A Study In Life:

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant."


A Study In Life

I chose the title for this site based on the theory that all of life is a learning experience.  So basically we go through our entire lives constantly learning and studying the way life itself works, and for everyone that experience is different.  This website is to talk about my personal study in life.  Basically its a place for me to talk about what I think, and to explain my opinions on things that I find interesting or important. 

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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu--Early Travel Writer or Cultural Anthropologist?

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on November 12, 2012 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

This is one of those posts where both my English major andmy Anthro comes out.  So if you don’t want to read my intellectual babble about 18th Century writers, then you can skip this one.  But then if you know me, then you’ll be used to this and either enjoy it, or have a grudging acceptance of these moments.  I’ll try to keep this one short though. 

This is inspired from the readings of British Lit from last week.  We read some of the letters written by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu(I’m going to refer to her as Lady Mary from here on out, cause that’s a long name) was a socialite in 18th century England.  Her husband was an ambassador, so they travelled a great deal around Europe and western Asia.  Her letters to her sister and various friends have been published since her death, and her writings not only give an internal perspective of British Society, but of the rest of the world. 

Lady Mary’s writings of Austria are quite amusing with the assertions of the aristocracy there that she should take a lover while she was there, as that was common and expected in their society at the time.  She gives a view that is otherwise unseen for the time being a female writer, and the fact that these are letters she gives a more honest opinion of her views of what she sees. 

The letters from Turkey are the ones that kept my attention the most though.  She writes of the bath houses in Turkey, which were only open to women, giving a unique and rare cultural experience for the readers.  It is her experiences in Turkey that make me want to call her ananthropologist.  While she was there she made a great effort to acclimate to the world that she was living in, working with a tutor to learn the language, dressing in traditional styles, and making an effort to really understand the lives of the people of Turkey. 

The one letter which I felt was very interesting, and should be read by people today, was one in which she talks about the clothing that women wore, including the feligree as she calls it.  A feligree is described as what we would consider today a burka.  The interesting thing was the way that she and the women of Turkey viewed this garment.  Today we look to the burka as an example of how restraining and unfair to women Muslim society is.  Lady Mary looked at the feligree quite differently.   She saw it as very freeing to the women, it allowing them to come and go without being recognized or bothered by anyone.   All women wore the same outfit, and so on the streets there was no distinction of class, giving a level of equality to these women that wasn't experienced in the rest of Europe at the time.

Lady Mary’s view of this garment as an example of the freedom that these women had so starkly contrasts the way we view the same garment as being one of imprisonment.  This difference makes me believe that we are unfairly judging some of the cultural traditions of others because we would not want to follow them.  The outrage that the Turkish women felt at seeing Lady Mary’s corset is an example of how horrendous some British customs were thought to be.  They felt that her husband was tormenting her with the device. Each culture has their own customs, traditions, and clothing, for us to judge it without understanding first is shortsighted and ignorant.  The fact that a woman from the 18th Century was more willing to study and understand another culture where we are not, is something that we should be ashamed of. Have we really degraded in our willingness to learn about others? 

In any case, Lady Mary is at the least an amazing travel writer, whose letters give us a perspective of the world that would otherwise be lost to us.  Her willingness to care for the people of the places that she went and to get to know them is something that I highly respect.  I think we could all learn a lot about ourselves as well as the world by following her example.



Showing Your Religion

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on November 5, 2012 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (2)

If you wear a religious symbol regularly, what situations would you remove it for?  Personally I wear either one of my pentacles or another symbol daily, and if I don’t have it on I feel physically uncomfortable.  For me I feel as though Ihave a spiritual connection to my pents(short for pentacle, which is that starsymbol that a lot of people think means I worship Satan, which I don’t).  I have more than one, and each of them are special to me, most have been gifts from people close to me.  My boyfriend knows better than to bother with getting me necklaces because I would almost never wear them because the pent does not come off.  He has gotten me some pents, and I trade off which ones I wear every so often.  But one of them is always on. 

The point of this lead up is; what do you do if someone asks you to take it off, for whatever reason? For me, the only times that I have removed a pent has been when I am going to a funeralin a church, and for the sake of those in attendance who are grieving I don’twant to cause a fuss.  In those cases I switch to a less obvious pagan symbol, like a spiral goddess, or my jade Quan Yin that looks like a Buddha.  I’ve even gone to Christmas Eve mass wearing my pent, because I only take it off for rare occasions.  Simply attending another religions service for me isn’t reason enough to take me pent off because it is a part of who I am. I feel as though it's unfair and disrespectful for someone to even request that you remove it.  No one has the right to decide for you when it is or isn't ok for you to be honest about what your relgion is, or who you are.

