…on being bipolar

“She is gamesome and good,
But of mutable mood, —
No dreary repeater now and again,
She will be all things to all men”

~ “Nature II”

As humans, we are susceptible to disparate moods, as our assumptions, conceptions and opinions are vulnerable to the same; and this is not a bad thing, for moods are fluid, define our personalities, and consequently, there is no assurance that we will not unsay tomorrow that which we have spoken today. We are not to be derided as mercurial and Emerson addresses this expertly:

“I endeavored to show my good men that I love everything by turns and nothing long; that I loved the centre, but doated on the superficies; that I loved man, if men seemed to me mice and rats; that I revered saints, but woke up glad that the old pagan world stood its ground and died hard; that I was glad of men of every gift and nobility, but would not live in their arms.”

~ “Nominalist and Realist”

I comprehend that my having bipolar disorder is a tad more weighty than the mere shifting and divergence of dispositions. Gethyn labelled bipolar a “doubled-edged sword” in that there are — to compensate for failed language — benefits and drawbacks of fluxous moods; additionally, as many constructive manifestations are also adverse, these are prevalent in both presentations. As with numberless countenances, and mine in particular, Emerson fathomed the human condition:

“Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am full of thoughts and can write what I please. I see no reason why I should not have the same thought, the same power of expression, to-morrow. What I write, whilst I write it, seems the most natural thing in the world; but yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in which now I see so much; and a month hence, I doubt not, I shall wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous pages. Alas for this infirm faith, this will not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast flow! I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall.”

~ “Circles”

What are the positives of being bipolar?

There is elevated energy in attendance in my mania, which manifests itself in demanding less sleep and being more dynamic; there is augmented creativity (I have conceived some of my finest art whilst manic), the cultivation of issue of outstanding quality and the capacity to train more.

I discern a profound empathy and sympathy for those who suffer from depression. I am fortunate in upheaved mood, in that I have a reprieve from pain and deep sadness.

Gethyn posits that when you’re bipolar, you know who your friends and family are. There is a handful of people (Gethyn, Daddy, Sissy, Linda to name a few) who “get” me, and enduringly embrace and uphold me. They talk to me. And listen to me. And accept me unwaveringly. This is of great comfort; more so when I am unwell.

Confidence makes its appearance: when manic, I experience heightened intelligence; or at least, the perception of my intellect as pronounced. My creativity soars; I construct more artwork, write more prolifically and experience enthusiasm about all the projects I will commence. Lamentably, once the heightened mood progresses, the certainty and artistry erode.

A charm has been associated with mania, which may explain why I appeal to greater numbers of people at particular times (or am I channeling Pliny now?); this is finite, of course, as my cycle is ever-changing.

What are the negatives of being bipolar?

For me, the low mood is crippling; no respite. I find no joy in anything and long for the elation of mania; when it was not a struggle to be creative, to interact with people, to get up and go to work, to get up and go to the gym.

I have encountered psychotic symptoms when high on occasion, and these are frightening and unsettling for me; by reason, I am aware that what I face is irrational; however, this does not dissuade my mind from constructing these scenarios.

Medications used to treat bipolar are antipsychotics and these come with myriad side effects; often, culminating in the discontinuation of treatment. I have had many side effects over many years; one which most vexes me is weight gain, which renders me under confident. I was body shamed once by someone I know (that person erred; I wasn’t intended to be included in the conversation) which deflated my self confidence; I fleetingly contemplated the cessation of medication because of this; however, I was aware that would be more dangerous for me then a little bit of excess weight, especially given that I am actually well muscled from weight lifting.

Rapid cycling is exhausting.

Over confidence when manic obstructs my ability to manage expectations of myself; I perceive myself to be what I am and not what I am not.

Mundane things that would normally pass unnoticed…don’t; therefore, engage symptoms.

Depending upon my cycle, I am rendered unable to concentrate; therefore, I will often begin a new task before completing a present one; leaving me with several unfinished enterprises. This, coupled with waning productivity and tenacity cited earlier, emerges in unfulfilled endeavours. This may mean achieving outstandingly at work and then “burning out;” requiring time off sick, as was the case this month. Perhaps the most heart-breaking reality of this point in the cycle is the interruption to my furtherance of a PhD.

