1. Fun: Good if it’s about spontaneous delight and joy. I’m thinking about children and their endless capacity to be curious and react to and enjoy their surroundings. Bad if it’s about forced enjoyment. I’m thinking of my drinking days when drinking was the only way to create spontaneity but the fun was tempered with frequently harmful mindlessness.
2. Struggle: Good because it’s about learning and growing as a human being. Bad because it can be really difficult and painful.
3. Sex: Good because it allows us to experience our bodies and our partners in a very pleasurable and connected way. Bad because it can often be a place where people experience deep shame and/or dysfunctional obsession. It can be used like a harmful substance.
4. Mother: Good if she is loving and nurturing and open and accepting and available. Pretty damaging if she is unable to embody those quintessential mothering qualities. In our culture motherhood is not particularly valued or supported, so the mothers are not mothered, and so how can they mother? Motherhood is fraught with difficult emotions.
5. Peace: Good. Inner peace, world peace, these are qualities to strive for in a world of turmoil and pain and disconnection. Peace is harmony, connection, love, joy, acceptance, tolerance. We’ve got a long way to go.
6. Education: Good if it is about creating a loving, open, curious, resilient human being. Bad if it is about control, squashing of creativity, perfectionism, measurement. Sadly, I see our education system more in the realm of bad than good.
7. Authenticity: Good. I don’t see a way forward without truth, acknowledging what is real and dealing with it accordingly, rather than hiding from and ignoring what is difficult. Bad, in the sense that there is a danger that being authentic can be hurtful because of a hidden agenda on the part of the truth-teller. Real authenticity requires ruthless honesty.
8. Christianity: Good if it is about creating more love in the world and using the life and works of Jesus Christ to inspire love. Bad, if it is about rules and dogma and cliqueyness. I have real difficulty with the closed, non-metaphorical statement, “Jesus is my lord and saviour,” and the giving up of personal agency and responsibility such a statement implies to me.
9. Aesthetics: Well, mine are good and many other people’s are bad! On an honest level, this is how I feel even if I try to rationalize otherwise. This is a truly thorny area of human existence isn’t it? My reaction to, “Jesus is my lord and saviour,” for example, is largely aesthetic and I react to aesthetics viscerally. If I see/hear/experience something that is aesthetically pleasing for me, among other reactions, I feel a kind of resonance and comfort (which can include a comfort with certain kinds of discomfort) in my body.
The Jesus statement makes me squeamish. I feel at home with openness and open-endedness and colour and organic shapes and not knowing all the answers. My aesthetics reflect that. “Jesus is my lord and saviour,” speaks black and white and fixedness to me. For me, Jesus was a guy who was exactly not about being a lord and saviour, but about teaching us that we can all be our own lord and saviour by his modeling of honesty, loving, and dealing with the mess of it all.
But words are close to useless to express spiritual matters. I am sure when I talk about openheartedness and connection, for instance, those words are aesthetically displeasing to many.
The Beegees sang that words are all we’ve got. I would offer that we actually have our bodies and our visceral sense of who we are and what love is. This is one of the reasons that work that is visceral is of the utmost importance to me. If we can access our loving hearts, this is where we can connect beyond aesthetics and move forward. Jesus, by the way, was all about that.
10. Holistic: Good. We are more than words and intellect and what car we drive. We are dynamic, creative beings made up of body, mind and spirit, and we are connected to the earth, other beings on the earth, and to the whole universe. Any aspect of human life that acknowledges this is helpful to individual and global health.
11. Creativity: Good. The ability to be curious and make connections and be in the moment and have fun and interact with surroundings/people/life in a fluid and generative way. In some languages, the word for human is “creative being.” Our culture has done much damage to creativity; we have separated the concept of creativity and the permission to be creative from everyday life. This is something we as humans must heal from to move forward.
12. Art: Bad and good. I always think of my cousin Peter’s statement. Years ago when I was in university, I went on my first visit to New York: my friend and I stayed with my Greek relatives. She told them she was in art history and Peter said: “Art! I hate art!” (Sounded more like: Awwht!!! I hate awwht!!!—spoken very loudly). He didn’t understand modern art and hated it for not understanding it. Much contemporary art has become even more oblique.
Good art is good. Bad art is bad. I’m an artist and I don’t love art. Too much bad art. Too much bullshit art. Difficult to find a happy medium here. I will argue again for visceral work that reaches the heart and body as directly as possible. I will also argue for the nurturing and encouragement of creativity (a word, by the way, not allowed to be used in art school—how fucked up is that?).
13. Teacher: Good teachers are caring, nurturing, sensitive, intelligent, firm, facilitating, flexible, open-minded, always learning and changing, etc…. in their own ways. Good teachers can be very organized and strict or disorganized and loose—there is no formula. Bad teachers are uncaring, inflexible, dull, insensitive, close-minded, hurtful, etc.
14. Adult: Adult = damaged child (epitomized by Michael Jackson). I don’t know one adult who isn’t. Sad. Not bad or good, just is. A clear, responsible adult = good. The messiness of most adults and where they are at = something to keep working on.
15. Child: The ultimate “Good.” Child = close to his/her heart, close to God. I don’t know one who isn’t going to be a damaged adult. I feel less sad than I do about the adults. Many of their adult mentors have moved forward from the past to acknowledge on a deeper level the agency of children. But we still have such a long way to go to really respect the beauty and power of children.
16. Heart. If your heart can love = good. If your heart is closed = something to keep working on.
17. Love. A state of being at one or connected to that which is loved. Clear love (requires love of self, first); love that is “easy” = good. Love that is based on requirements and duty = something to keep working on.
18. Sacred. What is most valued and held in high esteem. Good if what is held in ultimate value is good for self and others. The valuing of appearance, materialism, celebrity, dogma, status, etc. is damaging.
19. Depth: To look beyond the given, to be willing to look at what is below the surface; this is at the basis of honesty and sensitivity and it is good.
20. Kindness: On a deep level, we know when we are being kind and when we are being treated with kindness. Kindness may be gentle, it may be firm; it is always sensitive and sincere. Kindness starts with self. Kindness is good.
21. Sensitivity: To be able to feel and understand nuances of feeling. Good, if you can handle it. Bad, or at least difficult, if you live in a society that sees feeling as subversive, babyish, and/or of no utility.
22. Mark: A measurement of how well you have done on an assignment. How using this relates to encouraging the growth of a human, creative being beats me. Retarded.
23. Resistance: How I feel most of the time. I resent the many external demands I am forced to deal with that make no sense for who I am but are part of the “rules,” e.g. having to get an M Ed prescribed by a bunch of people who think their way is better. Good because it makes me think and act. Bad, because it would be nice to just surrender and take the path of least resistance.
24. Karma: Life path as chosen by a timeless, higher self. Good = life has purpose. Bad = difficulties along the way.
25. Purpose: reason for living. Good to have one; helps me stay alive.
26. Tasha: complex, complicated, creative, loving, heartful, scared, intelligent, impatient, struggling, sexy, cranky, open-minded, busy, mother, artist, teacher… Good = working on loving myself. Bad = too bad I don’t love myself.