It’s not that I’m trying to throw it in anyone’s face that I’m pagan it’s something that I am always wearing.  I don’t have some especially large one to throw on in order to make others uncomfortable, I’m simply not going to allow other people’s ignorance or close-mindedness to change the way Idress on a daily basis.  It’s not my job to hide who I am in order to make you more comfortable.  This mindset doesn’t come without consequences of course.  There are people out there that will care, and will judge you negatively because of it.  That’s why wearing your pent is a very personal choice, some people don’t want to deal with the discrimination.  It bothers me sometimes, but not enough to make me change who I am.  I’ve had people be wonderfully nice to me until the second they see that symbol, and suddenly it’s like I’m a leper.  It sucks and it’s not fair, but I’d rather know that they were that type of person then to be around someone who only likes me because they don’t know who I am yet. 


Transfer Goals

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on October 29, 2012 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Getting away from the financial aid school issues, I wanted to take some time to talk about transfer stuff, and what types of things I look for in a 4 year school.  I've been extremely picky about what schools I want to apply to for transfer, and I sometimes worry that I'm being too picky and should broaden my horizons with regards to school choice.  But then I look at other schools, and I feel like I would get a mediocre education there.  Not that they are bad schools, they just aren't specific to my needs.  UC Berkley didn't make my cut and they are obviously a very good school. 

I'm in a much different position from most freshmen or transfer students, be it because of my age or my already fleshed out goals.  I already have an idea of what I want to go into for graduate school, and knowing that am looking for the best option of undergraduate program to fit those goals.  I don't want to waste time taking more general courses when I know what I want to study for graduate school.  Maybe I'm just trying to skip over the BA courses that some would view as the building blocks, but I don't want to waste my time, and a non-specific undergratuate program in Anthropology is simply not what I am looking for, hence my very small transfer list. 

The two options that I have come down to for transfer application of UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara.  All state schools were dropped from the options list as soon as I decided to pursue graduate school immediately after undergrad.  When applying to graduate programs a UC will give me much better chances of both getting in, and possibly getting a fellowship. 

UC San Diego was the only school I really wanted to go to for a good while.  It has a bachelor's available in Anthropology with a focus in Archaeology, something that not a lot of schools have.  Recently I reallized that doing a double major in Classical Studies would greatly help my grad school applications, as well as get me a head start on learning an ancient language(2 or more will likely be required for any graduate program).  UCSD has a good Classics program as well, so it stayed at the top of the list. 

I started to do some serious searching to find some other schools to apply to in case I don't get accepted to UCSD, and so UC Irvine ended up on the list for a bit due to its very appealing classics program.  However their anthropology program is simply that.  No archaeological emphasis, something that is important if I want to pursue a graduate degree in Archaeology or Ancient History.  I finally dropped it from the list due to its lack of archaeology, and the fact that I REALLY don't want to live in Irvine again, so I'm going to save myself $70 and not bother to apply.

That brings me to UC Santa Barbara.  UCSB has been on my radar for over a year actually, due to their amazing graduate program in Ancient History.  My interest in their graduate program is actually what kept me from looking into their undergrad program.  I'd been advised that it looks better to do your undergrad and graduate work at different universities.  When the college fair was on campus last week and I took a moment to speak to the UCSB representative it was a huge game changer.  Not only did he advise that such an idea was a ridiculous fallacy, he said that those who do their undergraduate work at UCSB have not only a better chance at getting into their graduate programs, but that the professors are more likely to choose students that they are familiar with and have worked with to give a fellowship to. 

With this new information I began to look into the undergraduate program at Santa Barbara, and after what I've found I'm in love.  I feel so much desire to join this program, that I am panicking about being good enough. I've never really had that doubt about UCSD, which I take to be a sign of how much I want it.  Not only does UCSB have an archaeology degree, it's a Classical Archaeology degree!  The degree itself is in the Classics Department, and it is a merging of Archaeology and Classical studies, the ideal being to utilize archaeology to study the classical civilizations, while not losing the importance and appreciation of the language and how it can help to understand those civilizations. 

Basically their summary on the program is exactly the reason that I want to study both Archaeology and Classics, and it is the reason that am double majoring in both Archaeology and English right now.  This program is practically tailor-made for me!  Their graduate program is already something I've mooned over as being ideal for me, and really the only one that I think would be able to keep me in the country for my grad studies.  The professor's that are in the graduate program seem amazing, and many of them have actually done work specifically with the religions of the mediterranean, which is my intended goal for my own graduate work. 

