Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting for Meaning

As a classic story lover, I depend on all that plot mumbo gumbo. So it's plain to see Waiting for Godot was a challenge for me to wrap my head around, and even accept the play itself. After several discussions with some friends, (most of them ended in extreme denial) I finally have come to understand the meaning of this play; there is no definite meaning. Beckett strategically made his play so vague that really any interpretation could technically work, even if it isn't the right one. This play both starts and ends with two supposedly homeless men standing by a tree and waiting for a man named named Godot who (spoiler alert!) never actually came. Their seemingly meaningless banter ranges from boots and trees, to the purpose of human life; which they came to never find. It was frustrating to me to know that they were so close to what they had anticipated yet they never got it. It was humbling to know that not every story is going to turn out the way I want it to be, and sometimes the author is just trying to make me think. Godot never came, yet both of the men were able to find meaning in their lives to keep living. Whether this was Godot continually hanging a carrot in their face to keep them waiting, or just the fact they they liked their boring repetitive life (though I would go crazy), they still continued to live. This brings up the existentialist idea, that in a world where there is no meaning, how can one find a reason not to kill themselves? They mentioned suicide several times, not because they were depressed or upset, but because they were bored and had nothing else to do. They couldn't find any other reason to live, yet they continued living. Like the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus lived the same repetitive life everyday which was full over pushing a rock up a hill only to have it fall back down. How does one find meaning in that situation? He could have easily let the rock crush him into nothing and never had to deal with the seemingly meaningless life that he had ahead of him. Yet, he continued to push that rock up the hill, and let it roll back down again. In Waiting for Godot, Didi and Gogo still wait for Godot to come, yet he never does. They could easily leave, or kill themselves but they don't. Why they don't will forever be a mystery to me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Is Forgiveness the Key to Freedom.

As many of the students at Arapahoe High School have come to know, forgetting the past is hard. No matter how hard we try, the nightmare is still there and the anxiety still stands. So what does it take to finally be free from the past and all the terror it brings.? This idea of breaking the chains of the past is explored in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement.
The dictionary describes atonement as
satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.Is forgiveness the key to freedom? Without the ball and chains of a grudge hanging around the ankles, there's no question what human kind can do. Revenge is captivity, forgiveness is freedom.
Some stories;
My mom's dad married a real gold digger (if I do say so myself) in the last three years of his life. As a pilot and fortunate receiver of a cardiovascular doctor's inheritance, my grandpa retired with more than a million dollars. The million dollars that my grandma had intended to go to her posterity when she died. However, in the last few months of his life, the entirety of the will was handed over to my gold digging ex step grandma. Once my grandpa died, none of his children saw a penny of the money, as it went to the gold digger's son's aspiring music career that never really took off. While I was too young to understand the money that would have paid for most of my college disappeared  into the hands of a black haired sugar momma, my mother was livid. The only thing I remember was her constant fuming phone calls to my aunts and uncles, her plans to get back the money, and her spiteful comments here, there, and pretty much everywhere. Her obsession with revenge consumed her. She only thought about getting back at this woman who called herself my grandma. For years it plagued her social life, professional life, and especially her family life. Then one day she simply decided it wasn't worth it. She began on the path of forgiveness, and in part freedom. She is no longer so overwhelmed with revenge and anger as she was long before. She is able to function and make decisions with a clear mind rather than one clouded with revenge.
However, freedom just doesn't come from the forgiveness or atonement of other people, in order to be truly free, one must forgive themselves.
As a young child, Briony commits an act of betrayal and falsehood that she is forced to live with the rest of her life. While she believes she is doing the right thing, she sends an innocent man, her sister's love, to jail and eventually to suffer in the war. Her small act of delusional heroism greatly effects not only her relationship with her sister, but the life of Robbie Wheeler. As she grows and matures into an age where she understands the magnitude of her "mistake," she runs away from all that reminds her of it; her house, her family, even her future plans, all out of hatred of herself. She puts herself to work, hoping to be able to forget her deed, or even make up for it by volunteering as a nurse. She finally decides she can no longer live with the guilt and goes out to atone for her sins. She asks for forgiveness from those who she wronged, and realises the only way she could be free from this mistake is the forgiveness of herself. In her old age she understands that while it was important to seek forgiveness from her sister and Robbie, it was more important to forgive herself. She lived her life with a ball and chain of guilt latched onto her ankle. She couldn't think of anything else besides her wrong doing until she recognised her mistake, and forgave herself.

