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Rock and roll can save the world
if you are nice to people.
-Wayne Coyne




December 20, 2007


Oh Zee, you truly are a Dancing Star.

Nietzsche: \"I tell you:  one must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing

star.  I tell you:  ye have still chaos in you.\" mobius sez you can love even that fear of the self by accepting that your walking talking chaotic zygote self is not separable from the continuously chaotic unfolding of space/time since the Big Bang 13.7 million years ago, before the beginning, Kaboom! And it sounds very much like laughter! And your continuity with this unfolding is most grokable when you share its eternal aspect of stillness, the void out of which time unfolds. Yikes! Why not visit stillness more often?! Music is made of rests!


Your abomination is a joy. And, language geek, did you see where Yikes comes from etymologically? Do you know what Yikes looks like? Search this wiki to find out!





Oh hello exegesis.


I decided to remix the text that has most affected me this semester: "The Book of Lies" by Aleister Crowley. My eternal struggle is now and ever shall be reconciling my broken self with the clockwork of my surroundings. I have a long way to go, but reinterpreting Crowleyan Thelema has pushed me a little further along in my adventure. This paper makes no sense, but neither do I.




I'd like to say in retrospect that this class has been good. Close-reading sacred texts has brought me somewhat closer to determining what the sacred is for me; [I'd take that outcome over an A any day]. I wish all the members of "Composing the Sacred" well in all your journeys through the sacred. If anything, I've started to realize that the sacred can't be found in optimism, but in drinking up every drop of the present, however bitter it may be at times. Sometimes you have to throw back the Cuervo to get to the lime.




Z. D.


December 18, 2007


My final project: an abomination, as usual... but nonetheless, 2400 words of delovely, deveely insight. I'll post my exegesis later (later today or early tomorrow?) once I tweak it a little. Meanwhile, enjoy:


Something is rotten in the Writing Center.

December 11, 2007


Someone suggested today in a conversation before class that we stop dating our Wiki entries, as the 3-week gaps between postings highlight our (my) frequent disappearances from reality.


Ceridwen's post about losing her birth mother is extremely compelling to me, especially after having just lost my grandmother over Thanksgiving break. Like Ceridwen, finding the sacred in everything has been my own way of dealing with these kinds of losses: losing my grandmother, losing my sister (in the far too near future), and of course, losing my mind.


"Loss" is a funny word, though. A dead British guy named John Donne, before leaving on a trip, once wrote in a poem to his wife that...


Our two souls, therefore, which are one,

Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion

Like gold to airy thinness beat.


Obviously, I see the discrepancy between Donne's journey and a loved one's death. My grandmother, Ceridwen's biological mother, and anyone else who is no longer with us are not taking a temporary vacation. They are permanently transcending physical existence, and thus, traveling not overseas, but beyond the reaches of our living human perceptions.


Nevertheless, I think Donne's point is a strong one. Death may physically separate us from those who have touched our lives, but how can we ever really "lose" something with which we've formed such a tenacious tangible connection? Like "gold to airy thinness beat," those we love (or hate... or love to hate... or hate to love...) manifest themselves in our physical lives so deeply that these manifestations remain even after the physical element is removed from the relationship.


In this way, I look at everything that gets left behind--everything my grandmother ever sewed, every personality trait my sister has instilled in me, and every time Ceridwen wins an internal emotional conflict because of how strong and insightful her complex mother-daughter relationship has obviously made her--and I know that these things make "loss" impossible, even though change is inevitable. Death transforms a bond between two people; it is incapable of fracturing it. The sacred physical and figurative relics of these relationships make up one significant facet of the sacred, and deserve to be valued. Instead of solely standing in awe of potential afterlife, we should instead take a second to soak in what is both sacred and earthly. As someone quoted in class today, "The challenge is not to walk in heaven, but on Earth," and the artifacts that these lifelong challenges leave behind are something I'm starting to revere every single day.






November 15, 2007


Now that I've returned from my 10PM-1AM tutoring marathon in Pattee, I can actually post some thoughts on the writings I'm presenting in class tomorrow.


It's 1:51 AM, I've had two Diet Cokes in the past two hours, and in addition to this presentation tomorrow, I have two exams and a paper due. Hence, nothing I write now or say tomorrow will make any sense. I weep for the poor soul who tries to comprehend any of it.


Aboriginal History

Aboriginal Australians were the first people to inhabit the Australian continent. While they originally made up the entire population, following the British conquest of the late 1700s and its aftermath--disease, land invasion, and racial violence--indigenous Australians make up a very small percentage of the present-day Australian demographic. Their original population density was similar to that of present-day Australia: concentrated in the fertile southeast. However, after the British invasion, they were forced into the central and northern deserts—hence, the significance of the Outback in modern Aboriginal culture.

Australia may appear to be an exotic paradise, but in reality, racial strife there is probably more pervasive than it is in the U.S. Under white Australian rule, Aboriginal Australians were not awarded the right to vote until the 1960s, and their native ownership of Australian land was not fully recognized until the 1980s and ‘90s.

The indigenous culture of Australia contains a great deal of cultural diversity, so to discuss “Aboriginal Australians” as a single group is definitely a generalization. However, there is a great deal of overlapping in their belief systems, so for purposes of discussion, I will refer to them as one entity.

Belief System and the Dreamtime

Aboriginal religion concerns itself primarily with characteristics of the natural world. Indigenous Australians revere the land, and the plants and animals with whom they coexist. Their religion lacks a human-animal hierarchy, as well as a hierarchy establishing one “higher being” to worship. In a way, the land itself is both a “higher being” and an ally.

An era called the “Dreamtime” exists, which is similar to the Christian Genesis. The Dreamtime is said to be the period in which the first Aboriginal ancestors traveled across Australia, creating and naming.

One version of the first Dreamtime tale:

“The whole world was asleep. Everything was quiet, nothing moved, nothing grew. The animals slept under the earth. One day the rainbow snake woke up and crawled to the surface of the earth. She pushed everything aside that was in her way. She wandered through the whole country and when she was tired she coiled up and slept. So she left her tracks. After she had been everywhere she went back and called the frogs. When they came out their tubby stomachs were full of water. The rainbow snake tickled them and the frogs laughed. The water poured out of their mouths and filled the tracks of the rainbow snake. That's how rivers and lakes were created. Then grass and trees began to grow and the earth filled with life.”

