size of a mustard seed.” Buddha preached that we create our own reality. This is easily seen when looking at a comic like Superman…mainly because, the notion of Superman didn’t fall from the sky. It was in fact created by the mind of an ordinary human being, same as anyone else. Only that person tapped into his potential, and created a story that has been spreading expansion of self-understanding ever since. 

Chakra Chart

After killing a spider
how lonely I feel
in the cold of night!

Haiku by Masoaka Shiki

The Emotional Spectrum- Not for the Faint of Heart!!

(For this entry, click the chakra-chart picture for larger image.)

Let’s talk about Green Lantern. 

Where do I even start? Since reading the new run of Green Lantern by Geoff Johns, I’ve begun noticing some pretty major parallels between the Lantern Corps and the nature of chakras. Firstly, it can’t be escaped that there are seven of each, with correlating colors and emotions. As seen in the diagram, the bottom chakras are related to the body. This means all things superficial, since it’s excluding the mind as well as the emotions. The bottom chakras are what keep us “grounded,” though overindulgence in material goods or a spiritless life can lead to heavy lower chakras, and empty higher ones. This causes a range of anything from digestive problems to literal weight gain, since we are “weighing ourselves down” with either too much external stuff, or, quite literally, “past shit.” Within the world of the Lantern corps, we find these colors: 

  • RED- Anger
  • ORANGE- Greed 
  • YELLOW- Fear

The higher up the “emotional spectrum” one goes, the softer the emotions become. Anger is something brought upon by pure selfishness- and this isn’t always a bad tool to have. There is, after all, a purpose for all emotions. However, there is no getting around the fact that anger only occurs when thoughts become focused on self-pain. Suddenly, everyone is your enemy- you and you alone have been wronged, and nothing can sway you from this idea. There is no sympathy or consideration for possible positions of others, only the knowledge that something bad happened, it happened to you, and it wasn’t your fault, unless of course it is pure anger towards the self. In this case, the rest of the worlds benefits are being intentionally locked out.

The second chakra is located where the lower abdomen is. This is where people discover a number of internal issues, sprouting from emotional imbalance. We overcome our discomfort in life by immediate solvents, such as consumption of mood-altering substances, or through compulsive actions. Purchasing things, over eating, or any means of consuming. Each Lantern Corps really represent one chakra in their most extreme nature. Moving higher, we begin to find softer colors, representing the emotional and spiritual angles of ourselves. As the Lantern Corps have described them, they correlate as follows: 

  • GREEN- Willpower
  • BLUE- Hope
  • INDIGO- Compassion
  • VIOLET- Love

The Green Lanterns are said to be at the Center of the Emotional Spectrum, keeping things in balance. This is also true of the Heart Chakra, located literally in the middle of the rest, combining the colors of Hope and Fear. When the element of fear is used correctly, it becomes a tool to use and to learn from. When in danger we sense fear, but when combined with hope, we can crack the emotional ice that makes us freeze in place. This is indeed how the heart should function- open, and willing to receive, yet strong enough to protect us from negative energies. Above green, we find the Blue chakra, located in the throat. This is the space of speech. Many people who talk compulsively to overcome social anxiety have issues in this area of their body. This is due to an emotional blockage. There are also those who speak out in aggression who face similar dilemmas. Some people experience a blockage by not speaking at all, and afraid of judgement, they cower, unable to move their emotional energy past this chakra to higher points. Of course there are those who are silent because they have no need to make much sound. Most of the time, these people have a great sense of warmth about them, and the silence doesn’t come from a place of insecurity, but more personal comfort. This is because they have surpassed this point, moving up the spectrum into more cosmically established places. Speech is important, because what you say and the way you respond to things effects all things around you, as well as the self. Positive affirmations are full of light energy, which is why Hope would be located here. Having those who speak out words of comfort benefit those who are willing to listen. Both actions require a sense of self-comfort…comfortable enough to be quiet, and comfortable enough to speak truth. As blue becomes more vibrant, it transforms into a denser hue: indigo. The “Indigo children” are a phenomenon of this generation, as new souls are birthed with heightened awareness, apparent from a very young age. This chakra, located in the forehead, allows people to sense the problems of others and easily empathize with the energies around them. However, without the ignition of the highest and final chakra located on the crown of the head, this can be quite a mixed gift. Some people who are filled with Indigo energy can become overly emotional, burdened by the pain felt by others, or overwhelmed with joy, causing the body to be unknowingly overstressed. These people can sometimes be categorized by society as bi-polar, medicated for something that only needs a slight push upwards to be realized. That push brings us to the crown chakra, brightly glowing violent-white. The Violent Lantern corps’ power is Love- and this truly is what the top chakra is. Pure, unfiltered love. Nothing is wrong, because all things are seen as perfect, and love is felt for all things and all beings. This is possible because compassion is present, the powers of hope and strength are alit, and the activation of the lower chakras, balanced by the power of the higher ones, keep the person grounded. When firing up all chakras at once, we are made complete. This is why, in the world of the Lanterns, all seven Corps must act together in order to battle their enemies. These foes are much more expanded ideas than the ordinary comic-book villains, symbolized often by physical manifestations, yet not stopping at the skin. The real powers to defeat are much bigger than any one individual, who are usually being overtaken by a specific dark force, such as anti-life. It is unspecific, yet these are forces that are easily identifiable. Interesting, isn’t it? Yes, an Indigo Lantern could cause damage to a negative energetic force, as could any of the Lantern Corps- but only together can they find victory. This is the essence of life. By becoming a whole individual, we may then discover the way to walk through darkness unaffected, releasing a positive by-product called “collective consciousness.” Being in touch with your higher self, you unconsciously encourage others to do the same, and help the process along. This is why someone like Superman is so powerful. He can almost be regarded as an enlightened being, effecting those around him, and even strangely making the reader feel like being a bit of a better them. He stands for balance, humility, strength, kindness, sexuality, and power. Hmmm…this could get detailed. Let’s save the rest of this for the next topic…Superman

Comics = part of this balanced breakfast.

I’m finding that comic books have much more to say than what meets the eye. To a child, a superhero is someone they can look up to, and aspire to become. To a comic book writer, it can be a similar concept, only with many more layers. A hero can become an expression of who someone is, or who they aren’t. Often times a writer will incorporate different sides of themselves, playing with the angles they either agree with, disagree with, inspired or confused by. Calvin and Hobbes is one of the best examples of this. Everyone, including the parents, play out a piece of the writers mind, whether ridiculous, heartbreaking, brilliant or cruel. Many a memory goes into a storyboard. Things the writer has experienced personally will surely become part of the protagonists life. I personally love anti-heroes, since they are a dismissed idea of goodness, while simultaneously expressing the attempt to be good. Or the attempt to shelter the brightness of ones heart, yet also letting it shine just long enough to be seen. It’s almost the opposite of a cry for help. 

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