I devote my time to many projects. One of those special projects is serving as Hyphen magazine’s art editor. Hyphen is an all-volunteer Asian American culture and politics online and print magazine. We tell stories that don’t make it to mainstream media. We share experiences of our Asian American brothers and sisters. We spread awareness of diverse issues within our community. We do it because we love it. And we know that each story and piece of artwork benefits our entire community.
Next year, Hyphen wants to focus on a topic we can all relate to: Health. There are many unspoken and obscured realities that Asian American individuals, families and communities face that need to be shared. As a volunteer-run publication, we can’t do this alone. We’re asking for the collective support from loved ones, friends, dedicated readers and beyond to help us realize the “The Health Issue”.
I made a personal commitment of $150! Please help me reach my goal.
By contributing to The Health Issue, you will be educating the community, erasing stigmas and changing attitudes and beliefs about physical and mental disabilities and illness. Each dollar raised will go towards production costs of the magazine, including printing, artist and writer compensation, shipping, etc. All donors will be acknowledged online and in print. Based on your donation, you have the opportunity to receive some great perks for your generosity, which may include: Hyphen swag, a copy of Jeff Chang’s new book Who We Be: The Colorization of America, or an exclusive video chat with comedian and actor, Kristina Wong.
OUR HEALTH ISSUE WILL INCLUDE COVERAGE OF:
Increasing rates of diabetes among APIs
Same-sex abortion bans
And more in-depth storytelling of other health issues within our community
YOUR DONATION WILL GO TOWARD:
Printing 1,000 copies of the issue
Shipping the issue to supporters, universities, and libraries
Anne Harrington, Harvard Professor of History of Science presented her research of the human experience within a physical body. Science, predominantly, looks inside the body to understand what it means to human but very rarely do people explore the exterior parts (i.e,. skin) and the multitude of cultural beliefs about healing and recovery that play a role in how we care for the self and others. Harrington talked about experiences of animal magnetism or ‘mesmerism”. Mesmerism was a form of therapy and related to the act of exorcism. There was a belief that fluids and minerals in the body could be controlled through intentional movement and gestures (in a ritualistic sense). Along with Hypnosis and before the scientific method, people believed in forces beyond and outside the realm of human experience. Even now, many diseases are psychosomatic. If you think of the placebo effect, many people are led to believe they are cured of an illness through suggestions (i.e., taking medication). Off on a tangent, this reminded me of the phenomenon of skin lightning. The act of lightning is affected by cultural need or belief about social hierarchy, I know, it may be a stretch but it relates to how one may see themselves within a culture, which is a great segue to the next speaker who talked specifically about culture and its impact on being human.
Social scientist, Hazel Markus, from Stanford University, began her talk with a story about her 10-year-old daughter wanting to play the cello and, subsequently, quitting the cello. The story concluded with the mother of a her daughter’s classmate calling Markus to ask why she let her daughter make the choice versus pushing her to continue. I believe the other mother was Asian. I think you know where this is going. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother sound familiar? Our models of self are defined heavily by our culture and history (Beau Lotto ala carte). Markus used the term, standard issue human, and our human components fall into the 4Is – Ideas, Institution, Interaction, and Individuals. Essentially, we think, feel, and act in accordance to our culture based on these 4Is. She stipulated two models of the self, which I found really interesting, 1) Independent and 2) Interdependent. Independent is defined as an individual, unique, influencing, free, and equal to others while interdependent means relational, hierarchical, and connected to others. Markus referenced the “mom-choice condition” where interdependent children are more motivated by what their parent provides to the child for intellectual (rather functional) use. Thinking back on how my mother raised me, I think it’s absolutely fitting to say she was an interdependent with a strong desire to raise an independent. That made for some interesting times growing up.
To round out the talk on the individual within society, Paul Ekman, UCSF professor emeritus, presented with no PowerPoint, which was extremely memorable! He definitely didn’t need them. As a behavioral science theorist and practitioner, he discussed how feelings are dependent on our constructive nature. We also describe our experiences through language but language has its limitations. The problem with language is based on the idea that words could not even begin to fully describe our emotional experiences. The very word happiness (alone) is misleading, he claims. It doesn’t point to all of these other factors that go into what we can actually describe as (true) happiness. (Side note: I’m a huge fan of Ludwig Wittgenstein who believed humans were linguistic animals. I mean, it is one of the things that separates us from other species. In any case, I was excited about Ekman’s talk). Ekman also specializes in facial coding and recognition. Imagine the show Lie to Me. Well, that’s what Ekman specializes in. His studies on deception are fascinating. He claims it’s human nature to WANT to be misled because, “We are bias to see threats that aren’t there”. Aside from Ekman’s research and years of wisdom, he was one of my favorite presenters from the conference. I guess I enjoyed what he had to say because it had to do with the fact that I’ve been ‘at a loss for words’, or lied (Sorry, Mom! Unfortunately for me, I’m a horrible liar!), or engaged in lying on behalf of a friend (I’m so happy high school days are over).
