Monday, September 28, 2009


I was never incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of going to college. I knew I would have to, eventually, but I always had my sights set on doing something far more outrageous. My life plan in my freshman year of high school consisted of a series of renegade political maneuvers that would allow me to control a small, Latin-American country (Guatemala seemed most promising) and establishing there an experimental Utopian society and a genetics research lab. There would also be greenhouses involved. Possibly a bio-dome. By sophomore year, I'd decided I would be attending the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where I would study neuroscience and Mayan culture simultaneously. This was also my third year studying French. Sometimes I miss my old idealism. Though to be honest, I haven't come much closer to the surface of the earth since then, and I don't especially want to.

the strategic location of my future empire

So here I am, falling back on Plan II, pun intended. Though I've put my dictatorial ambitions aside, temporarily, I feel like I am on the right track. Because what do we do when we don't have the money, the knowledge, or the language skills to accomplish our dreams? We go to college!

In reality, I came to the realization last year that I would go to college, a normal college, and get whatever I could out of it. This wasn’t a submission to the norms of society, or the pressures of my parents, or the fear of actually entering the “real world”. I realized that learning was what I loved to do, and what I was good at. I fully appreciate the statement “[college] is the last time in your life you will be given the chance to simply learn things with few other responsibilities”(Course Anthology, 110). That is the kind of chance I have always wanted, the freedom to simply pursue knowledge, without having to apply it to some end result or major life decision. I have always wanted knowledge to be “an inward endowment”(167), not just something that would help me get into college, or get a job, or sound interesting. This is why I’m so happy to have found Plan II, and the University of Texas.

The Plan II emblem reflects the duality that I seek.

Plan II is a perfect fit for me, as it allows me to major in something while not really having to pick a major. While I probably will narrow my focus somewhat, its comforting to know that I can pursue knowledge freely, without having to worry much about getting my required hours and coursework etc. Plan II provides the breadth of study and the unity of knowledge that I crave. The classes I’m required to take may not pertain to subjects I’m interested in, but they all have a common goal – to help me understand the best way to learn, to adapt, and to think ahead of the curve. This way I’ll be able to take all of my interests, all of my goals, all of my thoughts, and “hammer them into unity”. I am touched by the statement “all branches of knowledge are connected together, because the subject-matter of knowledge is intimately united in itself”(165). This is a concept I’ve tried to explain to my parents, my teachers, my friends, who cannot grasp my seemingly pointless pursuit of fields that have nothing to do with another. But Plan II gets it, and that’s why I’m here.

I’m already excited by the types of learning I’ve engaged in so far. I expected college to be solid lecture, with little interaction and few ways to make myself known to the professor. While I do enjoy a dry lecture, the same way I enjoy driving long distances and manual labor (this is not sarcasm), the direct exchange of knowledge from professor to student does leave something to be desired, or rather, something to be learned. I'm glad my classes aren't like this one!

That’s what this class, heavy in experiential learning, has begun to teach me. It is essential to have something that “force[s] you to confront your current ideas about the subject… and reconcile them with what you now observe to be the case”(184). It’s easy in a lecture class to hear what a professor has to say, repeat it back on an exam, but never really believe or understand it. There needs to be a conflict, a challenge, that forces me to either find ways to make my ideas undeniably true or concede to other viewpoints. Basically, I’m glad to be in an environment where bullshit will not be tolerated, because it’s incredibly easy to revert back to that tendency, so well manicured in high school. I feel like Plan II, coupled with UT as a whole, gives me free reign to explore all the possibilities of academia, while still keeping me in check, making sure that my efforts lead to something, if not something as solid as a career or grad school, at least to a unity of thought, a focus in my pursuit of limitless knowledge.

I still have ridiculous ambitions. I still want to major in Mayan culture and neuroscience, plus maybe physics and linguistics and studio art. But I realize that there must be a structure to my education, and that’s what college gives me, along with a piece of paper that will help me access the knowledge I may be unable to acquire here. I can only hope that my mind will reach the state of “the intellect… which knows, and thinks while it knows… which… cannot be but patient, collected, and majestically calm, because it discerns the end in every beginning… because it ever knows where it stands, and how its path lies from one point to another”(168). To me, this is internal bliss, something I will work towards the rest of my life, far beyond where I get in college.

My inevitable academic future?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"I ask you:
What is your substance?
And from where do you originate?"