The Dreamtime is similar to Christianity in that the act of naming is incredibly significant, and that the snake also plays a pivotal role. However, the snake represents goodness and creation here—a very different connotation than that in Genesis. (Although, if you look at the story of Bahloo and the snake, the snake does, in a way, come to represent evil indirectly.)

In spite of these parallels, the Aboriginal Dreamtime is in stark contrast to Christianity, mostly because of its complete fixation with things of the natural world. Christianity provides a “shopping list” of God’s creations, and occasionally touches on the significance of a few of them (snakes, lambs, etc.), but indigenous Australian religion is totally consumed by them. The Dreamtime tales are a collection of stories that seek to explain many seemingly trivial aspects of plant and animal life: why a certain animal has spots, why a certain flower only blooms once a year, why a bird makes a certain sound, etc. Christianity is satisfied with noting that these creations exist; Aboriginal religion values their characteristics as much as (if not moreso) than those of humans.

Another interesting point to note is that in the first Dreamtime tale, the world is preexisting. No higher being creates it or brings it to life; it is merely asleep, and the rainbow snake, which is part of the world, simply awakens and starts the entire process of creation.

Eulayhi Ethnography

The ethnography of the Eulayhi people was written by K. Langloh Parker, a white Australian girl who grew up in the bush near an Aboriginal settlement. Parker writes, “I have been acquainted since childhood with the natives, first in southern South Australia; next on my father's station on the Darling River, where I was saved by a native girl, when my sisters were drowned while bathing. I was intimate with the dispositions of the blacks, and was on friendly terms with them, before I began a regular attempt to inquire into their folk-lore and customary laws, at my husband's station on the Narran, due north of the Barwon River, the great affluent of the Murray River.” While her depiction of their culture and retellings of their stories often comes off racist to contemporary eyes, the fact that she chose to humanize the Eulayhi at all by telling their story was incredibly significant at the time.

The Eulayhi resided in northwestern New South Wales—the southwest border of Northern Territory, or the Outback. Parker repeatedly notes in her ethnography that she was “on good terms” with the natives she encountered; perhaps this was a form of compensation for her self-consciousness about her contemporary white culture’s ignorance?

A large part of Parker’s ethnographic study was recording the Dreamtime narratives of Aboriginal storytellers. Keep in mind that she recounts them from a white Australian perspective; many of the stories use dehumanizing and racist language in reference to the indigenous people.

Bahloo the Moon and the Daens

Although indigenous Australian religion claims to not have a singular “higher power,” this Bahloo character would be it if they were to recognize one. Let me say, frankly, that he’s a real asshole.

Here is where the snake comes to indirectly represent evil. In another story, a man (who is blatantly portrayed as selfish) retires into isolation and spends his days crafting ornate rugs, clothing, and weapons for himself. When Bahloo asks him to share his wealth, the man refuses, and Bahloo abruptly drowns him on the spot. There’s a sense of immediate natural morality: if you disobey the will of the natural world, you will pay right then and there. In Christianity, sin results in eventual damnation…random lightning strikes notwithstanding. However, in the Dreamtime tales, humans pay immediately for their crimes against the will of the land.

Dinewan the Emu, and Goomblegubbon the Bustard

As I previously mentioned, Dreamtime tales often revolve around explaining minute characteristics of Australian flora and fauna. Being a self-proclaimed emu enthusiast—I once nearly spent $90 at the Taronga Zoo on a stuffed emu—I thought I’d take a look at the Aboriginal history of my favorite feathered friend.


This story explains a natural phenomenon, but also acts as a metaphor for human morality. Aboriginal Australians, in this respect, do not seek to divide themselves from the natural world as avidly as Christians do. While Western religion works to establish the line between human and beast, Aboriginal culture embraces the connection.


In spite of this being the most fragmented, poorly-written abomination I've ever created, it is now 3:19 AM and I need to get to work on the other three things I have to deal with tomorrow. I don't really expect anyone to read this before class--I would be a hypocrite if I did--but I do look forward to the discussion and hope that this sleepless night won't impair my ability to lead it.




Zee Deveel.



November 14, 2007


Well hello there. I'm back, after yet another period of hibernation, to wikify and electrify your souls with some insight into Aboriginal folklore.


Last semester, I studied abroad in Australia. Although I lived in Sydney, the best parts of my experience BY FAR were my encounters with the indigenous people and the places they call home. I spent one weekend camping in Jervis Bay, which still holds several Aboriginal settlements. I also had the opportunity to spend 5 days camping, hiking, and generally roughing it in the Australian Outback.


Allow me to briefly assault you with photographs before I get into Aboriginal history and the readings for tomorrow:




Hiking in King's Canyon. (One of many Outback formations featured in the film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.)




Watching the sun rise over Uluru, one of the most (if not THE most) sacred Aboriginal places.



An oasis in Kata Tjuta.




EMU!!! Up close and personal.



November 2, 2007


I'm turning into John Keats.


I may not have tuberculosis, but I do suffer from a tendency to romanticize my own "brokenness." As much as I love the idea of recognizing emotional hardship as an integral part of life, the fact is that I have two papers that are majorly overdue. Professors are telling me to suck it up. When authorities use this phrase against me, the first thing I wonder is "What is this 'it' that I'm supposed to be sucking up?"




Zee Deveel.


November 1, 2007


"Soy un perdedor.

I'm a loser, baby,

So why don't you kill me?"



"Frater perdurabo" means something like "lost brother." Right?


Aleister Crowley's statement that "The broken manifests light" really strikes me on an emotional level. In therapy on Wednesday afternoon, I had sort of a breakthrough when I hit on what my counselor called a "pivotal memory." One winter, when I was about 15, my sister caught a particularly bad strain of pneumonia, leaving her hospitalized for almost a month. Feeling helpless and depressed, I let my academic and social life slip away--much to the dismay of my parents, who were (understandably) too overwhelmed with their one sick child to deal with my problems.


