Life is not a gift

This is just my current perspective, it’s completely subjective, and it definitely stems from self hatred and projection, so there is no real philosophical validity in my thoughts. Regardless, here they are: There is this thing called optimistic bias that overrides any potential validity to an existential argument. Claiming life in general is a gift is a very selfish mindset. claiming that the overwhelmingly incomprehensible amount of suffering on this planet is a gift just because you are alive is straight sociopathic. We all claim to look for the best in life while still wearing our “good person” hats just so we don’t have to accept the actual unbearable pain that others go through. The human ego is unbelievably disturbing and the internal reactions you have in reading this is proof. The feeling of, “oh but I’m not like that, I truly care” No you don’t. You feel empathy, yes, we all do, but you don’t truly care and I don’t truly care. My proof is that I’m here typing this and you’re here reading it when we both know this accomplishes nothing and helps absolutely no one but yourself (also myself) and your ego for thinking your perspective on the world holds some magical levity that makes you a good person. This isn’t calling out anyone in particular because it’s all of us. We simply cannot care about anything more than our own lives for survival. I am a hypocrite, we all are. The counter argument to this is that “you can’t just decide that for everyone.” And you’re right, I didn’t decide it, your biology and internal subconscious defense mechanisms did. Why did my parents have me? To give their lives meaning? Why do we all want to have kids? To give all our lives meaning? It’s selfish to ignore what’s going on and pretend you’re above your biology. It’s literally engrained into us to reproduce like every single animal on the planet, we just attach some “deeper meaning” to it because we don’t want to accept the fact that this decision was made for us when we were born. There is no reason to have kids that doesn’t involve the parents desires. But what if you want your kid to have a good life? What if you’re going to raise him well and give him a happy environment? This is where our ignorance comes full circle; there is still all the unbearable meaningless suffering in the world. It didn’t go away just because you were able to ignore it and focus on your kid. Again, I am not better than anyone. I suck as much as everyone else, but trying to force “self love” into my head as an excuse to not think about the truth in front of me is so conflicting. Yes! Amazing! Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t have to think about it all the time! I don’t have to constantly have the weight of suffering I could never understand on my shoulders because it’s not happening to me! I can stare at my phone and feel like a good person because I’m “against bad”. This article is meaningless, it accomplishes nothing. Our thoughts on how the world works and should be perceived are meaningless because of the infinite amount of experiences we’ve never had. I don’t know why I’m sharing this, It goes against the basis of what I’m saying, but it also goes with it as I also suck. I also think that my privileged view of how the world is meant to be perceived is correct. It’s something I can’t control and you can’t either. The ego hates to be wrong. It denies it but it absolutely hates it. At least our generation is wasting time online rather than having eight kids because they were bored. Moral of the story is I literally don’t know anything and your interpretations on the morality of the subject are completely valid as to pretend I understand anything is narcissistic; also, please adopt.

Rethinking What Really Matters

Life is short so it is important to focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t. The most important things in life are not our phones, TVs, new cars or big impressive houses and they can not be found at the bank. In reality the most important things in life are on a very short list. The most important things in life are our purpose, time, health and our relationships with others. You can have many material things in life and be a millionaire but nothing will fulfill you like those four things.

Purpose is our why. It was controls and fuels our actions. It causes us to be passionate about things. And it is involved in everything you do in life; work, relationships and our approach to living our lifes. It means living your life in an intentional way and it gives you extra meaning and a deeper sense of self.

Next is time. Everyone has the same amount of time in their day; twenty-four hours. But some people run around stressed complaining that they do not have enough time while others approach life in a relaxed state but still seem to get just as much done. Many people make poor choices when it comes to time management on a daily basis. Each time you say yes to doing something for someone else, you are saying no to doing somthing for yourself. Time is a fleeting resource, once it is spent you cannot get it back so it is very important to be selective with the time you have. This is difficult if you are spending your entire day doing school work for different classes or working multiple jobs. What you can do is find small pockets of time to invest in passions, projects and self care. Though your job may be to care for someone else, it is so necessary to care for yourself along the way.

Third is health. Many people take their health for granted until they have a reason not to. Many neglect to exercise and then find themselves wonderingwhy the struggle to climb up a flight of stairs. It is important to take care of one of the most important things in your life because anything could happen at any moment and take it away.

Lastly, in my opinion the most important aspect of life is your relationships. Many people lead very busy lives which causes them to think they don’thave enough time for relationships. However, that busyness is created by yourself. That means it is important to step away from it and focus on the relationships you are neglecting. Your friends, family and loved ones are what add meaning to your life. You MUST make time for these relationships. Being busy is fine if your busy with the most essential things in your life like your relationships.

Purpose, time, health and loved ones. These are the things that make life more complete so it is important to treat them accordinly

Follow Your Own Destiny

This summer I started watching the Avatar the Last AirBender series, which takes place in a world where people can bend the 4 elements; water, fire, earth, and air. It follows a group of friends helping an all powerful bender, called Ang, the Avatar. This story shows the kids powerful growth and strength as individuals, and lessons about choosing your own destiny. From this series the most powerful quote I can pull is from a wise character, “it’s time to look inwards and begin asking yourself: who are you? and what do you want?” 

