Building Culture

I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's; I will not reason and compare; my business is to create ~William Blake

The Magical Power of Objects

The way material objects effect our spirits is rarely considered in our modern society, even as we nitpick over form and function, and consume to an extreme degree.  I’m not bringing an argument just against consumerism, but more broadly to the apathy, lack of respect, and nonchalance with which so many of us use the objects in our lives. To say material objects are just things that don’t really matter is not even a solution to the problem of extreme consumerism.  Objects do matter, and want to use objects on a very fundamental level as human beings. We have been doing it since before history.  It is all about utility.  What are we using the object for, and why?  We buy objects for their use, even if it is only to look beautiful, and their use is significant to us, because it actually reflects a spiritual desire or need.

For me, everything has spiritual significance, so saying that most objects only have practical uses paints over the problem. What we consider necessary, practically speaking, for our lives is a spiritual question.  The many ways in which we currently use objects belie a need for more spiritual meaning in our lives. The irony is that we are using material objects, which inherently have spiritual significance and therefore can be tools on a path to enlightenment, to compensate for spiritual emptiness.

Let me speak within the context of parenting, since I think about it so much.  The Modern Mother deems many objects necessary to her ability to parent, thereby creating dependence on the objects, and decreasing, or not building in the first place, her innate parenting abilities. The parenting object is expected or hoped to have a specific effect on the behavior of the child or the ease with which the parent can deal with the child’s behavior. If and when the child’s behavior turns “bad,” the object can not really come to the rescue, and the parenting skill that is needed to deal with the situation has never been developed sufficiently prior to the event.  There has not even been the necessary development of an image in the parent’s mind about how they might deal with a situation, except to turn to materials. In effect, the object becomes a charm or medicine meant to cure or ward off behavior without the attendant spiritual preparation that would be necessary to make such an object work.

We buy things for convenience, we buy things to teach our children, and in the process take ourselves and our responsibility to change and learn as parents out of the equation. The visible power of objects eclipses invisible powers. Our society considers financial stability a necessity to raise a child, because we have built this huge, expensive structure of stuff around our children in place of actually being responsible for who we are. Who we are, and how spiritually full or empty we are, is what we teach our children.  These days, most parents are using objects to parent, instead of parenting with meaningful, useful objects.

Objects can be magical, even as they are useful.  Objects can reflect the beauty or ugliness in ourselves as we use them.  We are wielding powerful objects, all of us, whether in awareness or not, so let’s imagine what we can do in awareness.

Traveler of the Spirit

Either I create my own reality 


I allow others to create for me.

Others may inspire me, 

provide material for me to work with,

but I am the artist, the painter, the poet.

For me everything is existential, every decision matters.  I have been struggling lately, perhaps with the weight of living this way.  I have been struggling with Boston, the city that twists and ties itself in knots, riddled with negativity, yet full of hidden beauty. I have been struggling with American culture as it manifests in the people I come into close contact with. I have been struggling with some of my most ingrained assumptions about family and what it is to be a mother.  I have been struggling with my “default” state and its attendant habits.  I have been struggling to forge a path for myself — a struggle with Ambition.

These struggles have been almost constantly attended by anxieties, so much so that I cannot trust the struggle anymore as being led by a worthy cause.  Just cause and anxiety shook hands and never let go.

I am a traveler, and Home has always been a place of restlessness and dreaming.  In the beginning I was only a Traveler of the Spirit, but in this I was deeply familiar: my mind went places my body could not.  My dreaming was even bigger then than it is now, with no need for practical considerations.  Perhaps it is a danger of actually going out and travelling the world that the movement of the Spirit gets caught up in the movement of the Body.  A beautiful risk I would never take back, since it also means that Dreams and Magic become the stuff of Reality, even as practical considerations seem to hem us in.

What I relinquish are some of my attempts to settle in this one place Boston. My mind is becoming entrenched as I pile on all the expectations that come with settling in a place with family. I came here hoping to forge community, and I have certainly been learning a lot about that, but I have not always been doing it on my terms.  I am reminding myself that I am still a Traveler here in Boston, in Spirit and Body, and Life does not have to be as goddamned serious as so many people around me would have me believe.

Spirit at Home and Abroad

After a month and a half of experimenting with the idea of homeschooling my reflections remind me of the importance of spirit.  The development of a free spirit in Isabelle is my central goal as a “homeschooler,” and, besides that, the freeing and development of my own spirit.  This broad, amorphous goal is at the center of the project to build culture in the Luna family. Read the rest of this entry »

Trying Something New

I’m trying out this design template on tumblr (site has expired) as a blogging platform specifically for the idea of posting more photos (daily, I hope!) and very concise text posts.  At least until I figure something else out.  I like wordpress, but it doesn’t seem great for showcasing photos.

I have such an overload of photos to go through that I want to make it more of a project, posting either one a day or one a week to pick out the best, while I’ll also be posting all of them to Picasa.  I’m hoping other photo projects will unfold from these thousands of photos.  Guides to Gulangyu or Macau perhaps?  Our hundreds of photos from museums and art galleries have so much potential.


Cooking Diary

This past week I tried these recipes:

Cottage cheese pancakes at Smitten Kitchen:

Whole wheat goldfish crackers (mine are just round):

And my husband Christopher did the chopping for the pesto:

We also made a couple pizzas last night, and Christopher made scones for breakfast this morning, and his weekly loaf of bread.

And I made an impromptu casserole with ricotta cheese, eggplant, and other veggies, that was only so-so, but my first foray into casseroles.

