Does the Sidewalk End?

“Open Road” by Roo Panes from the Weight Of Your World EP is a sweet song essentially about living life to the fullest potential while keeping home and family close. Although the meaning isn’t blatantly obvious, the listener is able to take from it what they want. When I listen, I focus on how the song is broadening my view of my own place in the world. I am reminded of the importance of living as free as possible, that our only real bounds are the ones we create for ourselves. There are a number of paths we can follow throughout our lives and all we have to do is start walking.

The song starts off with a hyperbole pertaining to an emotional state we all know too well. Sadness. 

And even from afar I hear you crying

Verse 1

This lyric is not meant to be taken literally. Panes is commenting on the strength of the emotion carrying from one person to the other without direct communication. Sadness is such a raw emotion that even when someone seems fine, anyone who knows them best can see through it. This is a powerful line as it suggests that someones sadness is so “loud” that it can be heard from far far away. 

The chorus is first accompanied by a Metaphor.

Let me out of this cage, ‘fore I swell up with rage

Chorus

Panes is obviously talking about a metaphorical cage here. It is a cage of our own making that limits us to certain gratifications in life. Using diction like “cage” creates an image that is easily understood especially in the context of a fast paced song.

The chorus also consists of personification of the sky. 

Let me shout to the skies that I’m too young to die

Chorus

This line can be interpreted a number of ways. Depending on how the listener interprets the lyric, the sky could be God, “the universe”, a different higher power, or the sky and world as in everything under the sun. As someone who is agnostic, I interpreted this line as simply the sky, in which case I consider this line to be personification since a sky cannot hear or receive a verbal shout. This line is also comforting in a number of ways as a seemingly much needed release of fears and emotions. 

The third verse utilizes one more lyric of personification. 

Wisdom knows the eyes through which you’re crying 

Verse 3

This line suggests that one emotion, which in this case is most likely sadness, is one dimensional on a unique multi-dimensional individual. We are so much more than one state of emotion, and as the eyes are the window to the soul, wisdom can see through the eyes into who you truly are. However, as we know, wisdom is not an actual person and that is where personification comes in as a useful device here. 

The purpose of this song is to comfort its listeners. Through the use of several poetic devices along with a steady tempo and voice, this song certainly achieves that.

Exit West: We are all The Others

In the novel Exist West, Mohsin Hamid comments on the concept of the “others”. He demonstrates that anyone can be seen as an other depending on factors such as time and space. As Nadia and Saeed travel from place to place throughout the novel, Hamid depicts their journeys as empty and unfulfilling because they are seen as the outsiders. Who makes them feel this way? And why? 

We have all experienced this feeling (although possibly less drastic than this case) at some point in our lives. Vacationing in another country, moving to a new school or town, even walking in to school on the first day as a freshman. As I think more about this, I have realized that in some of these cases, we decide we are the “other” and therefore act as one in an effort to avoid intrusion. However in the case of Exist West, Nadia and Saeed are not at fault and are unable to control what someone else perceives. They come from a different country, a different background, a different culture, marking them as different, even when relation is not exclusive to where we were brought up. 

Hamid touches on this subject again towards the end of the novel through the maid.

“…and she felt she was a small plant in a small patch of soil held between the rocks of a dry and windy place, and she was not wanted by the world, and here she was at least known, and she was tolerated, and that was a blessing” (Camus, 224).

The maid is describing her experience towards being an “other”. Feeling unimportant and unwanted in the large world, she finds security in her occupation as she feels needed and appreciated. 

We all may feel like the “other” at some point, and that is almost unavoidable. We cannot control how we are seen, but what we can control is how we act in those situations. We can either accept our fate or turn the tables in discovering a new part of ourselves in appreciation for human connection despite the differing odds.

One Single Truth?

