Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Beloved Slaughterhouse

Procrastination usually doesn't payoff but today was an exception. I am actually glad I waited so long to write about Slaughterhouse-Five and Beloved because they both deal with something very vital to our lives. When asked what defines someone, I would have to say it is our experiences. (I’m sure I’m not the only one). Experiences are what displayed the difference between living and existing for character’s in both books. The suppression of memory Sethe and other character’s in Toni Morrison’s novel employed about their lives as slaves was detrimental to the way they lived. They were limited by what they refused to remember, giving them no room for growth. Instead, they sat there at 124 basically waiting for death with no goals or aspirations, basically being haunted by their brutal pasts steeped in abuse and murder. This confinement was self-inflicted because of a refusal to confront reality. When one refuses to accept (doesn’t mean they embrace it) what has happened to them it restricts a person from moving forward. Sure they can act like they’re through it but suppression still means they haven’t dealt with it and they’re not over it.
Billy Pilgrim relived a highlight tape of the moments he was living throughout his life. From Dresden to his death to the Tralfamadorians, his time travel placed him in moments that had the most impact on what made him a living human being and not just an existing one. This whole book got me thinking about what is the point in living. I came to the conclusion that there may be no point but that does not mean we should not take advantage of the opportunity. We’re here, we might as well make the best of it. I can’t believe I’m about to say this but I think apples envy us as humans. Apples live and then die and rot, if not eaten first. An apple looks at the lazy person not doing anything in their life with anger because of the opportunities the person has. The person can travel, go to concerts, baseball games, and fall in love… An apple can’t do that, but given the chance, I bet the apple would take advantage of it. Though life is filled with tragedy, there are good things that come along too and we can’t be afraid to live because of the possibility of a bad experience because the reward is greater than the risk.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Stranger

“Every man alive was privileged; there was only one class of men, the privileged class.” -Camus

The Stranger is the short story portrayal of a man recognizing his absurdity. Meursault is the character Camus pours his effort into to make his reader realize the point he’s trying to convey. One must recognize their absurdity to make meaning of their life, if not, they are just exist, not live. Though the book ends with execution instead of a new shot at life, Meusault finds peace in this and is ready to die. His acceptance of the end without any remorse shows that he has found the meaning in his living and he will die without regret. Meursault reaches the conclusion that his life was something well spent and he did not have to seek or gain the approval of anyone else. Furthermore, Meursault does not look for solace in the concept of an afterlife. Not to say anyone who does that is not living, it’s just one of the things specific to his character that makes him alive. This nonconformist attitude towards a heaven or hell or whatever afterlife one might believe shows Meursault’s independence and how he is not willing to sacrifice his thoughts to appease another person. As his life comes to a close, Meursault realizes that we are all privileged to have the opportunity to live, what we do with that opportunity is up to us.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Metamorphosis

Kafka's novella gives the reader a sense of how Gregor sees life from two viewpoints. I feel that Gregor never truly "lived" but he "existed" obviously. He goes through life working and supporting his family with no chance for growth. This daily routine of Gregor's prevents him from ever being able to truly start his life and gain experiences that make life worth living. His transformation into a bug is the only highlight of a mundane existence. This event extremely alters his life such that he becomes even more trapped and taken for granted. He's stuck in the same room all day and his family says things like “But how can it be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would have long ago realized that a communal life among human beings is not possible with such a creature and would have gone away voluntarily” (Kafka). Saying this shows how the family sees Gregor as a burden. This is the largest example of the miserable existence. This is my extreme example of existing versus living.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Portrait of Living

"The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful" (Joyce 180).

Stephen Dedalus, the young man Joyce shows his reader's in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is constantly caught in the conflict between living and existing. The reader sees Stephen as a youth, basically existing to please others. This loss of individuality in his adolescence contributes to his confusion with what he wants to do in life. I did not identify Stephen as a living character until he began to experiment with his own choices. When he falls victim to his own desires and sleeps with a prostitute, we see Stephen make a choice of his own and though he feels he has sinned afterwards, he finally does something for himself and deals with the consequences as does any living person. Stephen’s acts make him think and mature into someone he wants to be. He moves away from a focus on belief in God and moves more towards aestheticism. His interest in aesthetic beauty aids him in becoming the artist he always wanted to be. Stephen’s transformation from a sheltered boy to a self-satisfied man show that he has lived and not existed. If he was just an existing character, we would not have seen any excitement in Stephen’s life and therefore this book would’ve been very boring. Existing people don’t have a story. They have nothing that has impacted so much to the point where they want to pursue any desires or their purpose in life.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rivers and Tides Reflection

