Monday, August 20, 2012

In Defense of the Octopus in the Olympics' Garden

There is something to be said about a subject matter getting a girl so fired up that, before she's even had her coffee, she's decided to blow off MOPPING DAY to write a post.  Admittedly, I'm hoping to be done in time to get to the cleaning...let's see...

The day started with finding the clean laundry strewn about the floor and mixed in with the dirty laundry because Kermit just HAD to have his black Servo shirt, and at 0530 in the morning.  Really.  Of all the things for him to go the "age appropriate" route - it had to be the OCD obsession with clothes. 

Back in bed, but not able to fall back asleep, I start toodling around on my phone.

And now we have to back up.

My running (as in repetitive) joke about the Olympics is that while it's a celebration of the amazing things the human body can achieve - it turns the rest of the world into couch potatoes for the ~2 week duration.  Despite my lack of athletic anything, I love watching the Games.  Media/culture geek that I am, I always pay special attention to the opening and closing ceremonies.

This year, I missed the opening ceremony.  Apparently, I missed an extremely interesting one and need to hop onto a You Tube bus ASAP.  I was also unable to watch the closing ceremony, but Marshal had my back and DVRed it for me.

I finally watched it Friday night - it was taking up a lot of space and I was itching to delete it.

It was so amazing, I kept it for Crikey and Marshal.  We watched it last night (well, Crikey and I did; Marshal looked up from his computer when I elbowed him).  For my part, I wanted to make sure Crikey understood what was going on - and I hoped that, a second time through, the one part that bemused me would make more sense.

I am still at sea with regard to the octopus (the pun may be unintended, but I like it).

5:30 a.m. - search engine:  closing ceremony octopus.  I wanted to keep it simple to avoid coloring the selection of results.  Turns out, the results were as murky as the Wile E. Coyote-esque dust (ink) cloud left by a startled octopus.

To summarize:  While the overwhelming majority went with "WTF!?!", the prioritized reactions were: Illuminati conspiracy in the British government, tacky, tacky British stupidity, and devil worship/paganism.

Oh sweet Lord.  So much bullshit, so little time.  I hardly know where to start.  Other than coffee, of course.

In all fairness, as my own reaction to the octopus was also "WTF?!", I can't really heckle that one - though I will say that my reaction was one of delighted fascination.  I do, however, understand why others were (and are) way more confused by it than interested in having it explained.  To those people, I say "Peace - and if you're even mildly interested in an opinion that doesn't involve paranoia, British-bashing and religious ignorance, welcome to my rant, er, blog post."

Let's get the Illuminati stuff out of the way.  Either it's a figment of a massive, collective, paranoid imagination, an organization that has been secretly controlling the cultures of the world for its own diabolical ends, or it's something in between (as in, it exists, but doesn't function quite like Dan Brown would have us believe).

I'll admit, I'm inclined to believe it exists and does so in the "in-between" way.  However, to address the panic-driven squawking, let's consider the alternative.  So, it's a group that is either over-hyped or evil.  If it's nothing more than a self-important club, then let's leave them to their secret handshakes and midnight gin rummy games.  If it's an evil empire controlling the world, and has been doing so for as long as it (allegedly) has, then we're done.  I'm not a "lay down and die" type - but worrying about something like that is like worrying about the Apocalypse.  All we can do is keep on with what has been entrusted to each of us in our own little corners of the world.  That, my friends, is how to counter the darkness.  You can't fight darkness by pushing at it with your hands (or with Chicken-Little-Sky-Is-Falling alarmist tantrums).  Just turn on a damn light.  If that's too metaphoric, then try repeating after me:

"Good game, Illuminati.  Enjoy your secret handshakes and midnight gin rummy games.  I have housework to do, kids to raise, blogs and books to write, friendships to enjoy, sunsets to short, a LIFE to live, also known as 'better things to do than be worried about locating and fighting a secret society that may or may not be evil.'"

In other words, quit hyperventilating about the dark and BE THE LIGHT THAT GETS TURNED ON. 

