Archive for the ‘Analysis’ category

Intellectuals Love Pop Culture

February 14, 2016

I had a great learning experience at the 2016 Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) Conference thanks to scholarship funds. If I can’t find outside funds to attend this conference again next year, I would gladly pay my own way. I thought ARMA San Diego was the best conference I had been to until SWPACA. I love being around like minded intellectuals. There is really nothing like it. I do want a PhD someday.

I made it a point to keyword search the program (which was close to 150 pages) for the words archive(s), culture, history, and New Mexico. I focused my time at the conference on those sessions for the greater good. I love learning things to benefit both my knowledge and my agency. Everytime I could, I supported New Mexico professors and students by attending their presentations. There was so much great research presented during this conference. I also made a presentation there.

I did attend a small handful of sessions that were chosen because of personal interest. One was a session titled “Myth and Metaphor in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien,” which happened to be delivered by a University of New Mexico (UNM) professor. Another awesome presentation gave an analysis of “Penny Dreadful,” which I love, by a teacher from Texas. That session featured another presentation on the research of a UNM professor and student on violent video games and children. There was one on how Batman’s suit employs STEM!! Then there was one on fetishism and the villainess. You know I went to that one!!

The mission of SWPACA is “to promote an innovative and nontraditional academic movement in Humanities and Social Sciences and to celebrate America’s cultural heritages. To provide an outlet for scholars, writers, and others interested in popular/American culture, to share ideas in a professional atmosphere, and to increase awareness and improve public perceptions of America’s cultural traditions and diverse populations.”



Rise of the Women: Mad Max

May 30, 2015

••Imperator Furiosa and The Wives••

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road today and it was awesome! You have to love the twisted minds of the writers. George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris created an interesting, post-apocalyptic world. The world was filled with all sorts of mind-blowing things. I love writers who can surprise me. This movie was action packed!

I don’t love Tom Hardy (who played Mad Max), but I absolutely adore Charlize Theron (who played Imperator Furiosa). Charlize is such a versatile actress. She isn’t scared to play non-glamorous roles even though she is smoking hot! I love that about her. I remember being so impressed by her role in Monster. She kicked some serious ass in Fury Road.

There are many themes which permeate the film. There were at least five that I clearly saw. I felt that the three most powerful themes which drove the storyline were love/sacrifice and the empowerment of women. Other themes which I observed were home, retaliation and redemption.

The story was about love of self, love of others and the transformative power of that love. This was yet another tragic love story. A woman and a man die for love in the midst of gang wars. It is a tragic story because in the end, Max and Furiosa fall in love, yet they part ways. For these characters, it was enough to know each would be ok following a battle.

These three male writers are awesome for focusing this story on the empowerment of women. From a one armed female warrior who can drive a big rig while kicking ass in a fight to release women from sex slavery, to denouncing the objectification of women, to a gang of all female bikers who fight to reclaim the Citadel… Miller, McCarthy and Lathouris covered it all. Symbolically, the women were the holders of the the seeds of life (child bearing and actual heirloom seeds).

The movie is worth a watch. Aside from all the trippy characters, crazy costumes, cool weapons, tricked out rides, and desolate landscapes, there is much more to this movie on a symbolic level. I had one favorite quote in this movie coming from Mad Max himself. He told Furiosa… “You know hope is a mistake. If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.” I agree Mr. Mad. I totally agree.

Sapiosexual: A Fetish for Intellect

January 7, 2015


It is good to be sexual, sensual beings. The science of human attraction is indeed intriguing. You know… pheromones, scents, body language? This can be stuff from the big screen like a muscular, shirtless Thor or a leather clad Fish Mooney with a sexy, evil smile, heels and long nails. At times, it’s odorless pheromones, the smell of sweat, or the seductive scent of perfumes and colognes? All these things can trigger reactive attraction in any normal man or woman. I am surely a fan of all of that, but there is much more to be said about the psychology of attraction.


~Digital composite by Felicia~

When I was in high school or even college, I have to say that I would have laughed if somebody called me a sapiosexual. It is a relatively new word and the etymology is not clear, still I know I am a sapiosexual. So what is a sapiosexual? In the simplest form, it is a person with a fetish for intelligence. Can I explain how my fetish has blossomed? I would assume that as my personal need for, and my interest in the consumption of knowledge has grown, so has my attraction to the same. I now find intelligence in both women and men equally attractive.


Some define a sapiosexual as “a person who is sexually attracted to intelligence in others.” The word as an adjective versus a noun means “of, or relating to, finding intellectual stimulation sexually arousing.” I love smart people. Maybe years of being around scholars and like minded professionals has contributed to my admiration for the mind? I like to think so. I am a career driven woman after all. However, don’t let all my career driven, brain-e-ack adoring jibber jabber fool you… there are also smart people in my home away from home, the gym. Check out two PhD touting muscle heads I adore if you don’t believe me.

Those who are both physically and intellectually attractive are indeed blessed. It’s rare to be aesthetically pleasing in more than one way. I am not saying my attraction is tied to wit and wit alone. I will confess that more often than not, physical aesthetics comes first for me. Still, what use is a physically sexy person with no brains to back it? The pursuit of knowledge is in itself…sexy. Well hey…if you happen to be smart with a great set of shoulders and traps, a good smile, and nice hands, then consider those things physical perks to intellectual sexiness.


It’s true. I am getting older, but I really am getting better with age. The me I know today is much smarter and sexier than the me I knew way back when. My mind and body crave knowledge in all types of intriguing ways. It is so stimulating to partake in intellectual conversations. It is awesome to engage with knowledgeable individuals. It is refreshingly sexy for people to care for and be passionate about what they do and how they make a difference. Arousal by intellect is a completely different experience. It is a mature minded experience.

It is good to be sexual, sensual beings. Human attraction is scientific, but it is also psychological. For me, true seduction is much deeper than a great ass or ripped abs. These physical things trigger reactive attraction in most, but mature sexuality undoubtedly involves the mind. I know that now. Of course I can appreciate both, but this isn’t high school anymore. I’m proud to be a sapiosexual now. I appreciate my fetish for intelligence which compliments my personal need for, and my interest in the consumption of knowledge.


Tonight when I searched the internet for definitions of sapiosexual, I came across two very interesting things. One is a quote and the other was a test. My test results are below. I did take the test even though I was sure I was a sapiosexual. I was right…of course! I scored a 92% on the test. Funny that I couldn’t help but think of Stephen Hawking with regard to the one test question about being “much more likely” to “fall in love with a highly intelligent cripple, than a dull-minded athlete,” because I do love me some Hawking. I also love me some smart athletes. Even though Hawking is the bomb, I’m still *far* from sure about a “strongly agree” on that answer. Haha.

The quote by Kayar Silkenvoice read… “I am sapiosexual. I think geeks and nerds are sexy– I often want to rub my clit against their minds.”