Anyway, one morning that winter, my dad came into my room with a piece of paper in his hand, and he taped it to the bulletin board next to my bed. He had typed up a George Bernard Shaw quote that he thought would motivate me to pull myself together. Forgive me for butchering it, but it was something along the lines of how I should try to be a "force of nature" instead of a "selfish clod of ailments" complaining that the world would not devote itself to making me happy. I know my dad meant well by presenting this to me; when you see someone breaking, your natural inclination is to try to put caulking in their cracks. But by trying to plug up my leak with dry British literature, my dad was ignoring the value of the leak itself as a way to "let light in," as Crowley might say.


My therapist noted that this memory really affected me, and encouraged me to find a new quote. Ceridwen, thanks--your presentation unintentionally led me to one. Without voids, where would there be opportunity for light? Is Aleister Crowley encouraging us to install skylights in the ceilings of our minds, or does he just want us to look up and fearlessly face the ones that are already there? Either way, I thank Ceridwen for introducing me to the Book of Lies and to my long-overdue replacement mantra.




Zee Deveel.


Hey Zee - I'm glad you liked at least some of what you heard today! I was frankly terrified, simply because I didn't know how people would respond to such "strange" writings and sayings (though in some ways they weren't strange at all, were they...). Anyway, in a way I know where you're coming from in terms of antidepressants, the well-intentioned but painful interference of family, and the feeling of shattering apart. But It helped me to see how you took Crowley's saying - there's something beautiful about the statement "the broken manifests light" that you don't see very often. The idea of embracing flaws and fractures rather than piecing them together with glue and misguided quotes appeals to me, as well. So, thanks for paying attention to what I really wanted to get at, and thanks for generally being the voice of my subconscious in your posts. - Ceridwen

PS: (sorry for the page clutter - you can delete it and I won't cry) You reminded me of a quote from a song called "Hysteria" by the band Muse - "I'm not breaking down, I'm breaking out". You can hear the song here (a fake myspace music profile I use so I can put other people's music on my regular profile...ooops)


October 30, 2007, Part Deux


As I sit in my East Halls tutoring shift, procrastinating and hoping no wayward freshman writers wander into the ULC with classification/division essays, I feel as though I should groove on this "first person" thing a little bit more.


In what was the beginnings of my final project proposal, I talked about ULC authorities' attempt to remove the "self" from the Writing Center space. I began creating an abominantion in the form of a Microsoft Word doc, outlining in a frenzy and trying to construct some kind of concrete project idea.


After about 3 pages of single-spaced stream-of-consciousness brainstorming, I leaned back in my swivel chair and surveyed the results of my prewriting. And you know what? Despite my initial outrage against the stifling of the self in academia, my argument ended up including none of my "self" at all. I had accumulated a gigantic list of postcolonial and feminist theory, sacred texts, fiction and nonfiction novels, artists, musicians, and scholars to cite in my project, but ironically, by doing this, I had negated my entire argument by making my "self" completely absent from it.


I am totally up for the challenge of writing my final project in the first person. On an unrelated note, I perused the shelves at Webster's this afternoon in hopes of finding a copy of Tom Wolfe's __The Right Stuff__ (mentioned in class), but with no luck. Does anyone know where I CanGetOne? I really liked __The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test__ and would like to check out some more of his stuff.




Zee Deveel.


October 30, 2007


I am an abomination. I am an abomination because mess is an abomination, and I am my self, and my self is messy.


As we were sitting in class 4 minutes ago, I was browsing through my notes from the semester thus far. Let me tell you, this shit is bananas.


With my anti-Cartesian final project in mind, I want to promote the value of the first person by posting a product of the first person on the Wiki. And what better product of the self to start with than in-class notes?--An abomination that emerges from your Bic pen when you think no one is watching:





501 Carpenter Bldg.



"Somewhere over the rainbow is margaritaville."


*religious discourse produces an "other"


*Valis - Philip K. Dick

*Perrenial Philosophy


*humans are homoexperimental?



*liminal: space between--sacred



*epistemological problem of the light inside

-conflict: Cape Cod beer jug

-representation of culture of abundance


And then I heard the sound of her body hitting the tiles 4 floors below like dry logs being tossed onto an extinguished flame.




*ergotrophic-"revising your own scripts" to be inclined toward success

*humanize Mohammad via laughter


*The universe winked.

*Find a hated discourse?

*"Let it die."



-if via God, then personally undesirable?

-is what we desire what God desires?

*disability, drugs, and the negative connotation of "forgetting"


*selective w/ students


*epistemological problem of "Cape Cod Air"

-what is in the bottle?

-if you open it, you lose it

-how do you know?



*skaldic: competitive verse/discourse


*specific-couldn't specify specific


-film noir, detective fiction therefore quest to make sense; Darwin


bodhi svaha!


bodhi sahtva


om gate gate


"staring at the sun" - TV on the radio

-Aboriginal language of illness


*sacred: unusual time, unusual space.

-unusual is an unusual word.

-deja-vu (time)

-House of Leaves (space)--the way your space looks determines whether or not you're moving thru it


-"smearing" of time (2-3-74)

-sci fi as porn; finding bits of hell and dwelling in them

-don't focus on truth vs. untruth

-"caring" is not equal to listening; 1st utterance in the book is a lie--"I have ten"


-the "twang" of the void; reflex arc

-response to reality is to go insane


*ethos, logos, and pathos--Buddha, Dharma, Sanghva


The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe





*anything is a rhetorical situation


*first personal validity affirms argument against Descartes

-cite my own worde horde

-rhetoric=persuade other people and persuade yourself

-the self is messy

-put in binder, include pen, glue, can be rearranged, scissors, paper clips

-anecdote about ESL tutoring and reflexive verbs

-sister's complete immersion in herself is negative

-force interpretation thru vagueness, learning thru being nondirective

-vagueness=mixture of selves, rather than archetype of the ideal


-cognitive situps


-something to do.


...And there you have it. So Mobius, the next time you call on me and I look completely befuddled, it's probably because I'm in the process of scribbling down something like this.


Abominably yours,


Zee Deveel.