Reminded of Dankora

I just read Against School by John Taylor Gatto.  He puts facts, dates and names to a hunch that I have had since high school when I  was having information crammed into my eyes and ears most of the time, but spent a good portion of my free time thinking and writing and reading fantasy novels: most people are stupid and immature and there’s some kind of pattern or even conspiracy going on.

My hunch wasn’t yet put into clear words or even a theory back then.  Perhaps it was best illustrated by an idea that I formed for a fantasy novel in tenth grade: a society watched over by “Gaurdians” where everyone received an epiphany sort of thing during their adolescence that showed them what their destiny was, essentially what job they would have in the society.  Dankora was considered a utopian society by its members because of how efficiently it worked and how predictable things were.  The part that I started to write began with the main character, who was a neuroscientist, waking up from a recurring dream in which she sees an angel silhouetted by light.  In my grand plans for the novel, this dream was a premonition of this angel falling out of the sky one day and completely changing the main character and revealing that there was a sinister and oppressive force behind this society.

Looking back on it, there is so much more meaning that I can read into this vision of a world and a story.  I remember the experience of developing it, drawing pictures, writing down the thoughts that popped into my head like pieces of a puzzle that started to form a picture so clearly in my mind of this world and this woman, and I realize that I could barely wrap my head around some huge ideas that informed the picture of this world.  Real, important ideas that took the shape of a fantasy world, because that was what I loved at the time, fairly well-written fantasy novels about women who broke out of normal roles and did something extraordinary.  I never wrote beyond the first chapter, not really knowing how to develop such a long story and not knowing how to teach myself to do so.  And the most vital piece of the story that was missing was a villain or an evil force: where did it come from?  What did it look like?  Perhaps I was even torn between liking this clean, efficient world and what I knew must be the destiny of the book: to tear it down.

Note: After some thought, Gatto’s article needs more citation and/or direct quotes.  It makes me want to do my own research to come to my own conclusions on the sources.  He has a very intriguing hypothesis, however, I wonder if all the men he mentioned as being behind the formation of the current educational system had such malicious thoughts in mind, or rather if they were simply rich intellectual men of their time who really thought they were preparing the country for an inevitable change in society.

Self-learning: A process of unschooling

I’ve officially been back in the country for over two months and I’m now settling slowly but surely into Boston, and while there is a lot to say about this transition, I’d much prefer to move on to more salient topics and maybe throw out a tangential comment here and there about my reflections on the difference between life in China and America and the nature of a return.  Much like my general feeling in life right now, the narrative is moving right along, and I’m excited and relieved to start digging into the meat of my plans and aspirations in the rich culture of Boston and cyberspace.

A new beginning in a new city in my homeland feels so natural that I am more relaxed than I have been in years.  And one of the things that I have become increasingly relaxed yet simultaneously excited about in the past couple weeks is the task of homeschooling Isabelle.  A task that had loomed before me like a mountain with unknown crevices and jagged overhangs now looks like a magical land complete with rolling meadows, shady forests, interesting museums, huge libraries, dangerous wooden playgrounds, less dangerous plastic playgrounds, walks by a clean river with ducks and geese in it, and a cozy townhouse where I’ve already spent more time reading in two weeks than I did in six months in China.  Damn, I did it already! I segued into China-America comparisons! Read the rest of this entry »

Content-centered Design = Democratic Design

Today I read about the responsibility that websites have in creating online culture by monitoring their comments area, the first personal tweet from a president asking for direct responses from the people to a BIG question, the mass exodus of Israelis from Israel, examples of urban designs that create new public social spaces and utilize materials effectively, a website that gathers the most popular recipes from large recipe sites and personal blogs, and a craft project for children making funky glasses out of paper and other materials.

I’ve come away learning more about the Internet as a social and political space than just the particulars of the content.  I’m constantly learning more about how it functions socially as an organizer of information, how I react to it on a personal and intellectual level, and how other people are reacting and interacting and creating. I’m starting to understand how the recent developments on how the Internet is used in America and other parts of the world are a sign of how the Internet is increasingly designed with democracy in mind.

Social Media ROI from Intersection Consulting

Read the rest of this entry »

Conversations with Taxi Drivers

I was just looking through some of my old notes, reminding myself of what’s there when I ran across this one, a description of two enlightening conversations I had with two separate taxi drivers in Guangzhou.  Conversations with taxi drivers have generally been some of the most interesting I’ve had in China.  What’s in the quotation box are my word for word notes, so they’re a little sketchy. Read the rest of this entry »

The View from a Car

The view from a private luxury sedan in China is quite different from the view when you are walking the streets or taking public transportation.  Get into a car, turn the air conditioning on, and suddenly you are insulated.  A padding of safety and comfort give the view a new possibility of beauty. You can just enjoy the variety of sights — beautiful, ugly, they can both be interesting– without dealing with the mess that is China.  In a car, you are saved from the smell, from the feeling of inhaling car exhaust, from the sensory overload of sound and movement.

Seeing a man with a bike loaded with dirty styrofoam seems almost too absurd to be real when sitting in a Mercedes Benz.  What is that man going to do with that teetering tower of styrofoam? I think.  How can he even reuse it?  I cannot imagine such a thing being valuable to me at all, and I look over at my driver, a middle-aged Chinese mother of three and wife of a very successful factory owner, and imagine she doesn’t even see the little people anymore, since she sees this view from a car everyday.

The private car is one of the most effective walls built between the rich and the poor in this country.