Kindness Chronicles, Life Lessons, Quotes, Science

QUOTABLE: EINSTEIN REMINDS US TO WATCH OUR PRIORITIES

Albert Einstein's Quote About Success

Albert Einstein’s Quote About Success

When the stress piles on, it can become difficult to stick with your ideals. But if those ideals sustain your love for the world and in turn yourself, then hold them close. You’ll encounter countless cynics, sycophants and critics along the way. But they’ll have no lasting power over you, if your mission is not rooted in ego. Nature—your muse, teacher, provider, and your reflection—needs you. You need you.

You are the cosmos, the air, the plants, the light, the energy. You may sometimes feel divided, but your existence represents a united world. From your DNA, to your proteins, to your organelles, to your tissues, to your organs, you are a walking billboard of unification. You feel apart because your perceptions fool you.

Your mental and anatomical borders are an illusion like the horizon is an illusion. There are no borders or outlines; you flow just like the air and sea around you. When you remember this and hold it close, the manipulative embrace of your ego will loosen its grip and your priorities will become clear once more.

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Kindness Chronicles, Photography, Quotes

Today is My 1 Year Anniversary with Olivia the Cat

Today marks one year since I adopted Olivia from an animal shelter. I deliberately chose an adult cat since people usually prefer adopting kittens. I’m happy to have her in my life. She’s really deepened my love and appreciation for animals. I’m also grateful that I can provide her a good home.

Haruki Murakami Cat Quote

The is the first time I saw Olivia at the shelter,  TLC Rescue Inc! She was so chubby and cute.

Olivia-Shelter

Initially she was very skittish and would hide under my bed.  About a week later she felt comfortable enough to lay on my bed. 

Olivia-1st-time-on-bed

Recent photos of Olivia

Olivia-Sleeping

Olivia-Curled-Up-Sleeping

Olivia, Today

Olivia-Year-Anniversary

View more photos here!

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Quotes

Here comes fall, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass!

Stephen King's Quote About Fall

Stephen King’s Quote About Fall

Yay it’s finally September and my favorite season is around the corner!

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”

Stephen King, Salem’s Lot

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Illustration, Kindness Chronicles, Life Lessons, Quotes

George Saunders’ speech reminds us to be kind

Last week, George Saunders’ convocation speech to Syracuse University graduates went viral. He didn’t espouse the usual advice (e.g. follow your dreams), instead he focused on an often overlooked trait in the business world: kindness. I’ve been musing about his wise words for the past few days and decided to share some of my thoughts.

"George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates"

George Saunders gave a wonderful convocation speech to the graduates of Syracuse University

Sometimes it’s hard to be kind. It’s hard to endure the shallow insights of an egotistical corporate PowerPoint-bullshit-artist and not tell him to go rehabilitate his soul. Being conscientious isn’t usually compatible with having corporate ambitions. Obviously not every corporate employee lacks a soul; some of the most conscientious people I know work for corporations. What is disturbing though, is that being kind, honest, generous, fair, and introspective may win you love from peers, but won’t lead you to the executive suites. It seems those rungs on the corporate ladder are mostly rewarded to the servile, arrogant, narcissistic, abrasive, selfish, manipulative, and/or shallow characters. Now you may ask, where does competence come into play? Well, it depends on the goal you are competent at achieving.

George Sunder's Quote on regrets, photo by Arlene Ellis

An excerpt from George Saunders wonderful convocation speech to the graduates of Syracuse University (http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates)

If the corporations’ goal is to create profit for profit’s sake, then how an employee helps meet that goal is not that important. Who cares if Bob is known for berating and backstabbing his coworkers? Do the clients love him? Yes. Will the clients give us more business because of Bob? Well, yes. Are we getting richer because of Bob? Yes. Well then, he’s staying! There are those who may argue, “Well, without profits people will have no jobs, be forced to live on the streets, and have to sell their organs to help pay their light bills!” I guess that scenario could happen, so Bob should just keep being a jerk—or more accurately a charitable jerk.

George Sunder's Quote on why we're not kind, photo by Arlene Ellis

An excerpt from George Saunders wonderful convocation speech to the graduates of Syracuse University (http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates)

Here’s something to consider, we have a limited amount of moments on earth, why not try being kinder now? Yes profits are essential for jobs, but can a little be sacrificed for the sake of integrity and compassion? Most of us wouldn’t want our wrath to be the last experience someone endured moments before death; nor would we want to experience someone’s wrath right before dying.

By the way, I’m writing this primarily to my present and future self, but I think lessons are more powerful when shared. I’m certainly not a role model for kindness. I’ve said hurtful things in moments of anger and exhaustion, or during that wonderfully hormonal time of the month. I’ve also felt very guilty about saying hurtful things and I’ve decided to hold myself more accountable. I’m learning how to take preventive measures, how to measure the consequences of my words before releasing them.

