Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pop that bubble!

Why is ignorance bliss? A deep seated fear that if we (Im specifically talking about Americans here) open our lives to education and enlightenment, we will see that our livelihood is nothing more than a joke. Why are people afraid of the truth? Because it will pop the materialistic, ethnocentric bubble most middle to upper class white Americans live in. Why are people afraid of change? They have fallen into a routine and established a comfort zone in which they can live their narrow minded lives of high definition T.V. and luxury SUVs. They spend their whole lives working HARD towards a goal that is an illusion. Money, Power, Status etc. Why do people want to remain ignorant and do not seek to educate themselves? They would be forced to give up the reality they created for themselves in which they are the center, and everything else comes second. This is where I see the problem in the issue regarding ignorance, American society has breaded an egotistical, ethnocentric macho man who refuses to believe there is a larger world that exists outside of his/her multi-million dollar home. Ok, you might be thinking, how cynical of Kate to stereotype Americans in this way. Of course I realize that there is a large population of our County that is not caught in this bubble. My bitterness stems from the amount of power the wealth elite have. They are not content to live in their illusions alone. They promote ignorance by providing an environment of false consciousness, encouraging people around them to believe in something that is not in their neighbor's best interest. The power of persuasion is very strong, especially when it is subtle. I might be loosing you here, what I am saying is that unconsciously, the majority of American society is buying into the clicked phrase that ignorance is bliss. "Everyone in my neighborhood seems happy with their Hummer H2,
2.5 kids, 60 hour a week work week, and green manicured lawns, so I must be happy with all of this too."

Friday, September 24, 2004

Just me and a book

If I were to be alone, stranded on a desert island without the companionship of an intelligent life form to keep me company I would go nuts! Bored out of my gourd! Would I be satisfied with a book as substitute for human contact? No. But if this was the scenario and I had no say in the matter, I would choose a book over my imagination. That sounds really sad doesn't it? It is a big question though, why do we need to read stories that other people make up when we have the ability to do it ourselves, inside our own heads! Im sure that we would find ourselves getting a lot more creative if we were stranded on a desert island alone!
The book I would choose has to be a very entertaining book, a story that would be impossible to duplicate with my own imagination. A story with so many parts and layers to it that it reads as a different story every time, well at least for the first fifty times. God knows how many times I will be re-reading this book during my stay on the island. This book should also be long, even broken up into a series of books, that's allowed isn't it? My favorite books when I was a little girl were the Chronicles of Narnia! Wow, what an imagination C. S. Lewis had! I remember falling asleep to my mom reading them to me and I would dream of adventure all night! Sorry, back to the topic of the ever important island book... So Im thinking along those lines of an epic adventure of a important journey. Anyone see where Im going here?No not the Odyssey...Try again, Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. I am pretty sure I couldn't get tired of reading these books. I have even listened to them on book tape during a 12 hour road trip I took to Nevada and they made the trip go by so fast! There are so many intricate details in the story that it is impossible to pick them all up with just one reading. This is exactly why I would pick this book, I would never get bored with it. Also, because it is long and tedious to conduct a proper reading of the text, the book would take a while to read and everyday I would have something to look forward to, the adventures of Frodo and the ring.
You might think that this choice is superficial and a bad decision because I am reading it for pure entertainment. Why wouldn't I chose a text that provides spiritual meaning for me and provokes deep questions about the human condition? Simply because I would have no one to discuss these issues with. It is a nice thought and seems more stimulating to me as well but we have to remember that our life is boring on this island. I need a book that I can live vicariously through, living a life of adventure. Frodo sacrifices himself for the greater good of humankind, that is a good enough adventure for me!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A conversation between Longinus and Plato