Unique Identifiers: A Closer Look at Biometric Technology in New Mexico

December 3, 2014
Biometrics_by Felicia Lujan_December2014

|Biometrics~ A digital composite by Felicia Lujan. This composite is composed of 13 layers, 8 masks, 3 color overlays, and a Gaussian blur. The composite includes images of binary code and components of ocular, palm vein, and voice recognition scans.|

**NOTE: This research was
not intended to promote or
renounce the use of biometric
systems, though I do find the
technology extremely interesting
and useful in most cases. I
understand that the use
of this technology is considered
controversial by some. I intend
to continue my exploration into
how biometric technology is
being used around the world
for the greater good.

I am an archivist with a deep love of technology, which is one reason I pursued a masters level certification in digital information management. A little over a week ago, I was in a meeting that reignited my interest in biometrics. I must admit that I was naïve in my assumption that my state was not a pioneer in this industry. First off, I didn’t know that the central nervous system of New Mexico state government (aka the State Data Center at the Department of Information Technology) utilizes biometric technology as a method of security. After that meeting I came home curious about how involved New Mexico is when it comes to biometric research and implementation. The writer, the researcher, the analyst, the special agent in me took over and that night I added biometric engineer to my list of dream jobs that I would love to have. So…what type of education does a biometric engineer need? Most commonly, a biometrics engineer has: a computer science degree; a computer language certification like Java or C++; and good problem-solving, people, and technical skills.

I found an informative link online titled “Become a Biometrics Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap.” Hum? Well, according to this plan, there are only 7 “popular schools” specializing in advancing a career in biometrics. The page said that “biometric technologies include complex equipment designed to analyze personal identification markers unique to each individual, such as fingerprints, ear lobes, vein patterns, voices, and iris shapes.” Through this research, I discovered that the technology is not limited to “individuals” or people here in New Mexico. I did know that biometric engineers were software developers, but there was a lot that I didn’t know before I embarked upon this research over the Thanksgiving break. Ear lobes? Veins? Hum? Didn’t know those were used as unique identifiers? We are all well aware of the TV shows touting the sexy use of biometrics, like CSI and most recently my beloved Scandal, but that’s just on TV right? A dead guy’s index finger couldn’t possibly be used to confirm his identity? Could it Shonda? Maybe I should ask Chien Le?

The most information dense white paper I discovered was written by Chien Le of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Washington University in November of 2011. Le wrote A Survey of Biometrics Security Systems and his research introduced biometric security systems. It also outlined application fields for biometric technologies, solutions, middle-ware and software, advantages and disadvantages, acronyms, and the future uses of biometrics. Damn! Chien Le beat me to the punch didn’t he?! Here it was…all laid out for my thirsty mind. Le’s paper says there are “seven basic criteria for biometric security systems.” These are “uniqueness, universality, permanence [hummm?? Do I hear digital preservation?], collectability, performance, accessibility and circumvention.” I don’t completely understand some of the criteria, but it was very useful to read over the types of biometric solutions outlined by Le. Current technologies include: facial recognition detectors, fingerprint readers, voice recognition, iris scanners, vein recognition, DNA biometric systems, and 2D barcode scanners, among others.

This technology can have good uses, but there are many privacy advocates who are against the use of any biometrics. In December of 2013, Scientific American published Biometric Security Poses Huge Privacy Risks by Oliver Munday with a byline which read “without explicit safeguards, your personal biometric data are destined for a government database.” The article starts with the sentence “security through biology is an enticing idea.” Yeah it is. Is that all it is though? An idea? I think not. Maybe I’m not worried about privacy as much as I should be? The article is basically a call to United States Congress for “lasting protections against the misuse of biometric data.” Munday quoted an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who seems to fear that biometric data will be used genetically to test for criminal predisposition. I’m actually not sure that’s a bad thing? I guess my only concerns at this point would be relative to health information and insurance coverage. When it comes to physical security and data security, personally, I think that biometric technology is necessary. It is a way to uniquely protect data, which in the end equals the preservation of knowledge and heightened security.

Over the weekend I started whittling through what I found. I read a great deal of articles and a few white papers before I started to look at projects going on closer to home. The more I researched this topic, the more information I found. I was most interested in how biometric systems actually work, so I focused my mind on the technical aspects. I had questions like…what are the major components of a biometric system? Who uses these systems? One of my questions was answered in Le’s paper. I have a sore throat now, so last night I wondered…what if a person needed to use voice recognition and something was wrong with their voice? How is that accounted for in designing a successful system? According to Le, there was no solution. A voice recognition system will not recognize a hoarse voice wave. So now that we have some background on the basics of biometrics, let’s take a look at what I found going on right here in my state. I was able to locate information on at least ten concrete areas where biometric technology is being used in New Mexico from at least 2003-2014. I’m sure there are many projects I missed, but frankly, this could be a thesis and maybe even a dissertation. This is just a quick look at highly visible projects I came across over the last week.

We will start with the New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) since it is a meeting with this office that rekindled my interest in this technology. DoIT is “responsible for infrastructure IT services provided 24x7x365 which includes: the State’s telecommunications system, two-way public safety radio, digital microwave, the State’s core data network and internet connectivity, and the State’s Data Center.” It is here, in the State Data Center where biometric technologies are being used for data security. I felt impressed with my state when I learned that and tomorrow I will get a tour of the center. “The State’s Data Center provides a secure facility with redundant power and cooling which houses many of the State’s critical IT systems including the State’s mainframe and agency servers. This division also provides enterprise system services which include the State’s consolidated email system…” It will be interesting to see what type of biometric security the agency is using as of late. I am guessing a finger or palm scanner?

The two strangest projects I found information on were tied to the use of biometrics on kids and animals in New Mexico. On April 3, 2013, there was a news release put out by KOAT (channel 7) titled Los Lunas School Offers Biometric Scans at Lunch. What? Seriously? Yes. Seriously. The school apparently tried to implement a palm vein scanner in the lunch room instead of good old meal tickets or cards. Parents were not happy about the suggestion of using infrared wavelengths (electromagnetic radiation) during the lunch hour to ID their children. The parents fought off the proposal which would have allowed scanners to recognize a unique vein pattern in the child’s palm and they won. I wasn’t sure which seemed stranger…scanning kids or scanning animals? I also read about how the New Mexico livestock industry is using Retinal Vascular Pattern (RVP) for livestock identification. RVP is the pattern of blood vessels at the back of the eye. It’s is being called the new way of branding animals. I wonder how ranchers feel about that since they must prefer the old burn and freeze methods? What’s a brand without cowboy symbology right?