October 24, 2007


This may be the first time I've posted two days in a row. I'd like to attribute it to some type of epiphany, but I think I've just had too much caffeine.


Anyway, I wanted to add a new dimension to my proposal for my final project regarding the Undergrad Writing Center as a sacred space. That new dimension is Cartesian dualism. I just finished a midterm paper on Susan Bordo's "The Cartesian Masculinization of Thought," and found myself drawing tons of parallels between Bordo's argument and that which we tutors are currently trying to make about our decor in the Writing Center.


Bordo observes that the medieval epistemological model perceives “the world and self as an unbroken continuum." Bordo also notes that the Renaissance created a break in this continuum, shunning individual perspective and, through Cartesian philosophy, upholding objectivity as the only legitimate way of viewing reality. Bordo acknowledges that this is a cultural response to the fear of “disastrously fragmented and discontinuous mental life." However, although Descartes developed his “masculine” model of thought in hopes of completely breaking the ties between rationality (masculinity) and subjectivity (femininity), he instead strengthens the bonds between the two. The impossibility of purely masculine thought becomes evident, because masculinity and femininity exist as responses to one another.


Bordo's argument against Descartes applies to our dilemma at the WC on many levels. Descartes tries to prove that the presence of the "self" is counterproductive to the creation of knowledge, just as our superiors in Old Main argue that the presence of individuality in the WC's aesthetics hinders the learning process. However, if knowledge is created as a response to the self, one cannot exist without the other. If the WC demonstrates the presence of the "self" in its community, we encourage a response from our writers through the articulation of their own knowledge. Descartes tries to create order from chaos, and writers likewise try to do this by trying to put their thoughts into words. Without showing our "selves" to writers, we discourage them from seeing the value of their "selves" in the articulation of ideas. Through aesthetic sterility, we're telling writers that we don't value our individual perspectives, and that thus, theirs don't matter either.


Maybe someday I'll actually start responding on here to the writings on the syllabus. Or not. C'est la vie.




Zee Deveel.


October 23, 2007


Prozac is a bitch.


I have been on and off antidepressants since I was 12. (See more details about what contributed to my lifelong battle with depression on my September 26th post.) Many of you probably think this is a really rare, personal thing to reveal on the Wiki, but I disagree: about 1 in 4 people I know are taking or have taken some form of mood-altering medication during their lifetimes. Whether you know it or not, 25% of your friends and loved ones probably have firsthand experience grappling with mental illness, so if I'm the first one to reveal it to you, then so be it.


Antidepressant medications are controversial, and with good reason. Taking a pill every morning before I head to class (or don't head to class, as the case may be) is not going to solve all of my problems. However, when combined with therapy, medication has helped me and many others function as "normally" as possible while fighting depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and countless other mental health problems.


That being said, medication has started to hinder, not help, my ability to manage my mental health. Prozac is the fourth prescription I've tried in the past ten years, and I'm getting a little frustrated. Fluoxetine (Prozac's technical name) is known as being "generally well tolerated," but ironically, its name is followed by a list of 15-20 side effects. These include nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and a bunch of other words that I can't even pronounce. Basically, by taking Prozac to manage my depression, I've found myself combatting sleep deprivation, mood swings, and general mental "fog." If I remember correctly, these side effects are what this medication is supposed to prevent. In the words of a very wise computer animator, WTF mate?


I've tried everything imaginable to replace the role of medication in my life. I've tried Tai Chi, but I don't have the discipline. I've tried running, but I don't have the energy. I've tried religion, but I'm not a Sunday morning person. What's a deveel to do?


Write? Maybe. A daily release for my "bad chemicals," as Kurt Vonnegut (or is it Jonathan Franzen?) would say. All the physical exertion it takes is moving my fingers on the keyboard, and I don't have to wake up before 2 PM to do it. Mental and emotional energy are two things I'd have to sacrifice, and I don't have much of those to start with. But in the sacrifice of energy, I can create something, so doesn't that make it more of an exchange than a sacrifice? All I know is that I love the dialogue in this class, on and off the Wiki, and I'm sick of missing out on it because of some counterproductive two-toned 20 miligram capsule that's become a daily part of my balance Lucky Charms breakfast.


Does writing have side effects? Carpal tunnel syndrome? Disturbing self-awareness? Will it be like watching my own dreams on videotape? I'm not sure I even want to know what will come out of my subconscious if I let it loose. Nausea-heartburn-indigestion-upset stomach-diarrhea seems to be a small price to pay in exchange for not having to come to terms with the contents of my brain.


This is in no way a "cry for help," but rather, an observation about my current state of mind and a brainstorming activity focused on how I can improve it. Is Wiki the new SSRI? I've been in too much of a fog lately to find out, but maybe this rare moment of resolve that I'm experiencing right now will spark some motivation.




Zee Deveel.


Hey - I really appreciate your entry and think depression is a huge symptom of our culture, and is proliferated because we don't know how to approach it - in ourselves, and connecting with others whether it's written, spoken, or expressed. I go through depression sometimes but have never taken drugs for it mainly from how i was raised - my parents realized at a very early age that I am highly psychologically and emotionally effected by food (the whole brain fog thing) - specifically chemicals, dyes, processed and packaged stuff. The most dangerous professor aside from Doyle I've encountered is Charles Eisenstein. He's written a few books and alot of essays - all of which are online because he's radical. You might like this article on autoimmunity and spirituality. Warning: it's really really intense. His other website is The Ascent of Humanity which he's got his book and essays posted, although I encourage buying it because this man deserves every cent. Peace ~ Earthmuffin


October 15, 2007




I, Zee Deveel, am pissed off.


As a peer tutor at Penn State's Undergrad Writing Center, I'm really passionate about collaborative learning pedagogy. Throughout history, literacy has consistently walked a fine line between empowerment and oppression. At the Writing Center, our main objective is not to impose standards of the written word onto students, but rather, to help writers recognize the value of their own ideas and articulate these ideas effectively through language.


