Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unfamiliar Tongues

I have to admit, I would have felt much better prepared and interested in the lecture if I had read the Illiad and had some familiarity with its background. The reality is that I do not have the slightest clue what it is about or why it was written, even after Tuesday's lecture. The answer to these questions will remain unknown until I seek these books and devote the time to reading and investigating them. Altough I didn't understand much, there were a few lines that connected with me. Dr. Esposito mentioned that pain caused by humans is more absurd than illness. The definition absurd means utterly obvious or senseless, illogical, or untrue. It is foolish and irrational. In that sense, that statement is completely correct. Pain caused by humans is unecessary. It is senseless on the perpetrators' behalf. Unlike many other natural pains within the body, pain caused by humans is obvious and avoidable. She mentioned pain caused by humans as a celebrated feat. Not only is pain absurd, illogical, and senseless, but it is celebrated too. How can the most advanced species celebrate such an illogical occurance? An event that destroys their fellow brothers and the earth from which they rose. I do not know much about the Illiad, however Dr. Esposito stated that every man in the Illiad must bow his head to force. I take this to mean that every man is born doomed to fail. He who bows his head to force is not wise. All men are created missing an element for survival - they must bow their head to peace. The Illiad tells us that glory is attained through fatal challenges. If we could look at war as a fatal challange, we will see that glory is not free. Glory is paid for by struggle and millions of deaths. War and death only generates more war and more death.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Women in Triathlons

This week's topic unexpectedly crept under my skin and managed to get me a bit flustered. Women now compete in what once were male-dominated areas. Triathlons present a different path. Combining three sports into one means tripling the endurance. The question remains: are women made to do this? The Ironman competition is not called Ironman for nothing, although many choose to overlook the name and deem it an equal opportunity competition. Another competition which has risen out of this competition is the Irongirl. But isn't this competition called the Ironwoman?

The fact remains that women are portrayed smiling while men are fiercly conquering each event. As agenda setters, the media aid in the fact the traditional women's role is preserved. Susan Williams, the Bronze medalist in the 2004 Olympics, is portrayed holding her daughter in most pictures associated with her title. This ensures that she is a nurturer first and foremost, and then an athlete. For some reason women are not allowed to be fierce; that may be too threatening. In addition images of women crawling over the finish line of the Ironman competitions dominate media in order to portay women failing in a men's event.

It is said that the Ironman is not about winning, it is about battling against one's self. But again it seems that women have a different mission. The training video we watched during the lecture revealed some of the main reasons women join a triathlon training team: aging, break-ups, and weight loss. These reasons appear to be different that simply putting your body to the test. I asked a male friend who has completed several triathlons why he competes. His reply was that he simply wanted to push himself to the limit. Female triathlons seem to have a different motive. A popular short triathlon for women, the Danskin, is driven by profit and marketing. This "warm and happy event" does not seem to be about pushing yourself to the absolute limit. Some may even ask where is the pain?

Finally we were forced to consider what a female triathlete was. What did she look like? As most other "models" in society, the female triathlete was much leaner and more fit than the majority of the population. Not only do women have to be thin to fit the profile of a triathlete, they have to wear the right gear. The sexy tri-suit. Fitting the profile comes with a price, both physical and monetary.

Those who do not fit the profile of a female triathlete will find themselves in the Athena category. As someone who is tall and over 150 pounds, it came as a reality check to me that I would be considered over weight in this particular event.

Overall triathlons are a whole different kind of animal. This is a place where eqipment, weight, and age matter. They are the ultimate markers of success.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Wow, and I mean wow there are some interesting sexual niches out there. Although that's the aspect which stands out most in my mind, Claycomb brought up many other valid points. "Everything we experiance is a language construction", he said. He challenged this statement by pointing out that the experience of pain challenges language theories.

It is safe to say that when we experience pain, it is anything but a language construction. Arthur Frank would say that experiencing pain is being trapped in a chaos narrative. Likewise, Scarry brings up the valid argument that physical pain resists language. She goes one step further to say that pain actively destroys language. While in the state of pain, we experiance revision to a state anterior to language.

Claycomb's points about the subjectivity of language were not unheard. It his relation to pain that brought something new into the mix. We could never denotatively define our pain since every word used to describe our pain has a different conotation to different audiences.

I enjoyed his words about identity as a construct. I would like to think that DesCarte's words, I think therefore I am, are true. Everything beyond nature is obtained through language. In this sense our identity is constructable, it is what we say it is - we just have to believe.

Perhaps Claycomb was right when he said that there is no authentic self. We are all different people in different situations and contexts. We are made up of many identities - as people say there is a time and place for everything. This could simply mean that we have an identity for each different situation. It is true that the person I am in class is not the person I am at dinner with my friends or at home with my family.

Claycomb moved onto identity as a sexual portayl and construct. Indeed, we act as women or men because we follow the behavior of the women and men which have set the standards throughout history. What does it mean to be woman or man? Who decides on these subconcious codes?

It is clear that language and the body are connected for the purpose of constructing our identity or identities. It is not true however that we experiance everything through language. There are just some things we need to find out by doing. For example you tell a child not to touch the stove burners because they are hot. The child may not give up, however, until he or she has found out first hand. Once the child feels the pain of that the burner has caused, they fully understand that the burner is hot. The pain that a hot surface can cause cannot be clearly communicated through language, it simply has to be experianced. In this sense, there are just certain areas where words are not enough.

Everything is taken to an extreme when we look at Bob Flanagan's work. His S&M performances are said to have isolated and controlled the pain he felt from his battle with cystic fibrosis. Indeed, he survived into his fourties, an age many patients with that condition never live to see. I feel that he survived for that long because he believed.

When it comes to the works of Athey, a similar artist in a sense, I feel a different connection between his performances and his past. As Claycomb pointed out, emotionally damaged people feel the need to tear their bodies inside out. His performances release his inner pain. In that way he makes that pain real and he communicates it to the world. As Athey put it, his body is a "fleshy prison which houses the pain". He refers to a razor as a trusty friend. More importantly, he states that the razor is a release to a pressure valve. There is something more at play here. When it is your own hand that administers relief by means of releasing the body's blood there is something evil and grueling inside which scrapes at the insides screaming for air. It seems as though the cost of releasing this thing and letting it rise to the surface would cost life itself. This means permanently living with a pain which causes self mutilation over and over, but never extinguishes the pain itself. A cut simply gives the pain an impermanent voice. It is this kind of pain that cannot be written or performed. It is a never ending experiance for those who feel it and must bear its pangs.