I discovered that the national labs and the air force bases are also using biometrics. Of course, this was no surprise. I read a white paper Chris Aldridge prepared for Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in June of 2013. Sandia Report No. SAND2013-4922 is titled Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) Technology: Summary of Selected First Responder Experiences in Pilot Projects. This report was concentrated on the use of MBDs to enroll individuals in databases and perform “identification checks of subjects in the field area,” for “military, law enforcement, and homeland security operations.” The report was a multi-agency/multi-state project with 3M Cogent Systems and involved: Iowa, Colorado, California, D.C., Texas, Washington (Seattle), Arizona, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Idaho. I think the most interesting part of this study used a “mock prison riot” for first responders out of West Virginia. We all know how critical that information is given New Mexico’s prison riot history. Many of the agencies studied for this report are using “Fusion devices.” Fusion was developed by 3M Cogent Systems for the Department of Defense. A large part of studies in this field are tied to law enforcement, but currently the technology trend is leaning towards cyber security.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says biometrics are important because they: secure facilities, protect access to computer networks, counter fraud, screen people at our borders, and fight crime. The NIST says this technology is used to manage identities for: first responders at the scene of a natural disaster, border patrol, soldiers in theater, and police officers on the street. It makes sense that the following projects are closely related to the projects cited in the Sandia report. In New Mexico, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to support criminal justice DNA databases. The National DNA Index System or NDIS is part of CODIS. The FBI uses biometrics to analyze data from DNA databases and for latent print analysis. Holloman Air Force Base is using the 49th Security Forces Defense Biometric Identification System which is comprised of hand-held scanners. The scanners are used to screen people entering the base to verify the access authorization. Identity is established using barcode technology and fingerprints. In February of 2011, it was announced that Santa Fe County was using biometrics to “remove aliens convicted of a crime.” It can also be noted that between 2003 and 2005, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) researched the use of biometrics in handgun grips while working with a New Mexico biometrics company. The NAE was interested in developing biometric grip sensors, but a 2005 report declared the tests a failure.

I also located evidence of the health care systems in New Mexico using biometric technology. The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) offers Biometrics Screening Services as part of Employee Health Plans. These screenings are said to align with recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Ommmm…Maybe this is where my privacy fears rest? In 2013, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine released a Joint Consensus Statement on Biometric Health Screening for Employers. According to the “statement,” the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines biometric screenings as “the measurement of physical characteristics such as height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and aerobic fitness that can be taken at the worksite and used as part of a workplace health assessment to benchmark and evaluate changes in employee health status over time.” I am a fitness freak, but that seems crazy? What if something is wrong with me and I don’t know? The statement outlines the “purpose of screenings” and I found it kind of scary. What if they find out I experience shortness of breath or I’m genetically predisposed to cancer? Will they drop me from my insurance plan?

In New Mexico health circles, I also located a “Fingerprint Techniques Manual,” which was prepared by the New Mexico Department of Health. The manual had very interesting graphic illustrations on the fundamentals of fingerprints. This training tool covered from patterns to arches to loops to lines to deltas to cores to whorls to scars of the fingerprints. The machines can read all these intricate things. The Division of Health Improvement uses this technology as part of the Caregivers Criminal History Screening Program. Makes more sense than the biometric screenings. I feel comfortable with this use. This type of use can protect people from abuse or other forms of criminal activity. I was rather impressed with the 36 page manual. It reminded me that about 15 years ago I applied for a finger print technician position with the Department of Public Safety. I was crushed to learn that these people don’t make very much. I don’t know…I guess you have to be a biometrics engineer to make it out there!? What I do know is that I found a great deal of information about how New Mexico is actively participating in the biometric industry.

I gained useful knowledge through this research into biometrics and then regurgitating what I learned. My son just asked me what I was writing about and when I told him he looked at me with the curiosity that I love and see in myself. I told him “I’m writing about biometrics. Do you know what that is?” I explained with words and then decided it was easier to show a nine year old a catchy tech video with visual candy. Together we learned about the future of biometric systems. Between October and November of this year there were several videos on the use biometric technology. The National Science Foundation released information on a project by a young man studying the use of ocular biometrics in the video game industry for disabled people. In October the Telegraph out of the United Kingdom released a video declaring that we would simply kill passwords with biometrics and CBS news declared that biometric palm scans will help keep hospitals secure.

The future of biometrics is here. It is everywhere and happening all around us. Biometrics is about identifying who we are and not who we say we are. Tonight I learned that the most accurate method for a biometric reading is the heartbeat or an electrocardiogram (ECG). Makes sense ha? It’s symbolic actually. Symbolic because the heart is at our biometric core. It is the giver of life. The heart represents how we feel and who we are. That beat is indeed is a unique identifier.


News release, Santa Fe County and All New Mexico Now Benefit from ICE Strategy to Use Biometrics to Identify and Remove Aliens Convicted of a Crime, released on, February 15, 2011

White paper, A Survey of Biometrics Security Systems by Chien Le, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Washington University, November 28, 2011

News release, Los Lunas School Offers Biometric Scans at Lunch, released on, April 3, 2013

White paper, Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) Technology: Summary of Selected First Responder Experiences in Pilot Projects by Chris Aldridge, Sandia Report No. SAND2013-4922, prepared by Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, June 2013

Article, Biometric Security Poses Huge Privacy Risks by Oliver Munday, released on, December 17, 2013

Publication, Fingerprint Techniques Manual, prepared by New Mexico Department of Health, Division of Health Improvement, Caregivers Criminal History Screening Program, no date

Various internet searches for basic information in articles and videos

Fog: Mysteriously Scientific

November 18, 2014


~Fog by Felicia Lujan. The digital composite includes 4 images, 10 layers, 2 masks and 1 screen.~

The Fog
by Mary Meixner

Seurat would have gone forth
on such a night
walking the mist-hung streets
dour silence
wrapping his world
in thin recessions
frames of form.
How he would chew this vapor
like a food
tasting distinctions
when all cats are grey
already in his hand, the touch
veiling in layered chalk
this passing woman
as a monument.
Each windowed structure lost
in a broad stroke
that makes perfection
of the mood of home
cubic, irradiated,
finding more truth
the more that it obscures.

A couple of weeks ago on my drive into work, the fog was thick. I wanted to stop and take a photograph, but I didn’t. Fog rarely visits Santa Fe, but when it does, it is beautiful and eerie and magical and mysterious all at once. I started wondering what people thought about fog centuries ago when they didn’t understand what it was. I started wondering things like… What is fog exactly? What causes fog? Why does the smoke-like cloak evoke such contradictory feelings in me? Tonight I explored historic and contemporary research about the science of fog. I can’t possibly cover everything in one night. In the coming weeks, I would like to learn more about fog.

The earliest scientific account of fog I could find was published in an 1889 volume of Science. The article was titled Fogs, and the piece wasn’t very scientific in my opinion. That year in January, there was an anniversary meeting of the Royal Meteorological Society. The president of the society, Dr. W. Marcet delivered a keynote address about fog which was laced with “interesting lantern-slides.” Apparently, the address declared that “fogs and clouds are one in the same thing.” The article goes on to say “a cloud is a fog when entered into; and a fog seen from a distance, suspended in the air, becomes a cloud.” Isn’t that so scientific? No…not really.

While I didn’t get much from the article in that volume, a few months later, a very interesting piece was published in Letters to the Editor. On May 24, 1889, H.A. Hazen (love how that surname is perfect for a study of fog) sent a letter to Science. It opens… “A great deal of discussion has recently taken place on the properties of fog and its causes.” This letter delivered some concrete facts about the composition and causes of fog. He or maybe she calls theory “entirely inadequate” and noted percent, degrees, height, and weight measurements. Hazen says “fog, it is admitted, is simply cloud composed of water-dust or solid minute spheres of water from 1/7000 to 1/1000 of an inch in diameter.”