This series shares similar overarching greater human truths with Escape From Spiderhead. That which argues that humans are innately empathetic and are against conflicting pain on another innocent human. In this story we follow a group of teens who’ve committed crimes, and are sent to a facility that unethically performs out of body tests on them. Readers find the struggle in an unequal power dynamic, of the oppressed and oppressor. While the characters struggle with their emotions and inability to inflict pain on other patients. In the end of the story where Jeff refuses to give consent to take the drug and start the trial. This scene shows your ability to choose your own destiny and that the path our basic human principles (compassion and family) that we follow unknowingly. As Jeffs suicide to escape the system, lays way to a underlying greater human truth, that humans have a inhearit deposition to follow compassion. 

Similarly the actions and tests all these characters face shows us how empathy and freedom drive humans. As both these stories fight for freedom from oppression, driving a final question to question.  What side of the conflict are you on, good or evil? Additionally start wondering, are you following your destiny? Or someone else’s destiney for you?  

The Motif of Pappachi’s Moth

Pappachi’s moth is introduced at the beginning of the novel. It is the moth that he discovered but he did not get credit for. His moth also marks the beginning of his abusive tendencies towards Mammachi.  The moth represents his anger and the fear in others that accompanies his temper tantrums. It is said that Pappachi’s moth haunts the family,  “tormented him and his children and his children’s children,” (24). But in a broader sense, the moth symbolizes any uncomfortable feelings in uncontrollable situations.

The moth becomes most prevalent for Rahel. In situations where she feels scared and out of control, Arundhati Roy places descriptive imagery to depict the moth landing, tiptoeing, and envolepoing Rahel’s heart. An example of this is when Ammu tells Rahel that when she hurts people, they love them less. Roy describes, ” A cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel’s heart. Where its icy legs touched her, she got goosebumps. Six goosebumps on her careless heart. A little less her Ammu loved her” (104). This is a scary moment for Rahel. Her mother just told her that her careless words made her love Rahel less. Especially for a child, that is very frightening and unexpected. Rahel doesn’t want her mother to love her less, and feels guilty, and so the moth lands on her heart to remind us of Rahel feeling insecure. The moth motif continues throughout the novel, and comes back at one of the most critical points of the novel as well, specifically when Esta and Rahel lose Sophie Mol to the river. Roy depicts, “On Rahel’s heart Pappachi’s moth snapped open its somber wing” (295). Again, Rahel feels unsure, scared, and as though she might have just killed her cousin. This causes the moth to come back. Another interesting thing about this passage is that it suggests that the moth never truly leaves Rahel, it just opens at certain times. This connects to the idea that Pappachi’s moth will truly haunt his descendants forever, never leaving their hearts. Finally, I would like to point out that the moth also seems to become present at times when Rahel is exposed to darker feelings and emotions. Feeling of abandonment and of fear of murder are not typical feelings small children have. The moth is there to guide Rahel into more adult feelings that contrast her normally childlike manner.

God of Small Things and its Showcase of Broken Rules

I would like to start off with my opinion of novel, and I must say, it was not necessarily a favorite. I think the imagery throughout the novel was nice, and I enjoyed how certain characters developed throughout the story. But many times I was left absolutely confused. I think that may have been intentional as questions I had were answered throughout the story, but I think it being written that was didn’t allow readers to truly make connections with the characters and their stories and personal struggles. My favorite character was Velutha, simply because he seemed to have the most depth in character in my opinion.

Although I was not the hugest fan of the novel, I liked how it highlighted the breaking of a number of societal norms, whether they were specific to Ayemenem or just in general.

The first one I noticed was the number of failed marriages. I think divorce is still something people feel ashamed about today (although they should not) and it was interesting to see that almost everyone that was once married in the novel was either divorced or had a terrible marriage (like in Ammu’s mother’s case). And despite it being common in her family, it was still not common in her community. The text states,

Within the first few months of her return to her parents’ home, Ammu quickly learned to recognize and despise the ugly face of sympathy. Old female relations with incipient beards and several wobbling chins made overnight trips to Ayemenem to commiserate with her about her divorce. They squeezed her knee and gloated. She fought off the urge to slap them. Or twiddle their nipples. With a spanner. (43)

Ammu was still treated as if her situation was terrible and incredibly unfortunate just because she was divorced.

Another societal norm that was broken in the novel was the idea of a loving and supportive mother. Ammu seemed anything but that most of the time. She obviously loved her kids, but her love for them was often volatile and detached. Ammu literally said that she “loved her children but their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them — just as an education, a protection(pg 42).” I don’t really think that’s much of a nurturing mother way of thinking. And when she did things like shrug her kids off when they were embracing her, or telling Rahel she loved her less the epitome of a detached love that lacks insight on how her actions affect her children.

There is also the biggest societal role broken when Rahel and Estha slept together, which I really did not enjoy (but I’m sure that was the point). I was kind of expecting it as the book went on and highlighted their closeness and their “oneness.” But it was just so weird.