Mother Teresa quote about kindness, photo by Arlene Ellis

More and more I am believing in the power of kindness. When I was younger I endured frequent bouts of depression stemming from internalizing traumas. I used to blame some of my abrasive behaviors on those traumas. But we’ve all experienced various degrees of pain and it doesn’t justify being mean. I’ve often rationalized that I was only rude to bullies, but honestly I was sometimes short with loved ones. Yet my loved ones still forgave me and were still kind to me. It was their compassion that rescued me from despair.

Mark Epstein quote about trauma, photo by Arlene Ellis

Excerpt from the Opinion page of the New York Times, “The Trauma of Being Alive.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/opinion/sunday/the-trauma-of-being-alive.html

Several days ago I reconnected with a professor who wrote to me that she cried when she reviewed a Christmas card I made for her ten years ago. I didn’t remember the card and asked her to email me a copy. I was curious to read the voice of my 20-year-old self. After reading it, I realized the archival quality of kind gestures. I discovered that a simple card, made in a  moment of gratefulness, would still be moving someone’s heart ten years later. Try to be kind today.

Handmade Christmas Card from 2002 (Arlene Ellis)

The front and back of a handmade Christmas card I gave my professor in 2002. Apparently I was into quotes back then too!

Handmade Christmas Card from 2002 (Arlene Ellis)

The inside of a handmade Christmas card I gave my professor in 2002. Apparently I was into quotes back then too!

Apparently, I wrote her a poem too. Oh the poetic days of my early twenties 🙂

Poem from 2003 (Written by Arlene Ellis)

It’s cool to see that even back then I was into textiles inspired by biology.

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Life Lessons, Quotes, Uncategorized

How deep is your well of moments?

Paul Bowles Quote

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.”
― Paul Bowles

My heart is in the right place, but sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut. Over the past few years, I’ve offered to draw something for three different people who experienced tragedies. I’m not the best at articulating my love, but I know how to draw it—that is until my ego gets in the way. Within hours of offering the gifts, I began to panic, “What am I supposed to draw? It must be really memorable and fit the occasion. It should inspire them every time they look at it. I can’t just draw anything?!” This is when the chronic guilt begins. “Why did I offer? What’s wrong with me? I’m going to disappoint this person.” The guilt stalks me for days, which turn into weeks, then into months and sadly enough, the months turn into years.

"Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

I promised the above illustration to a bereaved friend two years ago. Actually, she requested that I draw something different , which was perfectly reasonable considering I asked her what she wanted illustrated. This friend had helped me cope through a tragedy and I wanted to repay her. The trouble was that what she wanted drawn didn’t resonate with me. Should that have mattered? I don’t think it should have and yet it did. Drawing to help someone cope with a tragedy can be emotionally tolling. It’s not a commission, since I’m usually offering, and it doesn’t feel like a physical offering; it’s me expressing  a love too deep to explain in words. It was’t her fault and I should have clarified things, but I didn’t. Instead I drew nothing and thought about her illustration almost every day throughout those two years.

"WIP 1 Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).

“WIP 1 Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

If the offering stemmed from love, then why did my ego come into play? My ego was really my fear. I was afraid that she would underestimate the degree with which I cared. Of course this was irrational because the mere gesture indicated that I cared.  But unfortunately I’ve spent so many years building up walls that I have often misunderstood my own capacity for love. I’ve spent just as many years trying to deconstruct these walls using logical reasoning. This didn’t get me very far. Objectively, I understood why I had erected the walls, but this didn’t give me enough strength to remove them. Then I began drawing again and brick by brick the walls have begun to come down.  I haven’t given up on logical reasoning because it grounds me. I’ve just decided to complement it with my emotional intelligence.

"WIP 2 Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).

“WIP2 Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

Why did I decide to finally draw this illustration for my bereaved friend? On Sunday night, I had a deep conversation with another friend about overcoming fears and the illusion of plentiful moments. He said that we behave as if we have an unlimited well of moments from which to drink, so we rarely take the time to savor each one. This made me think of my bereaved friend. What if I never have the moment to give her the illustration? I instantly knew that I needed to start drawing.

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

What moments are you waiting to happen to you?

"Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird. (Detailed features)

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Life Lessons, Quotes

Friend-ship. A friend is someone who helps you on your journey.

"Seedy-self-portrait V3" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Seedy-self-portrait V3” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

Last night I remembered why it’s so vital to have supportive friends.  My friend Bob (name changed for privacy reasons) has a knack for helping me  pinpoint my irrational fears. Last night while we spoke on the phone, I told him that recently I created a project timeline for someone. I couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to think strategically about helping this person overcome her obstacles, yet I had such a difficult time doing that for myself. “Why?!” I shouted, “I mean I have project management experience for goodness sakes!