When reading Longinus's "On Sublimity" I noticed an interesting connection to our class discussion's on Plato, in the section titled "Imitation of Earlier Writers as a Means to Sublimity." Longinus uses Plato as his example for someone who imitates a great writer from the past to illustrate sublimity in his own work. Now isn't this ironic! If Plato knew he was being written about in these terms he would not be happy. Longinus says that "Plato could not have put such a brilliant finish on his philosophical doctrines or so often risen to poetical subjects and poetical language, if he had not tried, and tried wholeheartedly, to compete for the prize against Homer." Longinus suggests Plato looks to Homer for inspiration and is possessed by a spirit that is not his own. Isn't that precisely why Plato claims he doesn't want poets living in his ideal Republic, because they are possessed by an ecstatic feeling which in-turn possesses the citizens through poetry? I wish I could put these two guys in a room together and listen to them hash this out. Plato would argue that the only way to access the sublime is through rational, intellectual conversation. Longinus would come back with the argument that it is the great artists and poets who are seen as "objects of emulation, shining before our gaze, who will somehow elevate our minds to the greatness of which we from a mental image." I tend to think Longinus would come out on top of this one. Emulation, or we could call it mimesis, of another artist's representation of the sublime is one way to experience the sublime in one's own work. Longinus looks at it this way, "In all this process there is no plagiarism. It resembles rather the reproduction of good character in statues and works of art."

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A painful lesson to learn

I can recall many instances when I have witnessed the pain of others and instinctively I feel their pain. I grieve for humankind and the tests that we have endured through time. Situations that move me to tears usually arise from people being repressed, mistreated, or discriminated against by other humans. I can remember my first college English class that really had an impact on me, the topic was Sixties Literature. We read angry black power literature, fed up women's rights literature, and frustrated literature from the civil rights movement. The most painful moment of this class was to watch a video from a peaceful protest of the Vietnam War held at Kent State. The protest turned into a violent attack on the unarmed students in which innocent people were killed. I remember sitting in my seat feeling sick with grief for these students. College kids my age being shot over the senseless violence of the war. In a way, that class empowered me to stand up for what I believe in, showing me that people have the power to change the bitter oppression and unequal treatment of fellow human beings. It also opened my eyes to what the generation before me, my parents generation, when through for me. Especially as a woman, I had previously taken for granted the freedoms and choices available to me today. This was my first true sense of learning through someone else's suffering.

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This is a common theme among movies, depicting the hardships of an oppressed group of people. Even though these types of movies are hard to watch and we all weep bitterly at the senseless acts of cruelty performed on humankind, there is a lesson to be learned. As an audience, we are able to view the outcome and the negative effects of treating others badly from outside the situation without being hurt ourselves. I can think of some movies that have caused me pain to watch, making me cry so hard I can hardly breath, but that have taught me a valuable lesson. To name a few: Shindler's List, American History X, Boys In The Hood, The Hurricane, Boys Don't Cry. These are all movies depicting a huge injustice acted out against a person or a group of people. Even though these films make me really sad, I find them inspiring in a way because they prove to me that human beings are capable of enduring so much for the good of the greater whole. By this I mean that their pain has taught a huge lesson to the rest of us and without their sacrifices and hardships, humans would still be in a very primitive state of mind.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Touchstone

GOD'S GRANDEUR

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And through the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Now you might be thinking that I contradict myself because in a previous entry I said that I don't believe in God, attend church or read the scriptures, but now I am saying that my touchstone is a Hopkins poem? Well let me tell you right now my dear friend, I am vast, I contain multitudes, and I have room to contradict myself.
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I come to this poem when I need inspiration. Hopkins was no doubt inspired by a higher spirit when he wrote "God's Grandeur". Although we might not share the same theology, we share an awe for the power of nature. When I read this poem out-loud to myself I am put into a trance. The rhythm of the poem flows from my mouth in such a way that it releases all the anxiety or tension built up in my body and by the last line, "World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings." I feel like a new person.
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I suppose this is exactly what Plato was talking about when he said that rhapsody and inspiration experienced through poetry is a chain reaction that possesses its audience. Hopinks was possessed by inspiration for God's Grandeur, which in turn passes down through me and when I read this poem I am in a trance like state in which his words feed and water my passions.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Meet Homi