I haven't even seen the campus, or spoken with anyone, but I just feel like this program is where I belong.  So I'm going to have to do my best to make my essay's amazing, because I don't know when I last wanted something this badly.  I feel like I'm done at Palomar, I've branched out as much as I can here, and it's helped me to full realize my educational goals being here and working with the English professors especially, but it's time to move on, move up, and to become the me that I've been working towards for so long.

Don't Stop Living

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on October 22, 2012 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I've been struggling a lot lately with just going about the day.  And before you stop reading and because you think this is just as depressing as the last blog, there's a point to this one.  When the world around you seems to be crashing down around you, the easiest thing to do is to crawl into a hole(or burrow into bed with your kindle) and try to ignore it.  And the world will pass you by. 

I know how hard it is to get yourself excited to go out and do something when nothing in the world feels right.  That's how I felt this last friday.  I friend invited me out to go to a Snow Patrol concert.  In my less than thrilled with life mood I almost turned her down for a night of wallowing in bed, but I didn't.  I got up, and I went a little extra on getting dolled up to look pretty, and I went to that concert, the first concert of my adult life actually.  And I had a blast.  For 5 hours I got to relax and be the happier carefree me again.  It was an amazing concert, and apparently it was also the first show of their last American tour.  So this is an experience that I very likely would never have been able to have again in life.  I almost missed out on that by giving in to my depressive state. 

Now I'm not saying that I feel all hunky dory, 'the world is fabulous', and carefree because I went to a concert.  I'm still feeling pretty shit, and it'sstill hard to get out of bed in the morning, but for one night I didn't give in to that feeling, and because of that choice I now have memories that I'll cherish.  The new headline quote on my home page right now fits in with this very well. "The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.(The Doctor, Doctor Who)"  Just because I went to the concert doesn't mean that it wiped out all the bad things that are going on, but the bad things that are going on still can't taint those 5 hours of joy spent with a friend experiencing something new. 

So I guess what I'm saying is not to let opportunities pass you by just because you're feeling down, sometimes that's exactly what you need.  A reminder that even when times are dark and overwhelming it can't take away the good times. 

Downward Spiral

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on October 19, 2012 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes it seems like you go through life on the precipice of a cliff, and the slightest breeze will push you off.  I feel like I've just fallen off that cliff.  I've been so stressed these last few weeks with my struggle with financial aid, and I've been burying it to try to stay positive, but it's been really hard.  I've struggled through my classes trying to distract myself from the realities of just how little hope there really was for my situation.  All of that built up tension and stress finally broke when I got the email about my Appeal to the Financial Aid Director.  That was my last shot to overturn the rejection of my Pell Grant.  

 I've been living off saving for months since my checks were supposed to start coming in in August, and now they wont ever come in.  It just so happened that this was the first year I decided to put school as more of a priority, and scheduled my classes in a schedule based solely on what would be best for school, not taking into account work hours since I'd been counting on my Pell Grant.  So far I've worked between 20-27 hours per week each semester, so even without financial aid I'd have been ok.  Because of my class schedule and the hours my work is open, I'm only capable of working 10 hours a week, which puts me in a position where my living expenses exceed my income, even without taking school expenses into account.

 When I read that email saying that it was denied I felt like the world was crashing down around me.  I've worked so hard in my life to get to where I am right now, finally back in school and barely 8 months away from graduating Palomar and transfering.  It's this feeling of 'why me?'  Since I read that email I feel like I'm wandering around in a haze of misery and depression.  Keeping a hold of my emotions is extremely difficult.  More times than I can count per day I feel like I need to stop and breath just to keep from breaking down.  

I made the connection this morning that the last time I felt like this was in high school.  Admitedly the situation I'm in now is nowhere near what I went through then.  However there's something about having your dreams just around the corner, and your goal just about met, and then the rug is pulled from under you and suddenly it's all gone, and you don't know how to even continue. To know that the options have all been taken away now, and you're left wondering if you can even keep going.  The hopelessness is so overwhelming that it's easier to try to ignore it, escape from the realities of life because it's simply too much to deal with.  I honestly don't know what I'm going to do right now, everything is up in the air, and I just feel lost and more alone than I've felt in years.  I really don't want to drop out when I'm so close and I've come so far.  The unfairness of it all just makes me so angry, so I try to hold onto the anger, because it's easier to be angry than to allow myself to feel the other emotions. 

Change of Direction

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on October 19, 2012 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

When I first started this website I had a certain idea of what I wanted it to be about.  I wanted this to be a more intellectual and spiritual based website to post some of my more well thought out ideas about life.  I wanted to show the thoughtful, spiritual, intellectual part of me.  While that is a large part of who I am, and I love being able to express that, there are several aspects of me, and sometimes it's not always all fine and dandy.  That is essentially the reason why this blog has never really picked up.  I tried to keep it away from personal posts about the general ups and downs of my life.  I'm going to change that now.  