Chess Player Syndrome

Bob said that I suffered from “chess player syndrome.” FYI I’m not sure if this phrase exists outside of our conversation. “What’s chess player syndrome?” I asked. He explained that it’s when you’re able to look over a chess player’s shoulder and visualize the moves he needs to make to win the game; you can see things objectively. But when you’re playing the game, you become so mired in your anxiety that you’re unable to see the big picture. Boom! Diagnoses. Bob recommended that I create a similar timeline for myself.

"Seedy-self-portrait Vs" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013; Original photo by Boris Poletaev )

“Seedy-self-portrait Vs” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013; Original photo by Boris Poletaev)

Wearing a Coat of Fear

Bob then began questioning me about the specific thoughts that mired by objective lens. I explained it was the usual, a fear of failure. Then he asked me to visualize myself without this fear. I couldn’t.  So he said, “Imagine your fear is like a snug coat. You’re comforted feeling its texture press up against your skin. It’s so close to your body that it silences the sound of your heart beating and the murmuring in your guts. Now imagine yourself taking that coat off tomorrow. What would you do differently?” My stomach immediately knotted up. (In fact my stomach is knotting up right now while writing about this.) I knew he was right and the simplicity of it all made me sick.

Friend-Ship

As my conversation with Bob winded down, he suddenly had an epiphany,”I finally get it!”

“Get what?”

“Friend-ship. A friend is someone who helps you on your journey.”

Yes and I’m grateful for the company 🙂

Old Greenwich Beach (Arlene Ellis, 2013)

Old Greenwich Beach (Arlene Ellis, 2013)

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Books, Quotes

Logic Diary: Facts and Ideas

Dennis Q. McInerny's quote about ideas

Quoted from the book, “Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking.”

Last year I bought D. Q. McInerny’s book, Being Logical: A guide to good thinking, but I had not begun reading it until this morning. Since launching my brand site, Organic Lyricism, I’ve been evaluating my assumptions about environmental rights and consumerism. In order to validate my beliefs, I thought I should learn more about logical reasoning. Here are my notes:

There are two types of objective facts

  1. Things: existing entity, animal, vegetable, or mineral
  2. Events: made up of things or the actions of things

Validating objective facts requires direct and indirect observations

  • Direct observation: you observed the thing or event directly
  • Indirect observation: requires you to trust the evidence of someone who observed the thing or event directly

A subject fact is dependent on the subject experiencing it

  • An example of a subjective fact is a toothache
  • Assessing the validity this subjective fact depends on how much you trust the person claiming to have a toothache

Ideas stem from things or events that exist in the world independent of and outside of the mind (objective facts)

  • You can clarify your ideas when you focus on the original sources of your ideas in the objective world
  • The more you focus on ideas that ignore their original sources, the less reliable those ideas become

Three basic elements of human knowledge

  1. An objective fact (e.g. animals)
  2. The idea (stems from facts you know about animals)
  3. The word to communicate the idea (e.g. in English, “animals”)

Animals had to exist first. Their existence led you to the idea of them. The word “animals” is what you’ve used to communicate your idea.

Dennis Q. McInerny's quote about ideas

Quoted from the book, “Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking.”

I’m really enjoining learning about logic. I suggest you check out his book if you want to explore your own reasoning process.

Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking by Dennis Q. McInerny

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Conservation Biology, Quotes

Supplying animal parts for the sake of art

"Blinged to extinction" (Illustration by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the West Africa black rhino (D. b. longipes) is classified as Probably Extinct. Although, in 2011 the subspecies was declared officially extinct. The black rhino used to live across most of the Savannahs of West Africa, but threats such as hunting, poaching and habitat loss contributed to its demise. These are the same threats affecting the remaining rhino subspecies. Over the last few years hundreds of rhinos have been poached for their horns, which some cultures believe have medicinal properties. Then there’s the rhino-horn art trade, a trade in which artisans create ornate sculptures out of rhino horns; this also happens with elephant tusks (ivory trade).

In July of 2011, Lark Mason appraised a set of five Chinese cups carved from rhinoceros horn, circa 1700, valued at $1 to $1.5 million, setting a ROADSHOW record. The 300-year-old objects were undoubtedly the work of master artisans, and were made in a time when rhinoceros were more plentiful than they are today: Currently, there are only five surviving species of rhinoceros, and every one of them is threatened, some critically so, because of desire for their horns. The result is that many people find the trade in rhinoceros-horn antiques grossly unethical, even when it is legal. -Ben Phelan (Antiques Roadshow)