Like my mom and Briony, people find themselves stuck in a hole of revenge, guilt or anger, that only leads them deeper into the ground. I've found that rather than using energy to continue the hole, its better to forgive, and get oneself out. In Ian McEwan's Atonement, he explores that the only way to truly be free, is forgiveness and atonement.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A "Beloved" Price

Slavery; the huge, ugly mole on the face of American pride. America the free, more like "America the free except for those slaves. We don't count them as people." The horrible past of America that is slavery, is incredibly unforgettable. Though it's been over one hundred years since there was evidence of actual slavery in America, how can one forget the inhumanity and lack of compassion slavery harbored? The incredible irony that existed in our constitution before 1865, is almost humorous. "We the people [white men] of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union [for white men], establish justice [for white men], insure domestic tranquility [for white men], provide for the common defense [of white men], promote the general welfare [by general we mean just for white men], and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves [the white men] and our posterity [white posterity of course], do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America [but for just the white men]. Though many of the founding fathers recognized this extreme hypocrisy in the new government, very little attempted to do anything about it. This huge, ugly, hypocritical mole that sprung onto the face of American pride could have been removed before it got any worse.

However, the group that were most effected by this terrible past were the slaves posterity. This horrible era in history was their past, the slaves were their ancestors. It is hard to hide from and hard to ignore. Toni Morrison reflects this idea in her novel Beloved.  The character Beloved is a perfect representation of slavery. She is constant reminder to Sethe of the acts she did because of slavery. She also brings up Paul D's memories of slavery he hoped to never have to deal with.

Through her characters, Morrison is able to describe the three generations that came out of the slave era, and how they have helped create a better tomorrow for the African Americans today. She describes "the past" through Baby Suggs, "the present" through Sethe, and the future through "Denver," and through these three characters she is able to juxtapose the three mindsets that sprung from the slavery reconstruction era, and call attention to the significance of this era. Baby Suggs is the past and therefore the hope that is able to come from it. Her influence on the people in the town helps regain their sense of individuality and though even for a short time, reminds them of who they are and the happiness they can feel. However, besides that one scene in the forest, Baby Suggs is mostly in bed almost hiding from Beloved, the ghost of slavery. Yet she is still able to give Denver, "the future," the help and motivation to overcome the idea of slavery. Sethe is consistently trapped in the past. She can never let the fact that she killed her daughter on behalf of slavery go. She represents the present. Though there was a chance for her to create a new life away from her terrible past, she still could not let it go. She embraces Beloved, the ghost of slavery, and continues to love her even though she causes her so much harm. The significance of the attachment Sethe has with Beloved is representative of the fact that Sethe just couldn't forget. She couldn't let her past go in order to create a future. However, Denver is able to create a future for everyone. She never had to live within the confines of slavery. Even though she embraces Beloved at first, she is able to recognize the inherent danger Beloved brings and is able to seek help for her and her family. She is the only one that fled and the only one that was able to. She sought help from the community and they all came together to exorcise the inner demon that lived in all of them; slavery. With the help of Denver, the community was able to fill the missing "3" that "124" it was missing. Morrison uses the past, present, and the future in order to truly create hope and brought a new life into the slavery reconstruction era.

Though everyone was free from the inherent act of slavery, their mindsets were still stuck  in their horrible past. The only thing that saves the women in 124 and the whole community in fact, was the willingness to let go of what they knew for so long what lives were filled with for over two hundred years. To forget the pain and the suffering and let it go, all in order to create a new tomorrow "for [themselves] and their posterity." The huge, ugly mole that is slavery on the face of American pride, is still there yet with a collective look to tomorrow and recognition that mole can be dealt with and used as motivation to try and be better.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

To Be Invisible, Is To Be Free

A person in the constant spotlight has to do everything right. Even Miley Cyrus has everything perfectly planned in order to appeal to the public. I often question if I were to act as Brittney Spears did in 2007, if I would achieve the same amount of press and attention. The answer is: no I wouldn't. I am invisible to most of the world, therefore I thankfully wouldn't make headlines if I gained fifty pounds, or if my boyfriend cheated on me with a beach blonde bimbo.

This concept is explored in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Throughout his tale, the narrator is under watch by Dr. Bledsoe, the brotherhood, and eventually the entire public of Harlem. He is unable to do what he wants without having to accept the consequences. He couldn't take Mr. Norris for a drive and then a drink without getting kicked out of his dream school. He couldn't speak his mind without getting verbally punished by the brotherhood, and towards the end of the book, he couldn't speak in front of crowd without the fear of being lynched. Though in the beginning of the book, he achieved invisibility and was able to do what he wanted to do without the consequences of the public

So now to the big question. What does it take to be free? Ellison argues that pure freedom comes with invisibility. To be invisible is to be free. One does not have to worry about what the public with think of them, if no one even knows who he/she is. Just like I don't have to worry about what middle aged woman across the nation will think if I have an extra cookie, because to them, I am invisible. Freedom to do something without the disappointed scowl of the public, comes with invisibility. But is it worth it to be invisible in order to have freedom?