Creativity, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Ideas, Invention, Life, Literature, Love, Lovers, Memes, New Idea, New Love, Poetry, Quality of Life, Relationships, Romantic Love, Writing

Will Tomorrow Bring a Better Love?

(About a 1 minute read)

Over a thousand years ago, a handful of Persian and Arabic court poets created a new way of looking at one of the seven or eight kinds of love.  Today we still see that kind of love largely through their eyes.  We call it “romantic love”.

Of course romantic love has been around since the first homo sapiens — and most likely even before them.  It’s as old as the yellow grasses of Africa.  But it has not always been seen — it has not always been understood — in the way we see and understand it today.

Here’s a thought for you.  The world is coming together and I think it is likely that quite soon, some group of “poets” will create a new way of looking at love — one suited to a global culture.  But if that wild idea comes true, then hold your breath!  How people see love influences how they love.

If and when a new way of seeing love comes about — will that way be overall a good thing for the world, or a bad thing?

In my opinion, it could go either way.

For more on this topic, see this post.

Art, Creativity, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Ideas, Invention, Life, Literature, Love, Lovers, Memes, New Idea, New Love, Poetry, Relationships, Writing

“East and West”: A Love Story for the 21st Century

(About a 3 minute read)

We all know the story.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love.  They fight.  Then make up.  Then pair off  forever and ever.

Puke me a river of boredom.  The story has been repeated more often than Trump’s stupidity.  Besides, it’s totally outdated.   Totally outdated.

It’s outdated because it is basically a Western story — and we living a world now where “we” are no longer just and only the West.  Think about it.  Isn’t it time for a new kind of love story?  One that combines — that synthesizes — the great motifs of both East and West?

In a way, it does not matter what you and I think the time has come for.  It’s going to happen anyway.  The world is already too globalized for it not to happen.  There will be an East/West love story someday — and probably someday soon.   A story that has elements of the old Western story, but also much that is new to the West.

Why do I think so?

Maybe the easy way to put is this: In the West, you love an individual.  You love what is unique, special about someone. . In other words, you love Jim, and no one will do but Jim.  Or Melinda, etc.  If you, dear reader, are from the West, that’s all common sense, right?

But traditionally, it was different in the East.  Traditionally, you do not love the individual there.  You do not love whatever it is about them that makes them one of a kind.  Instead, you love the universal in someone.  The timeless, unchanging, eternal in them.  The thing they have in common with everyone else.

Don’t believe me?  I had once had a professor who now and then would read traditional Indian love stories to us.  Every hero is the same.  Every heroine is the same.  Story to story to story.  Only the moral of he stories ever changes. Only the moral.

Of course there are Western style love stories all over the East these days — but guess where they came from?

I will wager that someone soon is going to create a true synthesis of East and West when it comes to love stories.  Something that will worldwide replace the individualism of “She’s the only one in the whole world for me” — but also replace the universalism of “He’s interchangeable with any ranking member of his cast or class or clan.”

By the way, look not just for a new story, look even more for a new way of thinking about what it means to love someone.  That will be the real change.  The real synthesis.  Not the plot, but the new vision of what love is.

Just a thought for the day.  Y’all can go back to being sane now.


Art, Honesty, Literature, Poetry, Quotes, Shreya Vikram, Wisdom, Writing

“Shy Writers Die.”

“Shy writers die.”  — Shreya Vikram (in an email to Paul Sunstone).

“The moment you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself.  That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”  — Neil Gaiman.

Aesthetics, Communication, Ideas, INCOMING!, Language, Learning, Literature, New Idea, Poetry, Quotes, Writing

The Trade-Off

“The fewer the words, the more they punch.

“The fewer the words, the less anyone hears something new.

“Two hundred and eighty-eight characters are for those who would repeat to me what is already in my head.

“Economize when telling me what I already know, but speak whatever volumes you must to show me new worlds.”

— Paul Sunstone (I have spoken, your turn now).

Art, Culture, Ideas, Literature, Poetry, Writing

What is Poetry?