The writing tutor "headquarters" in 220 Boucke Building has always been a "sacred" space in which the individual art of writing is the object of reverence. However, our space has recently been violated, and I'm not happy about the results. This past summer, some of our director's superiors decided that the Center had become aesthetically "cluttered," and that we needed to do some remodeling. All of our original furniture was moved out and replaced with plastic blue chairs and grey round tables, and all of our wall and ceiling decorations were deemed "unprofessional" and hence taken down. While I sympathize with the concerns about visual professionalism--some of the old decorations, such as cartoon stick figure drawings wallpapering the bulletin boards, sent a faint signal that we didn't take ourselves seriously--I worry that the new, somewhat sterile ambience is counterproductive to the collaborative values we work so hard to promote. To be frank, the WC was transformed into a hospital waiting room.


After witnessing the whitewashing of our Writing Center's atmosphere, we put together a small collaborative rebellion in the form of our own redecoration. We kept the authorities' worries in mind, understanding that completely undoing their vision would risk us being stripped of any power we had left over our own space. However, our director, a few other tutors, and I got together one Thursday night and hung posters, tutor self-portraits, and flags of different ethnic backgrounds in order to inject some personality back into the WC. We were in Boucke Building until 1 AM hanging decorations, listening to music, and putting a piece of our hearts into the space we admittedly have grown to love.


Our new decor blended professionalism with creativity, and we were proud of our ability to express our values as an organization while still keeping the necessary level of conformity in mind. But our enthusiasm came to a screeching halt today when our director revealed that the authorities had seen our new decorations and thought that "the idea was good, but poorly executed." Essentially, the posters are allowed to stay up, but the self-portraits and flags (including a tapestry of the baobab tree, or African Tree of Life, a set of Tibetan peace flags, and some prayer flags from South America) have to be removed. Even though we were conscious of neatness and decorum when hanging the aforementioned decorations, our director's superiors insist that they are somehow exclusionary and hinder diversity.


The primary concern about the flags and self-portraits seems to revolve around an assumption that student writers will feel overwhelmed by the WC's aesthetic personality, and thus feel excluded from our community. This logic, while certainly valid on some level, diminishes the value of tutors' AND writers' individuality. I think the idea of a "hush harbor" (to cite the dissertation of a very smart man whose name I can't remember right now), or a "safe space" to express ideas, is key to the visual/atmospheric success of the collaborative learning environment. And it seems to me that a "hush harbor," by emphasizing the presence of diversity in its exisiting community of tutors, would encourage writers to express a diversity of their own. Those who are opposed to our hanging the self-portraits and flags feel as though maintaining "sterility" will be more conducive to tutees' writing process; that is, we would encourage freedom of expression by expressing nothing at all ourselves. However, sterility is completely incongruous with inclusiveness, because sterility implies the presence of privilege, since the presence of nothing at all still symbolizes the presence of something.


I feel an indignance toward those who seek to modify our space without sufficient firsthand knowledge of what goes on within it. For my final project in this class, I would like to compile an argument with text and images that proposes a decorative scheme for the Writing Center. The decor will acknowledge the perspectives of tutors, writers, and our superiors, and will strive to do justice to the collaborative ideology that is the backbone of our work. In particular, I will work to justify the hanging of the flags and self-portraits as essential to illustrating this ideology and perpetuating the "sacred" aspect of the Writing Center space. With our director's blessing (I respect his opinion and would like him to have some input), I would like to present my project to the Learning Center authorities in hopes of elucidating the tutors' perspective for them. I'm no idealist; I realize that there's a strong possibility that my argument will be met with disdain or, even worse, disinterest. However, I care deeply about promoting the value of the student's point of view and its essential role in collaborative learning theory, and with these ideas in mind, I think that the worst thing I could do would be nothing at all.


Blessings and harmony,


Zee Deveel.


P.S. Check out Buster Friendly's interesting observation about motivation and proximity. I love that I've been wagging my proverbial finger at the Jena Six trials for months, but only when my beloved Tibetan peace flags are threatened do I actually decide to speak out against intolerance.



What a great final project idea! As a fellow peer tutor, I hold the same sentiments as you do concerning the Writing Center. Like you said, the authorities are seeking to change this space without actually understanding it. Going along with what we talked about in class, they are interpreting, not listening.

Most of the students who come into the Writing Center are between the ages of 18 and 22. It is common to see tapestries and lots of color in student living spaces. I have Tibetan Peace flags hanging in my own apartment. Who better to know what makes students feel comfortable than students themselves?

Like you said, the privileged decorational scheme of "nothing" has won out, seemingly without anything substantial to support it, besides the fact that it is the most traditional idea of how an institution should look. The administrative authorities know white walls and plastic furniture. They assume that students must feel uncomfortable and unable to learn in the current environment and dismiss it as "childish" and "unprofessional."

I'm excited to see what decorational schemes you come up with. The Writing Center can't feature Graham Spanier and dead white guy posters. - buster friendly



October 3, 2007


A very belated glance at Rumi # 9:


Rumi centers this discourse around reason being man's futile struggle to know God, and the reality in which this reason exists being a mere series of veils to shield man from God's immeasurable power. Interestingly, Rumi also points out that men who claim to know God lack faith, because the "true lover" knows that God is unknowable until the veils of reason have been lifted, yet strives to know Him anyway.


Rumi's statement about those who claim to know God is incredibly relevant to the Penn State environment, considering the amount of Christian fundamentalist preachers who run rampant across our campus. Some of them, like the Willard preacher (or Gary, whichever you prefer), concede that they do not "know" God, but that their quest to know him propels them along the "correct" path. However, many religious extremists claim to "know" God--a statement that really bothers me.


Forgive my "life's a journey, not a destination" outlook, but isn't the act of questioning what defines the whole concept of faith? Without fear, we wouldn't have bravery, because bravery implies an act of endurance or overcoming. The same goes for faith. If knowing God were possible, we would have no need for faith, because faith is the act of holding onto a belief that cannot be proven as fact. I think this is why the lack of humility in many religious fundamentalists makes me cringe; according to Rumi's definition, a faith based on "known fact" is no faith at all. Rather than blindly proclaiming a set of beliefs as the irrefutable truth, admitting that faith may be based on a falsehood seems to me to be the strongest religious statement one could possibly make.


Did I mention I'm an agnostic?,


Zee Deveel.



