What Made Me Cry This Week – Yoga

So, usually I stick to books and movies recommendations. But, who cares about consistency? Plus, it still fits with this section’s title.

Today I cried because of yoga. Ok. I didn’t exactly cry, but I cried the way I cry when I watch movies: my lips quivered, I swallowed, and my eyes filled up. I made it go away so no one would see me cry. My eyes filled up like twice.

It’s hard to explain why.

Ever since the end of Thanksgiving I had been feeling this constant emptiness. Like there was something off. I was having a hard time finding energy to do my projects – school related or even personal ones. I did yoga on Monday, but it didn’t solve it. It all still felt heavy. I don’t think I breathed enough during that one.

Tuesday, I felt even worse than the day before. It felt like the day was never going to end, and I just had to live with myself. I wanted to get out of me, but, as with most of us, I was stuck inside.

Then today (Wednesday) came, and I just felt “meh.” I went to work and it was meh. I went to class and it was meh. And everything was meh. Then I did yoga.

It was the normal. Stretching, flexing, holding. Breathing. Trying to smile in painful positions. Then, at the end, we had “shavasana.” Which is basically lying there, resting, breathing. Letting everything flow – meditation.

As I breathed, I could just feel like my whole body was there. Everything was real and it just made me smile that I was alive. Then I felt like crying because it just felt like such a good happiness. A subtle one. A happiness made of breath, of presence. A happiness made of words like “I’m alive.”

 


Originally written last week Wednesday.

 

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What Made Me Cry This Week – Writing This

It’s hard writing for this series: “What Made Me Cry This Week.” (WMM) This is the tenth post (wooohoo!!), but they still feel hard. And the reason why is because for the blog I’m just trying to type down some thoughts, that maybe they’re helpful to someone, while here —well— the goal is bigger.

I’m trying to explain to you why something was moving – or not so moving after all –; I’m trying to condense an amazing piece of artwork into simple words. 500, more or less.

I’m trying to say why it moved me and only me. But I’m also trying to leave space for the work to speak for itself. After all, the creator invested time, talent and love into them.

I’m trying to give you something to work off of to decide: Do I want this? But I’m also trying to say why it mattered to me.

I’m trying to also give you something that goes beyond the work. Even if you don’t buy it, I want you to be at least inspired. I want you to think about your own life mistakes, or about the poverty in this world, or how art informs the way we think.

So, yeah. It’s definitely a challenge for me. While with the blog I wrote about 20 of them in about 10 days (I exaggerate! I’m not being literal). Well, I’ve written 10 of the WMM in like the span of 50 days.

But I can’t say I don’t love it. I do love it, so much. The joy of reading a book, a graphic novel, or watching a movie or documentary that inspires me! And then, being able to share that with you? So as we move on. I just want to confess. Writing this blog, and more specifically this series, is bringing tears to my eyes, because I love it so much.

I hope you do too. Because without you, well, these posts lose half their meaning. So here we go. A post to me. To this series. And also, to you.

What Made Me Cry This Week – Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

I just finished reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Csiksz.). Let’s just say I got into flow while reading it.

Serious though.

The first thing that struck me was in his introduction. He had a quote from Viktor Frankl: “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.“ From there it didn’t stop, because while the book is somewhat old (it was published in 1991!) the ideas are super current. No wonder every now and then I see an article, artist or blog, mentioning flow.

Halfway through the book does start to get a tiny bit repetitive, but there’s enough variety and new information that it’s worth going. Around this area I really liked the chapter on loneliness, or solitude, and relationships, family and friends. I’m still planning on scanning this chapter and sharing it with a couple friends. This section on loneliness and relationships was essential for my understanding of flow. I’ve been struggling somewhat with the idea of being by myself. The book offers great advice about how to organize yourself as a whole person to keep inner demons at bay.