Being a human being, to Rimpoche, is creating a future with compassion and love. Rimpoche seemed hopeful the discussions on neurobiology and science suggest having empathy is intrinsic to human nature. Although a simple message, many Buddhist tenets, when incorporated in daily life can have a dramatic effect on the way we care for ourselves and others. Richie Davidson touched upon contemplative practice as “…a vehicle for becoming aware of our emotional life”. Familiarizing ourselves with our own mind and being conscious of our experience is imperative. One of my favorite quotes from the day was when Davidson stated, “An honest scientist needs to relish uncertainty”. Uncertainty is a part of knowing the self. Everyone WANTS to know and be connected to the world (all the time) and this is just not possible. Jon Kabat-Zinn mentioned the same method of dealing with life. Participating in meditative exercises to know the mind. He reminded us that there are about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections but these cells came from 1 cell!! Trying to get at such a granular and molecular bird’s or bug’s eye view of ourselves can be very challenging though. Strangely, even though writing about the conscious experience was the easiest, it’s probably also the most difficult to understand. I’ve meditated on-and-off for the past few years and the times I do, it truly brings me back into the moment. However, I see other forms of meditation that don’t consist of sitting on a cushion (i.e., walking through a gallery or a museum, preferably when it’s extremely quiet) and looking around at what as been created). LIFE is a meditation but I guess it really matters the way in which one lives it and how they take their collective experiences and transform them into an opportunity to learn and ruminate. How many people actually do that? Sitting at the conference, all of those individuals there, that’s such a small fraction of the world! Overall, it was nice but at the end, I left wanting more…(Perhaps, this is exactly what the presenters wanted).
Suggestions for the next Being Human 2012 Conference
The conference can easily be two days
Incorporate more discussions that involve the arts (visual and performing)
A larger venue
A place for the media folks (press and bloggers) to connect with each other!
Have presenters answer questions from posed on the live Twitter feed
Underneath a US interstate freeway in San Francisco’s South of Market District, on the border of Potrero Hill and Downtown San Francisco, one will not only find quite an industrious area, but a place tucked away from the busy street that encapsulates the vibrancy and pulse of the San Francisco culture and arts community. The SOMArts Cultural Center’s location is apropos considering its ambitious yet successful representation of an incredibly diverse community. The entrance is adorned by rock sculptures and benches reserved for cigarette breaks or art talk when the galleries are filled with people on opening night of any exhibition. With theatrical productions to large scale art installations, the center garners much of its attention through representations of the community, cultures, and sub-cultures that call the Bay Area-San Francisco home. Executive Director, Lex Leifeit, reflects on the balance the center must strike between showcasing traditional and cultural aspects of its diverse population with experimental and contemporary interpretations of the very traditions that create the community, The word traditional is tricky. Each culture has its own traditions. When people talk about traditional art in the art world, they’re often looking at it from a western perspective.
One of the most radical things SOMArts has done since it’s earliest beginnings that is more prevalent now in the field is to combine risk-taking contemporary art with specific cultural traditions. The beating heart of that approach within our organization is the annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition co-curated by Rene Yañez and Rio Yañez. ~ Lex Leifleit, SOMArts Cultural Center, Executive Director
As a community center, SOMArts provides below market value space for interested organizations looking to produce a show or install an exhibition. From visual artists to writers to educators, the center draws patrons and supporters from a multitude of disciplines through several annual events that include Feast of Words and 100 Performances for the Hole (originally conceived by Curator and Gallery Director Justin Hoover). The center also includes a lot of critical discussion through its Commons Curatorial Residency providing curators the opportunity to create an exhibition that encourages the community to engage and learn about art and artists’ practices that may not be readily accessible. Such a residency makes this discussion and dialogue available. Another aspect of the community engagement includes the SOMArts Interactive Video Channel, which fosters community engagement between SOMArts staff, artists, curators, and art lovers.
Besides Jens Lekman (LOVE his music!!), admittedly, I don’t know very much about Sweden. Per the recommendation of a dear friend and talented poet, Liz Mariani, Curators of Sweden may just give me a bit more insight on Swedes. Now, I’m not too sure the US could ever pull off something like this. Then again, the first thing that comes to mind is the selection process for the Tweeter of the Week? You be the judge and take a look.
My mother’s sassiness, understanding, forgiving nature, generous heart, and keen awareness of exactly when I’m not telling the truth
My father’s spirit, twisted sense of humor, warrior soul (Rest in Peace, wherever you are)
My family and friends
All the artists, musicians, philosophers, scientists, and everyone in the world for inspiring me
To help celebrate the weekend of giving thanks, take a look at Christine Wong Yap’s latest work, Give Thanks (2011), showing in the UK. I’m incredibly thankful for her. She is one of the reasons why I write. I’m definitely grateful for her guidance and being an incredible art hero!!