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his own way of distinguishing between prose and poetry in response to a question from a friend.


THE CRITICS THIRST FOR MORE! “‘What is Poetry?’ is a block of dry ice.  It chills the reader’s heart.  It freezes the reader’s mind.  And when it at last evaporates, the reader is left without so much as a single drop of water to drink.”  — Arun Ghani, India’s Blogs and Beyond, “The Herald and News”, Hyderabad, India.

THE CRITICS COMPARE!  “In his post, ‘What is Poetry?’, Paul Sunstone reveals he possesses the aesthetic sensibilities of a public toilet.  No, that is not quite it. That is not precisely it. It can be said with greater justice and with much greater precision that the Grand American Fraud of Blogging reveals himself to be possessed, demonically possessed, by the aesthetic sensibilities of a public toilet; a men’s public toilet, and not one that the cleaners have recently visited.” — Aloyse Leblanc, Le Critique Passionné de Blog, “La Tribune Linville”, Linville, France.

Continue reading “What is Poetry?”

Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Bad Ideas, Dance, Drawings, Emotions, Erotic Dance, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Paintings, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Sculpture, Self-Pity, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  Paul’s thoughts on the notion that artists feel things more deeply than other folks.


THE CRITICS ROAR: “Sunstone’s ‘Artists’ post puts me in mind of 1975 when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco lingered on his death bed for weeks before having the proper decency to exit the world and take his damnable evil with him.  ‘Artists’ is by most common measures a short blog post, but Sunstone nevertheless manages to make it a long one.  You soon find yourself praying for it to end. Praying hard for it to end.” — Gus “Gunning Gus” Johnson, The Blog Critic’s Column, “Leper’s Gulch Gazette”, Leper’s Gulch, Colorado, USA.

Continue reading “Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.”

Alienation From Self, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Creativity, Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Ideas, Invention, Life, Literature, Memes, New Idea, Passion, Poetry, Quality of Life, Self, Self-determination, Self-Flourishing, Spirituality, Writing

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Most Poets Are Some Other Poet

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel

(About a 10 minute read)

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ― Oscar Wilde

I. Insufferable Snark

Hi, Poet.

Hi, You!


Hey, you enthralled heart,
You passionate devotee of the
Great Gut-Slugging,
Slut-Goddess of Love,
Suffering, Lost Causes, Crushed Dreams,
Forlorn Hopes, Teenage Self-Images,
And Poets!


Continue reading “A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Most Poets Are Some Other Poet”

Art, Cultural Change, Culture, Dance, Drawings, Human Nature, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Paintings, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Quality of Life, Sculpture, Society, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Will They Bring With Them the Poets?

SUMMARY: Reflections on the future of humanity.

(About a 7 minute read)

I read a post yesterday on Bojana’s blog that got me thinking about the future of humanity.  That’s a topic that is more or less always in the back of my mind, but which I seldom write about.

I seldom write about it largely because it’s such a complex topic that I’m not sure what can be said about it that might someday more or less pan out as true.  Bojana’s approach to the topic was a pretty sound one — she mulled over her observations of her toddler and his friends as they were playing together.  The future, of course, begins with how we raise our kids.

Continue reading “Will They Bring With Them the Poets?”

Art, Friends, Literature, Nudes, Paintings, People, Relationships, Twinka Thiebaud, Visual Arts, Writing

An Interview with Twinka Thiebaud

(About a 5 minute read)

Note to Readers from Paul Sunstone:  This is a re-post from a now defunct blog of mine that will soon be deleted.  It was originally posted in December of 2011.  I think it still might be of general interest to people, so I’m re-posting it here to save it.

I was recently offered an opportunity to submit a few questions to Twinka Thiebaud in connection with reviewing her new book, What Doncha Know? About Henry Miller. Her answers to my questions struck me as quite interesting and I have included them in this post.  For those of you who are not familiar with Twinka, this is from the publicist’s biography of her:

Twinka Thiebaud is a former artist’s model who collaborated with many notable photographers of the 20th century.