- Pablo Neruda, Ode to the Hummingbird (1)

From where does my totem animal, the hummingbird, originate? Hummingbirds are uniquely American, they only live in the Western Hemisphere, so it follows that they are common in Native American folklore and spirituality. But hummingbirds are not such common animals, and have not appeared to me so often. So from where do they originate as my totem? The hummingbird is inside of me, the strongest animal impulse I contain. The hum of its flight is manifest in the hum of my busy thoughts, the rigor of its heartbeat appears in the rigor of my passions. It is not only my spirit guide, but rather my spirit, that the hummingbird embodies. So how did I come to relate so strongly to this animal, to recognize it inside of me?

There was a jolt of something - electricity perhaps - at the tip of my finger, and I flipped the card. On it perched a little jewel of a creature. Cliche, I thought. Tiny, feminine, flippant. I ought to be something regal, stoic, large... a hawk - hawks had appeared to me many times. But I hadn't drawn a hawk, I had drawn a hummingbird. So I didn't put much store in the Medicine Cards (3). I forgot about them.


Until recently. I was doing imagery research for a tattoo, and the small, delicate creature seemed suitable for a thigh. As research generally does, it took off on a tangent. I remembered the Medicine Cards. I remembered the essay I needed to write about a totem animal. I was inspired by the different mythos containing hummingbirds, and decided to give them a second chance. Their message resonated more fully this time. My interest was piqued initially by the significance of hummingbirds in Mayan and Aztec mythology, two subjects that I am very passionate about. To the Maya, the hummingbird represented the coming of the 5th sun, or the current stage of humanity (5). It was the messenger that traveled between worlds, as it had the ability to fly in any direction, and was therefore the first herald of the new age. In both cultures the hummingbird was seen as a purveyor of love and beauty, depicted often as a bride or groom, or as a symbol of fertility. This characterization is the basis of the hummingbird’s role as totem animal as described in Native American folklore. The hummingbird, as a guide, is meant to “open the heart to love” (6). This is the message I was unable, or unwilling, to attune to on my first encounter with the hummingbird.

My perspective on love, and on joy, was very different then than it is now. At that time I was still reeling from the end of a long and somewhat debilitating relationship. I was definitely not open to love, and would not be for quite some time. The hummingbird I drew was a message, to warn me against closing myself, encourage me to keep moving, and to once again find joy in the world outside of myself and outside of my relationships. I was too stubborn to accept this message, and so finding my connection to my totem animal, and ultimately to myself, took a longer route.

Perhaps the hummingbird has come to me now as a sign that I’ve followed its path, I have embraced everything that it stands for. It’s been over a year since the end of my last serious relationship, and I’m finally at the point where the idea of love – romantic, passionate, joyful love – is no longer terrifying, it's not even scary. I make a point of loving everyone for who they are, rather than judging them and criticizing them as I used to. With this sense of love, and the necessity of it, it is much easier for me to find joy in life. And that is really what the hummingbird has given me. According to the Medicine Cards, hummingbird’s principle characteristic is joy(7). You can see it in the animals themselves – flitting through the flowers, energetically and enthusiastically, delighting in sweetness all around them. If we could all see the world as the hummingbird does, we would see nothing but beauty, life, and joy. That’s why the hummingbird also represents aesthetic values – "know[ing] instinctively where beauty abides and, near or far... journey[ing] to that place"(8).

This ability is another strong bond I have with the hummingbird. One of my main goals in life is to surround myself with beautiful things – found objects, plants, artwork, colors. I also wish to contribute something beautiful to the world, and from that comes my passion for creating art. My aesthetic is apparent in everything I do. My room décor matches my wardrobe matches my blog matches my website matches my school supplies… everything I keep around me subscribes to a standard of beauty that I’ve created. In many cases this has happened organically – or at least subconsciously. It's also not surprising that my palette – of colors and of images – is largely inspired by nature and especially by spring, the hummingbird’s key season. Recently I have even started to draw hummingbirds – on the edges of notes, in sketches, and in my continuous drawings. I started to do this without realizing its significance as a way of “honoring my totem” and therefore awakening to it, allowing for “its medicine to be effective in [my] life” (9). Drawing animals does force you to connect with them, to take on aspects of their form and movement and truly relate to it, a practice we have mentioned in class. To draw the hummingbird, I have to imagine its flight, its movement, and its purpose in that movement, to be able to capture it accurately.

So is my recent fascination with the hummingbird enough to make it my totem animal? The hummingbird is definitely the key anima of my identity now, but how do I know if it will remain as my totem? I don’t. There are other animals I closely associate with, even others that I drew from the same medicine cards. For instance, the mouse is one of my totems, representing scrutiny, which is a large part of who I am and how I perceive the world. I am also connected to the otter, my feminine and maternal instincts. And there is the hawk, an animal I admire greatly, that symbolizes the messenger and the strength of intuition. I have seen all of these animals within myself at different times. I can relate to the shamanic belief that “every species and every aspect of its environment had the power to remind them of what they could manifest within their own life" (10). I have always been in awe of animals and the way they seem to function so effortlessly within their environments. Because I am a human, and have no specific environment (11), being able to look towards these animals as inspiration to adapt to the ever-changing human world is truly an asset.

