What is time? This is a very good question! When I posed it to my boyfriend he replied, “Haha, Do you think I was a philosophy major?” I already established in a prior post that I was definitely not a good philosopher and I guess neither is he. Collectively we decided that the best definition we could come up with is that TIME, “is a thing that happens”. I think that makes sense, the collection of events that have taken place, or will take place. Jeanette Winterson’s science fiction novel, The Stone Gods, delves heavily into the idea of time. She begins her story with the end of the planet Orbus. The human beings, over time, have destroyed the planet and are now in need of a new home to survive. In rolls Planet Blue, a new planet that is untouched by the destruction of time with humans living upon it.
Winterson then jumps us back in time with her second part of her book, to Easter Island and the natives that then lived there. Over time, Winterson writes, that the natives deforested the land they called home. This took away their ability to survive. (Side note: the most common theory of the downfall of Easter Island was due to the introduction of rats through exploration in shipping. They ate seeds and killed off bird populations, which were essential for the fertilization and forestation of the island.)
We are then lead back to Orbus, on a tube where we hear the story of Billie sad childhood. Through out the time of her youth to her age then (roughly in her early 30s), Billie had experienced many things and seen the destruction of the world around her. I am not 100% sure on this, but I think that Winterson is touching upon how different events can change the life a person lives. I think she explores the idea that time is like two train tracks running parallel to one another. That there is more than one “Billie” in the great space of time and there is more than one “Spike”. At the end of the story, I think that Billie finds herself looking at a life the other Billie had lived, her farm was in her view.
I think time is very important, even in Winterson’s stories time was important. There were events that her characters went through due to the passing of time. I think that she puts a lot of enfaces on the relationship of time, humans and the treatment of their planet(s). How even though many events have taken place through history, a lot of them will still reoccur (Orbus and Easter Island). I see Winterson’s book as a challenge to the human race; please don’t destroy the planet we all call home. Winterson want’s us to learn from our histories and to take care of the planet that has given so much to us.
I have to be honest and let you all know that I just watched the first and second Terminator movies with my boyfriend. Somehow it came up in conversation that I had never seen the movies and my boyfriend was flabbergasted. Needless to say he remedied that last night and I am still pumped to know where some key catch phrases like “I’ll be back” and “come with me if you want to live” come from.
I mention this because I think it is fitting for the reading we had to do this week, The Stone Gods, by Jeanette Winterson. The idea of a world in the future that has been become one with machines and robots seems to be the theme for me this week. Winterson is very imaginative, I thought she was a little bit of a bouncy writer at the beginning but then she seemed to ease into the story well. I wanted to touch upon the world she describes and the relationship between the people and their environment.
Winterson describes a world that is dying, the people have depleted it of natural resources and are in need of a new world, the Blue Planet. The protagonist of the story, Billie, thinks to herself, “She needs us like a bed needs bedbugs, ‘I’m sorry,’ I say, to the planet that can’t hear me.” The world that Billie lives in is urban, her farm is seen as a “living museum”, and people genetically grow all of their food. It is sort of gut wrentching to think about a world like that.
The scary part about the world that Winterson describes is that it is one that many authors before her have also described. In Aldus Huckley’s ,Brave New World, people are hyper focused on sex and their bodies being perfect and living in a world that is far from that of Maine 2014. The people in Winterson’s book are not into protecting their planet, they have used it for what they want/need and are ready to move on to another place.
I think that Winterson was doing a great deal of imagining a story of the future but she was also able to take the world we live in today and elaborate on some circumstances. Many states do not recycle, people throw trash out their windows and some industries don’t take the proper steps to decrease their pollution. All in all, I find that Winterson did a very good job at describing what our world could very well become if people do not take advantage of programs that are being set up to take care of our planet.