Sex, Gender, and Orientalism

Typical examples of Orientalism, at least historical examples, seem to have a preoccupation with gender, power, and sex. In the interview with Edward Said, many paintings are shown depicting women in positions of sensual weakness, either being generally exposed or being aggressively handled by men. This idea of women being sexual objects to be used by men carries over into many of the more popular concepts in Orientalism. The concept of the harem, for example, is one where several women are in a sense owned by one central man and are used by him for sex, often existing in addition to the man’s wife or wives.

There is also the concept, popular in times of over conflict between the United States and the Middle East, of the ravaging Middle Eastern man sexually assaulting women and children in battle. This concept is not exclusive to Oriental/Middle Eastern stereotypes, but it goes hand in hand with depictions of Islam in Middle Eastern countries being one with female oppression and assault at its core.

Finally, I want to talk about the concept of Middle Eastern women being commodities not only for Middle Eastern men to consume, but for Western men to consume. Even in children’s films such as Aladdin, the main woman, Jasmine, is shown in clothing that is often associated with belly dancing. Belly dancing itself is largely considered sensual, centered around the movement of the hips. Its typical clothing involves a low-rise skirt and something to cover the chest, with flowing fabric that moves with the dancing. When Googling belly dancing in order to write this, I found YouTube videos with “sexy” and “hot” in the descriptions. I also found some Halloween costumes for children, which I don’t have much to say about as an intellectual point. Just thought it was weird.

What is up with this preoccupation with Middle Eastern people as either sexual objects or sexual aggressors? As to the sexual objects, I think it has something to do with how India and the Middle East were (and still are) viewed as commodities themselves. Colonialism views the world as full of things to be taken and owned. Often times, those things include people. White, straight men traveled around the world and took everything they possibly could. In a way, portraying these women as scantily-clad, sensual women that were regularly dominated by the men in their countries already made it seem as though they were asking for it. Asking to be dominated, abused, and owned by the white colonialists. For the men, I think it has something to do with similarly justifying the violence and ownership of themselves, their possessions, and their land. When we portray people as savages, less than human, it makes it that much easier to abuse their rights.

Check out this video by Lindsay Ellis if you’re interested in Orientalism and musical theatre; it’s a fascinating breakdown of one of the more obscure, yet fetishized characters from Phantom of the Opera.

If Covid-19 Began in Italy…

Hello all! This has been an interesting break from school to say the least. From reading the news about the spreading virus and its global impact, I thought that Edward Said’s novel, Orientalism, tied perfectly into the current state of the world.

Orientalism is essentially the lens in which the West looks through at the East. Throughout history, it has been seen that the East is portrayed as the “other”, seeming to be far different from Western society. Orientalism, therefore has made it very easy for prejudices in the West to be formed against the East.

We all are aware that Covid-19 can be traced back to Wuhan, China; with many sources pointing to the large animal market in the city as being the epicenter of the virus. At the beginning of the outbreak, when the virus was primarily only seen in Wuhan, I saw many disturbing posts directed towards marginalizing and blaming Chinese people. For example, there were images surfacing of a woman eating bat soup (presumably in China), and without even knowing the source of the photo I heard people were BLAMING the virus on that one woman/the people in China eating bat soup. In addition to this, The President also stated in one of his tweets that this was a “Chinese Virus”. Although yes, the origin of the virus was in China, placing such a name on the virus only leads to racism and discrimination! (There are many more examples of racism I saw online, these just stood out the most to me).

For starters, blaming anything on a group of people/race marginalizes that group from the “western” society we are used to. This in effect leads to mass racism. Asian-American’s are coming out online saying that non-Asian people literally walk away from them on the streets… as if they somehow automatically have the virus for looking a certain way? Unbelievable.

I have seen many people post and make racial jokes/comments about the virus, when most of the time, the people making the comments are simply not educated on the topic. It is heartbreaking to see this happening because this is a time when we all need to support one another. People are being hateful towards Chinese people without realizing all that the Chinese have done to try and minimize the spread of this virus. Instead of spreading hate during this difficult time, we should lift one another up and talk about all the good things that are being done around the world to stop this pandemic.

Overall, my question is: would the world look different if this virus originated in Italy? Would people be avoiding “Little Italy” as they were “China Town” in Chicago?

I hope everyone ruminates upon this, and thinks twice about a racial comment they may choose to say. The entire world is suffering, so again, let us take our orientalist glasses off, and appreciate all that is being done to help stop this virus.

“Groundhog Day” — A Less Conventional Comedy

“Groundhog Day,” directed by Harold Ramis, is the story of a cynical newscaster, Phil Connors, who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Groundhog Day festivities occur every year. After reporting on the groundhog, Phil goes to bed and wakes up again to Groundhog Day. His repeated Groundhog Day helps him to have a different perspective on his life and gives him a chance to make a better impression on his co-host, Rita. The main plot of the movie follows Phil as he tries to have the perfect day with Rita.