Deep breath.

Tacky, tacky, British stupidity.

Many of the things I read complained that the closing ceremonies were a missed (or botched) opportunity to showcase all that British culture has given to the world.  There was even something from a BBC affiliated post about how making the closing ceremony a celebration of Great Britain was akin to inviting people to your home and talking about yourself.

*pinches bridge of nose and breathes deeply*

I could go through it, piece by piece, explaining things in excruciating detail, but...

Oh good grief, who has time for that?  So, instead, some broad statements.

Admittedly, reserved modesty is a cornerstone of British sensibility - and it has been said that "BBC" stands for "Better Be Clean". So it's not that crazy for there to be elements of the British populace that are genuinely appalled that t'was one of the other cornerstones that ran this production.  Other cornerstones?  Read on.

First of all, in any Olympics, the opening and closing ceremonies are supposed to be a showcase of the hosting city's culture.  That's the POINT.  Instead of criticizing it as culture narcissism, look at it as a guided tour of a beautiful, famous home that's been opened to the public for a limited time. It's an opportunity for the citizens of the world to take a peek at how a people sees itself, and how it wants to be seen.  These performances represent what a city, a country, wishes the world to know.

Ironically enough, or maybe not so much with the irony, the world is not ready to give up its dearly held stereotypes for Great Britain and its people, its world view, its life.  Some have even said that the British people should be a "wee bit embarrassed" by the spectacle.

Well, I grew up in Georgia.  I understand being embarrassed by the Olympics' host city's performance.  Really, Atlanta?  You want the world to think  "monster trucks and cheerleaders" when they picture southern living?  REALLY? 

But I digress.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about London's closing ceremony was the self-deprecating humor mingled with self-awareness that laced the entire production together.  It wasn't ironic for a choir to perform "Because" while others drummed a heartbeat on the iconic landmarks of London.  Nor was it chaotic for the Massed Bands of the Household Division to march through a street party.

It was an eloquent theatrical performance showcasing the complexity and the richness of London's Life, of British Personality.

Yes, there were serious moments - "Imagine" was done so beautifully, John Lennon incorporated so elegantly, it brought tears to my eyes.  Naturally, this part was universally (as far as I could read, anyway) praised.

It tallied with the world view of Great Britain as serious and reserved.  Thoughtful and wise.

However, like almost every other culture that has made a positive difference in this world, another cultural cornerstone is a sense of humor.  The British are famous for their reserved humor (though often for how hard it is to understand), but those who laud that while criticizing this production have apparently forgotten...

...that the British also have a wonderfully honed sense of the silly and the absurd.

As I explained to Crikey, when a person refers to a comedy as being "very British" - it will, invariably, mean one of two things.  Reserved, deadpan delivery of dry wit (Oscar Wilde being the definitive personification of this) or over the top, wild, slapstick physical comedy (everything Monty Python has ever done, anywhere). 

I am not British.  The closest I come to a connection is being of British Isles' descent.  However, I'm going to make a reach and say that I get the humor, if only to the degree that I get it better than many of my (American) peers.  I base this on the consistency with which I find myself giddy with giggles and wiping my eyes at things that make most of my nearest and dearest blink and stare at me, waiting for the explanation...and still not get it when I tell them.  (seriously, how does someone NOT laugh when a chipper voice blithely sings "a pal said, 'cheer up, you'll soon be dead'"?!?)

Granted, I prefer the dry to the slapstick - but even I can appreciate (if not fully enjoy) the absurdity of a bunch of men, whilst hanging on crosses, bouncingly singing "always look on the briiiiight si-ide of life!!"  Though, now that I think about it, it seems that my favorite part of any Monty Python I've ever seen was a part that went dry...

In short, if you didn't like the performance, that's fine.  Opinion and all that.  If, however, you thought it was chaotic, disorganized, inappropriate and confusing - you just didn't get the joke.  Which is also fine - but not Great Britain's fault.