September 26, 2007


Yes, I have been totally inactive once again, and yes, my Catholic guilt is welling up inside of me. I know everyone is probably writing riveting interpretations of Genesis and Rumi, and I look forward to eventually reading them. However, my participatory apathy these past few weeks stems from some personal turmoil I'm experiencing. I know the WIKI is not my personal shrink (I have the eternal wisdom of Dr. Phil and Tyra for that), but regardless, I do think that what I'm dealing with has a surprisingly close relationship to what we've been pondering in class.


(I should apologize in advance for how trite this post will inevitably get towards its conclusion.)


Mobius touched on a topic yesterday that struck an intellectual nerve: psychedelics and the negative connotation of "forgetting." I wish I could remember his comments more specifically, but I was probably daydreaming about writing this post. Anyway, I know that psychedelic drugs are chemically categorized as "poison" because of the effects they have on the brain's ability to perceive the world. Hallucinogens induce alternative states of consciousness (trance, dreams, and sometimes just plain laziness). Drugs like these, including marijuana (not necessarily a hallucinogen, I know), are legally and culturally taboo because of their potential consequences for society as a whole. If psychedelic drugs were readily available to the public, we would have a catastrophic situation on our hands: a world in which "consciousness of reality" is a subjective term, and the "right" path to take in this reality is an equally individualized matter. Now before you ask me how long Ken Kesey and I have been tripping together, let me say that I am in no way a psychedelic connoisseur. My interest in the negative connotations related to alternate consciousness comes from my relationship with my younger sister, Grace.


Grace turned eighteen this week, and while that's normally a joyful milestone, it's a bit of a bittersweet moment for my family, because Grace's life expectancy is between 20 and 25 years. My sister was born in 1989 with a severe case of microcephaly (in laymen's terms, she has a small head), which resulted in cerebral palsy, or radical underdevelopment of the brain. She is a quadriplegic who cannot eat by mouth, speak, or see, and her intellectual capacity has not expanded since she was about six months old. In short, growing up with Grace as a sister has been like having a teenager-sized infant for a sibling.


While Grace's condition has created a lot of obstacles for her and for my family, she has perpetually remained the happiest person I know. Her ways of communicating are unconventional--my favorite is the bizarre snorting sound she makes when she's happy--and her lifestyle is equally so, but I've caught myself envying her situation many a time. Grace lacks the capacity to function "normally," yet her life is filled with simple pleasures: admiring the glow of her lava lamp (she can see some light), sitting in our front yard and soaking in the smell of my dad cutting the grass, snuggling with her favorite pillow while listening to James Taylor, and existing in constant awareness of how much the people who love her shape her life.


I know that paralleling my sister's disability to drugs is a bit of a rhetorical stretch, but I also know that the correlation between the social connotations of the two experiences is strong. Whoever reads this explanation of Grace's condition most likely feels an intense sense of pity, not just because of the physical trials she's faced, but maybe moreso because of what her "underdeveloped" intellect has hindered her from achieving. However, I often wonder who decided that cerebral palsy and other disabilities are, in fact, "disabilities" in the first place. Delving into sacred texts has shed light on how much we focus on what alternate consciousness keeps us away from, rather than what it may open our minds to. Is Grace's condition really a hindrance? Is she one of few people blessed with the ideal consciousness of reality, while the rest of us remain unenlightened and underdeveloped ourselves? When I think about my sister's life, which may end sooner than I like to admit, instead of remembering her long history of hospital stays, what I remember most is her ability to produce a beaming, infectious, and very genuine smile in response to the simple act of someone who loves her stopping at her bedside to give her a kiss and say hello. While Grace is not an acid test participant, many view her relationship with "reality" the same way: lacking in conventional productivity and therefore lacking success. And to those who feel this way, I hope they too can someday reach Grace's level of appreciation for what The Most Honorable Cliche-Maker refers to as "the simple things in life." My sister was born with a level of consciousness that many psychedelic adventurers adopt by choice, and to be honest, I think their experience of the "abnormal", whether positive or negative, is greater than all the productivity in the world.


Happy birthday Grace,


Zee Deveel.


Zee_Deveel - your post probably touches more people than you know. Before her death last year, my grandmother was in an advanced state of Alzheimer's. She had advanced so far into her past and was so debilitated by the disease that she was unable to function, and in fact could only speak in German. Her body might have been broken, but her mind was back where she was happiest - her childhood in Germany with her extended family. So what was reality to her was a different reality that did not ever exist to the rest of us. While people speak of curing diseases like Alzheimer's, who would I be to take those last years with her family away from her? What would be "normal" for her? What, in fact, is normal for any of us? We all have our quirks and differences. Let us be happy with the moment, with the hour, with the day. Shouldn't life be about the simple things in life? What is so wrong with feeling the sun on your skin and being unexplainably ecstatic? Don't tell me that I can only achieve fulfillment if I analyze the crap out of 4 word phrase because it was written by So-and-So, and therefore must contain a deeper meaning. If some are happy in a different way than we are, who are we to judge and tell them no? London Bridge


Wow, Zee_Deveel, your Urban legends page is awesome. What a great idea. Indeed, I think this narrative folklore is immensely important to our society, otherwise, why would we continue to pass it around? I will keep my ears open for an urban legend and will be sure to post as soon as I hear of (or encounter) one myself. --Echan



September 18, 2007


Not only has my respiratory system gone to pieces, but now the wireless router in my apartment has as well. Hence, I must temporarily resign myself to editing my Wiki using the newfangled version of Internet Explorer provided in the campus computer labs.


I wanted to create an (Arguably) Nonfictional Urban Legends forum in response to the fantastic anecdote posted under TBStory last week about someone's roommate inadvertently drinking refridgerated pee. Urban legends, which I'll define as a collection of bizarre "campfire" tales told as nonfictional accounts, embody a young, contemporary version of folklore. Therefore, although they seem trivial on the surface, urban legends actually represent a very sacred aspect of youth culture: its deepest subconscious fears. (Example: Compare the percentage of urban legends told about babysitters to the huge percentage of young adults employed in this profession.) And for some young people, huddling in a dark circle of sleeping bags while "swapping stories" is one of the most raw, memorable adolescent experiences to be had.