While “Groundhog Day” could be dismissed as a light-hearted romantic comedy, I think that this would be a very shallow look at this movie. On the surface, it may just seem to be a movie about when the guy gets the girl. I believe that one of the most important parts of this movie is the character development of Phil. He transitions from an unlikeable character to a very sympathetic character by the end of the film. In this way, “Groundhog Day” strays a little from the traditional comedy path. Aristotle’s definition describes a comedy as the rise of a sympathetic central character. “Groundhog Day” adds a layer to this definition, and takes an unsympathetic central character and makes him extremely likeable to the audience. Although this does not strictly follow the formal definition, I think that this progression makes the movie even more of a comedy. Not only is there a happy ending, but the fact that a sour character was able to change makes the movie overall more meaningful for an audience.

In this same way, this less conventional comedy sheds light on human nature. While some may think that a person’s character cannot be changed, I think this movie illustrates that a person can change for the better. After being a man a haughty and egotistical man, Phil eventually begins to shed his egotistical exterior, and works toward improving his life and those around him. Only after he chooses to use his life to love himself and those around them is he set free from the endless loop. This shows that anyone can change for the better, but also has a deeper meaning. I think that his loop and cycle could also represent any type of struggle someone is going through, and the way he dug himself out of his hole was through kindness and selflessness. I think this that message is incredibly important, and the fact that it can be delivered through what seems to be a light-hearted comedy is even more impressive and powerful. Giving people this important and uplifting message while also making them laugh makes this comedy a meaningful art form.

Life Is Beautiful

I never saw myself smile or laugh while watching a film about a tragic historic event that affected so many lives. With Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, a film about a Jewish Italian waiter (Guido) who falls in love with a women, eventually they marry and have a son (Giosue) . Then in turn of events the family is separated from each other and taken to concentration camps. The father focused to protect his son from the horrors of reality, he convinces his son that it is only a game and everyone is playing along. the film is set against the tragic backdrop of the Holocaust, but doesn’t focus on the tragedy. Benigni uses comedic elements, antics and humorous interactions, and physical gestures to bring comedy to the dark event.

Benigni use of noticeable physical gestures, humorous interactions, and antics. Benigni starts the first half of the film more lighthearted and romantic between two characters who eventually fall in love. But the audience is soon reminded that this movie is set in a tragedy under Mussolini and Nazi power.

The first comedic strategy Benigni uses is the interactions Guido has with his son Giosue, who doesn’t understand what’s happening around him. Benigni takes advantage of this and uses the knowledge of a child for comedic purposes. For example in the film, upon arriving at the prison camp, Giosue is confused why so many people are lined up, the father Guido explains that everyone is lined up because they can’t wait to get inside. Benigni is using the interactions between a son and father to express comedy in very tense situations in the film/

Another comedic strategy Benigni uses is Guido’s physical gestures throughout the film. Throughout the film Guido performs a goofy walk while being escorted by any Nazi solider. Guido performs this goofy walk because he knows his son is watching him. Guido needs to act funny to show his son that the situation isn’t serious. There are many physical gestures throughout the film that bring light to the situation.

Life is Beautiful is the perfect example of comedy because it focuses on bringing the Holocaust a very dark event in history into the light with comedic strategies.

Comedy Can Also Be a Profound Art Format

Long time ago, I used to think only great tragedy like King Lear can give reader not only the impact of story but also some meaningful message. These messages transmitted by the miserable ending of those characters always make us think about the society or humanity. We empathize with the story, feel the power from it and make some changes about ourselves or the things around us. However, as I have appreciated some famous art works all over the world recent few years, I gradually recognized the appeal of comedy.

One of them I watched last year called Operation Love . It is a famous Japanese TV series. The story mainly tells a young man who is attending his best friends’ marriage ceremony looks at the slide show of their past and regrets. He believes the bridegroom should be him, but he never has the courage to transmit his feeling to her. He finds Rei(heroin) always kept a sad countenance in the photos which makes him feel even regretful. At this moment, a fairy occurs and gives him the chance to travel back in time and fix those sadness. The plot itself is not so amazing since it is a very classic time lapse. However, as you keep watching, you will probably get fascinated by Ken’s character. He is hard-working but also clumsy. In order to find Rei’s favorite coffee milk, he spent all his afternoon searching in the city. He knows he is a ordinary person, but he doesn’t follow the rules and is willing to take risks to accomplish impossibility. He looks very optimistic, but he is actually anxious and timid. Even though he has tons of weakness, he shows me what is the true persistence looks like.

Ken uses the number of each Japanese character to calculate the success rate of his proposal
Ken

As I noticed his efforts, I received a huge amount of courage from him. I tried to express my feelings more straightforward just like him. There is a famous joke came from this show which called Japanese run because Ken is always running in the story. He failed again and again during his time lapse and blamed on the destiny, but he finally speaks out his true voice. Except for pursuing his own love, he helped others during his trip as well. He once encouraged his friend who feels very inferior because of his height to confess his love manfully. What’s more, since he came from the future, he knew that Rei’s grandpa would die soon at that time. So he persuaded Rei to visit her grandpa and tell him her gratitude personally. This behavior made Rei eliminate her biggest pity in the future. The humor of the character, the exciting music, the sincere friendship and the pure love all make the Operation Love a literal great work. I learn so much from Ken and his experience. If a show can make an individual grows and has a better understanding of the world, that’s enough to call it “meaningful. ”