Finally, the double whammy of assuming that the giant octopus was a Satanic (and therefore simultaneously Pagan) symbol - well, anyone who knows me at all can probably guess (accurately) that THAT was the last straw that broke Mopping Day's back.

I have said it before, and in greater detail, but if you're a first time reader, allow me to summarize:  PAGANISM AND SATANISM HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. (for further detail, explanation, proof, etc., scroll down to the post "Paganism: Myths, Images and Reality")

I'm not a Satanist, so I have no earthly idea if octopuses (octopi?) have anything to do with their pictorial/symbolic culture.

However, as Paganism, at its very core, does revolve around the natural world and everything in it, it's quite easy for me to see octopus as a Pagan symbol (though no more or less than any other plant, mineral or animal).  Of course, Pagan symbolism permeates almost all cultural imagery and practices worldwide.  Christmas trees, Easter eggs (the name of the Easter holiday), stars on law enforcement badges, the wearing of any and all jewelery...

Seriously, that list goes on and on...until forever is over.  Which, of course, is why I giggle to myself every time someone starts panicking over the Pagan symbolism of this that or the other, but hangs wind chimes and brings flowers to sick people. 

But, again, I digress.

I actually do know a bit about the meaning of octopus as a symbol.  Totem work is an interest of mine (from before I learned about Paganism, or even Feng Shui).  Essentially, and very, very simplified, it's the concept that God (Spirit, one's Guardian Angel, etc.) can choose to communicate with us, teach us lessons through the animal kingdom.  The idea is that from each animal, there are lessons to be learned.  If God wants you to learn about freedom, you may be presented with dreams, gifts or even actual encounters with horses.  If He wants you to learn about conserving energy, or maternal nurturing, ditto for bears, and so on.  Therefore, (and I've learned this the hard way), I have found that it really is in my best interest to pay attention when an animal keeps popping up in my world and that I should learn as much as I can as soon as I can once I notice the critter in question.

Over the last couple weeks I have been inundated with octopus imagery and have therefore done a bit of research.  This morning's search engine escapade was to see if there was anything particularly and specifically British about octopus energy - I was looking to add to what I've recently learned.  Of course, what I learned this morning was the stuff from  which rants are born (see above). 

So, since it seems like the right time - and if you're a first time reader, you may have stumbled across this blog for the same reason I went googling this morning:

This is a synopsis of what I have recently learned:

Octopus energy is about approaching problems with intelligence, efficiency and an unorthodox approach.  As it lives in the water but is a bottom dweller, it teaches about staying grounded while handling emotional or spiritual endeavors.  Because it can detach an arm at will (and grow it back), octopus can teach us about letting go of what no longer serves our highest good, while regenerating our own health and well being if we've suffered a loss.  Because of the firm grip of its arms, it represents love.  It can help with the destruction of negative barriers in our lives and how to remove people who are deliberately harming or obstructing us - but as its message is one of strength through softness, gentleness and love,  the removal is not by destroying them, but by moving them to other places.  With its extraordinary ability to transform its appearance to blend in with any and all types of surroundings (plus its ability to shoot ink in order to make a getaway), it teaches us about subtlety, discretion and, if necessary, stealth and how to camouflage ourselves when we need to go unnoticed.  Since (almost all) female octopus die as their young hatch (they starve themselves to care for the eggs), it reminds us to take care of and nurture ourselves so we can be better able to serve those around us.

For the most part, I'm going to take my lead from the ceremony itself and leave it to you to decide how that applies to Great Britain.  I only add that upon my second viewing, I noticed the suckers on the arms were all "kissy" shaped lips.  I'm sure one could choose to take that down a sexual road - but to me it rang more to a "love" type of tune...and if "all you need is love"...


"We would sing and dance around, because we know we can't be found...
 We would shout, and swim about, the coral that lies beneath the waves.
 Oh what joy, for every girl and boy, knowing they're happy and they're safe.
 We would be so happy, you and me, no one there to tell us what to do.
 I'd like to be under the sea, in an Octopus' garden, with you."

Oh, I do love Ringo.