I have always been a realist, I was baptized catholic but have been lapsed since birth. Without religion, my life has been fairly open ended. I do not have a straight answer for the question of “what happens when we die?”, although I used to think I had it all figured out. I used to firmly believe it was lights out, nothing. I lived my life this way up until a month ago. A month ago was when my dog died. People who have never had a pet don’t understand the pain of losing one, but it is a greater pain than anything I have ever felt in my entire life. I have dealt with a great deal of death in my life, friends, uncles, grandparents, but this pain did not compare. It got me to thinking, I really do hope there is something that comes after life. I do not like to think of my fuzzy little man sitting in darkness for the rest of his life because I know that he is up chasing squirrels in doggy heaven.

As Evil Mr. Heidkamp argued in class, 2020 is most definitely proof that God does not exist, and I agree. 2020 was confirmation of this theory but I have always felt this way about religion. In The Stranger by Albert Camus, Mersault expresses his views on God, “I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God”(Camus, 120). I completely agree with his statement. I once had a friend who told me, “My life is just a staircase to heaven and with each new day, I need to do everything I can to move up a step”. The irony was that she was not a very good friend or person. However, that statement makes me weep internally. Living your life with the fear of going to hell or elsewhere is not a healthy way to live. You should live your life as a good person because that is the good thing to do, not because of an external motive.

There are times where I wish I was raised believing in God. Sometimes that is the easiest answer when life gets hard. Nevertheless, I personally see God as a lie and I do not want to live life in a lie. I find peace in knowing that I came to this conclusion on my own. I was not specifically raised as an atheist, a catholic, or agnostic. If I wanted to go to church, I could have gone with my grandmother. I have read portions of The Bible and decided on my own that this violent, sexist, and extremely self-contradicting book is not something that I would be proud of supporting. I was given opportunities to research and observe other religions, and I was allowed to not believe in any of it as I did for so long. Now, I am allowed to accept that I do not know and I may never know, and that is okay.

Stigmatizing Mental Illness in We Have Always Lived in the Castle

This Summer I read We Have Always Lived in The Castle by Shirley Jackson. One of my favorite books, The Haunting of Hill House, was also written by Shirley Jackson, so I was thrilled when I discovered that this book was a summer reading option. I admire Jackson’s writing for her eerie and whimsical touch. This particular novel tells the story of two sisters, Constance and Merricat Blackwood. Besides their uncle Julian, the rest of their family is dead. Constance was, six years prior, accused of murdering the family. Therefore, Merricat and Constance are both feared and hated by the entire town and only go in twice a week for groceries, but even that is a trying task. 

The narrator, Merricat, is odd. She is ostracized from the town for seeming weird and detached, and even as the reader, her narrations at times do not seem to be based in reality. 

“I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both of my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita Phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead” (Jackson, 1). 

Jackson’s commentary on mental illness is reflected in Merricat. As Merricat is clearly still traumatized by the incident from six years ago, she carries the weight of that to this day. Her mental illness is stigmatized and not understood by those in the town. Instead, she is judged and horribly mistreated, “as close to me as he could come because, I knew, he wanted this morning to be bad luck for me” (Jackson, 12). Nobody in the town sympathizes with Merricat and as the reader, this is hard to understand. Throughout the novel, I found myself constantly sympathizing with Merricat and Constance because of their despairing past. Sadly, mental illness is still stigmatized today even though society as a whole is making active strives to do better by accepting one another for our differences.

Acknowledge

After reading this story, I was thinking a lot about Benjamin and mutual recognition. You could argue that there is absolutely no mutual recognition demonstrated between the experimenters and the inmates. However, since the inmates ultimately have to say a consent word to allow the experiments to “drip on”, I argue that there is a small portion of mutual recognition. Nevertheless, the experimenters still see the inmates as objects to use in their lab. “On the other hand, Rachel may be stronger. She seems a little larger.” “She’s actually a little smaller,” Verlaine said. “Well maybe she’s tougher,” Absenti said.” Absenti was coming up with nonfactual excuses to manipulate Jeff into allowing the experiment to continue without his supposed uninfluenced consent.