GET OUT of here racism

Get Out, a movie directed by Jordan Peele, is a satirical experience that intends to display the problems with racism in America. The movie’s main character, Chris Washington, is in a couple with a white lady named Rose Armitage. The movie begins on a very nice note, seeing Chris and Rose planning a trip to go meet Rose’s parents, with Chris portraying the first poke at racial problems in America. He asks Rose if her parents know that he is black, and she tells him that they won’t care, Chris is hesitant of this, but still decides to meet her parents. The movie continues and Chris and Rose finally arrive at her house, and her parents seem extremely excited to see him. Everything seems good on the surface, but it doesn’t take long for Chris to start realizing some of the oddities that occur. Some of these oddities include black “helpers”, who share a resemblance to slaves, to which the family sees no problem with. These “helpers” seem to act very odd when Chris interacts with them, and one even tells Chris to “Get Out” when a picture is taken. A very angry brother who seems to be mad at Chris for no reason, and a hypnotic mother who toys with Chris’ mind. As time goes on, Chris gets more and more fearful of the situation, and so does his friend Rod. Rod brings up the common archetype in movies that the black people always die first, and really begins to worry for his friend. 

This is where the spoiler has to come in, because there is no way to talk about the movie as a whole without a spoiler of what happens. Of course, Chris is right about his fears about everything being too good to be true. The Armitage’s have an annual get together, full of white people, and they all seem very nice to Chris. There is a repetition of Chris getting informed that his physique is nice, and not just his, but physiques of all different types of black athletes. This of course makes Chris uncomfortable, but the caucasian people at the get together see no problem with it. Chris ends up wanting to leave, but Rose tries to convince him otherwise, as this happens, Chris’s friend realizes that one of the helpers is actually a man who was kidnapped a couple of months ago. At this point, Chris tries to leave himself, but unfortunately doesn’t make it out of the house. It turns out that there was something up the whole time, ) what a surprise) and Rose’s family lures black people to their house to make use of the “nice physique. They do this by surgically removing the brain of the african american, and putting the brain of the white person into the black person’s body. The movie ends with Chris killing the family members, escaping the house, and having a final standoff with Rose. In the final moments, with Chris bloodied and on top of Rose, a police car shows up, and Rose tells Chris that she wins, but Rod walks out of the car and brings Chris to safety.

 There are many satirical moments in this book that poke fun at the common problems black people face today. Another form of humor used is hyperbole, which as a whole is displayed when Chris goes to meet his white girlfriend’s family. Normally, there is a fear of being in an interracial relationship, and not having your parents know. This is usually met with disagreement, but nothing of this extent. Another form of satire in this movie is when Rose’s family insists Chris meets all of their neighbors, and they all make the comment that “Black is in fashion again”. Of course they are talking about the clothing, or are they? Another form of satire is on display at the end, when the police car pulls up with Chris on top of Rose. All viewers were immediately filled with sadness as soon as this happened, knowing the situation that will unfold, despite all of Chris’s efforts to make it out alive. Only for Rod to step out of the car and save Chris. 


These scenes are all different ways in which Jordan Peele tries to display the different problems with racism in America in this age. I think that some of the underlying themes of this are 

  1. There is a want for the assets that black people possess, although this movie displays it in an overexaggerated way, this is still true nonetheless. An example of this in real life is the recent exposure that black culture has been getting, and the term “culture vulture” that has been coined to white people.
  2. Another form of satire is one that I touched upon earlier, which is when the police rolled up at the end. Rose tells Chris that he is screwed, and that the police will believe her, only for it to be Rod. Although it was Rod, if it wasn’t Rose would probably be right, and in this situation, no matter what Chris says, he will be the one in trouble for what happens. This occurs in today’s society, the black person is often the first one suspected when it comes to crime, and the one who will be incarcerated.
  3. The problem with interracial relationships today. This was an exaggeration, but in the beginning you see Chris and how tense he is that her parents still don’t know that he is black.

This clip shows Chris’s friend, it is a funny clip, but it does a good job showing the fear that a black man has when it comes to problems like this.

These are only a few reasons that display why Get Out was not only funny, scary, and interesting, but also extremely moving, and capable of showing the many problems with America today

Beloved Sonnet

My rose

In a field of darkness there is one light

Alone I seek to grow this lonely rose

Promise of future petals that are white

My love is dirt from which my flower grows,

Await my rose’s bloom all so fast

My rose’s beauty alike Polaris

With powers to erase my neglected past 

Trauma I hope it will not inherit.

Oh no!–the wicked Devil does arrive

His breath possesses the heart of fire

My rose has become his eye of desire

He shouts, “I need your rose to stay alive,

For I will pay you all your heart desires!”

I slit the stem of my love and she dies…

For my Beloved blog post, I decided to write a sonnet depicting the situation that Sethe is put in when she decides to kill Beloved. Sethe is the speaker, and the object of the poem “the rose” is representative of beloved. The motif I payed close attention to throughout the book was birth and pregnancy, which was meant to portray how the next generation symbolized hope. This is a reason why I was so drawn to Sethe’s incredible dilemma.