“Imogen and Twinka,” created by Judy Dater in Yosemite National Park became one of the most recognizable and iconic images captured by an American photographer. In it, 92- year-old Imogen Cunningham, a groundbreaking photographer in her own right, confronts and locks gaze with Twinka, who appears as a wood nymph frozen before the camera’s lens. The image can been seen in private and major museum collections around the world.

For three years Twinka lived with the aging novelist Henry Miller in his Pacific Palisades home acting as his cook and caretaker while working as an artist’s model, posing for art students and other noted photographers Mary Ellen Mark, Arnold Newman, Lucien Clergue, Eikoh Hosoe, Ralph Gibson and her father American painter Wayne Thiebaud, among others. At home with Miller, Twinka was captivated and delighted along with other dinnertime guests and celebrities by the revered author’s nightly tales of his past exploits. Listening, she began to keep a notebook of her version of what he said each evening. Eventually showing him her notes, he expressed immense enthusiasm, encouraging her to write a book. The result is a compilation entitled What Doncha Know? About Henry Miller which includes both Miller’s intimate conversations and Twinka’s memoirs about the years she spent living under his roof and his lasting effect on her.

Twinka lives in Portland, Oregon and is working on a memoir entitled Twinka From Six to Sixty: Collected Images From the Life of an Artist’s Model.

And now, on to the questions and answers:

PAUL:  I recently reviewed your book, “What Doncha Know?” Do you have any comment on the review — anything to correct or add?

TWINKA: Thanks for the review of What Doncha Know? About Henry Miller. I was pleased to see you have a clear picture of what interests and intrigues me most of all: PEOPLE, with a capital P! Henry Miller was one of my greatest subjects of observation along with becoming a great friend and mentor. I think you summed up the book very well and I’m glad it left you wanting more. I would have liked to keep going but circumstances beyond my control created a sudden deadline I needed to honor. Your review captures, beautifully, the spirit in which I penned the book. Thanks again.

PAUL: How would you characterize Henry Miller’s sense of humor? Did the two of you laugh at the same things? Did you frequently get on a roll bouncing jokes off each other?

TWINKA: I’d like to report I had as great a sense of humor as Henry had at that time but that would be a lie. I was an anxious and uncertain young woman; full of drama and angst, usually looking on the darker side of things and not the humorous aspects of life. Aging has helped me gain a more finely tuned sense of the ridiculous and I laugh and make others laugh quite often.

Henry’s sense of humor was usually based on the stories he’d tell about his failed exploits and adventures and those of his friends. He could make fun of himself brilliantly and his characterizations of the quirky souls he’d run into along the road were positively hilarious.

PAUL: Henry Miller’s influence on you was remarkably positive. Based on that, what advice would you offer to people who find themselves in Henry’s position of mentoring a much younger person?

TWINKA: The first thing would be to remain positive in one’s approach. Henry was always incredibly supportive and caring in the way he spoke to me and others when things weren’t going so well.

Focus on the other person entirely; make them feel they matter, that their feelings matter, that they have everything within them needed to find the right answers, the right path.

Don’t tell stories about yourself unless the story relates directly, and in a positive way, to the other person’s struggle or dilemma.

Henry built me up again and again and when I left him I was changed forever. I had no real confidence in myself when I arrived at his doorstep and I was full of ego and false bravado. Henry helped me to feel strong and capable and urged me to believe in myself and my creative endeavors; to live a more genuine life and to let go of the superficial.

PAUL: What advice would you offer a much younger person who was being mentored?

TWINKA: 1) Open yourself up to the wisdom and experience of the person whose taken you on as your mentor and show gratitude for the time they’re making for you.

2) Be unendingly curious and ask a lot of questions.

3)Hang out with your mentor; go to the theater, watch a film, listen to music together and take long walks (with your cell phone turned off).

