Monday, October 27, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

I think it's fair to say that a big part of everyone's personal journey or quest is that uncomfortable feeling one gets when something contradicts what he or she already knows or believes. I think Semester at Sea is going to be a perfect example of this as we experience new cultures and experiences that we aren't familiar with in our own lives. That said, this post is a little more speculative than my typical writing style, so if you get bored, I promise to have a funny anecdote in my next blog. Deal?

I've been thinking about belief systems (and things that contradict our beliefs) a lot lately .....especially before my trip begins in a couple short months. I experience this phenomenon often in my own life and try to "flip it upside down" and open myself to other perspectives. Perfect example- the upcoming election. Now whether you know me or not, you may be able to gauge from my writing that I am not very interested in discussing politics, nor religion. I am an Independent and in this blog I do not deem it appropriate to discuss what I'm liberal about and what I'm conservative about (although as a disclaimer I should mention that it may be difficult to avoid some of that naturally coming out in my writing.)

So from a very fair, neutral and objective stance, I've been trying to listen with an open mind to each candidate's platform without hearing the bashing of the opponent and all the muckraking that goes on. Boy is that ever difficult! What happened to just telling me what YOU stand for and what you're going to DO instead of name-calling and childish taunting of your opponent? Through all the haze that this muck has created, I am trying to understand viewpoints which are converse to my own.

And I *get* them. I really do. You have to dig through your own "muck" (sometimes it takes a pretty strong shovel) and really get into someone else's head and understand their backgrounds and their own experiences to see why they feel the way they feel. Over the weekend I watched "Religioulous". This documentary explored religious beliefs and Bill Mauer attempted to get people to "prove" why they believe what they believe. Definitely an interesting flick, but a few of my observations from the movie:
- He picked people who had a hard time articulating their beliefs (to put it mildly). I think they were put on the spot and didn't really have a chance to formulate a sensible reply.

- The film spent a lot of time with Bill questioning Christianity, and very little time questioning Judaism, Islam, and other religions. He never mentioned/questioned Buddhist or Hindu beliefs.

- There is a Holy Land that has been re-created in Orlando! It seemed a bit kitschy, in a Jesus Christ Superstar, sort of way. But for some odd reason, I really want to go there now.

- I don't think that anyone should *have* to prove what they believe to anyone. A person's beliefs are an individual choice and it's unfair to make a person defend them.

- After thinking about it for awhile, I realize I am pretty open to understanding everyone else's reasons for believing what they believe. Religions were created to feel a sense of community when practicing one's faith. I am pretty sure they didn't intend the inevitable though- that these religions have caused many wars and much controversy in regards to church and state and their separation. I grew up in the Catholic faith and I still embrace many aspects of my religion. There is a priest at St. Francis of Assisi (near Penn Station) who is an oratory genius! I love going to mass, just because I love hearing him speak. I also have realized that some of my practices and positive thinking exercises are very Buddhist in nature. In addition, I respect and admire the sense of family of the Jewish faith. But allllllllll of that being said, I think religious is a private thing and I would never push my religion upon others. Same goes double for politics.

Okay....I think that's all I want to say on that topic and I am getting off what I originally intended. And that's our beliefs and things that contradict them.

So I think I'll share a story to end today's blog. Aside from seeing four (yes FOUR) movies this weekend, I also went to an exhibit at the Neue Gallery on 86th Street and 5th Avenue. The featured artist was Alfred Kubin whose art is very very dark and macabre. Many of his sketches/paintings reminded me of an R-rated version of a Tim Burton movie.

Sad, tormented man Kubin was. He witnessed his mother's death at the age of ten, was seduced by a pregnant woman at the age of 11- further complicating his fragile condition, and soon became obsessed with death and dying. He attempted suicide at his mother's grave. Kubin suffered acute anxiety and sexual paranoia and it all came out in his drawings.

This first dark and dreary piece is called "Indischer Brautwagon", which means Indian Bridal Carriage. I love how this piece depicts a wedding, what we traditionally know as white and cheerful and happy. Instead Kobin depicts the wedding as morbid and dark and funeralesque. (Ha! If you are a follower of my former blog, you know allllllll about my dark humor and thoughts on weddings. But we'll bring that blog back out on a rainy day......) At any rate, I think this was my favorite piece in the whole museum. I wonder if they served jordan almonds???

This next one is called "Krankheit" which means "Disease". It's a skeletal like man on a camel trampling over people's heads. I wonder if Kubin was thinking "heads are gonna roll" when he published his art?

I observed quite a few more that I liked. Many of them depicted pregnant women as tormentors and dark hooded men surrounding dark sunken-faced creatures. I loved it! I guess this visit fits nicely with stepping out of one's comfort zone, because I usually don't enjoy this sort of art, but for some reason I am really enchanted, impressed, and fascinated with this Kubin character.

PS- If anyone from the Neue Gallery asks you. I KNOW NOTHING about how these photos got from my phone to this blog!!!!!!!

PPS- If anyone from the Neue Gallery is reading, I (I mean-- the phone that took these photos) didn't use flash. Not saying it was my phone, just sayin'......And my name is not really Laurie. You can't prove anything!!

PPPS- I am not paranoid.

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