While urban legends are conventionally viewed as fiction (although they're relayed orally as fact), I believe that there's a truthful core to be found in each of them. I always feel fortunate when I come face-to-face with an urban legend-esque experience, such as a peer's roommate ingesting bottled urine, because I get the sense that I'm witnessing the birth of a narrative that will be passed between thousands of college kids from years to come.


This is why I'm starting my page of urban legends. Feel free to share your favorite urban legends, whether they happened to you, your roommate's father's mistress's cabana boy, or no one in particular. The key is not to narrate truth; the key is to revel in the sacred immediacy of the feeling you get from hearing a great story. (However, I will be especially jealous of anyone who can give a genuine firsthand retelling.)


In other news, I do plan on eventually writing responses to the prompts given on the syllabus. Just bear with me for a day or two more while I finish battling the plague and yelling at wireless tech support personnel in Houston, TX.


"Good thing you didn't turn on the light,"


Zee Deveel.



September 17, 2007


It's official: We have a serious poop fixation on our hands. See EarthMuffin("Let there be poop") and London Bridge ("poopulate") for further inquiry.


While we're on the subject of excrement, let's look at another interesting undertaking of the human body: REST floatation. I recall reading London Bridge's account of floating as a sexual experience, and I've read at least one or two other first-person responses that I'll go back and look at in the near future. But for now, I'll give you a summary of my experience: booooooooo.


Most people would probably have trouble finding fault with an hour of relaxing in a dark, lukewarm saltwater tank. Initially, the activity sounded like it would be the most relaxing 60 minutes of my week. But I found that through complete isolation and lack of physical sensation, I reached a level of self-awareness that was very disturbing.


When God exiled Adam and Eve from their paradise, he banished them with the proclamation that they would have to live forever in raw, painful self-consciousness. Since then, those who believe in this Biblical parable admonish the first man and woman for supposedly giving up what could have been a life of joyful ignorance for all of us. However, after my floatation experience, I feel more strongly than ever that Western society bombards us with ignorance-inducing stimuli every second of the day. Being left alone with only my thoughts--no nail file, blanket, or cigarette to ease the burden on my mind--was an experience of self-awareness that God could have never imagined when he punished mankind for its original sin. By banishing Adam and Eve to a life of toil and childbearing, God doomed them not to a life of awareness, but to a new existence of ignorance without utopian pleasure.



Zee Deveel.


mobius does not understand. ZEE says "Boo!" and then proceeds to describe an experience of insight. What exactly was disturbing? Was it the self awareness itself, or the awareness that came with it - a sense that you had been living in a programmed reality saturated with stimuli? If so, Boo to consensus reality, yay to utopian pleasure? mobius does not understanding the implicit mantra here, " Just Say No to a Life of Utopian Pleasure?" Mobius thanks yins in advance for the explanation. - mobius


Zee Deveel, sorry that you didn't like your floating time! I guess I'm just full of self-love? There was just something nice about not having the nail file, blanket, or cigarette to distract me. I couldn't even bring in recent emotional baggage into the "coffin" with me, which I was a little sad about. Oh well, to each his own! Maybe this is just something for me to take to the shrink's couch.


As to the typo, you are correct! Well done! I refuse to correct it though; poopulate it shall remain. What is population anyway besides filling this world with more crap, whether it be more notebooks, nail files, and junk that I can never bring myself to throw away? Humanity? Ha, one could argue that we're crap as well. ~ London Bridge



September 11, 2007


Forgive my recent inactivity. I've been a festering cloud of disease--that's melodromatically miserable English major lingo for "sinus infection"--for the past week. And as much as I like releasing my inner musings on here, the sensation that someone is squeezing my nasal passages with a pair of pliers is somewhat distracting to the writing process. That said, I'll probably catch up on my own postings and everyone else's tomorrow. Of course, that can only occur after the 19028230298 milligrams of Sudafed I just ingested start wreaking havoc on the snot colony that's taken residence in my forehead. Until then, goodnight.


Congestedly yours,


Zee Deveel



September 10, 2007


"Remix the Book of Genesis". I was met with many a raised eyebrow when I explained to some of my friends earlier tonight that this was my assignment for tomorrow's class. However, as unconventional (read: insane) as this writing prompt seems on the surface, I actually find it quite liberating. The Book of Genesis defines the concepts of man, woman, good, and evil, and for many people, these definitions are upheld as the literal truth. We take for granted how much the ancient story of Adam and Eve's demise has shaped Western culture, and when taking into account how many followers of the Bible see their tale as a nonfiction narrative, I like to think of this assignment as an opportunity to re-write a snippet of history.


After having skimmed through several of my classmates' interpretations of Genesis passages, to say I'm intimidated would be an understatement. London Bridge even went so far as to (inadvertently?) create the hilarious yet ingenious word "poopulate" in reference to men and women's procreation on Earth. I will probably be chuckling to myself about that for the next 48 hours; look for the girl convulsing with poorly stifled laughter tomorrow morning in class, and my identity will be revealed. Come on, let's be honest. Poop is great.


I'm going to start my remix with Genesis 3:1, and see where it takes me. The Bible doesn't give us much to work with in terms of Eve's point of view, and I find that rather appalling. A human powerful enough to give rise to something as significant as original sin should be given the courtesy of at least some first-person narrative. So, I'm going to have a go at taking on her voice. Forgive my bumbling attempt to put words in the mouth of the most famous female in written history.


Original (New American Standard) Version (Genesis 1:1-5ish):

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.


My much less eloquent take on things (from Eve's POV):

In the beginning, there were apples, oranges, and ignorance. In theory, ignorance is bliss, but you can only cultivate and eat so much fruit. I’ve always been more of a sushi person anyway. And a life of fine dining without any saucy liberal magazines to sit down with after every meal was just not going to cut it for me.


So when the notoriously conniving serpent struck up a conversation with me one day, I was up for a little troublemaking. Granted, his scales and forked tongue gave him a slight lack in credibility, but at this point, I was willing to engage in anything that didn’t involve fertilizer.