Andrew Goldsworthy. Now that's a man who's living. I wish I had the luxury he has, he does whatever he feels like with his art and doesn't have to worry about his financial state because apparently he's equipped with a nice trust fund. He's the antithesis of the guy waking up to his mediocre 9 to 5 with his mundane lifestyle. The highlights of the 9 to 5 man's week are Monday Night Football and that paycheck on Friday so he can splurge during the weekend and then he gets back to the same existence on Monday. Goldswothy wakes up and goes outside and then he sees nature. He soaks in all this nature and creates something new and beautiful everyday and he loves doing it. He has no boss, he just does whatever he envisions. That's living, the freedom to pursue whatever you want to do. That's not the reality most of us exist in though, so we have to pick up the moments in which we're living in intervals. I wish everyone had the chance to live like Goldsworthy for a while and do what they love minus all the worries. I wonder if people would be generally happier if they had the opportunity to live like this guy for just a week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

King Lear: The Cons of Living

The experiences had by the characters in Shakespeare's King Lear show what living is. Living is not always a positive experience as evidenced by King Lear’s struggle throughout the play. First, he loses his power to daughter’s that never loved him and then he loses the only daughter that did indeed love him. Living is about the good and the bad, existing doesn’t involve either of the two, it’s a numbness that allows you to survive without feeling joy or pain. Shakespeare expresses the cons of living throughout this play. Not only with loss of love, but also with loss of life, power, and sanity. Gloucester loses faith in his son under false pretenses and his paranoia drives him to the point of insanity. Though Gloucester acts nobly in showing loyalty to Lear his actions have horrible consequences which cause him to get his eyes gouged out. Lear’s loss of power over his Kingdom leaves him to go insane as well. He’s so far gone in fact, that the fool is portrayed as a wiser man.
All this loss shows how living can be a dreadful experience at times. Fortunately, without all these hardships, we wouldn’t realize the good things in life as well. Honestly, I believe we’d take the good things we’ve got for granted if we didn’t witness hard times as well. As Curtis Jackson once said “Joy wouldn’t be so good, if it weren’t for pain.” That’s why living is so much better than simply existing. You feel it all. Existing you feel nothing, you just are what you are with no sense of pleasure or anguish. To me, that’s misery. Imagine a joyless life and see if you agree.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Big Question: First Entry

My big question is: What is the difference between living and existing? I have been interested in this question for quite a long time now because I thought of it one day after seeing existing as a synonym to living and for some reason I found it hard to agree with that. Existing is the limbo you’re in between being alive and being dead. Existing is maintaining an average life without doing anything out of the ordinary. Living is the uniqueness one obtains and projects throughout the duration of their life. Living is going through life, the good and the bad, the pleasure and the pain. You can either live life doing the things you like and having an impact on people or you can exist as many do just doing what they can to survive and not achieve much else.

Oedipus Rex relates to this question by showing that Oedipus is a person who lived, not just merely existed. Oedipus’ life is riddled with trouble as he is predestined to kill his father and marry his mother. That is far from a mundane lifestyle.

"Ah! my poor children, known, ah, known too well,
The quest that brings you hither and your need.
Ye sicken all, well wot I, yet my pain,
How great soever yours, outtops it all."

Here Oedipus explains the pain that he experiences in life after unknowingly succumbing to his fate. He explains no matter how bad the struggles of his children are, he still had it worse because of all that he has lived through. The problems Oedipus faces make him a prime example of a person that has lived because he escaped the mold of normality by being placed in a horrible situation. An example of him just existing would have been if he grew up under the house of his biological parents and obtained the throne as a regular king would have. Also he would have had a family of his own and not have his wife be his own mother. That’s an expected life, therefore it is existence and not living.

My summer reading book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, shows a great example of a person who was simply existence and then worked his way into living. Sammy Clay is a character in Michael Chabon’s book who is a homosexual who lives in denial throughout the majority of his life. Finally he openly admits to being a homosexual in a public forum and feels as if he is liberated from his mental entrapment. Sammy could’ve continued his life after coming out as a guy working with his cousin in New York, but he decided to take a risk and move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television. Taking risks is a large component when answering what constitutes living.