PAUL: Please tell me a bit about the direction you’re headed with your painting? What do you feel you’ve accomplished and what more do you hope to accomplish in the immediate future? I’m quite fascinated by what little I’ve heard of your work, so please feel free to go into any amount of detail you wish.

TWINKA: This is the hardest question for me to answer. My painting is all about learning to “see”. I’m searching, learning and feeling my way along quite slowly.

I don’t show my work publicly and, perhaps, I never will. It’s all about the process and the joy of not having to make a career or produce paintings for anyone but myself.

I have been in a bit of a rut for a few years with my painting so I turned to interior design projects to give myself some new challenges which I find incredibly rewarding.

Still, I love being alone in my studio with oil paint loaded on my brush, listening to great music and feeling connected to all the artists in the world throughout time…. all of us searching… and all of us learning how to see.

Readers interested in the famous Imogen and Twinka photo by Judy Dater can find a post on it here.  The comments section contains a response to the post by Twinka.

Art, Conservative, Courage, Cultural Traits, Culture, Ethics, Harry Potter, Liberal, Literature, Loyalty, Meaning, Memes, Morals, Movies and Film, Politics, Progressive, Relationships, Religion, Science, Scientific Method(s), Society, Spirituality, Values, Writing

How Has Harry Potter Shaped Us?

Do you think it’s possible that the Harry Potter books and movies have shaped the world views of a generation or two?  If so, how have they shaped those world views?  But if not, why not?

I’m especially interested in four aspects of the question:

  • Ethics and Morals: Has the Harry Potter series formed or changed people’s ethics and morals?  Has it propagated British values? Has it placed more weight on loyalty and courage than on intelligence?
  • Science and Reason: What, if anything, has the Harry Potter series shaped or changed about people’s attitudes towards science, logic, and empirical evidence?  Has it undermined their significance?  Will the world see more or fewer scientists because of the series?
  • Religion and Spirituality:  Has the series shaped or changed anything about people’s religiosity or spirituality?  If so, what?
  • Politics: What, if anything, has the series shaped or changed about the Left/Right, Progressive/Conservative political conflict?  Has it moved anyone Left or Right on the spectrum?

I confess that I have not been paying attention to the series.  That’s not because I’m opposed to it, but because I lazy when it comes to reading fiction.  But a question on Doug’s blog got me very interested in the influence of Harry Potter on our society.  I would much appreciate your help understanding that influence.

From Around the Net, Humor, Irony, Literature, Satire, Writing

Awkward and Peculiar Mormon Erotica

Jennifer Gowans-Vandenberg and Donna Banta are each individually capable of writing satire to rival Mark Twain.  Now, they’ve teamed up on a new blog, White and Delightsome, to satirize erotica, American prudishness, and the Mormon Church — among other things.

The first post is up and it is nonstop brilliant.  And funny.  Very, very funny.

Art, Buddhism, Consciousness, God(s), Hinduism, Late Night Thoughts, Literature, Myth, Religion, Romantic Love, Self, Sexuality, Spirituality, Writing

Godless Vampires Suck My Life Force! But Why?

If you are like me — and may Zeus help you if you are  — then at least a few folks are bound to think that you do not worry nearly enough about vampires draining your life force, and instead worry way too much about precisely what, if anything, the concept of a vampire symbolizes.  I’ve been told that it is far more fun to fear vampires than it is to coldly dissect their meaning.

And the folks who say that might have a point:  The goose that laid the golden egg each day did so only until the people dissected it to see where the eggs came from.  A joke can be killed by “over-analysis”.   And even the most powerful mythic symbols can be rendered merely ridiculous by subjecting them to logic, evidence, and reason.

Vampires, of course, are mythic symbols, and hence, they can — and sometimes do — have their power over our imaginations, sentiments, and feelings sucked dry by rational analysis.  So, as a warning to all you vampires out there — it might be best for you to read no further, because we are about to commit ourselves to a dispassionate analysis of precisely what you symbolize.

But let’s begin with a bit of history….