Another highlight of the book is just the plethora of stories from real people, experiencing real joy in their day-to-day life. The stories were very moving, especially stories like Reyad’s. An Egyptian guy “[…] who currently sleeps in the parks of Milan […]” From Egypt he hiked all the way to Italy and now lives there homeless. A small part of his testimony:

“It has not been just a trip, it has been a search for identity […] Everyone has his own fate, and we should try and be like the lion in the proverd. The lion, when he runs after the pack of gazelles, can only catch them one at a time. I try to be like that, and not like Westerners who go crazy working even though they cannot eat more than their daily bread.”

I fell in love with Reyad and his story. There were so many other stories though that also touched and moved me. And they all had one purpose: to encourage, to instruct and help the reader grow. The notion of “flow” has been swimming in my head ever since I read this book and I can’t stop thinking of it. Trying to find ways to get to flow in different parts and aspects of my life. It’s a book that reminds, and helps, you to challenge yourself and find joy in the small things.

P.S.: I couldn’t help but to think it was funny how he also relays how Dante’s Divina Commedia was helpful for a seminar that the author organized. Made me remember the wisdom of Dreher’s book, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and the review I wrote on it.

What Made Me Cry This Week – A Graphic Novel, Another Graphic Novel, and a Chick-Flick

Let’s be honest: What Made Me Cry this Week can be anything, cause that’s the way I like it. So I compiled three different cultural products below from this week.

So here we go.

I’m currently reading a graphic novel that is a collection of Native American tales about Trickster Book Coverthe common figure, in Native American Folk-tale, of the Trickster. For each tale, a different artist and writer collaborate, coming up with unique styles. But to be honest? It’s tiresome, or repetitive. Some of the art styles are mediocre, others I’d consider them bad; but I guess that’s my taste. There are some of the tales that do seem to shine. Their style is deep, and layered, the stuff I like, and work well with a tale.

But the whole “short-tales” tires me out. It might be fun to read with a small kid every night a new story, but I’m bored of it. I’ll still finish it — I feel it’s good enough it deserves finishing, — but yeah. Not highest on my list.

Another graphic Friends With Boys Book Covernovel I read was Friends With Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks. And it was good. It reminded me a bit of Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol. But different. While Anya’s Ghost leans towards the creepy, Friends With Boys leans more towards that sad reality of life: most things go unresolved. While there’s some resolution to Maggie’s journey, the protagonist in “Friends…,” it still happens that a lot of it is left open. I don’t think it’s for no reason; there’s one conversation between Maggie and her brother that I thought caught the nugget of truth and beauty from this graphic novel:

 

“I thought it was something I could fix — But I can’t fix anything.”

“Maybe that’s okay.”

The art style was nice, it’s one that I’d enjoy emulating myself if I ever got the chance.

 

With simple blacks, whites, and a layer of gray, Hicks conveys a lot through her image. With this graphic novel, I also just enjoyed the paper itself. The texture is nice,but mainly the pages have tiny variation on size, so on the edge of it you can run your finger along it and feel the ups and downs as pages randomly get bigger and smaller.

Enough of that. what I really want to talk about is Mean Girls.

I know. You’ve probably seen it. Or you think that it’s a movie for, well, girls — a “chick-flick.” But I just watched it., and I feel like the child inside of me cried watching it. So that counts right? I can write on it?

Mean Girls Cover

Mean Girls. I feel it deserves something, an award? A recognition? A shout-out? It deserves something for the screenplay. I mean seriously. The writing for that? I just thought it was incredible. It was ridiculously over the top, but in the good way. The same way Tarantino makes all the gory stuff be over the top. Ha. I’m comparing Mean Girls to Tarantino’s work. Someone will hurt me. But I’m fine with it. I’ll say it up front. I don’t like Tarantino that much.

Honestly, I just had to put in a word for Mean Girls, in case you haven’t watched it yet, if only for the great plot, screenwriting, and acting.