This site will still have posts about some of my more profound thought trains, but it will also include posts about my daily life, things that are going on, and the pitfalls that I may experience.  With this new mindset I hope to be able to feel free to express myself more openly in my posts, and to give a more complete picture of the person that I am.  I need to bring the aspects of myself together so that I don't feel like I'm segmenting the parts of me, to fit certain situations.  So basically expect to see more changes on this site, and to see more posts about my life in general. 

The Simple Things

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on October 18, 2012 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

This is a post I've wanted to sit down and write for a while, so here I go.  The idea for this post came to me when I was watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother for what was likely the 10th time.  I've always liked the show, and it's just good fun most of the time, but at this point I realized the bigger reason why I liked the show.  How I Met Your Mother may seem like it's just a really drawn out story about how some guy met his wife, and it may seem a bit pointlessly long, but it's really not.  It's a story about how even the little things in life can have a bigger influence than you think.  Each choice that you make in life changes your life, whether it's in a big way, or in a little one, and it changes the person that you become.  

I've always been of the mindset that I wouldn't go back in time and change even the smallest of things about my life because I'm not sure how that would impact the person that I've become.  Even the shitty things I've been through, and the idiotic things I've done, everything adds up to the person that I am, and I wouldn't change that.  In the episode that led me to this post Ted, the main character, highlights all the bad things that had happened to him that year, and then he calls in the best year of his life, because it led him down the path that eventually led to his wife.  Without all the horrible things, he wouldn't have even been in the position to meet his wife.  

Life can be a crazy journey, and you never know where you're going to end up.  Each and every moment can lead you to a new place, a new experience, even a new you.  Even the bad things in life will help you to learn lessons and to grow further.  While that may not be of much comfort through the bad times, once you're through them, you can look back and realize that things worked out for the best, and while you may not have enjoyed going through it, you've grown from having the experience. 

 So next time you're watching How I Met Your Mother, or some other sitcom, remember that there's sometimes depth beyond the surface even in modern television.  Inspiring Literature can be found in the least expected places. 



The Influences of Religion

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on March 27, 2011 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (1)

The influence of religions and belief systems in culture areextremely strong, and sometimes can be taken in a direction by individuals thatare harmful, however belief systems are not always a bad thing.  I recently watched a video clip ofastrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the erosion of progress byreligions.  I’m not going to argue thateverything he said was lies, it’s not, he has some very good points to make ona couple of particular situations in which a single religion did in fact createa halting and even a backwards movement of progress in a society, and I canthink of another one on my own, and I’m sure there are others.  Religions, like everything in the world aresubject to the influences of power and corruption, and these can lead tonegative effects on society.  But earlierin the same week I had watched a video in one of my Archaeology classes onprogress and invention, and it went through a broader view of human history tolook at how something as simple as the plow has led to humans being able toaccomplish no much.  Homo sapiens haveexisted on this planet for about 100,000 years, and for as long as we have beenhere, there has been belief systems of one type or another, this is evidencedby the burial of the dead and the placement of death objects in those graveseven as early as Neanderthals.  To arguethat religions and belief systems are nothing but a drain and an erosion toprogress is such a preposterous notion, and such a small minded one atthat.  To ignore 100,000 years of humanevolution, progress, and invention is absurd. From the development of stone tool technologies, to the plow, to stonestructures such as the pyramids and Stonehenge, or mud brick building such asthe oldest human structures in existence in Sumer, there has been religionthere, fuelling the fires of invention and progress.  It was the Egyptians and Greeks desire tounderstand the complexities of the universe to help them understand the worksof the gods that invented the science of astronomy.  The invention of science and philosophy cameabout in a civilization surrounded with religious beliefs and ceremonies.  In the last couple thousand years, yes therehas been a degradation of certain religions attempting to tamper the fires ofscience and progress, but what is 2,000 years compared to 100,000?  To ignore so much of human history and growthin order to push forth your point that some religions are bad is to reject theprogress that led to your having that opinion. 

Religion is an integral aspect of human culture, and whileatheism is a growing belief system, it is still a belief system, your belief inscience is no more worthy than my belief that there is something beyond thescience, all people have equal rights to their own beliefs, and as long as theyaren’t pushing it down your throat, what right is it of yours to try to denysomeone of their beliefs?  I have theutmost respect for anyone to their own beliefs, whether that be Pagan, Christian,or Atheist, all I ask for is a similar respect from you to let me have mybeliefs, if you don’t agree, then that’s fine, but my beliefs are my own, andthey are no business of yours.

