Sunday, November 16, 2008

Poetry Blog #3

3. Think about hamartia: find one poem that displays a tragic flaw in human nature (either human nature in general or in one human, as expressed in the poem). Write about whether or not the poem’s message is enhanced for you, as a reader, as you contemplate hamartia as it relates to the text.

Okay, I feel like I’m cheating, but I’m going to pick on “In the Secular Night” once again. I guess this poem is just so intriguing for me personally. So what is harmartia as presented in the poem? Well, I think it’s the speaker’s state of loneliness. However, this not only applies to the speaker, but it also applies to human nature in general. Perhaps it’s because humans are selfish by nature, but it seems that people are never satisfied with what they have, so they feel loneliness despite everything they have. Well, whatever the reason may be for the loneliness everyone feels, if people don’t overcome this feeling of desolation and seclusion, it will eventually lead them to their downfall. Just like the way the speaker says in the poem that she will go crazy at one point, everyone will go crazy if he or she does not find a way to escape loneliness. In fact, the primary reason for suicides is loneliness; people are unable to overcome their depression, so they look to the ultimate way of escape—death. Anyways, as I think about harmartia and how we are all embedded with a critical weakness, the message of the poem is further enhanced. Since I know that loneliness is inevitable for people, I am more open to Atwood’s suggestion of looking to something spiritual for fulfillment. Well, since I am already intact with the “spiritual” (or at least I think I am), I feel like I have already quenched my thirst. Well, this does not mean that I am happy all the time; in fact, I still feel lonely quite often. There are so many times when I feel like no one really understands me… perhaps it’s because I haven’t found my spouse yet! :P
Probably not though. Hm. This feeling will always stay with me. And it is up to me to resolve my internal conflicts. And however they may come across, I will have to look beyond what I can see with my physical eyes to find satisfaction. Loneliness will always stay with me… but I will rise victorious as I leave my pride and my own thoughts, and hand over myself to something spiritual—in my case, God.

Poetry Blog #2

2. TPCASTT one poem and discover what it really says to you. Write about the poem and its theme, especially about how the poem’s message sheds light on the universal human condition/experience.

In the Secular Night
Honestly, I’m not picking this poem because I analyzed it for the oral commentary. I have to say that even as I prepared for the oral commentary, I felt intimately close with this poem. I guess it’s because the poem presents a universal human experience (seriously, it does; I’m not just saying it for the post). In the poem, the speaker struggles with her loneliness and feeling of seclusion. Her emotional turmoil is caused by mainly two things: her separation from people, and her separation from God (or something spiritual). Throughout the poem, readers witness the speaker “amble” around her house and eat “baby lima beans” and just ponder in solitude. Well, even towards the end of the poem, the speaker is nowhere near an escape from her depressing condition. In fact, she even acknowledges that if she does not find redemption or resolve, she will go insane. Well, up to this point, any reader can relate to the speaker. We all feel alone at one point in our lives, and this feeling of loneliness and seclusion is so effectively addressed in the poem. This is one issue that I can really agree on with Atwood—we really are alone, and many times we are so helpless; we can’t find an escape. Well, the way this poem speaks to me is like this: loneliness is inevitable in life, and there’s nothing we, as people, can do to quench our thirst for something beyond the superficial; but, such need can be satisfied if we look to the realm of the spiritual. I don’t think Atwood is recommending anyone to go to a Church or start believing in God, but I do believe that she acknowledges our need, as people, for something in the realm of the metaphysical; beyond this physical world that we live in at the moment. In fact, the poem ends with an imagery of the outside world in chaos; with “sirens” and a dead person, the world is not in peace. With such horrible imagery of a cruel and cold world ignorant of the speaker’s condition, the only way for the speaker to overcome her loneliness is to search for something spiritual. Since she wandered around in her “secular” world, or night, from the beginning, and that’s when she felt all alone, she has not experienced the un-secular. Who knows? Maybe once she enters a world of spirituality, she will be cured of her loneliness.