So how did Hazen conclude the letter written from Washington, D.C.? I was curious as I read on. Hazen concluded by outlining the circumstances surrounding the formation of fog.

“The cause of fog is briefly as follows: 1. It is essential that there be no wind. I do not mean that the wind does not blow the fog right after it is formed, but there must be little or none while it is forming. 2. The sky must be clear. We often notice a cloudless sky after a fog is dissipated. On weather-maps, “fog” is entered as “fair,” for, through not a particle of sky is visible, yet it is almost a certainty that the sky is clear. 3. The air must be saturated, or nearly so. It is very surprising how rarely the last condition occurs at inland stations. A relative humidity of 95 per cent has been noted in the air, in which rain is falling, and had been falling continuously for seventeen hours. This condition almost always can occur only to the south, south-east, or north-east of a storm. At nightfall, whenever these conditions combine, there is a rapid radiation from the earth to the sky, which speedily supersaturates the overlying air; and after that, radiation from the upper surface of the fog continues the process, and extends the fog upward until the action ceases with the rising of the sun.”

The letter was a very interesting read. Will you notice any of the things Hazen pointed out next time you encounter fog? I will. I find pleasure in the fact that one thought or maybe a few thoughts can spur my mind into a foggy haze! Hazen seemed to take some of the first concrete steps to define fog scientifically.

What about what can’t be defined scientifically like the emotions and feelings associated with fog? How do writers and artists use things like fog as a tool to evoke a feeling in the reader? I have a little bit more research to do and then you will see a part two with a focus on my interest in the mystery of fog.


The Fog [Poem] by Mary Meixner
Art Journal, Vol.25, No.1, Pg.25 (Autumn 1965)

Science, Vol.13, No.315, Pg.116-117 (February 1889)

Science, Vol.13, No.330, Pg.429-430 (May 1889)

The Flight of Circe

September 22, 2014

~Digital composite by Felicia~

On my way home from work, many thoughts raced through my busy head. My brain was like a swirling pool of black uselessness. Approaching 599, the state highway, I was still deep in thought when I saw a very large, white and brown, spotted, dead bird in the middle of the road. Her lovely feathers were being roughly shoved about by the wind and my heart broke to see the majestic creature deprived of life and flight. I screeched off of the road with burning rubber and instantly forgot about all of my thoughts. All that was important in that moment was getting the bird off of the road. Five o’clock traffic raced around her and I wanted to save her from being smashed under tires by all the other people who didn’t care or have time to stop for her.

I pulled over and then I noticed another car followed. It was a woman. The bird was a huge Red-tailed Hawk. One woman jumped out of the car, while her angry mother glared at me through the windshield. There were three large dogs in the hatchback. The woman had a big fast food bag ready and didn’t seem like a good person. I felt like choking her out…frankly. She ran into the road and scooped up the bird before I could blink. She spurted out over the racing traffic…”indians use these,” while she tossed the beautiful bird in the hatchback with three dogs. Indians? Dogs? Really?? So cultured and thoughtful! At that point, I seriously felt like wrestling her to the ground. I told her that she better call BLM because the bird was protected by state and federal law. I’m not sure if she knows it’s illegal to possess a dead raptor. Hopefully, she did the right thing.

When I drove away. I realized the raptor was a sign for me. I could have not seen her or pretended not to see her and just driven over her like everyone else. Why didn’t I? Why was I awakened from my pool of useless thoughts? Well…because I believe in magic. The hawk is a very symbolic bird. She is a messenger. She is a power animal with a powerful totem. Ina Woolcott once wrote that “hawk’s gifts include clear sightedness, being observant…magic, and focus.” She also said… “Hawks have a broad vision, allowing them to see what the future holds. In man this is a symbol of prophetic insight. If this gift is underdeveloped, it is common for people with this power animal to have a tendency of over analyzing everything.”

Maybe I need to see things clearly? You know? With hawk eyes. Tonight I read the “Wildlife Notes” publication put out by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. I learned that “the eyesight of a hawk is 8 times as powerful as that of humans” and that hawks “have excellent color vision extending into the ultraviolet range so they see more colors than we do.” I guess it would be easier to see illusions that way? The hawk is my new totem. Seeing in the ultraviolet range? It sounds magical doesn’t it? Ahhh…yes. Back to magic. Last night I posted I Believe in Magic” and coincidentally, there was a hawk show at the Renaissance Fair while I was there. Magic. Yes. I believe.

When I thought of the symbolism of the hawk and her magic, the first woman who came to mind was Circe. In Greek Mythology, Circe was known as the Goddess of Magic and her name means hawk. She was a bewitching nymph who was the daughter of the God of the Sun, Helios. Her magic was based on herbal potions. She was the daughter of the light in the sky. We see clearly in the daylight right? Finding the beautiful hawk was a sign. Call it the “flight of Circe.” I need to wake up and open my eyes. I need to look to those who actually cherish my magic. I am a magical being and deserve to have that in my life.

Woolcott’s symbolic interpretation of the hawk “denotes union with All That Is.” She says “the hawk is a bird of the heavens, arranging the changes necessary to prompt our spiritual growth. Having this power animal can be bitter sweet. When accepting its presence in your life, you will be asked to surrender/give up anything that doesn’t honor the integrity of all life. Whether its an idea, feeling or action. Although hard work is involved, the rewards to be reaped are great, far outweighing this.” I accept this majestic creature as my totem. I am willing to put in hard work. “Work” is my middle name. “Magic” is my last.