 

What Made Me Cry This Week – Abstract

Abstract - the Art of DesignI’ve watched three episodes of it. Each one has made me cry, in a different way.

It’s a documentary called Abstract. It’s on Netflix. The documentary explores “The Art of Design.”

The first episode is about an illustrator, Christoph Niemman, who has had several New Yorker covers, and does crazy illustrations – they have depth of content. It was fun having a couple of friends come up to me saying that they saw myself in him. Because, honestly, if I can be like him my life is set.

The third (I accidentally skipped the second one somehow) one is the designer for Nike shoes and Air Jordans, Tinker Hatfield. I wasn’t so interested in him, I don’t care that much about footwear – especially athletic – but it was still incredible seeing his drive, his creativity for something as “normal” as shoes.

And the last one I’ve seen so far has been Es Devlin’s episode. She’s a stage designer for theater and pop shows. Beyoncé and Kanye are just a couple people she’s designed stages for. She is incredible. Her pieces are so elaborate: they’re all about light, space, darkness, and time. I was surprised by how visually powerful they are.

With each episode the series expresses well the visuals,the audio, the editing, the thought process, the elaboration, the abstraction of ideas. They’re able to basically strip naked the thoughts of the artist, and it’s like you get to swim inside their heads and taste a little bit of what it’s like to come up with their incredible ideas.

In the end, the documentary is about abstraction; it’s about transforming an idea into something tangible. It’s about understanding your media and how to get ideas into that media. How do you work with just the flat visual image? How do you work with a shoe? With space and light? How do you create ideas, narratives, emotion, concepts, within whatever form or shape it takes in the world? How do you express what can’t be expressed?

I recommend Abstract – The Art of Design to anyone who wants to marvel at how things are created or for anyone seeking inspiration. You’ll finish an episode ready to conquer the next set of ideas that you carry in your own head.

 

What Made Me Cry This Week – Habibi

Habibi CoverCan I just say that I love this new “job” of mine? I get to read stories that I love. Stories that move me, and enchant my small heart. Stories that actually make this heart bigger, opening it up to new experiences, worlds, and ideas. And Craig Thompson, in Habibi, did just that.

Thompson has already moved me through his graphic novel Blankets; Habibi only increased my admiration for his ability to convey emotion in creative ways.

So, the main plot:

A girl named Dodola is made a slave. She runs away with a younger slave that she has taken in, almost as her own child. She renames him Zam. They grow up together on the boat, yes a boat, they found shipwrecked in the desert – their safe haven.

Thrown into the mix of it all are questions of sexuality. Dodola to provide food prostitutes her body. As Zam enters puberty he becomes enraptured by Dodola’s body. The story focuses on the redemption of their own sins, as they try and survive in a world dominated by the evil of humankind. But as we are shown they’ve been separated – with Dodola ending up in a Sultan’s harem. Zam’s search for Dodola begins as she tries to survive the harem.

Thompson has a magical ability to mix poetry, narrative, and visuals. He jumps from place to place, leaves us curious, intrigued, always wanting more. If I didn’t have work the next day I would have stayed up all night reading it. Oh, responsibilities – always getting in the way.

I also really liked the book for the way Thompson incorporates Arabic language, Islamic religion, and poetry. He gives breath to faith that so often seems intangible. Faith, as in Blankets, becomes a lens through which to look at the world. It becomes a means for survival to the lost ones.

Habibi shows. No, it doesn’t show. Habibi makes us live with what is wrong in our world. It makes us experience that which we often try to ignore: a world where the sex-trade still runs rampant and poverty is one of it’s major drivers.

While the world is dark, Thompson is still able to deliver some brushstrokes of hope. At the end, I cried: I mourned for the many lives that have suffered under the cruelty of this world, but also for the glimpse of hope given.