I’ll  not addressing the issues related to poaching animals for medicinal reasons today, but I will discuss the moral considerations related to using animal parts for art. What I find remarkable about the above quote is that it implies that killing animals for art is fine as long as the animals are plentiful. Not many people in the western world feel guilty about leather because cows are plentiful and leather is just a byproduct of the meat industry. And perhaps if rabbits, foxes and seals were factory farmed for meat maybe people wouldn’t feel bad about the fur trade. Does this mean that if it were very easy to breed rhinos, easy as it is to breed cows, we have no qualms about killing them for their horns?

einstein-compassion

Many of us don’t question the argument that it’s morally acceptable to use animal parts for art if the animal is abundant and the animal part is simply a byproduct of a larger process. My question is why is it acceptable in general to use their parts for art? Before you considered the supply, before you considered the byproduct, you had a fundamental belief of acceptability. For instance, in modern times we find it acceptable to kill thousands of people (i.e. the enemy) in war times, but unacceptable to desecrate their bodies. In the past it was acceptable in certain cultures to use the remains of war enemies  for artistic purposes. Now it’s taboo. Why is unacceptable if the person is already dead? His or her deceased body is just a byproduct of war and there are still billions of people remaining on the planet. The fundamental reason may simply be that we empathize with our species, so regardless of supply (human population) or if the death is an acceptable byproduct (as in the case of war) we are fundamentally morally opposed to supplying human parts for art. (Unless the body is being used for science, then we pay to see it. See “The Bodies Revealed Exhibit.”) 

"The return of the mojo" (Designed by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

It’s silly that I have to point this out, but I don’t condone using human remains for art. I’m simply trying to understand the premises of an argument. It seems to me the issue of having a steady supply and byproduct, are not what we should be focusing on. If these rationalizations remain the focus, we will always be dealing with different species going extinct. I think perhaps it’s time for us to reevaluate the fundamental belief underlying these rationalizations.  Although art enriches our lives, a leather boot, a fur coat, an ivory statue is not essential to our survival.

***I’ve owned leather products whole life and it’s only recently I’ve  made a conscious decision to stop buying them. I was no longer convinced by my “abundance” and “byproduct” rationalizations.***

By the way, I’m very open to respectable debate  🙂

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Conservation Biology, Quotes, Sustainable Design, Work In Progress

How a bad illustration can inspire something deeper

The Cape Perrot Plants an Idea (WIP illustration, Arlene Ellis, 2013)

What you’re seeing above is a fashion illustration gone wrong. I had a completely different vision in my head. Initially I used a vintage fashion illustration to inspire the pose and silhouette.  In this case I was more concerned about drawing the textiles than the construction of the garments.

The Cape Perrot Plants an Idea (Sketch, Arlene Ellis, 2013)

Half-way through the drawing I thought to use a bird’s head instead of a human head, so I googled “parrots, National Geographic.” One of the first results was a National Geographic article about the endangered green and gold Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Cape parrots are endemic to South Africa and are on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss. They usually eat yellowwood fruits but because the yellowwood forests are being cut down for agriculture the birds no longer have a steady food supply and are becoming malnourished, which makes them more susceptible to infections.

After I read the National Geographic article I replaced the human head with a Cape parrot head. Then I infused the textile with elements of the parrot’s life: the colors of its feathers, the shapes of the yellowwood fruit, the color of  vasculature to hint at infection and finally the color of the sky. Still not satisfied with the illustration I tried to salvage it digitally. Needless to say, things didn’t turn out well :).

dali-quote

So why am I explaining all this? I’m terrible at maintaining journals or even sketchbooks because I’m my own worst critic. When drawing or writing for myself, I can’t help but rip apart everything I’ve created (not literally). However, because my blog is public it offers an audience and weirdly enough I feel more compelled to create for an audience than just for myself. In the end though, the main audience member I’m speaking to is my future self. The future me who will have accomplished her dream of becoming a successful fashion designer. The future me who will ask, “How did I get here?” She will look back on these posts and chuckle about how seriously I took myself and my mistakes.

After I finished this fashion illustration, I watched a video of conservation biologists Steve Boyes discuss his dedication to saving the Cape parrot. I was so moved by the plight of these beautiful birds, that I realized I wanted to help them. Yes the first illustration the birds inspired was crap, but it has inspired me to dig deeper.

“Just two weeks ago, I was in the Okavango Delta…but when you’ve come to this place it’s not a wilderness area anymore. We’ve changed it too much. We’ve lost too much of it. And now we must give back.” -Steve Boyes

The main reason I started Organic Lyricism is to instill an appreciation of the natural world in other people. I was growing frustrated by how so many of us take from nature but don’t care to protect it. People like Steve Boyes inspire me to keep making mistakes because there is a greater goal beyond satisfying my ego. If I can harness my talent to create something that people will buy to help protect a species like the Cape parrot, then I’ll keep taking risks.

By the way, if you’re interested in art designed to give back then I invite you to check out my limited edition posters. I hope you have a great day!

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