♦*Valuing Value*♦

July 30, 2014


“When someone can make you see
this broken world as beautiful, they
are worth keeping around.”

~~~~~• Author Unknown

Have you ever contemplated the word value? It is an intricate word to contemplate. What does it mean to value things? More importantly, what does it mean to value people? We are all worth something? Aren’t we? I like to think my worth outweighs my worthlessness, but maybe other people don’t see it that way. Maybe people who don’t know me could just ignore my value, write me off, plead ignorance to my worth, but what about those who know me? What about those who you hoped would care?

The dictionary defines value (the noun) as “high quality” the “importance” of “something intrinsically valuable or desirable.” It is always disappointing when you realize that some people see you as a metaphorical rock instead of as a diamond. No matter how much value you could ever allot yourself, not everyone can see the return on an investment in you. Maybe it’s that they can’t conceive or refuse to acknowledge your worth? Maybe they simply can’t do it? Maybe in this case, value (the noun) isn’t as important to me as value (the verb)?

Value as a verb is much more complex. It isn’t just the physicality of worth, but what lies beneath our skin. It is what’s in the mind and in the heart. In this form of the word, value is the description of an action, state, or occurrence. The dictionary defines this type of value as the consideration of “someone or something to be important or beneficial” and to “have a high opinion of” that someone or something. Synonymously, one would “think highly of, hold in high regard, rate highly, appreciate, treasure, prize, and respect” someone or something they valued.

Seriously…have you ever contemplated the word value? The intricacy of this word continues to blow my mind. It is important to me. We can choose to value or choose not to value things. If valuing something…if valuing someone means you have to validate them are you ok with that? If it is something or someone you really care about, it is never a problem. I value things. I value people. If I declare your value, you will know. I do my best to nurture those things which are dear to me.

We are all worth something. I am worth something. Unfortunately, we may be worth more to some than others no matter what we do…still, I declare that my worth outweighs my worthlessness. I am worthy of love and the exploration of feelings. Yes…I am. I am special and deserve respect. I take work, but in the end, I am worth that work. I want to be cared for because I am not valueless.

The Unification of Fantasy and Reality

March 29, 2014

Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.”
~•••••Francisco De Goya
(Male~Romantic Artist)

“Fantasy is not escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”
~•••••Lloyd Alexander
(Male~ Fantasy Author)

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
~•••••Albert Einstein
(Male~ Theoretical Physicist)

“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”
~•••••Sir Terry Pratchett
(Male~Fantasy Author)

“I believe dreams represent the purest form of fantasy we unleash through our subconscious. They represent the truest freedom we can experience. Totally unrepressed and totally creative.”
~•••••Miguel Jontel Pimentel
(Male~ RnB Artist, Songwriter and Producer)



The wish I found today while I was outside. Wishes, dreams, fantasy, reality…they are all relative and important to humanity.

There is no separation between fantasy and reality. These are not two different lands. They are both realms of one land…the mind. What differentiates these two realms of the mind is our ability to move from one into the other successfully when we want fantasy to become reality. We are inspired by fantasy. In essence, this is moving from theory into practice…mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, artistically, and sexually.

Kim Elizabeth once said “my imagination completely controls me, and forever feeds the fire that burns with dark red light in my heart by bringing me the best dreams.” She is an award-winning dark fantasy author and poet among other things. As a woman, she actively engages her fantasies to bring her writing to life. Her fantasies have made fame a reality. However, the use of fantasy to understand and eventually act in the real world is not a uniquely feminine practice.

Just above you can read quotes from five unique men. They are all very different, yet these quotes show at least one common thread running through the psyche of each. Yes. It’s true. Women use fantasy, but so do men. Another man, Dr. Edward Vockell with Purdue University examines the real world application of fantasy in Educational Psychology: A Practical Approach. His studies look at factors “influencing individual motivation” with regard to fantasy.

Dr. Vockell’s studies show a correlation between fantasy and intrinsic motivation. As a man, he says that fantasy “plays a role when learners use mental images of situations that are not actually present to stimulate their behavior.” His studies show that we use fantasy to learn so “learners may use their imaginations to meet challenges, satisfy curiosity, exercise control, or experience interpersonal motivations without directly participating in the imagined activities themselves.”

These studies are particularly interesting because intrinsic motivation is spurred by fantasy. Dr. Vockell’s research proves that the “emotional elements” of fantasy “can make learners more willing to engage in an activity…” Like doing something they have never done or going somewhere they have never gone. He also attaches the cognitive elements of fantasy which can “make learners more willing to engage in an activity by enabling” them “to imagine themselves actually” bringing fantasy to life.

This made me want to learn about what motivates us to move from fantasy to reality. After reading Intrinsic Motivation in Psychology: Definition, Examples & Factors, I learned about how fantasy can “stimulate intrinsic motivation” because as learners, we can practice doing what we want before going live! Call it a mock life. This white paper said that fantasy is a motivating factor because “behaviors can be encouraged by the use of imagery.”

The other factors I found interesting were challenge and curiosity. With regard to a challenge, this study says “we’re highly motivated when we’re working toward goals that are personally meaningful to us and require some amount of difficulty to achieve.” This factor helps us meet our goals and fulfill our dreams. According to this study, curiosity “can motivate us to take action.” So…fantasy enables motivation and “motivation is what drives us to take some action.”

Both men and women live in a fantasy land. They live simultaneously in fantasy and reality. Fantasy land is where we practice things we want to bring life to. I mentioned six men and one woman in this piece who value fantasy. These people understood/understand how fantasy relates to reality. This understanding brought each fame and fortune, but more importantly it made their dreams come true.

The Romantic Artist of the Spanish Crown said it best. Francisco De Goya said that “fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.” Don’t rely on reality and reason alone. Don’t abandon fantasy. Don’t produce impossible monsters. In time, if fantasy is nurtured and united with reality, something marvelous may happen.

Keeping the Fire: A Symbolic Analysis of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”

February 3, 2014

A father and son watch
“the fire” burn in the
2009 movie The Road.

It is time for a deeper look. Not long ago, I finally watched the 2009 movie The Road. A friend of mine had told me about the movie, and I thought it would be interesting to see it and read the book since the author lives near me. The post-apocalyptic drama was based on the 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy lives here in Santa Fe, but I missed his last lecture. The main characters in the movie are Viggo Mortensen (the father) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (his son). Charlize Theron convincingly plays Mortensen’s hopeless wife. In 2007, the novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The story is inspiring in a world filled with nightmarish problems and complexity.

In 2006, Janet Maslin with the New York Times wrote The Road Through Hell, Paved With Desperation. There have been several reviews which focus on the darkness of the story. The darkness didn’t bother me at all because it was really a story about the struggle for hope and retention of light. Maslin calls the journey of this father and his son a “cold, wretched, wet, corpse-strewn, ashen landscape of a post-apocalyptic world.” She calls the story “brutal” and in the same sentence, she uses the word “despair.” Maslin felt that it was a “terrifying” story. The one thing I did like about her critique is that she uses two good words. She uses the words “symbolic” and “metaphorical,” though she doesn’t offer any more than that and so I will give you my interpretation of McCarthy’s tale.

First off I will say that the title itself is a metaphor for life. The road each of us will travel is filled with curves, stops, hazards, and the unexpected. The Road represents the journey we make and how we must fight to fulfill our destiny or let go of those things which we can not control. Our individual road can be long, but McCarthy’s tale does promise light at the end of a dark trail. There can still be comfort in difficult times. The story embraces tenacity and embodies strength. It teaches us to give thanks for what we do have which can be as simple as life itself.