To close…

Committing these observations to the written word aids me in comprehending myself; perhaps in others understanding me as well. Emerson admonished me to “trust thyself” as much as he often counselled his audiences (including me) to embrace divergent moods.

“The poet also resigns himself to his mood, and that thought which agitated him is expressed, but alter idem, in a manner totally new.”

~ The Poet

…on today’s memorable quotation

Our natural and innate deeds, however divergent, in all degrees, are harmonious, contingent upon these being ours; those that characterise us and are possessed by us.

Embrace the “big picture;” principally in adversity: misfortune, defeat, stagnation and departure. Consider these, in their entirety, from afar.

How far you have come…

“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. “

~ Emerson
Life balance is not a straight line

…on art: the Tyrant of the Hour

To atone for elapsed time, I offer narration on a thing I love; shared observations with Emerson, assisted by a re-reading of his excellent essay by the same name.

In concurrence with Emerson, I asseverate that art enjoys the adequacy to mesmerise, to captivate, to enchant; said fascination accomplished by the observer’s intimate audience with one piece.

“Therefore each work of genius is the tyrant of the hour and concentrates attention on itself. For the time, it is the only thing worth naming to do that, — be it a sonnet, an opera, a landscape, a statue, an oration, the plan of a temple, of a campaign, or of a voyage of discovery.”

Art — in its myriad characters — touches us in profound and ostensibly numberless means; herein lies a sovereignty: to captivate us; to transfix our attention and sentiment and devotion; to the exclusion of all others.

“Presently we pass to some other object, which rounds itself into a whole as did the first; for example a well-laid garden; and nothing seems worth doing but the laying out of gardens. I should think fire the best thing in the world, if I were not acquainted with air, and water, and earth.”

It is ineffable; the potential of art to influence human emotions; to concentrate human adoration. The Tyrant of the Hour speaks directly to the human need to insulate the thing we love — or the thing we are loving in this moment — from other things. When I attend a Titian exhibition, there is no other art form present with me: there are no sonnets, there is no no Italian Baroque music; there are no other artists with me: there is no Raphael, there is no Dali. There is only Renaissance art. There is only Titian.

“For it is the right and property of all natural objects, of all genuine talents, of all native properties whatsoever, to be for their moment the top of the world.”

At this level, the perspective of the beholder evolves and transcends art: an arresting physics experiment is as artfully charming to some as a Raphael is to others: the demonstration of kinetic energy achieved by dropping marbles into a tray of flour to create craters is equally breathtaking. The Tyrants encompass immeasurable beholders, in infinite moments.

This is but one of its powers…

Titian, by me!

…on Satie’s “Gymnopedie” Part Deux

This is dedicated to Mike, who recently disseminated some reflections from Erik Satie:

“We cannot doubt that animals like and practice music,” Satie wrote. He further proposed that this system, divergent from ours, is inherited; therefore, imitation. Birds are endowed: “the beak brings them close to the clarionette, and the flageolet,” whilst fish: “these poor beasts cannot even think of it.”

Erik Satie

Mike proffered that it was moderately Emersonian. Whilst Emerson did not compose (pun intended) extensively on music, he frequently drew comparisons between nature and art; my cognition and his (and now Mike’s) often meeting and converging in what I have previously termed a “thread of interconnectivity.”

There exists a palpable correlation between the animals of Satie and Emerson’s Nature. The origins of language — ideograms — were dependent upon nature; therefore, these enduringly and unremittingly reach and speak to us, and as such, every person has the capacity to communicate seamlessly with another, regardless of world view, education, social standing, etc., and those with uncorrupted minds may correspondingly interact thus. This language was the first and is hereafter, the last. Emerson observed:

“Because of this radical correspondence between visible things and human thoughts, savages, who have only what is necessary, converse in figures. As we go back in history, language becomes more picturesque, until its infancy, when it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by natural symbols. The same symbols are found to make the original elements of all languages. It has moreover been observed, that the idioms of all languages approach each other in passages of the greatest eloquence and power. And as this is the first language, so is it the last.”