I wanted to capture a situation in which someone would kill something that they loved to save it. The image I had in my head was a clearing in a forest that had only one flower growing in it amongst all of the grass. Before the flower ever gets a chance to bloom, fire surrounds it. The only way to “save” that flower so that it can eventually blossom is to cut its stem like slitting a throat.

Cosmic Love

Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love” has been with me for a long time now. From the first time I let this song fill my ears, Florence’s heart-wrenching words and explosive tone have taken me to a completely different world. It is both powerful and sentimental, beautiful and tragic. Out of all the songs I have listened to, this one is the closest to poetry.

The very first lines of the song are:

A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes

I screamed aloud, as it tore through them

And now it’s left me blind

Here, Florence Welch is describing how she was completely blinded by her love for this individual. Using several elegantly crafted metaphors, Welch compares her blindness by love to a star that fell from her love’s heart and right into her eyes. The metaphors help to build an image of not only the experience, but of the feeling. This is one of the fundamental qualities of poetry.

In the second verse, Welch sings:

And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat

I tried to find the sound

But then it stopped, till I was in the darkness

So darkness I became

In this stanza, Welch is illustrating her feelings of depression and hopelessness that her relationship has led her to. She spent so long in the dark searching for love, that when her love eventually left her, she was still stuck there. The repetition of the word “darkness” emphasises her feelings of despair. The repetition of words in this way is a key characteristic of poetry that I have seen in many other famous works.

In a heart-wrenching bridge, Welch sings:

I took the stars from our eyes, and then I made a map

And knew that somehow I could find my way back

Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too

So I stayed in the darkness with you

In contrast to Welch’s previous lines that describe feelings of blindness and despair, this stanza holds a spark of hopefulness in it. This is the turning part of the poem, where she decides that she will love this individual, despite the darkness that he has pulled her into. She realizes that he is just as lost as she is, and she will be there with him, in the darkest of times. Like in previous stanzas, this bridge represents the climax of an experience, and tells the story right at its core. That is a key element of poetry.

Finally, in a beautifully powerful chorus, Welch sings:

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out

You left me in the dark

No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight

In the shadow of your heart

This chorus is arguably the most powerful stanza in the entire song. It elegantly describes her feelings of being left in despair and depression from a relationship but wanting to stay in that relationship nevertheless. By comparing her emotions to various interstellar forces all throughout the song, Welch recounts her experience in a way that people will understand. Unlike simple stories, or artless information, experiences and emotions are harder to explain. That is why Welch’s use of understandable analogies is truly helpful to the reader of the poem.

All in all, I feel that this song is a true example of poetry. The stunning diction, rich metaphors, and powerful structure all contribute to the poetic element of this song. “Cosmic Love” illustrates not only a story, but an experience.

Cosmic Love

Time after Time after Time and Again

The novel Beloved is a story of an escaped slave and her new twisted reality that is weaved into her even more twisted past. The story of Sethe and her family connects very well to the song Time after Time by Cyndi Lauper.

Time after Time begins with the lyrics:

“Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new
Flashback, warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcase of memories”

Beloved is written in a very interesting and intricate way where different perspectives from the past and present are used to complete a story. The novel goes, quite literally, back and forth between the past and the present which smoothly bridges to Lauper’s song. The part in the first verse which says “suitcase of memories” especially connects to Paul D’s tin box which held his memories.

The second verse stated,

“Sometimes you picture me
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said
Then you say, “go slow”
And I fall behind
The second hand unwinds”

That part strongly reminded me of when Beloved recalled when Sethe left her alone on what we think is the slave ship. The verse obviously differs from the actual event Beloved remembered but it ties into the loneliness and the feeling of being abandoned.

Although the connection is very simple, the theme of the song surrounds the topics of past, present, and love. All of those things are largely important in Beloved as well.

Do Ghosts Have a Place in History?

Often, when we look for historical fiction books, we look for stories that seem real. We look for stories that make the past seem vivid and tangible.

I didn’t expect to find this in Beloved. One of the most important elements of Morrison’s novel is Beloved, a ghostly presence who haunts Sethe as a constant reminder of the horrors of slavery. I don’t believe in ghosts, and so I thought that the intangible Beloved would serve as a distraction of the real-life horrors the book touches on.

But Beloved is part of Sethe’s story. By writing about Beloved, Morrison managed to write about Sethe as a person, rather than just writing about her experiences. And in writing about a person, Morrison was able to describe the haunting impacts of those experiences.

Toni Morrison story was one with depth. It doesn’t just help us to understand history — it creates empathy.

Tiny Tobacco Box

One of my favorite examples of figurative language used in the novel is when Paul D describes his heart as a “tin tobacco box.” After his traumatizing experiences at Sweet Home and, especially, at the prison camp in Georgia, he locks away his feelings and horrors from his past in this box, which, by the time Paul D arrives at 124, “rusted” over completely.

This is a comment on trauma. This way of dealing with trauma is so different then how Sethe deals with trauma. I thought it was so interesting that Paul D has to completely cut off his past whereas Sethe can’t seem to escape her own past. I thought the metaphor of a box rusted over was a very thought out way to express Paul D’s emotions.