The movie opens with a beautiful, calm setting. There are trees and flowers. The scene is full of light. I felt that this set the stage for the endurance and strength of light. For the symbolic sake of my analysis, dark represents evil, despair, the faithless, hate, fear, cold and hopelessness. Light represents goodness, faith, love, fearlessness, warmth and hope.

The son remains a strong symbol of that which is positive. At one point, the father says “when I have nothing else, I try to dream the dreams of a child’s imaginings.” The child represents the untainted innocence within each of us. It is this innocence and child-like quality which can ward off the heaviness of the problems in life. The son also exemplifies the beauty of humanness. He shows us how exposing ourselves to others can sooth and heal.

The best example of this is captured by the charity and compassion of the son. He insists on giving to a stranger. He shares food, which is scarce, with an old man on the road. It is this friendship and bonding which exposes us. The boy holds the old man’s hand. They are both comforted by this. The old man calls him “a good little boy.” He says “when I saw that boy, I thought I had died and seen an angel.”

Fire is the greatest, most powerful symbol in this story. It represents warmth in the coldest times. It represents life. It represents the magical light we carry within which keeps us human. It represents drive, resilience, commitment, selflessness, goodness and love. At one point in the movie, the father explains this. He tells his son that they have to “just keeping carrying the fire” and the son says “what fire?” The dad says “the fire inside you.”

Water and food were both obvious symbols of life and hope. When the father and son discover an underground bunker with food and water, we see the duo in happier times. In this scene, a great symbol of hope is clear when the father and son are on their knees. At this time, they give thanks for their blessings.

In contrast to her positive son and somewhat positive husband, we have the hopeless wife. Memories of her haunt the father and he always hears the sad music of their piano which is symbolic of love that has gone cold. The cold is a firm symbol of disconnection. In the father’s memories, the breath of the couple is icy symbolizing the distance between them. The wife shunned all hope. She invited the darkness and sadly headed off alone into the frozen night. Her husband said “she was gone and the coldness of it was her final gift. She died somewhere in the dark.” We never see her body, so it is likely a metaphorical death. Her death represents the psychology of giving up and succumbing to the darkness.

I think McCarthy paired this husband and wife to show us the power of positivity. The wife is a negative woman who never helps the situation. While her husband says he will do anything to insure their survival, she insists on giving up. I think her character was the saddest, darkest part of this tale. Her husband tells her “we will survive this. We aren’t going to quit,” and she says she doesn’t want to “just survive.” When he finally realized she had indeed lost all hope by leaving them for the darkness, he throws her photo and his wedding ring off the bridge which is symbolic of letting go of that which he could not control.

From this point on, the story line centers on the unbreakable bond between a father and son. In times of adversity he reads to his child, teaching him about the “old” values. Even though the boy is older, he remains child-like, clinging to a plush toy for comfort. The father says “all I know is the child is my warrant, and if he is not the word of God then God never spoke.”

In the end, the boy ends up without his father and mother. The story is a testament of strength as the boy doesn’t choose to take his own life as his father instructed him to do. He makes the choice to go on. He chooses life. The boy ends up being followed by a concerned family and regains a father and mother figure, a brother and sister and the dog he had always hoped for.

McCarthy’s story is about light in the darkest times. The journey of this father and son symbolically ended near the ocean. As I said before, water is a symbol of life. This is a story about never giving up. It is a story about selfless love. McCarthy’s dark story is really encrusted with light, goodness, faith, fearlessness, warmth and hope. His story reminds us to keep our fire burning while traveling the road.

Galileo the Heretic: Science and Scripture

December 30, 2013

Yesterday I watched a movie I checked out at the LaFarge Library about Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). The movie is based on the book Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel and is titled Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens. I came away feeling so sad for this unbelievable man. He was constantly at odds with religious officials with regard to his pursuit of knowledge, still he remained a pious and obedient Catholic.

Galileo was considered a heretic in his day. For at least three decades he risked his life to study our universe. He was actually a hero of knowledge who continues to inspire contemporary scientists and freethinkers. The dictionary defines a heretic as a “person believing in or practicing religious heresy.” Was he really a “nonconformist,” a “nonbeliever,” a “pagan,” or a “heathen?” Maybe some think he was?


During the 17th century and even later, freethinking was really frowned upon. You could be burned at the stake for partaking in scientific, mathematical, and other studies! Galileo lived in a time when a book of banned books was kept. It makes me sad. I have to be thankful that I am alive today. I can express my opinions openly. My century is far from perfect, but I am in a much better place than Galileo was in relation to my consumption and sharing of knowledge.

The movie I watched was perfectly titled Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens. I found myself wondering if God could really frown on the discoveries made by Galileo? Though he was basically haunted by the Holy Office for several decades, he never turned his back on the church and at times was even apologetic for being smart. The movie touched on: his career as a professor/mathematician at the University of Pisa (1589); his explanation of the tides (1595); his experimentation with a pendulum/natural accelerated motion and balls/inclined planes (1602-1604); his observations and sketches of the lunar craters and mountains of the moon (1609); a demonstration of one of his telescopes (1609); his discovery of the four moons of Jupiter (1610); and his research on sunspots (1612).

The secret archive of the Vatican dates back to 1612. I realized how close this was to some of the most important discoveries made by Galileo when I looked back at a post I wrote last year. In 2012, I wrote about the religious archive and the trial documents of Galileo in a post titled 400 Year Old Archive: Secrets of the Vatican. At that time, stated that the Vatican secret archive contains 50 miles of shelving. Now I am curious how much of those documents are related to Galileo’s studies of the heavens?

Galileo facing the Roman
Catholic Inquisition in a
painting by Cristiano Banti


For at least 30 years, the Holy Office/Inquisition had a firm hold on one of the most intelligent men to ever walk the Earth. From 1611 until his death in 1642, poor Galileo was muffled by religious officials. Why? It is hard for me to understand and frankly, it makes me feel embarrassed to be Catholic. I think religious groups still suppress knowledge to some extent for if we have wings, we can fly. I can only imagine what his unhindered soul could have become?

By 1616, the Inquisition believed Galileo’s theory that the sun centered the universe was “absurd in philosophy and formally heretical.” He was summoned to Rome by Urban VIII in 1632 and was told that if he didn’t appear he would be “arrested and brought to Rome in chains.” In April of 1633, the formalities of the Inquisition were in full force and the “father of science” was detained by the Inquisition for close to 20 days. At the end of that detainment, Urban VIII decided that Galileo would face imprisonment for an undeclared amount of time. He was threatened with torture, and eventually sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life.

It is unbelievable that Galileo was forced to endure physical suffering while he was under house arrest!! In 1634, the genius was suffering from the pain of a hernia and asked the Holy Office for permission to leave his home to visit a doctor in Florence. His request was denied and he was told that if he asked again, he would be imprisoned once again. Even after he went completely blind in 1638, the Inquisition did not return Galileo’s freedom. He was granted permission to attend church on Catholic holidays if he didn’t speak to anyone. So sad.