“The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he isamenable to society, is that which concerns others.  In the part which merely concerns himself,his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”  John Stuart Mill



Posted by Olivia Lawrence on March 27, 2011 at 8:57 PM Comments comments (3)

The issue of family is one that I’ve spent a great deal of time contemplating.  The way a person defines family can say a lot about that person.  The most common definition of family in our culture would be that of the people that you are blood related to.  To stray from this definition is abnormal in our society, however I have found more and more in my adult life that I have become surrounded with people that do just that.  Personally, I believe that family is the people who help pull you up when you need a hand, and who care about you because of who you are, and not because of some sort of cultural feeling of obligation or attachment.  Family is the people who help you to be a better you, not a you after their own desires but someone that makes you want to be a better person, and to strive for your better goals.  Family loves you for who you are.  I am extremely blessed to have a wonderful chosen family that does just that.  They aren’t in any way blood related to me, and they love and respect me because of all of the things that I am. You determine your vision of self by the way that those around you see you, and if you have a family around you that see you for all you are, and love you because of it, there is no better self-confidence booster in the world.  Nothing is better than being loved because of who you are, instead of being loved in spite it. 


The Issue Of High or Ancient Magic

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on March 27, 2011 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (4)

This post comes from Pantheacon, I know finally.  I went to a lot of high magic or ancient magic talks and rituals while I was there, and the thoughts that kept coming to me was that it’s all very impressive, and being my interest in ancient religions from a scholarly perspective I loved all of it, however from a pagan practicing perspective I found myself thinking that there is a lot that is meaningless in our current culture.  One of the responses I got from a Kemetic practicer was that she felt it was merely respectful towards the gods to worship in the way that they are accustomed, and I can understand that, however I personally feel that it would be more meaningful for the practices to all have meaning for the one doing them as well as for the gods on the receiving end.  It comes down to the big liturgical debate, of how much strict scripting does a ritual need? 

But, this is high magic, and ancient religions that we’re talking about here, and how much can you change and still say that you are practicing an ancient religion?  Honestly, there’s not really anyone who can say that they are practicing an entirely ancient religion.  It doesn’t matter how much you recreate the exact wording or situations, etc.  You simply cannot recreate the meaning in its entirety.  So what do you call it?  Well, I personally prefer the way people like Tony Mierzwicki call it Reconstructionist.  Because that’s what you are doing, you are trying to reconstruct something that has been gone for thousands of years.  You simply are not practicing the exact way the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, or Greeks were, and honestly, from a practicing perspective, you shouldn’t!  Unless you live in Egypt, or Greece, or Iraq, and all of the things that they practiced and why still make sense in your life and your society, you shouldn’t be copying it word for word.  I live in Southern California, hardly the same environment as the ancient Sumerians, but I love the ancient Sumerian deities, and am really interesting in the religion, but respectful or not, doing the same chants exactly the way they did is not giving the same meaning that it did back then.  I’m not living in a desert praying for rains to help my crops grow so my family can survive another year, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a meaningful relationship with the Sumerian deities, it’s simply a matter of finding ways to adjust an ancient religion to fit into your life meaningfully.  

Another note about the Kemetic rituals and such, while they are amazing, and while we do have a great deal of archaeological record on how and why they were done, the things that were documented are not the ways that everyday Egyptians were practicing.  Maybe that seems boring to some people, but I’m an everyday normal person, and so if I want to relate to an Egyptian deity, I’m more curious about what the normal folk did to worship.  That is a mystery that will likely never be solved because of lack of preservation, but I think that the point puts things in perspective.  There were thousands upon thousands of Egyptians, all worshipping these incredible deities, and we have these records of elaborate rituals, and so we get this picture in our heads that these are how the religion was practiced, but think about modern day catholics, there’s church for an hour once a week, and that’s it, it’s the same for the ancient Egyptians, sometimes there would be a big public feast or worship time, but what were the people who weren’t priests doing in the other times to relate and connect to their gods?  There’s more than one way to connect to the gods and just because there are records of elaborate rituals doesn’t mean that that is the only way they were worshipped. 

Well, that’s my two cents, I’m not trying to offend anyone who is a practice of ancient religions, they fascinate me, but if I want to connect to the gods, I’m not going to do it by reciting ancient texts that have no context in my life.  If there’s an ancient text that does hit you in a certain way, and it makes sense to you, and it has meaning, then of course it makes sense to use it in practice.  My caution is simply to make sure you know why you are doing what you are, and saying what you are, because without meaning, you’re just reading words off a paper.