My PDP – Dissertation 2015

Receiving a 1st for my dissertation proposal was particularly encouraging for me because whilst receiving a good mark I was told that what I was arguing for had jumped the gun and not proved some key concepts that needed exploring before carrying on to what I believed my dissertation would be about. For this reason I assume that my writing style and format was coherent enough to give me good marks. Unstable ideas about the relationship between truth and comedy became my new dissertation focus, because I’d previously made assumptions on these topics, which I now realize were intellectually naive.

Getting started on my dissertation has been a slow laborious task. Apart from research-reading and amassing notes I had put it at the back of my mind until my exhibition in Bristol was over and done with.


Bristol Exhibition October 2014- osian Grifford

That was back in October so my excuses were fading by mid September when I was forcing myself to get a clumsy sentence down every few days. Because of current personal stresses concerning family, friends, and relationships I’ve found sporadic drawing and painting therapeutic and enjoyable. But collecting my thoughts in a way that’s needed for heavy essay writing has been near impossible.

Drawing and painting and creating visually is pleasing and calming and can be done in spite of erratic thinking which is definitely how I would describe my state of mind over the last few months. Knowing that I had to get my brain prepared for writing my dissertation I took to the Internet for advice on mind-emptying practices.

Naturally being pulled towards artists and creative thinkers as influences, I quickly found videos and sound recordings of benefit events for the David Lynch Foundation which states it’s purpose as ‘Overcoming Trauma. Transforming lives’. I was interested in Transcendental Meditation which the D.L Foundation recommends, because hearing David Lynch describe it’s uses at a recorded video of one of his benefit events made it sound very conducive to the creative flow from which I felt blocked at the time. Being a fan of Lynch’s films and being able to appreciate his creativity through his super-strange vision, I was willing to give a chance to what he considered the source of his energy (T.M). Also, a person I’ve been researching for both my dissertation and my subject-work, American Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, (co-creator/writer of TV series ‘Seinfeld’) has been bragging about the mental and physical energy gained through practicing T.M twice a day. Through these influences Transcendental Meditation was becoming a possible solution to my jumbled, overcrowded thoughts.

I decided that I would take my curiosity of Transcendental Meditation and discuss it with my Illustration tutor Anna, who I knew taught meditation of some kind, but I didn’t yet no which.

Anna had previously practiced T.M for years, but said that she is now using and teaching Mindfulness Meditation and is a lot happier with the effects of that practice because of it’s focus on losing all conscious efforts (whereas TM uses a mantra, which is a use of the conscious will). Myself and another student received a Mindfulness meditation class form Anna.

The MM lesson was very therapeutic and helps relieve me of crowded thoughts. I have only kept it up for a few days at a time because my tutor advised me that it doesn’t work around frequent binge drinking. From this I concluded that the best religion for me to practice would be Catholicism or Protestantism which are both heavily populated by binge drinkers, in the UK at least.

Whilst occasonally trying the meditation techniques that Anna taught me I’ve been able to get started on my dissertation writing at last. I’ve also had some very useful tutorials with Chris Glynn in which I’ve spoken at length about my chosen topics and how these constellation topics are affecting my Illustration practices.

Studying Comedy, humour and other kinds of theatrical arts has got me moving away from what i originally thought of as traditional illustrated humour (Far Side comic strips etc). Illustrated humour relies on being current to be funny more than stage and written comedy does because humour relies on context, and until photography, setting context in an image (like in oil painting for example) meant putting in a lot of work. And this was rarely used for humour as large oil paintings and sculptures in western history has often been funded by the church, which is allergic to humour (humour and comedy gives religion a really bad rash behind the knees, it’s not an animal allergy causing the rash because the church had a donkey when it was young and it didn’t have a rash then). So my work on my dissertation studies is filtering into my subject work, for which I’m currently writing a performance piece to be recorded and accompanied with a haunting soundtrack that myself and a friend are making for it.