Poetry Blog #1

1. Research Atwood, Plath, and Dickinson and find the poet you are most like; your similarities could be based on personality traits or on issues you are both interested in, or on themes emerging from the poet’s work and how those speak to you. Write about what you feel in common between you and the poet you have chosen.

All of these poets are so emo. They seem to write mostly on gloomy and depressing subjects. Yet, I think they are so bang-on when it comes to the universal human condition. In many ways, this world really is desolate, empty of anything good (that is apart from God). So, it’s hard for me to point out just one poet out of the three and say that I relate to her more. All three of these poets seem to carry traits that I carry. In fact, they have the exact same questions that I ponder about. I guess once a person embarks on a journey for Truth, he or she converges on a road that most people on the same journey finds. Interesting, eh? It’s impossible to ignore spirituality, right? Despite its amorphous characteristic, we FEEL that something is there. Yes, we can’t see it, but we can’t see emotion either, right? Okay, I don’t know where I’m going with this… but, anyone that is secular, or in other words, without God, at one point discovers that there’s so much more to life than what meets the eyes. Just like the way Tolstoy was converted to Christianity, if a person sincerely seeks for the ultimate truth behind the existence of humankind, he or she will eventually find God in one shape or form.
So, in that sense, I feel so similar to all three of these poets, and even when I look at their individual lives, I find so many things in common. First of all, Dickinson’s tendency towards seclusion is so relatable. Although I AM a people person, there are so many times when I want to be alone, apart from the world. I guess I get so torn apart and hurt by the world that I wish to drawback in my little “shell” and just close myself from the world. But once again, this is a very common experience, I believe, everyone goes through at one point in their lives. However, what sets me apart from Dickinson is that I’ve found redemption through my relationship with Christ. As corny as that may sound, that’s the truth—nothing but the truth. Yes, life sucks in many aspects, but I live not for my own selfish ambitions, but for God’s glory (or at least I try to!). So, no matter what comes in my way, God will aid me through… and whatever happens, God is enough.
Alright, how about Plath? Man oh man… Plath was actually very much like my current state. She loved people… hanging out and just partying with her friends. Well, she was betrayed by her husband who ultimately led her to her death. So, how can I relate to Plath? Well, I, too, am very vulnerable when it comes to people. Perhaps it is because I have unduly expectations for people, and when I am let down because people do not necessarily meet up to my expectations, I get hurt… or even angered. In many ways, I feel pathos towards Plath. Here lies also the biggest difference between me and Plath. I mean, I can’t comprehend the amount of pain and turmoil Plath had to endure because of her husband, but I would have, no matter what the hardship, fought against the very forces that tried to bring me down. Yes, it is hard, but life is hard. In fact, rarely anything will ever go the way I want it in life, but I still get up and overcome my hardships. I just feel so bad that Plath had to give up in the end. But this again reveals the natural tendencies of humans to produce tragedy. I mean, why did Plath have to die? Such a talented being that could have offered so much to the world; that could have shed some light onto the universal truth.
Well, Atwood is kind of apart from the other two. Particularly because she’s not dead—yes, she’s alive! Isn’t that nice? Although she knows how terrible the world is, she did not push herself over the edge of death. Yea, I guess she’s found something to live for—like all of us (or I hope all of us found something to live for). Anyways, I wouldn’t really say I’m similar to Atwood. But, I can relate to many of her poems. But, I believe that most people can relate to her poems because her poems are so powerful in the sense that they reveal some universal aspects of humanity. In fact, I will talk about “In the Secular Night,” and how that poem is so relatable to me. For now, I’m just going to say that I agree with many of the things Atwood talks about. Now, go read my post on why I like “In the Secular Night,” and you will see why I like Atwood.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

#3 Blog Question for In the Skin of a Lion

1.       Is tragic flaw an issue in this novel? Choose one character and explore how their tragic flaw resulted in disaster.