Sitting down before reading I tried to come up with a solid answer to the question, “what is history?” The first answer that came to me was, “stuff that happened in the past”. Not too bad, nothing fancy but I thought it kind of got the gist of what history was, then I went to look for an actual dictionary definition. The online Oxford Dictionary states that history is, “The study of past events, particularly in human affairs: medieval European history”, I wasn’t too far off with my own off the cuff definition. I don’t feel as though these definitions are personal enough though. History is something that has been lived and experienced by the world and the people, animals and things that make it what it is. That is why, after completing our readings for this week I was over joyed to see that there was even more ways to define what history is.
According to leading historian, Carl Becker, history is “the memory of things said and done”, and it functions “as the artificial extension of the social memory”. As humans, we have a difficult time not forming connections between things and making them personal to ourselves. Although Professor Bailyn does not feel that Becker’s definition is complete he does express that it does function well for part of what humans need in this world, a connection. Why would you spend your time learning about something if it help no interest to you or you were unable to draw a connection between it and your life? I don’t think that many of us would, however, there is a great advantage to looking at what we are learning through a more personal lens. Take for example the Great Wall of China, could you image being one of those workers? The back breaking work lead to the death of so many people, stepping back and imagining yourself there can make learning about the building of a wall more interesting and much more of an impact to your life.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fadCAHjN-s (history song)
I was astonished at how well Zappa responded to the ideas of Alan Bloom. This may sound silly, but I was a little skeptical as to how well he would construct his responses. Today we hear artist’s opinions on critiques and sometimes they fall short of what one would hope to be an educated response. Zappa was well spoken and not very aggressive with his answers, he did not hold back what he thought but he didn’t result to being rude and mean.
Bloom accuses rock music as having dark forces, “To Plato and Nietzsche, the history of music is a series of attempts to give form and beauty to the dark, chaotic, premonitory forces in the soul- to make them serve a higher purpose, and ideal, to give man’s duties a fullness.” Zappa’s retorts that musicians are not writing with dark forces looking over their shoulder, they are busy with the process of producing a song. Zappa explains that believing rock music has dark forces involved is to have, “fallen for rock’s fabricated image of itself. This is the worst kind of ivory tower intellectualism.”- Musicians are not seeking to produce darkness, but they don’t have much control over what the big music companies do.
I did think it was interesting how Zappa agreed with Bloom at some points throughout the article. When Bloom addresses the business aspect of rock and roll Zappa does admit that there are some levels of truth to his statement, “The family spiritual void has left the field open to rock music… The result is nothing less than parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it. This has been achieved by an alliance of strange young males who have the gift of divining the mob’s emergent wishes- our versions of Thrasymachus, Socrates’ rhetorical adversary- and the record-company executives, the new robber barons, who mine gold out of rock.” I am glad that Zappa does recognize that the music companies do (did) take advantage of people, they advertise what they want to support as social norms and children are highly influenced. Zappa asks, “but how did we get to this point and what do we do about it?”. That’s so awesome, he doesn’t just agree and say, “yeah, that’s true”… He wants to be active and do something about it.
Overall I thought that Zappa handled himself very well when it comes to some attacking what he did for a living.
I found Stephen Greenblatt’s essay, “Culture”, to be very enlightening! When I first looked at the assignment for this week, I was a little apprehensive… what is meant by culture in a literary sense? It sounded like a good question and one I had never thought to answer before. So, I am glad that Greenblatt explained what he thought the definition of culture through works of literature meant with a style that was enjoyable to read.
Greenblatt explains that within every culture there are norms and excepted values that keep the culture running. So, when reading a book from a certain time period, you as the reader are given an opportunity to have a glimpse into that culture. “Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin” were written by the masterful Mark Twain. Twain did not write using big words that no one could understand, his characters spoke just like the young boys he grew up with and they had many similar adventures to that of the every day american boy living by the Mississippi.
Greenblatt explains that when authors write they are expressing the norms of their society. He brings up how in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”, the character Orlando is not upset because he is being left out of his patrimony because of his older brother, but because he has not be taught the “manners of his class” (Greenblatt pg 227). During the age of Shakespeare, family estates were primarily given to the eldest son. Pieces of literature are commentaries of the times in which they are written, even when Shakespeare was getting to the end of his career he wanted to write a play that had to do with what people found interesting. That happened to be the New World, so Shakespeare wrote “The Tempest” and his own adventures of sea travel and discovery were put down in verse.