~ Nature

My copy of “Nature,” annotations and observation of ideograms

As “every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind,” every word was, by origin, a stroke of genius, whether ideogram or assemblage of characters. The brilliancy in the genesis of every word extends to distinguishing both the first speaker and the first hearer. As the earth subsumes shells, fossils, etc., language constitutes icons. Poets entitle things because they see them, in much the same manner as language is assembled of things contemplated. Emerson on words and language:

“…the poet is the Namer or Language-maker, naming things sometimes after their appearance, sometimes after their essence, and giving to every one its own name and not another’s, thereby rejoicing the intellect, which delights in detachment or boundary. The poets made all the words; and therefore, language is the archives of history, and, if we must say it, a sort of tomb of the muses.”

~ The Poet

Art and language are not merely extensions of nature; they extol it. When I first contemplated Yorkshire Wolds, I distinguished a stained glass window; to me, the parallels between this work of art and an additional art form are palpable. So they were for Emerson. That is to say, these assuredly would have existed were he to have viewed the painting today. It raises the question of what Hockney contemplated in a winter sky whose continuity was fractured by barren trees, or whether he predicted the observer to glimpse the same in the scene; conceivably, did he envisage that two divergent people existing in two different generations would discern the same…image?  And, for that matter, how many countless others? Emerson and me…meeting and converging:

“In the woods in a winter afternoon one will see as readily the origin of the stained glass window with which the Gothic cathedrals are adorned in the colours of the western sky seen through the bare and crossing branches of the forest.”

~ History

David Hockney’s “Yorkshire Wolds”

The aforementioned, appropriately titled and expanding “thread of interconnectivity” prevails proportionately in this contemplation of music, art and nature.

Is it worth noting, in this space, the relevance of the brazen bull, which produced “music,” Satie-style, so as to obscure the tortured cries of the encased?

…on the malignity of religion

To the chagrin of numberless of believers, science and religion are not analogous: many of these posit that to invalidate a scientific theory authenticates the actuality of a creator; and that such would demonstrate the provenance of life. This is categorically untrue.

Furthermore, countless disciples maintain that said doctrines are matters of faith, and no corroborations are compulsory; however, there is an onus of verification on those advancing claims.

Not demarcated to leaders solely; to the religious adherent, every individual who does not hold with his or her deity is an atheist (to the Christian, the Muslim is an apostate), and in myriad belief systems, foreordained for interminable persecution following death. Can you feel the love?

I prefer that which is tangible and discernible; that which does not result in disharmony. To wit:

“All science has one aim, namely, to find a theory of nature. We have theories of races and of functions, but scarcely yet a remote approach to an idea of creation. We are now so far from the road to truth, that religious teachers dispute and hate each other, and speculative men are esteemed unsound and frivolous. “

~ Emerson, Nature

Gethyn holding Einstein’s plant

…on genius. A Physicist, a Doctor and a Classicist had dinner…

They debated genius. Specifically, “the myth of genius.” Rendered succinctly, the myth posits that geniuses realise superlative results via revelation rather than hard work.

Scholars’ research divulged that Mozart was not defectless; he drew upon myriad methods: improvisation, sketches, use of a keyboard; this reality belies the tradition that he composed works in his mind so impeccably, he transcribed these sans erratum.

Friends and the handful of readers I enjoy are acquainted with my fondness — nay, ardour! — for Raphael, whose artistic formation was a maturation; behold the astonishing metamorphosis from the study of The Three Graces to the painting: Cupid and the Three Graces.

Richard Feynman was regraded a genius for his theory of quantum electrodynamics, which, elucidated the entirety of Physics. Except gravity.

To be an ordinary person who accomplishes prodigious feats renders the art, the music, the scientific theory all the more staggering. Genius? It may be argued that to be a genius is to remove oneself from humanity. Raphael, Feynman and Mozart, for all their brilliancy, were human.

Friends and handful of readers, you are also aware that I am partial to Emerson (!!), and in our discourse summoned an elucidation which delineates the creative and scientific mechanism:

“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency.”