Yes, tragic flaw is an issue in this novel. In fact, I would daresay that tragic flaw is one of the most important elements of this novel; it shapes the characters and the storyline, creates a sense of pathos, and most importantly leaves a message of the universal human condition for the readers.

The protagonist of the novel, Patrick, copes with numerous tragedies in the novel. From the betrayal of Clara to the death of Alice, Patrick loses a loved one more than once. Each time Patrick deals with loss, he has an extremely difficult time overcoming the ordeal. Thus, his tragic flaw turns out to be his inability to cope with loss. This flaw throws Patrick into a state of despair after he loses Clara, and a state of madness (somewhat) after Alice dies. Although Patrick was more than hindered by this flaw, readers must understand that it was this very flaw that helped Patrick to find a sense of identity. It was at times unbearable to watch Patrick deal with his loss; and his grievance created a sense of pathos towards his state. Nevertheless, his flaw never led him to total destruction. At times, he was definitely in a disastrous state, yet as time passed by Patrick gradually built himself up.

At the end of the book, Patrick actually comes back to Hana after his release at prison and his attempt to destroy the waterworks. In the end, Patrick decides to take care of Hana which was his ultimate decision to let Hana complete his identity. Throughout the novel, Patrick was in need of another person to be satisfied and complete. Each time he lost his counterpart, he was utterly devastated, and it was the same after he was released from prison. However, Patrick decides during his phone call with Clara that he will take care of the only remain of his former love Alice. Thus, Hana becomes the person that completes Patrick as a person and gives him a sense of identity.

The character Patrick actually makes me wonder if a tragic flaw is necessary to make advancements in life. It seems that perfection will never result in improving one’s self, and only mistakes and shortcomings can lead to some sort of revelation. Perhaps this is the universal human experience that Ondaatje points out in the novel. Each character is equipped with a flaw that brings them to near destruction, and sometimes actual downfall. Yet, his or her tragic flaw enables the character to find a bigger truth in life and helps him or her advance forward in his or her, conscious or unconscious, search for a sense of purpose and identity. An interesting theory I believe, and in my opinion it holds some truth—maybe a lot of truth. Just like Paul said in Corinthians, God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Perhaps, we should all acknowledge the value of weakness and appreciate its existence. For without it, we would be nothing more than an arrogant group of people wandering around in a meaningless world without any human growth.

#2 Blog Question for In the Skin of a Lion

1.       What character do you most identify with in this novel and why? Is pathos an element of your response to this character? Again, be specific here. Look for textual evidence and help us understand your thoughts.

As I was engulf in the novel, I knew precisely who I could relate to, and it was the protagonist—Patrick. I find it funny how Patrick is the weakest character, in my opinion, in the book and I can relate to him the most. I guess it is because I am more inclined to admit my weaknesses than extol my strengths. I know that I have always been in search of an identity. Never being satisfied with my limited understandings of myself, I have tried to find a deeper, more valuable, meaning accompanying my life. Sometimes it was the dissatisfaction I received from myself or remnants of bad memories from the past, but I was, and still am, hindered by my own rejection of who I am as a person. Perhaps it is because I am out to prove myself worthy for the people around me and ultimately for the world, or I just cannot overcome the shortcomings that create presumptions among people about who I am. In much similar ways, I felt that Patrick was adventuring through the same things that I have adventured through. There were many moments when I could completely understand the motives and the feelings that Patrick was going through. This could be a feeling of pathos, yet it was much pity or empathy but a mutual understanding that I could share with this character. Although I do not have specific textual evidence (maybe I’m just lazy), but the general trend that Patrick expressed in the novel was so incredibly similar to my own behaviors and thoughts.