The general concept of a vampire has been around for a while.  That general concept might be described as of  “an undead being that feeds on the life force of the living”.  There are folks who argue that the concept is ubiquitous, but that seems to be an exaggeration.  Instead of appearing on every continent,  in every culture,  and at every time in history,  the concept seems to have gotten its start in pre-Christian Slavic cultures and spread from there.

There is a rich enough history to the concept of the vampire that one can properly speak of there being several concepts, rather than just one.   Early on, the vampire is little more than a nasty, rotting, evil corpse who has come back from the dead to prey on the living.  But when the poets pick up the story in the 1700s, they begin to give the vampire a more rounded character.   By the time Lord Byron’s physician, John Polidori, publishes the first vampire novel in 1819, the vampire has evolved charisma and sophistication.

The most influential of the early vampires was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was published in 1897.  In the person of  Dracula, we find find the same charisma and sophistication that Polidori ascribed to his Vampyre, but this time welded to a ruthless, tyrannical being bent on power and world dominion.

Marilyn Ross,  in her Barnabas Collins series (1966-71), continues the trend of presenting vampires as charismatic and sophisticated, but then departs from tradition to portray them as tragic heroes, rather than as the embodiment of evil.  Later, Anne Rice seems to take her lead in part from the Collins series:  Her vampires are once again more tragic than evil.  As Rice states of her heroes:

All these novels involve a strong moral compass. Evil is never glorified in these books; on the contrary, the continuing battle against evil is the subject of the work. The search for the good is the subject of the work… Interview with the Vampire… is about the near despair of an alienated being who searches the world for some hope that his existence can have meaning. His vampire nature is clearly a metaphor for human consciousness or moral awareness. The major theme of the novel is the misery of this character because he cannot find redemption and does not have the strength to end the evil of which he knows himself to be a part.

I think with Rice we have the overtly spiritual vampire.  But it is a deeply troubled spirituality:  Brooding, insecure, introspective, angst-ridden, romantic.  Last, in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series of novels, the charismatic, sophisticated, and romantic vampire  seems continued.

But what does it all mean — if it indeed means anything at all?

I think the key to understanding the concept of the vampire is to see the vampire as symbolic of the individual self.   That is, the vampire symbolizes the “ego”, the consciousness, the “I” — the self.

Now, I think we in the West have — in some respects at least — a somewhat limited understanding of what the self really is.  We seem to do a fair job when it comes to promoting the “socially responsible individual” as an ideal self that some of us strive to realize. In that respect, we might even be on top of our game.  But when it comes to knowledge of the self, it’s origins, how it works, and what it is, we in the West are relatively clueless when compared to our brothers and sisters in the East.

If that is the case — if we good Westerners do not understand the self as well as we might — then that might help to explain why it is not obvious to nearly everyone of us that vampires symbolize the self.  Indeed, the very moment we hear that a vampire is a mythical, undead being who feeds on the life force of the living, the word “ego” should be screaming in our ear.  But why is that?  On what basis can we say that?

First, let’s take a bit closer look at what the self is.   The self, in at least one way of describing it, is that ongoing psychological process, which takes place in the brain, and that results in a perceived division or separation between the I that observes things and the things that are observed.  In other words, the process that creates the self creates both a perception of an “I” or self and a perception of things separate from that self.

When you divide the I that observes from the things that are observed, you create a world in which the I, the self, mirrors life but is simultaneously cut off from life.   I am not the flower I am looking at.  Since I am not the flower I am looking at, I am psychologically or perceptually cut off, or separated, from the flower I am looking at.  One way of symbolizing this perceptual state might be to call it “undead”.

In one sense, I am alive because I am perceiving.  Thus, in that sense, I am not dead.  In another sense, however, I am cut off, separated from the world, from what I am perceiving.  Thus, in that sense, I am dead.  Combining the two senses I arrive at a symbol that simultaneously fits both: I am neither the living nor the dead — I am the undead.