Hello! I would like to introduce myself, my name is Homi Bhabha. I will be speaking on the topic of postcolonial studies and related theories in your class and would like to take this opportunity to briefly introduce myself. I was born in Bombay India in 1949, that makes me the ripe age of 55. I spent my under-grad years at the University of Bombay and finally got out of India to get my masters and doctorate of Philosophy at Oxford University in England. I liked England so much that I took a teaching job at Sussex University. After 16 years well spent in England I made the journey to the States, accepting a position at the University of Chicago. That wasn't quite prestigious enough for me and I eventually made it to Harvard where I currently teach now. You could consider me a de-constructionist. I base my work on the theorists Derrida, Bakhtin, and Lacon to name a few. My focus is on postcolonial studies and I am especially interested in the hybridity that is created in a culture when it has been colonized. I look forward to discussing some of the "hot topics" of literary theory with such renowned fellow theorists and critics, dead and alive.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Reflections on important texts in my life

No, I do not go to church, nor do I read the bible. Yes, I am a spiritual person and I do have my own versions of secular texts that provide me with the inspiration of a divine knowledge. All around me I see evidence of an eternal energy source that provides the life force for all creatures that live and breathe on planet Earth. I believe that there are an infinite number of ways to access this source of divine knowledge. For me, the two most direct connections to an enlightened state of being are through nature and the arts. My church is the outdoors. I have never felt a greater sense of peace, or union of mind and body as when I am surrounded by nature. The beauty of an un-inhabited mountain valley can only be matched by an inspiring piece of music, poetry, or artistic creation.
Just as it is hard to pin-point my favorite river, valley, or peak, it is hard to say which is the text that acts as a beacon of light when I loose sight of my path. There are many that have come to me in just the right time, or at the right place to help me see that I had strayed from my chosen path. Often times these inspiratons appear in the form of a song, or the spoken words of another human. For the sake of this assignment, I will give you a quote from a dog-eared page in a book titled, "Communion with God."
"Happiness is a decision, not an experience.
You can decide to be happy without what you
thought you needed in order to be happy,
and you will be. Your experience is the result
of your decision, not the cause of it."
To me, this makes sense. It sounds like a simple concept that is easy to live by, but it is also very easy to forget. Life can all of the sudden get filled up with needs, wants, and excuses of why not to be happy. These are the times when I open up this book, because I need to be reminded of life's simplicities. For me this book is filled with words of wisdom. When I am feeling lost and confused I can turn to any random page and find a simple answer to my seemingly complex situation.

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As for a text that has changed my perception of the world? My perception of the world is changing, growing, evolving daily. What is it that spurs this change? Usually something I read, hear, or see. It could be a movie, like the day I walked out of the theater after watching the 1st Matrix, I saw reality in a whole new light. Every time I travel to a different county and learn about a new way of living my perception of reality drastically changes. Each time I have a really good conversation with someone and I learn a new way of thinking my perception of the world is different. Most importantly, because it is what I do more that anything else right now, every time I finish reading a book, my world has changed.
One memory that sticks out in my mind is the first time I read the poem, "The Second Coming" by W.B. Yeats. I was in high school English class. It was the first time that I realized the power to tap into something bigger than the tiny little high school bubble I was living in. Each time I came across this poem in later classes, it held a different meaning for me and I understood it simultaneously through understanding layers of my own deeper, darker side of the unconscious mind. For me this poem unveiled a duality of light and dark, good and evil. As an essential part of living in harmony and balance, life's dualities must be explored, written, and read about. For me, Yeats's exploration of the "widening gyre" opened up another world for me.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

And the journey Begins!

Wow, the start of a new semester, and my last one as a student of Montana State. An English degree, what in the heck am I going to do with that! Just kidding. What a way to end it all with a bang, critical theory at 8am, but with whom better than Dr. Sexson to start out the day? This is the first web journal I have done, gotta love technology. I am looking forward to reading everyone's thoughts on the class and all the different interpretations of the texts. The reason for this being a short first journal entry is to see if I am doing this right. I have yet to ponder my perception of the world through art for the next assignment. More to come.