At 77 years old, Galileo became seriously ill. The year was 1641 and a heroically smart man was silenced and blind. He died in 1642. With his death came the loss of a heavenly mind. I believe in God. I believe I am a good person. I believe in Heaven. I find it really hard to believe that God saw it right to prosecute a man who only treasured knowledge. I understand that his pursuit of scientific knowledge was contradicting scripture, still I find it hard to believe that my God accepted the things which were done to Galileo. Maybe I will never understand??

**Additional reference used~ The Galileo Project/Galileo Timeline/Rice University.

Unbound Time: The Study of Opposites

October 23, 2013

••• Aion~ God of Eternity •••

Today many would consider Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) a man of science. Throughout history, some have described the Swiss man as a mystic. The professional psychiatrist/psychotherapist is the father of analytical psychology. He explored the collective unconscious and the archetypes of our psyches. His mind was naturally intrigued by human development, go or stay, on or off, and black or white.

I believe some of his greatest work was tied to the psychological commingling of opposites. As a master of analytical psychology, Jung took the concept of individuation as far as he could before he died. He truly believed opposites would naturally integrate, yet retain respective uniqueness. Jung’s studies looked closely at the anima and animus, extraversion and introversion, as well as the conscious and the unconscious.

One of the things I love about Jung was his respect for symbols. Understanding and analyzing symbolic content was one thing that did make him a mystic. I believe his study of symbols is still unmatched today. Princeton University Press published Aion: Reseaches Into the Phenomenology of Self in the 1950s. In his work, Jung’s focus on Aion can be seen as a symbol of that which is all encompassing.

After reading through his book, I started to wonder if Jung became interested in studying how opposing forces join because of his interest in astrology. He talks about the union of opposites in astrology “in the year 7 B.C.” Apparently a “famed conjunction took place no less than three times in the sign of the Fishes.” Astrologers felt that this conjunction was extremely significant as it was the joining of complete opposites~ Saturn and Jupiter.

Jung’s selection of Aion is interesting. Aion is the God of Eternity or unbound time and is a prominent figure in the work of Jung. The Mithraic deity is said to encompass the universe. This god is often portrayed with a snake in the form of a circle with the mouth and tail connected. This is a symbol for infinity, no end, no beginning. Now we see why Aion is a perfect reflection of the union of opposites. If the is no start and there is no end, we are left with continuity.

A religious site says that Aion was a sexless, “master of the heavens.” This site also says that “his body was covered with zodiacal signs and the emblems of the seasons.” The God of Eternity indeed represents the merging of opposites. As Jung says in his book, “when anima and animus meet, the animus draws his sword of power and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seduction.” Jung seemed to indulge in analyzing the commingling of female and male energies.

Though Jung’s studies would lead me to believe that opposites attract for a reason, I would like to learn more. Aion was gifted with unbound time, still I’m not sure if this god had time to recognize that anima and animus “live in the illusion that they are related to one another in a most individual way.” Maybe if I pray to Aion, in due time I too will understand the union of opposites?

With a Purple Crayon

September 30, 2013


In 1955, Crockett Johnson published a childhood favorite about the hidden power of a crayon. Harold and the Purple Crayon is a story for children, but there is really a lesson for adults as well. Almost 60 years ago Crockett Johnson sent us a message about taking control of our lives without forgetting to dream. Each of us has a purple crayon. The question is… If you use your magical crayon, where will your path lead?

In Johnson’s story, we see the crayon become a symbol of possibilities, imagination, and inventiveness. Albert Einstein once said “the one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.” This great man couldn’t have said it better. The possibilities are endless when we don’t restrict ourselves. We fall into a pattern of doing things in life a particular way because we think that’s what is expected of us. We should draw our path using imagination and inventiveness even if we must walk that path alone.


It is symbolic that the author of this book wanted Harold to use a crayon. At first glance we may think “well… Harold is a child and children use crayons.” If we look deeper we can again see the crayon as a symbol. A crayon has no eraser, thus it is presumed that there is no wrong path to erase. Each step we take is taken for a reason. Why didn’t Harold have a pencil instead? “There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.” In his book Tigana, Guy Kay dives head first into fantasy land with his purple crayon in hand.

In Johnson’s book, when Harold felt his path needed to be altered, he did just that. Harold appears to be a baby like character and symbolizes the raw imagination each of us possess. We just need to tap into that, ask ourselves what we really want out of life, and then set out on the path to accomplish our goals. When Harold wasn’t getting anywhere on his path, he altered the direction of the path. Gautama Buddha once said “if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading,” but without accepting change when it is necessary we are surely set to fail.


If you have read this story, have you ever wondered why Harold didn’t have a crayon box full of colors? I did. Our world is colorful right? Again this is symbolic. The crayon is a sole representation of that which is in us. I believe in destiny, but I also believe that we are active participants in that destiny. The author selected a purple crayon to create a story. Purple is the only color Johnson gives to Harold. The color has been known to symbolize magic, imagination and inspiration. It is also a “color favored by artists,” and “people seeking spiritual fulfillment.”

Harold and the Purple Crayon is not a simple book. It is packed with intricate symbolism. The most symbolic part of the book is when Harold started “looking for a hill to climb” because he knew that “the higher up he went, the farther he would see.” He decided to sketch a mountain instead of a hill and he scaled it. He set a goal. Once Harold reached the top, “he slipped.” Instead of falling to the ground, he thought quick and made sure a balloon would break his fall. This story teaches us to move forward and keep looking up regardless of our fears.

There will be times when our path feels long, narrow and very cold. There will be times when we feel lost, but we must remember there is no wrong path. This path is your path. Each step we take leads us to the next. This is where we are meant to be. If you get lost or fall, you can shake yourself off and wipe the tears. Johnson’s message about the crayon is clear. We have the power to take control of life and dreams. The hardest part is remembering that you too have a purple crayon.


The Strongest Weakness

August 13, 2013

Weakness Leads to Strength
Would you describe yourself as a strong person? Many of us prefer to identify with our strengths, but it is easy to forget that in order to be strong, at times we must be weak. Strengths and weaknesses can be both mental and physical. Most of us were raised to think that showing weakness is unacceptable. Maybe it is sometimes? The brawniness of our mind is interlaced with stimulation from the world around us which further complicates things. An interdisciplinary look at how scholars, philosophers, psychologists, and writers have studied strength and weakness is somewhat enlightening. Voltaire once said “we are all full of weakness and errors,” so when is weakness acceptable?

Depending on the source and subsequently the discipline, the definition of weakness varies. Wikipedia says that weakness is a medical “symptom” or condition which affects the muscles or body. It can be argued that mental weakness can also physically manifest or settle in our bodies. Have you ever been “weak in the knees” because of strong emotions? That idiom is a perfect example. I became interested in reading the Wikipedia explanation of “true weakness vs. perceived weakness,” but quickly moved on when I realized that this was still focused on medical conditions. I am interested in learning about how weakness assists or afflicts us. This is one reason interdisciplinary studies become so important to me.

The dictionary says weakness is a noun. A thing called weakness is defined as “a defect” and “self-indulgent fondness.” That definition is closer to my views on weakness. But is weakness really a defect? Do we need to be weak sometimes? If weakness causes more harm than good, it needs to be addressed. Still, to some extent, weakness lets us feel and experience good and bad things. They will either make us happy, or break us in the end. The word weak as an adjective in the dictionary says the weak have “little physical strength.” They are “lacking force” or are “morally feeble.” Here we can see the word enveloping the mental and the physical characteristics of the human condition. Ernest Hemingway once said that “the world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