The hope Thompson gives never once felt like the stuff of fairy-tales. It felt real, like I could run into it around the block from my house.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

What Made Me Cry This Week – Boxers and Saints

Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen YangBoxers - by Gene Luen Yang\

For me as a Christian, reading Boxers and Saints was hard. The story highlights mistakes Christians have made through history, especially in their association with politics, power, and wars.

But it does it in a simple and beautiful way. The story arch is simple and direct.

In the first volume, the story of the leader “Little Bao”* from the Boxer Rebellion, in China, is told. It shows the struggle of his town and family under the oppression of Saints - by Gene Luen Yang“foreign devils:” westerners and Christians. And so we follow Little Bao’s rise to military power against the oppressors; he learns Kung Fu and how to “harness” powers from the Chinese gods.

Mixing mythology and day-to-day happenings, the book took me alongside the rise and downfall of the revolution. I cheered for them to some degree, I understood their suffering and pain, but soon began to see the inevitable end approaching under Bao’s leadership.

The art is clean with a consistent style and adds to that simplicity of the narrative. Bold lines, blocked in colors and simple shadows. The art can be celebrated for its ability to convey so much through so little. It enables the reader to tread quickly through the story, never losing sight of the plot.

Once Boxer ends, one cannot feel the sadness sinking in, was anything actually accomplished?

In Saints we follow a parallel story to Boxers, the story of Four.* Four is a girl with whom Bao has a brief encounter in Boxers. She is an outcast within her and family, who wants to become a Christian to get free food and to become a “devil” – or a Christian. She eventually also starts having visions of Joan D’Arc, whom she begins to look up to as source of inspiration and strength.

As her story is told we sympathize with her, and even with her wrong childish motives. We already know the end of her story, for it appears in Boxers. But we’re still curious: how will she change and become the character we saw in Boxers? And I’ll add, there was a minor surprise I didn’t see coming at the end of Saints.

As everything goes, I couldn’t help but feel deep sorrow for all the deaths and suffering on both sides. The two stories together drive in us a sense of empathy – that neither side was truly right nor wrong, that our world is just…broken. Yang’s writing breaks the notion of us vs. them. It felt like a story needed in today’s political scenario. For that reason, I hope many people will yet read it.

* Little Bao and Four as far as I understand do not represent real historical figures.

You can buy the two graphic novels through my affiliate links! Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang. That’ll help me keep the blog going, and keep me motivated! Plus I just really recommend these books. They’re great!

Another book I’ve read, some time ago, was Gene L. Yang’s book American Born Chinese. I read Boxers and Saints in the first place because of this graphic novel. Another awesome recommendation!

What Made Me Cry This Week – How Dante Can Save Your Life II

I Can Be An Artist (Quote From Text)

Cover of How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod DreherI thought I should fill you guys in to how the book How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod Dreher, ends. I wrote the previous What Made Me Cry This Week post before finishing it, but now I can give you the full picture.

After the ecstasy of the first chapters, I slowed down. I needed to let everything sink in. Dreher puts a lot of content into the book. It’s filled with great advice, and the book makes you question yourself. It invites you to do some self-analysis: what are my motives for my actions? Am I making an idol of family, money, friendship, sex? Have I been too harsh with friends? Have I judged them, even though I share in their same faults?

“When family and place and a way of life centered around them become ends in themselves rather the means to the good, they turn into idols.”

And that can be said of anything – as Dreher does throughout the book.

I Can Be An Artist (Quote From Text)One of the chapters that touched me the most was the one that dealt with the creation of art. It felt like Dreher was grabbing my heart and twisting it the way you may twist a towel to get the excess water out.

In recent times my mind has been focused on monetizing my art. I wanted to prove to my parents, friends, and everyone who’s there to see, that I can be an artist. That I can survive in this world through my creativity. I wanted to show them: “I have talent!”

The easiest way I could think of: to make money. The easiest way to make money? Get a following, an audience, grow a platform. Get people talking about you. Post on social media as constantly as you can. Create as much as you can. Self-market. Promote.