~ Emerson, Self Reliance

The metaphor is resonant; whilst at sea, one must conduct one’s sails into the wind to advance. Whilst Emerson was specifying our lives and actions, and tacking to “get back on track,” I furthered the allegory in the debate to illuminate creative and scientific journeys: one must redraft the subject matter to attain the ideal painting; adjust the equations to define a plausible scientific theory, rework the music to acquire the ultimate symphony.

Contemplated myopically, Emerson’s “zigzag line” is evident. Considered from afar, the straightened line — unbroken — presents the image of genius.

Genius appears sans struggle, sans effort; however, only when espied from afar.

…on; well, PLINY!

This is not a commentary on the veracity of others’ religious beliefs; rather, an excavation of ancient documents which addresses a specific “hypothesis.”

Whilst Gethyn and I enjoyed old clips of “The Atheist Experience,” a caller — in the heat of debate — upholding his religious beliefs, offered: “if Christianity is not true, why were there were no Roman letters asking about this crazy false Christianity?”

I turned to Geth: “…erm, well, PLINY!”

Christianity was an emerging religion and Suetonius imputed their punishment to Nero (Graves, 1997, pp. 215,374). On Christianity — as a traditionalist inclined toward the prevailing religion, approximately 60 years later — Pliny wrote to Trajan (X 96) about the rise of Christianity and specifically referenced questions he had regarding hearings, punishments and demographics, etc. Pliny ascribed a unambiguous set of crimes to the recent religion and stipulated a chronicle of protocols on Christians under Roman law (execution, acquittal upon renunciation of their religion, etc.). He ultimately sought instruction from Trajan, based upon the augmenting quantity of indictments of people of varying age, rank and gender. Pliny referred to Christianity as “superstition” and an “infection.“ Trajan‘s response (X 97) delinated his policy on Christianity: that Christians should not be sought; only be chastised if brought forward. Trajan’s posture on Christianity was to rigorously follow the letter of the law; however, suggested magnanimity. The fact that Christians refused to worship Trajan was intolerable to Pliny. Those who renounced were pardoned and those who did not were executed (Bennet, 2001, pp. 23-24).

To wit:


It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ — none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do — these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food — but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.


You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it — that is, by worshiping our gods — even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

So, there!

…on cats what ain’t cats part deux

This is dedicated to Professor Ceiling Cat Emeritus (not fully retired), AKA Jerry Coyne, as I accepted his challenge to advance his theory — which is his! — that medieval artists were quite simply incapable of drawing cats.


In the middle of last year, inspirited by PCC, I published this article, which appertains to the question; and thence ensued two further, much more curtailed, articles: here and here.

Both PCC and Google offered depictions of medieval cats which were unutterably peculiar.  One friend hypothesised that artists hadn’t grasped how to…grasp (!) implements such as paintbrushes or palate knives; another – similarly to me – that it is an unattainable endeavour to persuade a cat to remain immobile; however, I had ultimately posited that these people just didn’t like cats!

Upon further investigation, PCC’s theory is buttressed by excavation into the subject.

Medieval drawing (not drawing; however, perhaps less painful!) tools and techniques

An article published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art posits that medieval drawing invoked myriad styles, including Classical (not here!) and emphasised “pictures of real and imaginary, familiar and exotic animals.” These cats, without doubt, satisfy two of the criteria: imaginary and exotic. The Metropolitan Museum abounds in analyses of medieval drawings, and further asserts that, as integral components of the creative process, said drawings were steps toward the finished products. Well. That most assuredly explains a lot! Or does it?

“This penis for that fish? No deal!”

Is this a loofa which I see before me?

Apparently someone beat me to the “snail augmentation”

Painting and drawing apparatus was not unlike contemporary tools; therefore, the use of tempura on a variety of surfaces, including gold leaf and wood, serves not to absolve medieval artists of these detestations. Or does it? Behold this work employing the same media: erm…is that Nero?