I never really thought just how important societies influence was on literature, art and music. Well, I guess I did, I just never thought it was as interesting before. Throughout history artists have found their muse in the world around them, Shakespeare, Twain, Tolkien and now modern writers have their chance to put our cultures norms and values into printed word… How exciting!
I am going to go out on a limb and assume most of us could name at least one play written by the great William Shakespeare, most popular being the tragic tale of young love and loss in, Romeo and Juliet. Although this is a masterfully written piece of literature we read another one of Shakespeare’s plays for this week, The Tempest. This work is supposedly one of his last pieces written on his own and believed to have been written around 1610-1611. This play is full of forbidden love, power, humor, greed and revenge- but why is that such a big deal and why should English majors study Shakespeare? It’s a big deal because Shakespeare is able to pull it all off and still present us with a coherent piece of art, one we can understand, as the reader we can close our eyes and picture Miranda and Ferdinand looking into each others eyes for the first time and falling madly in love.
Shakespeare was a brilliant writer and he used over 32,000 words when he wrote all of his works, this is tremendous when compared to the King James Bible which uses roughly 8,000 words. I never knew where “in a pickle” came from until reading this play! Or maybe hearing a phrase a long the lines of, “What stuff dreams are made on”, I was not aware that was Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Not only did Shakespeare have a large vocabulary, he created words! Some examples would be; gossip, outbreak, laughable and so many more. He has such a command of the english language that he would use adjectives as nouns, “uncle me no uncle”.
Beyond his great abilities to professionally manipulate the english language in verse, Shakespeare had a great command on just how it felt to be human. He can write someone being mad, he can write someone in love, he can write about storms and shipwrecks and still keep the mood light at times by bringing in characters that less serious such as the jester who washed on to the island. Shakespeare understood the being humans means dealing with a mixture of emotions and he took that understanding and wrote it in his own words. I loved how Ferdinand addressed Miranda so sweetly, “precious creature”,”most dear mistress”, he really knew how to woo a lady! His characters are interesting and full of depth, not a one is flat and of no importance to his story. He develops his characters professionally and with care. His pieces of work are truly masterpieces that have withstood the test of time!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMkuUADWW2A (Short little cartoon flick on Shakespeare and the english language)
According to Merrium-Webster dictionary, Philosophy is, “the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.” I must admit, I have never considered myself much of a philosopher. I have always had a struggle when it comes to studying those ideas about knowledge, truth and the nature of the meaning of life. Don’t get me wrong, I find it enjoyable to listen to philosophers discuss amongst each other. One of my older brothers can sit and spill out philosophical thought as if he were sitting with Socrates himself. I have always been quite envious of these abilities, to question with such depth of thought and drive to always dig deeper into an answer given as justification to a question. According to Professor Fowler, philosophy attempts to keep ones ideas aimed at rational thought.
Socrates was a great philosopher, while reading Euthyphro I found Socrates never failed to ask the question, “why”. I thought maybe it would be interesting to go through the reading again and count just how many times Plato wrote his Socrates , “What is…?” and “Tell me”, and “?”. The two characters were going back and forth with questions and answers that would lead to even more questions and answers. I feel that a part of philosophy is being convicted by the questions you ask and the answers you give, there is always knowledge to be sought and truths to be explained.
That’s what Decartes sought to do in his writing Meditations. He went through philosophical steps to prove the existence of God and being human, he wanted to put forth logical, rational and consistent reasons for both. I took a philosophy of religion class over winter break and that made my brain hurt, no lie. Philosophy is tough, it is truly a challenge to some of us (cough, cough)- but I think that is the point. The questions it is attempting to answer are not simple, they are complex and messy. So, I give a big thumbs up to philosophers before and after us- thank you for rooting through the mess and pulling rational thoughts together for others to read and contemplate.
(A funny song I found about Socrates- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6dtYdKofsA)