The serpent’s argument in favor of me eating from the Tree of Knowledge was pretty convincing. Countering him would have been like debating against marijuana legalization with Bob Marley as your opponent; your chances of winning are slim to none, and wanting to win in the first place makes you a bit of a party pooper. As much as I know people will try to give the serpent shit for what Adam and I did, I think his encouragement was simply the final catalyst for a rebellion that had been building up inside of me for quite some time. To me, a blindly adherent life in God’s humid little greenhouse would have been a worse punishment than a hundred years of sunburned self-awareness in the wasteland outside of Eden. So, I snagged a forbidden fruit and took a bite.


Carpe Pomum,

Zee Deveel.



September 6, 2007


Apparently, people actually read the things I write after being in class for 6 hours and running on nothing but gumption and Diet Coke. This is sort of scary, but I'm also encouraged by the fact that someone has decoded my incoherent rambling and not immediately hit the CapsLock key and splattered profane outbursts across my WIKI page. (Although, admittedly, they were probably thinking about it.)


Rabbit, I think my problem with Beowulf is that it fails to help me make sense of my surroundings. Books, in a way, are my religion; they allow me to see struggles and triumphs through the eyes of other characters, and through this, give me insight into new ways of going about my own life. Of course I recognize that Beowulf is a great literary work--I'm a huge fan of Old English texts. But I'm typically turned off by stories in which the protagonist is an infallible character, because they fall short of accurately depicting our very fallible world. And let's face it: although Beowulf is ultimately made fallible by his death, this only occurs after he successfully vanquishes Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a venomous dragon (not to mention holding his breath underwater in a serpent-filled lake for the better part of two days). I just don't feel a lot of personal accessibility to a character like that.


And Realityor, I completely agree: Milton tells the reader (albeit, very didactically) exactly who Satan is to him, so that probably leaves you wondering where there's room for me to create a Satan of my own. To me, Satan is someone (or something) who is just trying to deal with his own situation without knowing how much control he actually has over it. Milton deals a lot with the issue of free will, which is something that I grapple with a lot. As a result of his own mistakes, Satan is doomed to an existence in which his every attempt to improve himself is made futile by an omnipotent God. However, he still makes the choice to abandon apathy, and I find that pretty admirable, no matter how stupid and self-important his choice may be. I certainly don't idealize him; I do, however, relate to him.


And now for the book of Genesis. I chose to look at verse 16 from the second book, and compare the King James version with the Darby Bible translation.

DBY: And Jehovah Elohim commanded Man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou shalt freely eat
KJV: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat
In this chapter, God places Adam in the Garden of Eden and allows him free reign of its fruits (with the exception of the Tree of Knowledge, of course). This particular line strikes me because of the two different verbs used in God’s command to Adam: “shalt” in the Darby Bible translation, and “mayest” in the King James version. Although God is “commanding” Adam in both verses, He is commanding two very separate actions in these translations. In the Darby Bible translation, God proclaims that Adam “shalt” eat from every tree in the garden, suggesting that God not only demands that Adam take this action, but also that he knows that he will. However, in the King James translation, by saying that Adam “mayest” eat freely from the garden, God implies that He is giving Adam the agency to act as he pleases. Although God may still be omnipotent in this version, he does not explicitly refer to his power over Adam’s situation, which I feel is important. Perhaps God is all-knowing and all-powerful, but at least giving the illusion of free will to his creations is in itself an act of benevolence. I don't know about anyone else, but the mere inkling that I have the power to choose my own actions is reason enough for me to get out of bed every morning, even if that feeling is no more than a figment of my imagination. Without providing us with that illusion (if it is an illusion as this verse suggests), God would more than likely be dealing with a world full of couch potatos.
Zee Deveel.



September 5, 2007


"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."


...So speaks John Milton as he personifies a sorrowfully resilient Satan at the beginning of Paradise Lost, probably my favorite epic poem of all time. (Not that there are many other good ones to choose from. Case in point: Beowulf. Vomit.

I thoroughly enjoyed Beowulf. I am just curious as to what you have wrong with it. Have you read the Seamus Heaney translation? It is excellent. Rabbit.

) Anyway, in the midst of wading through the lofty free verse that illustrates Milton's hell, I find a thought forming in the lobe of my brain where sexual innuendos and dead baby jokes typically rear their politically incorrect heads:


This Satan guy is a pretty cool cat.


Indeed, this confession makes me sound like a swing-dancing Marilyn Manson fan. But in all seriousness, I find myself relating to Satan more and more as I read his story of pride, descent, and revenge. As a 4th-year college student, the last 36 months of my life have been devoted to feeling invincible (freshman year), indulging myself in willful disillusionment until I hit rock bottom (sophomore year), and brooding about my past while having anxiety about the future (my most recent two semesters). And as I hit the home stretch of higher education, I'm seriously considering taking notes on Satan's council in hell, and forming my own plan on how to deal with "the tyranny of heaven," also known as the suffocation that caused me to fall in the first place.


True, my perspective is not an original one. The lead singer of Cake proclaims that Satan is his "motor," and when Jimi Hendrix joyfully exclaims "I'm a voodoo child!", I'm pretty sure he's not referring to a juvenile character in Kate Hudson's cinematic abomination, The Skeleton Key. But if I must align myself with mediocre late-90s alternative bands and nose-vomiting blues guitarists, I'll have to live with that. Life is a septic tank, and I'm going to play water polo in it.



Zee Deveel.



1) I know Milton intended for Satan to be anything but an admirable hero. But if everyone read things as intended by the author, the U.S. would be a Socialist nation and Upton Sinclair would replace Abraham Lincoln on the "heads" side of all pennies.

2) I make too many obscure literary references. This will probably never change.

3) I know that Marilyn Manson isn't necessarily associated with Satanism. I was raised Roman Catholic (although some would argue that that's even worse), and I still enjoy some of the band's earlier stuff from my youth. I also listen to Dave Matthews Band. I also wear Gap jeans. I also tend to speak in unrelated fragments.


Zee Deveel, In Milton's Paradise Lost, we have a very detailed account of who Satan is. You have me wondering, who is Satan to you? Realityor

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