Madonna and…Nero

Immobile cats…et al

I reiterate that I know from experience it is an unattainable endeavour to persuade a cat to stand motionless. This is the reason I have so few decent photographs of Theo. I challenge anyone to discern any of Theo’s features in this blurry vastness. Aside from his beautiful EYES, of course, Jerry!

I address other animals in medieval art. Check out these dogs! One of these guys appears to be playing the lute with a machete. Can it be equitably hopeless to convince a dog to sit still?

“Is the board-licker moving up a grade?”

Playing the lute or the baddie in a horror flick?

Consider also humans in medieval art. Madonna and Nero stand not alone. Contemplate this behemoth dog towering over a diminutive human; does he not look terrified?  I would be!  Representation of human features ostensibly confounded some artists as well.

“I’m frightened, Auntie Em, I’m frightened!”

This portrait of a woman and cat presents a semblance of promise. The characterisation of human anatomy also is certainly not worthy of Raphael; the cat palpably came out on top here.

Candle light versus electricity versus daylight

I flirted with the lack of electricity as a rationale; that the insufficient light generated by a candle could account for the numberless deficiencies; however, this position was short-lived thanks to Raphael, who was unphased by drawing by natural or candlelight. Be this as it may, if one is not Raphael, why not just work during the day?

Medieval understanding of perspective…or lack thereof

This is noticeably removed, as evidenced in “Dog Towering Over Man.”  Now this.  Who is likely to win this battle: the inhabitants of the castle or the humans and horses laying siege to it, who dwarf it? Perhaps not; their enormity will decidedly impede any circumstance of entrance. However, more on topic, behold the horses. They look more like horses than cats look like cats; however, the horse flying over the castle looks about the size of a cat. Am I alone in my bewilderment?

My conclusion

As previously, I have ultimately contemplated the unavoidable determination that these people just didn’t like cats. Or horses. Or dogs. Or children.

Now, here’s THEO!

…carpe diem et quare

I was perusing Spiritual Laws today and appreciating a number of commentaries that are presently relevant.  Gethyn submitted, “you need to finish that article for Jerry Coyne;” to which I countered, “I don’t feel like it today.”

Ironically, directly, our dialogue diverged from the topical and matured into the embodiment of Emerson’s treatise on so-called passive and active people.

“…Be, and not seem!”

In substituting being for seeming, we aver, “we are!” In substituting being for seeming, we abandon passivity and appropriate a proactive posture.  In substituting being for seeming, we own both our days and our actions.

“We call the poet inactive, because he is not a president, a merchant, or a porter. We adore an institution, and do not see that it is founded on a thought which we have. But real action is in silent moments. The epochs of our life are not in the visible facts of our choice of a calling, our marriage, our acquisition of an office, and the like, but in a silent thought by the way-side as we walk;…”

“I see action to be good, when the need is, and sitting still to be also good.”

In fluctuating contexts, sitting, which on the surface, has the appearance a passive venture, earns its place among zealous deeds.   Sitting with one’s thoughts is virtuous, as it breathes life into one’s actions.  Emerson identifies thought as the progenitor of every action.  


You’re next, love!

“Why need I go gadding into the scenes and philosophy of Greek and Italian history before I have justified myself to my benefactors? How dare I read Washington’s campaigns when I have not answered the letters of my own correspondents?“

In a characterisation that amused me, Emerson portrayed such passivity as “peeping.”  It struck  me, that in lieu of  “answering the letters of my own correspondents” — completing my article about poorly drawn cats — I was reading Emerson, in a defiant act of contempt for my own actions and deeds.  Emerson himself,  continues: the “peeper’s” time is just as noteworthy as he whom he admires; and thus, in concluding my work, other idlers may deem me best, as I do Emerson or Cicero.

To wit: Miss Ironfist, it’s time to heed Geth and Emerson and write that cat article!


Once, passion excluded all else
What is time’s arrow?
With season, now reason
Blessed reason.
We pursue virtue and worth.

Each scene of the play
Reaches one,
Enriches life’s society
The spontaneous and deep reach us
Astonish us.

We know not whence
It shepherds us
We surrender
We are. We love.

(For Gethyn. Inspired by Emerson)