Although I draw inspiration from many animals, I feel like the hummingbird will continue to manifest itself most strongly in my personality, my identity. There are simply too many similarities to ignore. Our shared tininess, for example, is an obvious connection. Though the hummingbird is small, it defends its territory and its young fiercely, often scaring off much larger animals. Being short has never been an issue for me, and though I may be meek physically, I can make very strong statements if need be. The hummingbird also has an important mutualistic relationship with nature. It is adapted perfectly to obtain nectar from and pollinate flowers. Though I’m not necessarily adapted to taking care of plants, it is something I find joy in. I can spend hours outside, basking in the beauty of nature and just feeling its energy. The subtle relationships between plants – ecologically and aesthetically – bring me an immense amount of joy. The hummingbird’s general demeanor also mimics my own. It's speed and agility rest on the brink of frenzy, it seems close to exploding with internal energy. Though I may seem calm much of the time, inside my mind is teeming with thoughts, jumping from one to the next, reaching towards the tipping point. As with the hummingbird, it takes the most energy to stand still - to hover in space, a quivering mass of potential energy.

The more aware of the hummingbird I become, the more obvious it is that is has been within me this whole time. It is hard now for me to separate from it. When I listened to the obligatory totem animal vision quest, the hummingbird was with me the whole time, before I even entered the tunnel. I was comforted by the fact that not only did the hummingbird maintain its presence during the "quest", but that it led me to a place I knew, the jungle. The hummingbird thrives in the jungles of Central America, the same jungle that I thrive in. My sense of empowerment, of identity, unity, and happiness, originated from the same place - the same geographic location - as my totem animal. And so we are, yet again, even more connected than I ever knew.

The "time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself", when "Dreaming and waking were insperarable realities; the natural and the supernatural merged and blended"(12) does not seem so foreign to me, in fact it is quite a familiar condition. I have always been drawn to nature, always found my true peace of mind when immersed deeply into the natural world. So I don't take my connection with my totem for granted. I will always keep the hummingbird's message of love, joy, and beauty in mind, as they have become essential parts of my identity.
The hummingbird is now of the same substance as myself. It originates from within. And it hums throughout.



1. Pablo Neruda, Ode to the Hummingbird

The hummingbird
in flight
is a water-spark,
an incandescent drop
of American
the jungle's
flaming résumé,
a heavenly,
the hummingbird is
an arc,
a golden
a green

you hover
in the air,
you are
a body of pollen,
a feather
or hot coal,
I ask you:
What is your substance?
And from where do you originate?
Perhaps during the blind age
of the Deluge,
within fertility's
when the rose
in an anthracite fist,
and metals matriculated,
each one in
a secret gallery
perhaps then
from a wounded reptile
some fragment rolled,
a golden atom,
the last cosmic scale,
a drop of terrestrial fire
took flight,
suspending your splendor,
your iridescent,
swift sapphire.

You doze
on a nut,
fit into a diminutive blossom;
you are an arrow,
a pattern,
a coat-of-arms,
honey's vibrato, pollen's ray;
you are so stouthearted —
the falcon
with his black plumage
does not daunt you:
you pirouette,
a light within the light,
air within the air.
Wrapped in your wings,
you penetrate the sheath
of a quivering flower,
not fearing
that her nuptial honey
may take off your head!

From scarlet to dusty gold,
to yellow flames,
to the rare
ashen emerald,
to the orange and black velvet
of your girdle gilded by sunflowers,
to the sketch
amber thorns,
your Epiphany,
little supreme being,
you are a miracle,
from torrid California
to Patagonia's whistling,
bitter wind.
You are a sun-seed,
a miniature
in flight,
a petal of
silenced nations,
a syllable
of buried blood,
a feather
of an ancient heart,

2. Hummingbird Lithographs by John Gould
Source: Bibliodyssey.

3. Medicine Cards consist of a deck of numbered totem animal cards that correspond to a book containing descriptions of each animal as a totem. To draw the cards, you lay them all face down in a semi circle around you, trace over them with your right hand, and wait until you feel a jolt or twitch in your fingers over a particular card. You can do this until you draw six cards, or just the one. The order in which you draw the cards determines the way in which the animals affect you.