By hiding from his emotions, Paul D hopes to preserve himself from further psychological damage. Paul D sacrifices much of his humanity by letting go of his feelings and gives up much of his self by repressing his memories.

Trauma is unique for every person even when they share some similar situations. Toni Morrison does a wonderful job of representing how trauma is a completely personal experience.

What Is Migration?

Exit West showed us a world where people are migrating by the masses. They are moving across the world by literally stepping through a door. Exit West has showed us the struggle of immigration without the journey of immigration. Many who are not so keen on immigration, or specifically illegal immigration, gain more empathy when they put the journey of the immigrants into consideration, but this story has showed a different side. Exit West has showed the commonality between multitudes of people. That even without the long journey of migration, it is still incredibly hard to move through change and leave life as you know, or to witness others move while one seemingly stays stagnant. Exist West has showed its audience that there is truly not such thing as stagnation or true stability.

Exit West has stories of those that physically moved continuously like Nadia and Saeed and stories of those that did not move at all like the elderly man in Amsterdam, or the older woman in Palo Alto. At first glance, it seems like one is moving while the other is not, but the truth is quite the opposite. The elderly man in Amsterdam was a witness to many components in life migrating or changing: his lover leaving, his father dying, the gain of a new love, while he still remained constant in other ways. He stayed in the same place, never stopped smoking cigarettes, he never stopped hanging out on his balcony. In Saeed’s case, it seemed that everything changed. He lost both of his parents, moved into the western world, and watched his relationship with Nadia deteriorate. But he also had things he clung onto that added stability into his life. He prayed, went to sleep next to Nadia every night, and he worked.

I believe the true thesis of Exit West is best said in the quote from the elderly woman in Palo Alto. She said, “… everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same houses our whole lives, because we can’t help it. We are all migrants through time.” Mohsin Hamid beautifully detailed that we are far more similar than we think, although our differences are still prime parts our identities as well. But if we see ourselves in the migrants we hear of everyday and keep in mind our own migrations, although they may not be as intense or life altering, then we would be so much closer to universal understanding.

Schrodinger’s Jew: Exit West and Jewish Migration

I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating exactly how Jewish I am. I promise, I am bringing this up for a reason.

I contemplate how Jewish I am because it’s not exactly a clear cut answer, as it it for most people. My mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish, so I would be 50% Jewish, right? Except Judaism traditionally is passed down through the mother’s line. So I’m 0% Jewish. Except that alongside Christmas and Easter, my family celebrates Hanukkah and Passover. My last name is very Jewish; it roughly means “date branch” in Hebrew. The vast majority of my family migrated to the United States long before the Holocaust, but not all. I will never know who those distant relatives were, or if I would have ever gotten the chance to meet them. They would have been so, so distant, but I still wonder.

My family, both sides of it, is frequently obsessed with genealogy. We can trace my mother’s family all the way back to the United Kingdom and Ireland. In fact, a fun anecdote I was told as a child is that not only were my ancestors on the Mayflower, my great-great-great-however-many-greats grandfather fell off the Mayflower and had to be rescued. With my father’s side, however, it’s not so easy.

We can trace my father’s family back decently far for a Jewish family. Inevitably though, as many Jewish families do, we end up hitting a dead end: we simply have no idea what country we are actually from. Not only that, those places we would be from have changed throughout the years. Depending on when you look, I could be Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, or Latvian. With my mother’s side, we know most of my relatives were from Scotland and Ireland. We can trace exactly where they were and where they went. With my father’s side, however, all I know is that I am vaguely Eastern European. That’s it. I have no more information.

Towards the end of Exit West, friction between Saeed and Nadia starts up as to exactly how much they want to stay connected to their homeland. As Nadia becomes more and more separated, Saeed in turn yearns for connection with other Middle Eastern migrants. This friction is a part of their inevitable conclusion, which I won’t say because we’re not supposed to have finished the book yet. Despite their different reactions to migration, however, one thing is clear: their home is not their home anymore, no matter how much they may or may not want it to be.

I never got to choose how much I wanted to connect with my roots. I wear green for St. Patrick’s Day. My parents went and visited the place in Scotland my mother’s family comes from. I even chose a Celtic name for myself. But I don’t get those same things on my father’s side.

For all it matters, I’m a practicing Unitarian Universalist who is an active and passionate member of Unity Temple’s youth group. UUism is neither Christian nor Jewish; indeed, it was chosen by my family because it is a religion where my parents can still exist in the faiths of their childhood while still attending the same church.

I don’t know how Jewish I am. I’m not even sure it’s my decision to make. I’m stuck in a strange limbo between Jew and goy. I’m both and neither at the same time. I’m less Jewish than my Jewish friends, but more Jewish than my friends of other faiths. I’m not not Jewish, but what does that really do for me? At the end of the day, though, it’s not really a question of how Jewish I am. It’s about this sense of home that I don’t get to have. It’s about the fact that I more-or-less get to choose whether I am affected by anti-Semitism. It’s about me playing three-way tug-of-war with religion while not believing in a God. I can see it Saeed and I can see it in Nadia, being pulled every which way, not knowing which direction is right for you, endlessly straining to stay in the middle and always, always failing.