Basically: be famous and gain fortune and glory (or recognition). But Dreher’s prose pierced through.

“How much happier would young people be if they began their careers thinking not of the fame, fortune, and glory they will receive from professional accomplishment but rather of the good they can do for others.”

Ouch. It hurt. But he is right. And throughout the whole book that’s what I felt. I kept saying to myself as I read:

Ouch! That hurts.

But…

You’re right, Dreher.

Dreher, you couldn’t have said that better.

His beautiful prose never leaves the book, and he masterfully deals with every topic he touches on, piercing our hardened hearts.

If you’re considering buying this book, why not buy it from amazon through my affiliated link? That way I’ll get a tiny commission if you decide to buy the book! You’ll also be encouraging me to keep writing awesome reviews!

Last words: if you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon so we can cry together.

What Made Me Cry This Week – How Dante Can Save Your Life

How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod DreherCover of How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod Dreher

Let’s be honest. I started writing this review when I was just 4 chapters into the book. What can I say? I was hooked by the first line and already wanted to cry midway through the second chapter. The book hit the write strings.

My parents have been telling me to read this book for some time. They even bought it through Amazon and sent it straight to my address; there’s no clearer way to say “Read!” I put it off for some time while I read some of the graphic novels I had lined up (there’s some reviews on that coming up!). Until the fateful day came when I reached for Rod Dreher’s book, inside the bus, going downtown. I read the first line, then almost missed my stop because I didn’t want to stop reading. I had to go back to it later — on the bus ride back.

First things first: you don’t have to read Dante’s Commedia to enjoy this book. Although reading Dreher’s book might have you reading the Commedia in the end, just like it has my mom. Now we can proceed.

Dreher has a beautiful prose, and weaves together memoir, poetry and real-life applications. The book is intended for any audience, as he makes sure to create paths for inclusion for those of faith, Catholic or not, as well as for the atheist and agnostic.

I can’t help but share it in his own words, because for me they were so beautiful: “It’s a book for people who have lost faith in love, in other people, in the family, in politics, in their careers, and in the possibility of worldly success.”

At the beginning, he gives a quick overview of his life, in similar fashion to a memoir. But he ties it in with what’s coming up: Dante and the impact the poet has had on the author.

This section deeply moved me because of how much I saw myself in Dreher. We’re both intellectually driven, both book worms, we both have somewhat complicated relationships with our parents.

Even though our lives are completely different, he is able to tie his own life to broad universal themes: our sense of exile – even when we go back to our childhood towns. I even wrote a very similar piece about this feeling – although poorly written in comparison, here.

I’ll fill you guys in on the rest next week, once I’m finished reading it!

But in the meantime, what do you think? Which books have just grabbed you by the soul? Do you also feel a sense of exile, no matter where you are?

Read Part II of this review!

How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod Dreher – Buy it through this link and support my work!

What Made Me Cry This Week

What makes you cry? Do you like crying?

If any art piece makes me cry,  I love it. That’s what art is for: those exhilarating emotions that make us cry.

It can be because the story is sad. Or because it just is too beautiful. Or because you know it’s not real. But you cry. The story, the colors, the music, something, touches you, it touches that calloused heart, and tears are shed.

WMM_01 That has been my experience with art. And if you’re like me, I invite you to my series of posts I’ll be doing: “What Made Me Cry This Week.” These will be posts where I share on what I’ve read, seen, or heard that has made me cry, that has made me dance and weep at the same time.

I’m hopeful these blog posts will have a small synopsis or something that makes it worth your time. Nothing too serious.  They will be short posts where I share what I love, most likely every Thursday.

Through this series I hope you find out new artists to follow or just read one of their works. I also hope to connect with you. For us to share what we love. For us to know that we’re not alone.

So feel free to comment, here and in the following posts: did you feel the same? Or was your feeling different? Is there another artist or work that you feel matches this one? What made you cry this week?