Studying the history of the western world through humour studies, with the intention of finding out whether public opinion can be extrapolated through humour artefacts can be confusing. In fact, studying humour at all with the intention of proving anything can be like chasing a sausage which is dangling in front f your eyes suspended by the stick tied to your back, because humour has no statement of intent. It is part of many aspects of social nature and if you study it closely you start to forget where the humour was in the artefact that you’re studying, confusing the humour for just a breach of ethics or norms (which is a big part of what humour is, but humour balances over it as if on a tightrope; if it wobbles too much to the violation side it fails and if it leans too harshly into benign commentary then it falls flat on it’s face.

The one reliable area of study for humour is stage comedy or stand-up comedy. This is because the professionals in these areas are playing to an audience that they have to understand, and so a consensus is sought. With this consensus, the tricksters, clowns and comedians know what they have to pull out to surprise or shock an audience.  Onstage comedy is a reflection of the audience turned on it’s head.

My main dissertation stresses are all about pressure and not about a lack of knowledge on the subject matter, and not really even about a lack of ability to write coherently which is a worry of mine. I haven’t practiced my essay writing enough recently and easily notice a struggle for coherency which wasn’t an issue a couple of years ago when i’d been on a writing corse for the best part of a year.  I’m hoping that If i keep writing blog posts, I will eventually feel more comfortable ploughing through my dissertation. A reliable friend for random facts from studies tells me that using social networking sites such as facebook can affect a person’s writing skills in the predictable way of bad structuring of sentencing etc. Ah well – I’ll just use facbook for the pictures until i’ve turned my dissertation in then! Or get sectioned or run away and pretend I didn’t know I  had a hand-in.


8 Comments on “My PDP – Dissertation 2015”

  1. saijanai says:

    The thing about Mindfulness meditation is that it is not as restful as TM, and it certainly is not as natural as TM, or at least that is what the brainwave patterns suggest, and what most people who have tried both say.

    Consider this Buddhist nun, who runs the only free, all-grils Buddhist boarding school in Thailand. She taught all her students traditional Buddhist meditation practices, but eventually had all of them learn and practice TM, instead:

    It’s not just Buddhist schools where TM becomes popular:

    In the first school mentioned, the first principal who started the project was given the national award for 2008 Middle School Principal of the Year

    for the changes he says were due to everyone doing TM:

    And of course, in South America, this Roman Catholic priest runs a network of 60 orphanages where 5,000 orphans practice TM:

    and the Roman Catholic church recognizes his works, even though he has all of them practice TM:

    If you want to know what works, look at what the award-winning educators use.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      I’ve met people who’ve said almost the exact opposite about restfulness and naturalness concerning those two techniques, so that’s interesting to read.
      I find with meditation practices that individuals get very enthusiastic about whichever ones they are currently practicing, or the ones that they have recently started practicing. for every study someone can cite which boosts the reputation of one, there is a counter-reason for choosing that ode of meditation. Both with TM and Mindfulness I’ve met fanatics who poo-poo the other so i think i’ll just do whatever comes my way that works for me at the time and not get involved with the loyalty-politics.
      Thanks for the links, I may look some of them up when I have more time but i’m glad they’re there for others to look at if they’re interested.
      Because of the human tribalisms I mentioned earlier i’m suspicious of awards concerning this kind of thing. And the catholic church’s philosophy or track-record for hospitality aren’t great associations to make in my mind; the championing of suffering when concerning sick people seems sadistic to me.
      What i find positive is that the big creatives that i mentioned in my post are interested in TM and are not poo-pooing the other techniques.

  2. saijanai says:

    The fact that the Roman Catholic church tolerates this priest’s use of not just hindu-derived Transcendental Meditation, but the levitation practice of “Yogic Flying,” should tell you a great deal.

    The Roman Church generally frowns on any Roman Catholic priest doing this kind of thing, but not only does he practice it himself, but he *requiers* all his staff and all the older children in his orphanages to learn and practice as well.

    Contemplate how overwhelmingly successful Father Gabriel’s orphanages and rehabilitation programs must be in order for the Roman Church not merely to turn a blind eye, but to give him an award for his ongoing success in the area.

    There’s a reason why teh Brazilian government wants to have 48,000 TM teachers trained–one for each public school–so that all 45 million public school kids in Brazil can learn TM.

    And it’s not because TM shows “some promise” in the area of education.

    And speaking of mindfulness, you realize that it is actually considered counter-enlightenment by some Zen schools, which have formally and famously denounced mindfulness practices for over a thousand years:

    “meditate and THEN chop wood.”