In 2012, Alfred R. Mele a professor with the Florida State University, Department of Philosophy published Backsliding: Understanding Weakness of Will. Mele is a very interesting man who is looking at the connection between the mind and body in new ways. He believes that “people backslide,” and “freely do things they believe it would be best on the whole not to do.” In his new book, he attempts to explain why this happens using traditional and experimental philosophical methods. It is important to study and then attempt to explain the “weakness of will.” In order to have strength and be strong, we first need the will to do so. Mele believes that exercises of self-control are key to understanding weakness of will.

Professor Mele is also the director of a contemporary project called the Big Questions in Free Will Project. These scholarly studies are intriguing and break down the aged silos of research collaborations. It is possible that free will is indeed the key to understanding strength and weakness. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) says that the philosophical term free will is a “course of action.” According to SEP, philosophers have come to believe that “the concept of free will is very closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility.” The encyclopedia partners the “rational deliberation” of free will with desires and values. It is possible to acquire strength and weakness from both.
Strong and Weak

I like to think that I’m a strong person. I have many strengths, still at times I feel plagued by weakness. Sometimes I do forget that in order to be strong, at times I must be weak. I need weakness just as much as I need strength. Weakness is not a defect. It is a means by which we can improve our mental and physical strength. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” Weakness can drive us to our knees. It can make us feel like we are not in control. It can change us in ways that we may never understand. Emerson was right. When we feel weak, we must remember that one day we will feel strong again.

Mysticism: The Power of Belief

July 23, 2013
~~~Priestess of Delphi (1891) by John Collier; the Pythia was inspired by pneuma rising from below~~~

~~~Priestess of Delphi (1891) by John Collier~~~

Since the dawn of man we have been intrigued by mystics. Today we have contemporary mystics who embrace all things divine. We are fascinated by those who can see beyond. We are drawn to those who are godlike or have heightened intuition. Their insights into the unknown and their ability to heal broken souls permeates our collective consciousness, culture and history. Some may believe that mystics see through the eyes of God. Some may believe that mystics dabble with magic. Some may believe that mystics do not exist. That is something each of us must decide for ourselves. Do those gifted with divinity walk among us? That depends on what we choose believe.

Mysticism envelopes those who are on a higher level of awareness. They see things that normal eyes either will not or can’t. They are conscious of alternate realities, yet can remain grounded. A mystic seeks and gifts others with spiritual truths, and are often believed to walk a fine line between self and the divine. Only a true mystic can master the art of transcendence. There are historic accounts of mystics who could completely absorb a deity. This enabled them to heal, apprehend extensive knowledge, see into the future or the past, deliver prophecies, dream and find the answers to mysteries.

Pythia or the Oracle of Delphi, was a priestess. She practiced on Mount Parnassus, near the Temple of Apollo at Delphi which was established in the 8th century BC. It is interesting that Pythia delivered her prophecies near a Castalian Spring. Water in itself is highly symbolic and has been used to heal, baptize, birth, and replenish those who use it. She delivered prophecies from the Temple of Apollo as it is he who inspired her visions. The mystical Pythia is said to have frantically delivered divine messages which were triggered by mysterious vapors. The vapors were released through natural formations. Some say that she simply spoke nonsense, but it was likely glossolalia or speaking in tongues.

Right here in New Mexico, a record created to assist an ethnohistorian with the School of American Research captures visits by two separate mystics (Albert H. Schroeder Papers Collection No. 1972-033, Serial No. 10706, Folder No. 427~NMSRCA). In 1969, an unknown author documented “new perspectives on the Pueblos.” In these cases, both mystics appear during the first and second world wars. This is a time of need. The mystics are both men with Christ-like features. The men pray for and heal many in Nambe, Picuris, Santa Clara, San Juan, and Taos Pueblo. These mystics were called “new prophets” by the locals. They “enchanted” and “spoke many languages,” which made them even more mystical.

Today I found myself wondering if I have ever been touched by a mystic? I am intrigued by historical and contemporary mystics who have embraced or embrace all things divine. I am fascinated by those who can see beyond. I am drawn to those who are godlike and have heightened intuition. These insights into the unknown and an ability to heal broken souls is vital to our spirits. They may see through the eyes of God or dabble with magic. I do believe they exist. Those who are divine do walk among us. That is just what I choose believe.

The Artistic Science of Cryptology

July 9, 2013
~• Cryptogram by Felicia Lujan- January 20, 2012 •~

~• Cryptogram by Felicia Lujan- January 20, 2012 •~

Tonight I checked out the Encyclopedia of Cryptology at my local public library. What an amazing book. David Newton put together a great encyclopedia which documents “black chambers, microdots and invisible ink, agents and double agents, intrigues, betrayals, and murders.” The encyclopedia is mind blowing and uncovers “the history of cryptology” and “the science of secret writing.”

Cryptology, for those who do not know, is a science. It is the science of secret writing and messages. A message is customized by an author for a particular recipient. These messages are manipulated in a way so that not just anybody can grasp the meaning. Cryptography is the scientific art of authoring such messages. The majority of these types of messages can be classified as either a cipher or a code.

In his introduction, Newton says that his studies have revealed that secret writing has been used to transmit messages for at least 4,000 years. The encyclopedia says that David Kahn, “the great historian of cryptology” can prove that the first secret message altered by a human has been traced to an ancient Egyptian tomb from around 1900 B.C. This is just the earliest example.

Contemporary secret messages have been encoded and decoded by “politicians and diplomats, military officers and infantrymen, smugglers and thieves, retail merchants and bankers, officials and scholars of the highest rank, and the simplest citizens of nations around the world.” The latter would include me! I tend to enjoy creating cryptograms. My messages include words, numbers, symbolism and images.

The Newton encyclopedia captures information on Leon Battista Alberti, who is referred to as the Father of Western Cryptology. He was a Florentine cryptographer who was born in Genoa in 1404. I find Alberti extremely interesting as he was well rounded with regard to his skills and interests. He was an architect who built famous structures. Alberti also painted, wrote poetry, loved drama, was a philosopher, and he could even write essays. This man was very smart. He built a custom cipher machine out of two copper plates. The plates rotated to encode and decode messages. How awesome is that?!

~• Leon Battista Alberti ( •~

~• Leon Battista Alberti ( •~

Then we have one of my favorites in the book. How could we have an encyclopedia on this subject without including Edgar Allan Poe? The dark poet died in 1849, and surely took many coded secrets to the grave. He coded his stories and poetry in ways which no other writer has. The American poet was adept with monoalphabetic substitution in his writing. He tried to decrypt the messages others, but usually failed with regard to that. I guess some codes were not intended to be broken, solved, cracked, revealed? Poe also published several articles on cryptology. If this man was alive and well, I would surely kiss him with much love and admiration.

On a final note, a few days ago I created a digital composite with a photo of myself. That was indeed a cryptogram. It was titled Death of the Algorithm. I did not intend for anyone to decipher my message, but the gram is symbolic and was created using an image of a particular algorithm. Newton’s encyclopedia has information about algorithms. These mathematical concoctions are codes used to solve problems.

Today, the world of cryptology involves encipherment and decipherment to solve complex problems. This includes the digital world. A good example of algorithm with regard to virtual cryptography would be the development of Data Encryption Standards. Computers use algorithms for many functions, including data encryption.

Maybe it’s time for me to go back to school? I would make one hell of a cryptographer. I may not be good at the decryption of secret messages, but I am a great encoder! Interestingly enough, I finished writing this piece at exactly 11:11. That is a code in itself.