First of all, Patrick’s longing for companionship and affection created such a sense of pathos. I understood so clearly the universal human condition of loneliness; it is almost impossible to go through the world without a companion, or even find one’s own identity. Humans were meant to find their counterparts, and it was no different for Patrick. Whatever it may be, another person, money, accomplishment, a person needs his or her complement to complete his or her identity. Throughout the novel, readers witness this universal human truth in the multitude of characters. Ambrose of course had his wealth, Harris had his waterworks, Clara had materialistic fulfillment from Ambrose, Caravaggio had his wife, and basically every single character had someone or something completing his or her identity—everyone except Patrick. The protagonist actually struggles to find the one thing that will live up to be his counterpart. At moments, he had Clara, and later he had Alice with more assurance. Yet, due to an unfortunately turn of events, the very pillars that supported his own identity crumbled as Clara left him and as Alice passed away. I was in agony when I had to witness Patrick grief and pain; I knew how he felt, how losing something of so much importance crushes the very core of a person in the deepest parts of his or her heart. With so much clarity, I could see and feel what Patrick was suffered. Even when he tried to destroy the waterworks out of anger, I felt a sense of pathos when I thought about his motives and his emotional state.

Although I may be drawn to Patrick, we still have many differences. I, unlike Patrick, am less likely to be so submerged in my own emotions all the time. Despite the harshness of reality, I try to accept it and deal with the fact that I must change for reality because reality won’t change for me. However, Patrick does end up changing in the end. He goes through many traumatic events in his life—death of father and Alice, departure of Clara—yet he never completely falls into a state of despair and hopelessness. As much as he seemed so weak, he was tough enough to eventually overcome the shortcomings of his life. Finally, towards the end of the book, readers see a Patrick that is much closer to the identity that he so longed and searched for throughout the entire novel, and perhaps this is the part of Patrick that I feel most drawn towards.

#1 Blog Question for In the Skin of a Lion

1.       What passage did you find the most beautiful in this novel and why? Dig into setting here, and give us detail about why you have chosen your passage.

Amongst all the beautifully woven passages in the novel, the very first scene that came to my mind when I read this question was the ice skating scene in the beginning of the book. This passage located in page 21 and 22 describes the discovery the 11 year old Patrick had made on a short trip of curiosity past midnight. When he actually arrives at the frozen river, he finds a group of men skating along the shore and playing a game of laughter and excitement. The entire scene is written with very short sentences like “the ice shone with light… something joyous. A gift. There were about ten men skating, part of a game (21)” to increase the pace of the reading. The reading of the passage evokes a different feeling from the previous pages of the book. Patrick had discovered something out of expectations—something immensely beautiful. In order to highlight the excitement stirring up in Patrick, the passage read: “their lanterns replaced with new rushes which let them go further past boundaries, speed! Romance! One man waltzing with his fire… (22)2” and the passage goes on to describe how Patrick would never be the same after this brand new experience; Patrick “having lived all his life on that farm where day was work and night was rest, nothing would be the same (22).” In addition, this new revolutionary discovery impacted Patrick to the point where “his mind raced ahead of his body (22).”

The reason I’ve actually picked this passage is not only because of its wonderfully written descriptions of the men fervently skating across shining frozen lake, but also because it is such a pivotal moment for Patrick. It is at this moment in his life that he realizes there is much more out there, outside of his tiny little life. That even in a place he knew so well, “his shore, his river (21) [emphasis from the original text],” he had no idea about the breathtaking ritual going on at night; he knew so little about even what was his. It is precisely at this point when Patrick searches for an identity beyond his understanding of himself—his past, origin, purpose. And suddenly, “his mind raced ahead of his body.” Unfortunately, his search for an identity at one point becomes so obsessive that upon a loss of something precious, he goes through much difficulty trying to recover. Yet, it is this discovery when he was 11 that enlightened him in his way of thinking and transformed him into a pursuer of his own true identity beyond the limited understandings of his own self. Thus, this passage proves itself to be awe strikingly beautiful to me.