    “when eating, only eat; when drinking, only drink.”

    mindfulness comes spontaneously from becoming enlightened, NOT from attempting to become more mindful.

    • It looks like a real positive that the Church in South America is encouraging meditations. I definitely think it’s a good thing. But the Church is a company and companies exist to sustain themselves and will adapt to whatever philosophies to keep existing.
      The individuals involved that have steered it towards meditation get my praises for sure. Anything that pushes people towards a more considered living is brilliant.
      I don’t think awards from establishments like the Church mean anything other than they want to get in on the action, receive some of the good name. To me, this seems true of all organisations.
      I hadn’t heard about the Brazilian government doing so much to seep meditation into their culture. That is truly awesome from the view of someone living in Britain where the politics has turned into a wrestle to stick a price tag on anything with no concern for the future, or for culture. Our governments are creatively and culturally pathetic, but the people are are doing well in these areas in spite of this it seems.
      Your thoughts on Mindfulness sound a lot like what Mindfulness meditators have told me about TM; that it’s not as natural, that it’s too forced etc. I’m keeping an open mind to either because i’ve not heard anything necessarily bad on both camps (other than freak instances which I would say is hard to pin on meditation techniques until they get more common).
      Thanks for your message. I’m glad to hear of positive projects going on anywhere around the globe.

      • saijanai says:

        I can only suggest you listen to these two Maharishi videos. The first is 2.00 minutes long, and the second is 7:09 minutes long.

        They will clear up up a lot of these issues about what is natural with respect to TM.

        In fact, TM and mindfulness are so far apart that it’s really impossible to reconcile practicing TM and mindfulness both -if you think TM makes sense, mindfulness doesn’t sound right and _visa versa_.

        In fact, TM’s main physical effect is to enhance the activity of the parts of the brain responsible for “sense of self” and this is the basis of enlightenment according to TM theory. Mindfulness, on the other hand, reduces the activity of the brain in the same areas that TM enhances, and loss of “sense of self” is the basis of enlightenment for traditions that think that mindfulness is a goal, rather than a side-effect of becoming enlightened.

        Different schools of Zen come down on opposite sides of the mindfulness issue as well.

        The guy who started the mindfulness craze in the USA is a Zen monk and is really gung ho about “practicing mindfulness.”

        On the other hand, THIS Zen monk has something entirely different (and more TM-ish) to say about mindfulness:

        stop being mindful

        Second question:

        2. Outside of zazen practice, in our daily life when we walk, talk, eat, sit, lay down or work, should we keep being mindful of, or following anything specific? For example, like the Rinzai students who keep the koans on their minds at all times, should we be mindful of our breathing any time other than during zazen? Or when we take a regular walk, should we keep being mindful of our steps like in kinhin?”
        We should always try to be active coming out of samadhi. For this, we have to forget things like “I should be mindful of this or that”. If you are mindful, you are already creating a separation (“I – am – mindful -of – ….”). Don’t be mindful, please! When you walk, just walk. Let the walk walk. Let the talk talk (Dogen Zenji says: “When we open our mouths, it is filled with Dharma”). Let the eating eat, the sitting sit, the work work. Let sleep sleep. Kinhin is nothing special. We do not have to make our everyday life into something special. We try to live in the most natural and ordinary way possible. So my advice is: Ask yourself why you practice zazen? If it is to reach some specific goal, or to create some special state of mind, then you are heading in the opposite direction from zazen. You create a separation from reality. Please, trust zazen as it is, surrender to reality here and now, forget body and mind, and do not DO zazen, do not DO anything, don’t be mindful, don’t be anything – just let zazen be and follow along.
        To drive a car well and savely you need long practice and even then you still have to watch out very well not to cause any accident. Nobody can teach you that except the car itself, the action of driving the car itself.

        Take care, and stop being mindful!

        So even in Buddhist traditions, even in Zen Buddhist traditions, there are disagreements.

  3. This whole statement is bizarre rhetoric. ‘Don’t reach mindfulness by trying to reach mindfulness’ Mindfulness is the name given to technique. It’s as silly as saying ‘don’t try and transcend with transcendental meditation’.

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