All of the above is a very dry and abstract way of discussing how the individual self can be thought of as undead.   And if that insight is at all accurate, then the dirty little secret — the truth we probably don’t want to see — the truth we hide away in frightening symbols — is that we are undead.  We are vampires.  For the vampire is a symbol for the self.

Of course, the self being spoken of here is the so called, “small self”,  “individual self”, or ãtman, that can be found in many forms of Hindu mythology,  and which is often distinguished in that mythology from the “great self”, “universal self”,  or godhead. The ãtman can also be found in Buddhist mythology, in which case it is sometimes distinguished in that mythology from — not a greater self — but no self at all.

Now, please recall, that the self has been described as “that ongoing psychological process, which takes place in the brain, and that results in a perceived division or separation between the I that observes things and the things that are observed.”  Since the self is created by a process, it can be interrupted.  And when it is interrupted,  when the process that creates a perceptual distinction between subject and object comes to an abrupt end, while experiencing yet continues, there is then no perceived distinction between the I that observes things and the things that are observed.  It is then that you experience god.

Or, more precisely, the experience that comes about when there is no perceived distinction between the I that observes things and the things that are observed — that experience is referred to by some mystics as “god” — probably because they lack a better word for it.

Since that experience of god is, in effect, the opposite of the experience of self — and since the self is the vampire — vampires can be considered “godless”.  It should be no surprise, then, that Anne Rice’s vampires sometimes suffer from a sense of alienation and meaninglessness.

The self is endlessly aggrandizing, but its efforts to aggrandize itself are founded on illusions.  As the Buddhists point out, nothing in this world is permanent.  But if that is true, then the self cannot permanently acquire anything for itself.  Hence, its efforts to do so are based on illusions of permanence.   Here is a description of the self that might be labeled, “How the self expands itself”:

When we observe what is taking place in our lives and in the world, we perceive that most of us, in subtle or crude ways, are occupied with the expansion of the self. We crave self-expansion now or in the future; for us life is a process of the continuous expansion of the ego through power, wealth, asceticism, or the cultivation of virtue and so on. Not only for the individual but for the group, for the nation, this process signifies fulfilling, becoming, growing, and has ever led to great disasters and miseries. We are ever striving within the framework of the self, however much it may be enlarged and glorified.

Perhaps that description reminds one of how Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a ruthless, tyrannical being bent on power and world dominion.  But whatever the case, the self’s endless attempts at aggrandizement mean that its appetites are theoretically unlimited.

As one insightful writer notes, in vampires, this sense of unlimited appetite is sometimes symbolized as sexual desire:

The modern vampire is still a creature of appetites, and that certainly includes sexual appetites, but the vampire’s sexual adventures are not limited to members of the opposite sex. So high is their libido and so devoid are they of proper gentlemanly and ladylike restraint, that vampires will have sex with just about anyone. The magnitude of their lusts is terrible.

Well, the same applies to our lusts. We humans are also controlled by our lusts, or rather frequently fear that we will be if we let down our guard. Sex can make people do awful, self-destructive things. So does greed. So can all of our appetites. We’re on guard all the time. We aren’t afraid of monsters hiding the dark; we’re afraid of ourselves.

But whether manifested as sexual desire or manifested as greed, lust for power, or something else, the self’s desperate need to aggrandize itself is often realized at the expense of other people.   Briefly (and a bit superficially) it is in that sense that vampires, which are symbols of the self, can be said to suck the life out of  people.  Indeed, I could go on at great lengths about precisely how the self can be seen as something that sucks the life out of others.   But I am reaching 2000 words here, which is quite long for a blog post, and which must surely be trying everyone’s patience with me.

To recap:  I have attempted to show here how the vampire can be a symbol of the self.   As I see it, the vampire has been evolving and so it today symbolizes somewhat different aspects of the self than it symbolized back in the 1800s or so.  But in a fundamental way, it has symbolized the self since at least 1819 and perhaps even earlier.  Whether it continues to do so in the future is another matter.  Symbols are not unchanging.

Of course, many people have their own ideas about what vampires symbolize.  What might yours be?