Beloved Soundtrack Suggestion

A year from now we’ll all be gone

All our friends will move away

And they’re going to better places

But our friends will be gone away

The song begins with a bittersweet note about friends moving away to better places, but still not knowing if your will ever really see them again. In Beloved, Sethe leaves behind Sweet Home to be ‘in a better place,’ knowing she may never see the people there again. Also, there is also another ‘better place’ mentioned in the story because she murders and attempts to murder her children, so they can escape slavery and die, because death is a better place than slavery.

Nothing is as it has been

And I miss your face like Hell

And I guess it’s just as well

But I miss your face like Hell

The next verse talks about how much a life can change when someone is absent. This reminds me of a lot of the characters in this story, but in specific the mothers who lost their children in the book. Never being able to see them grow up, Baby Suggs, Sethe, and Sethe’s mother all dealt with the pain of never seeing their child’s faces again because of something out of their control. To the point that ‘I guess it’s just as well’ because they had to find a way to not attach themselves to the babies.

Been talking ’bout the way things change

And my family lives in a different state

And if you don’t know what to make of this

Then we will not relate

This verse relates to Sethe and Paul D’s relationship. After so many years, they are different people, yet they still remember what they went through. However Sethe is very distant from her family, with the death of her husband and trauma ridden relationship with her kids. Paul D has to accept her for all that she is.

Rivers and Roads

Rivers and Roads

Rivers till I reach you

As the final chorus repeats, almost like a mantra, one can think of the distance, time, and death between us and those in our past. Sethe literally crossed rivers and roads to get away from Sweet Home, just like so many other slaves who made the same journey. In this context, ‘You’ might represent freedom, because there is no other choice but to keep crossing ‘rivers till I reach you’ because the alternative is unbearable.

Phones – connecting disconnectors

Image result for connected world clipart

In Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West,” one of his focuses is the effect of smartphones in the human and migrant experience. In the novel, Nadia and Saeed differ in their relationships to their phones: Saeed tries to limit his use to an hour a day as to not get lost, and Nadia fills her loneliest time.

The phones are both a tool and a problem in our lives. We are infinitely connected to all parts of the world, can instantly reach out to friends, and have knowledge at our fingertips. However, they also isolate us socially from the physical world around us, serve as crutches when people forget how to small talk, and a source of stress for those who suffer from “Nomophobia”(the fear of being without a phone).

In their phones were antennas, and these antennas sniffed out an invisible world, as if by magic, a world that was all around them, and also nowhere, transporting them to places distant and near, and to places that had never been and would never be

– Mohsin Hamid

Nadia’s strong affinity for the internet may also have been the reason why she was able to adapt better than Saeed to the new places they lived. Yet, also a way that the couple distanced themselves, finding it too tiresome to try to interact when they were together, opting to scrolling the web. Thus, Hamid argues that in the migrant experience phones are both useful distractors, and also disconnectors at a time when one needs to find a community.

Existentialism and “The Good Place”

*SPOILERS AHEAD!*

“The Good Place” is set in a world where your afterlife is calculated by a complex point system determining if you spend eternity in The Good Place or The Bad Place (or in one very rare case the Medium Place). The show begins with certain demon, Michael, creating a special and revolutionary way to torture people without them even knowing – making them believe they are in the Good Place, but secretly make them miserable.

The selfish Eleanor Shellstrop is made to believe she has been placed by mistake when she is told about an amazing life she never led. Indecisive ethics professor Chidi becomes the confidant of Eleanor, and thus put in a stressful moral dilemma. Over-privileged and attention seeking Tahani is tortured by mentions of her overshadowing sister, and Floridian Jason is placed in the afterlife of a monk who has vowed silence.

However, one problem arises in Michael’s scheme: all 4 characters become better people and uncover that they are not in fact in the Good Place in every single simulation he runs. Micheal begins to see that maybe something isn’t wrong with his model, perhaps something is wrong with the system itself. Meanwhile, his boss, Shawn, finds out that he has been failing to torture the humans, and threatens to take away Michael’s immortality in court.

When faced with the possibility of death, Michael begins to question everything he is doing with his existence, and then the meaning of life itself in a full blown Existential Crisis.

Searching for meaning is philosophical suicide. How does anyone do anything when you understand the fleeting nature of existence?

Micheal, “The Good Place,” S2E4: Existential Crisis

Chidi, the ethics professor, seized this opportunity to explain that, yes the world is absurd and meaningless, but now that you know that, you are free to do whatever you want in this world. You can break free of the constructs in your life and create a new meaning for your existence.

In the end, Michael decides that since in the afterlife, everytime without fail, each ‘bad’ person became a good one, than maybe it wasn’t something wrong with the people, but something wrong with Earth. Taking away the complexities of the world, actions do not harbor any hidden consequences. Explained below by Michael to The Judge:

skip to 1:35 for the tomato example

Michael decides to commit his existence to changing the point system that is failing humanity in the afterlife. Thus, in this example, existentialism is not just a depressing realization that everything we think we know about life is meaningless, instead it is a means to reexamine what YOU want to do with your life, and not what society tells you to want. Existentialism allows Michael to be free from his constructed roll as a torturer, giving him a sense of true gratitude for his existence.

“No Beauty is Really a Beauty”

Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box” seems to comment on the role of women in a number of ways. First through her contrast of the agent and the “beauties” of the story, and also by revealing the circumstances of the agent, making the reader question whether or not her service is purely a self-motivated act of patriotism.

We find that in this world the purpose and goal of women is “to be a lovely, innocuous, evolving surprise” (16) Using the mask of gender, the narrator is able to go undetected in the highly patriarchal society, and more importantly to her “Designated Mate.” While she is initially portrayed as a subject, all the other beauties are objects, referred to by a quality of appearance and not personality or thought.

Egan may be revealing that underneath the appearances, all the women are much more than meets the eye, but her comment on society seems to dig much deeper when the reader considers why she is on the mission in the first place.

Through a number of context clues we can find that her ‘voluntary’ service may be motivated by more reasons than personal victory or sacrifice. For one, during intimate encounters, she repeats “Remind yourself that you aren’t being paid”(7), and she reflects that “America is your husband’s chosen country, and that he loves it”(15). Her husband is a high level engineer, creating a lot of the tech for this mission. This is indicates that she might have been persuaded to go, instead of really wanting to. Additionally, she mentions that she waited to have children until after the mission, causing me to wonder if that was her decision, or a trade-off that she has go on the mission before her husband will have kids with her.

Another important detail is that her father is a famous movie star who never knew she existed. Listing the reasons why she cannot die, she writes “You need to tell the movie star that he has an eighth child and that she is a hero”

“Reflect on the many reasons you can’t yet die:

You need to see your husband

You need to have children

You need to tell the movie star that he has an eighth child and that she is a hero”

20

Thus, the reasons why she is going on the mission are for her husband and her father – two men. She is being used by the MALE/female power dynamic, and despite her crucial service for her country, she is still seen as and object and an expendable means of gathering information.

In this way, she is just as much a “beauty” as all the other women.