Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Myself moving forward then and now and forever"

Another American Lit response paperrrrrr.

I think I'm going to talk about three different things that, at the moment, have nothing in common, but maybe by the end they'll have some sort of connection.

The first topic I wanted to discuss comes from Walk Whitman's "Song of Myself". Section 28 seems to be about touch. He describes touch in such a way as if it is violating or raping him. I can understand how this section might be about sin or thoughts unwanted, but I'm going to pretend it's about touch. What really got me interested in this section was the last two lines; "You villain touch! What are you doing? My breath is tight in its throat, unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me." I've never really thought about touch. Of course when something pleasing or uncomfortable comes along I notice it. But I never really thought about what touch is. It's so common and always there, almost insignificant in light of all the other things going on. Though, in reality, it is all things going on, isn't it? If the world is how we perceive it, and touch is one of the six tools of our perception, then touch is part creator of our world around us? I feel like suddenly enlightened! The way Whitman describes touch seems to be completely correct to me, in a way. What we feel, physically, is uncontrollable on our part. We cannot control the sensations we get on any part of our body by the surrounding world. We are essentially always being raped and violated by everything else physical.

In the same poem, Whitman also comments on reality, saying "I accept Reality and dare not question it." This brings me to my second topic of believing what's in front of you, or listening to those assuming and uncontrollable thoughts we call our intuition. In Herman Melville's "Benito Cereno", Captain Delano is a very optimistic and unassuming man. He goes aboard a sketchy ship, which seems to be in distress, and tries to lend a hand. Throughout the story, things are happening around him, giving him "clues" that something is not how it seems. But, Captain Delano, being the positive man that he is, fights his assuming thoughts, and tries to stick to the facts he is presented, believing everything he is told and shown. By the reader, this may be viewed as naïve, but had Delano reacted to his first suspicion, thinking the ship was a pirate ship, he would have been wrong. Also, had he allowed those thoughts to permeate, creating imaginary stories of what could be, he may have reacted in a way that could have gotten him killed. The mind is a very powerful thing; it can create separate and very believable realities, different from the one which is perceived by our six senses. This is demonstrated by the narrators in Poe's "Ligeia" and "William Wilson". Therefore, I think it's important to always question, but never to over react on assumptions, which is what Captain Delano did. So, perhaps Captain Delano is a wise man, and not so much naive.

The third topic I want to talk about also deals with reality; the reality in death. Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" is a great representation of the progression of life during and after death. In "Song of Myself" Whitman states his belief of death, "The smallest sprout shows there is really no death." With a belief such as this one, one would think that this man might celebrate "death", and not mourn it. But, as shown in the beginning of "Lilacs", when death is something close and present in his life, Whitman does mourn and is put in a state of depression and deep sorrow. Though, as time moves forward and the poem progresses, Whitman joins his belief in the celebration of death, because it isn't at the moment present. I think Whitman sees this cycle of contradiction he makes and states it in the third line of the poem "I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring." With every death he will mourn, even if he believes in his mind that death is celebratory, when it becomes a reality, he unwillingly will feel the sorrow. I mentioned before that the mind can create separate realities, and here, I think it is an example. We can take everything presented to us in life, and deal with it and mold it into whatever we want to. Death seems to be the worst possible outcome, especially for those we love. It is inevitable to feel sorrow when it happens and is present, but we can choose to allow the thoughts to permeate our lives and destroy us with this sorrow, or we can look at it under a new light, make peace with it, and believe that the dead is in fact living, just in a different form. Yay! I made connections.

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