4. Hummingbird Medicine Card
Source: Peaceful Rivers

5. The other "suns" consisted of civilizations or beings that did not suit the gods, and thus were destroyed. The 5th sun is our current civilization, or era, that will end on December 21, 2012, according to Mayan calendrical cycles. Thus the hummingbird is significant for all of us, as it is the messenger that brings about the beginning and end of the current Mayan era.

6. Medicine Cards - The Healing Power of Animals, Animal Card 44 - Hummingbird

Medicine Cards - The Healing Power of Animals, Animal Card 44 - Hummingbird

8. Spirit of Red Arrow, Hummingbird Medicine

Course Anthology, p. 418

10. Course Anthology, p. 415

11. Though I do favor certain environments over others - another connection and clue to my animal totems. I love the jungle, where hummingbirds originate. I also love small places, and have a tendency to nest, not unlike my totem.

12. Course Anthology, p. 415

13. Aztec Hummingbird God
Pacific Lutheran University, The Aztec Empire

Monday, September 7, 2009


An Experiment with the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test

I know what type of person I am. Or rather, I know what types of person I am. I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing where I fit, what my function is, how I operate in society. My deductions on the subject have come mainly from observing how I interact with others, how I complete tasks, and how I deal with my flaws. I’m confident in saying that I know myself, not necessarily in the sense of who I am (because that requires a much more context-based analysis), but definitely in the question of how I am, a general definition of myself that applies in any situation. So I had a good idea of what my results were going to be when I sat down to take this personality test. And they pretty much lived up to my expectations. What was interesting, however, was that when I took the test a second time, a week or so later, my results changed.

This inconsistency didn’t surprise me; in fact I was impressed that there was only a one-letter discrepancy between the two, as I’ve often suspected to have a few extra personalities loitering around my subconscious. So I’ll start with what’s certain- ENF, extroverted, intuitive, feeling. According to Keirsey, this makes me an “idealist”, which is an incredibly fitting title. I quickly identified with Keirsey’s description: “The real, practical world is only a starting place for Idealists; they believe that life is filled with possibilities waiting to be realized, rich with meanings calling out to be understood”.

me pondering the nature of the universe,
a typical idealist activity

My idealist tendencies are very apparent in my learning and writing styles, as I often seek to grasp or invent broad, theoretical concepts that help to unify the information at hand. I’m also aware of the flaws that come along with this personality type, such as the inability to follow through and a habit of switching ideas, projects, and attention mid-stream, as my inspiration fades in and out (Anthology p. 138, 140). Despite these flaws, I think my idealist nature will be an asset in this class, where projects are open for interpretation and the subject matter subscribes to unifying and over-arching themes. I might struggle with some of the writing assignments, as I am very prone to writers block. The two areas of my type that give me the most trouble with this are intuition and feeling. Writing Process Inventory describes my problems with writing exactly, such as my tendency “to forget to include concrete examples and… not provide the reader with background information”(Anthology p. 151). I apologize for this in advance, but I’m always more concerned with making a point rather than proving it with concrete evidence (though I think my writing is evidence enough to support this assertion). I think that because of my idealism I pay more attention to making an elegant statement or theory rather than making sure it’s sound.

It seems like the main function of this test, or at least in my results, is to define the different ways in which people perceive the world, how they synthesize all the information that makes up their individual realities. That’s why my two results are very intriguing, although not surprising. The difference lies in the last letter. My first result came up as ENFP, my second ENFJ. So I’m stuck with a contrast, perceiving versus judging, the Champion versus the Teacher. I’m content as both, and I know that both apply. In fact, I find myself switching between the two very


The main difference between them seems to be in terms of organization- the perceptive side is more cluttered, at least mentally, and has a shorter attention span, whereas the judging side can synthesize information quickly and come up with solid conclusions and decisions. I guess that these two different sides of me come out depending on the task at hand. According to Saumya’s Typology Assessment, my ENFJ side might be better suited for this class, and probably most classes for that matter. In retrospect, I can track the shifting of my personality type, from when I’m in class to when I’m out and about. I’m definitely an ENFJ in class, quick to judge, quick to decide, and quick to instruct. I’m guessing this is why people I have class with always seem to have a different idea of my personality than the people I’m with outside of school. I think it’s obvious when my ENFP side starts showing, usually when I’m in a more comfortable social situation. I get very excited about ideas or projects that pop into my head and start speaking more quickly than usual and have dramatic hand gestures and use an inordinate number of conjunctions. I can definitely relate to what Joe Butt calls “the silly-switch”.

I’m pleased with the results of this test, though they do nothing to help me decide between career paths, as my two types are suited for different callings. But if anything, at least now you guys will know that when I have outbursts its not because I’m insane, I just have two personality types. Which does sound kind of insane. But you can’t argue with Internet tests.