The Love Formula

The film Trust written and directed by Hal Hartley portrays the romance between two troubled misfits who feel disowned by their parents. 

Maria, who is pregnant and a high school dropout, supposedly kills her father because of disgust and disappointment. But in reality, he died of heart failure. Her mother immediately disowns her, forcing her to move out of the house. While Maria wanders town looking for a place to stay, she comes across Mathew, an educated and moody electronics repairman. 

They develop a strong connection to each other in which they are accepting and understanding of one another. They understand the hardships one another faces as they continue to live with their insulting parents.

Throughout the film, Maria and Mathew build a sense of mutual admiration and trust. When Mathew asks her to marry him, Maria constructs a formula: respect + admiration + trust = love

I believe that this formula represents their relationship because they are essential factors in what makes them happy. In addition, I think that Maria and Mathew’s relationship solves the problems they face because it allows them to comfort each other. Maria helps Mathew stay sane as he struggles to keep the same job for a long period of time. Mathew cares for Maria by making her feel loved. He helped her become more confident in wearing her glasses, which ultimately allowed Maria to accept herself. Both Maria’s mother and Mathew’s father are emotionally abusive, and Mathew’s father is physically abusive too. By getting married, they have the opportunity to start a new life without any constraints such as their parents.

Where in the World Are Nadia and Saeed?

When I began to read Exit West, I wondered about the setting of the book, as it is never stated. It clearly is our world, or at least an alternate version of it, because there are references to places such as Australia, Japan, and the United States. However, the city that the two main characters, Nadia and Saeed, call home is never named, nor is their country or even general region of the world. Although it is never specified what religion the characters practice or what is predominant where they live, as I read I began to assume they live in a majority-Muslim area, primarily because their names can be Arabic in origin and because they reference evening prayers and Friday religious services (someone please correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m not Muslim, but I believe traditionally Muslims pray multiple times per day and observe the sabbath on Fridays). However, I wondered why the author, Mohsin Hamid, chose not to specify what place that might be. Obviously, it was a very deliberate choice and a very noticeable one. 

In a video we watched in class, Hamid mentioned that Nadia and Saeed’s city is based off his home city of Lahore, Pakistan, but that the situation that is occurring there is more based on the situations occurring in certain places in Syria, such as Aleppo. This made me wonder why he didn’t just set the book in Aleppo. It does not seem like it would cause any major plot issues if he adjusted the events in the book to be historically accurate to what has been occurring there over the past few years. However, this may just be my ignorance; it is possible that things have occurred in Aleppo that I don’t know about and that would have been impossible to include in the book. 

But since I didn’t know for certain that Exit West’s plot required it to not be set in a specific city, I began to wonder about other motives Hamid might have had for leaving its setting unnamed. So I looked online, and found that Exit West was first published in Great Britain and the United States, not Pakistan. This made me wonder—was Exit West meant to provide a view of migration that was palatable to a Western audience? By this I mean, did Hamid purposefully avoid giving the characters in his novel a nationality so that all readers, but especially people in Great Britain and the United States who would make up the majority of his readership, would be able to better identify with them? And if he did this, was that the right choice?

Watching the clip of Hamid’s talk that we did in class, I saw clearly that a major goal of his was to humanize and “de-other” refugees. He said this was why he decided to include magical doors that his characters travelled through to a different place in the world rather than having them undergo a long and arduous journey to get there: he wanted to focus more on what made them the same as non-refugee readers rather than on what made them different, and a dangerous journey would have made them different as it is something many people who have never been refugees could never imagine experiencing. 

I realized the same logic would apply to not giving his characters a nationality or religion. Making them say, Syrian, or even mentioning outright that they are Muslim would put up another divide between them and Western or non-Muslim readers, make those readers come in with all kinds of preconceived notions and even more of a reason to say “Those characters are not like me at all.”

However, I question Hamid’s decision to leave the nationality and religion of Nadia and Saeed ambiguous. While I understand the appeal of making them more relatable to Western and non-Muslim readers, I wonder if by not giving them a clear nationality or religion, Hamid fails to challenge those readers’ tendencies to “other” and refuse to relate to Muslims and people from places such as Syria. In my opinion, Nadia and Saeed are extremely likeable characters. I mean, Nadia is a total queen. She’s a strong, independent woman who is surviving on her own against all the odds. And Saeed is sweet and charming; he’s a respectable family man and always a perfect gentleman toward Nadia. I, and I imagine other readers as well, immediately feel attached to them and root for them just because of their personalities. If Hamid were to make them from an actual place, such as Syria, I believe it would have a powerful impact and lead Western readers to better humanize people from that place rather than pitying or fearing them. And I believe if he specifically mentioned they were Muslim rather than just hinting at it, it would have the same effect: non-Muslim readers would grow in empathy for Muslims.

However, by leaving their nationality and religion ambiguous, Hamid does not challenge Western and non-Muslim readers to put aside their preconceived notions. Readers get comfortable with Nadia and Saeed because they, by nature of the fact that those characters are not stated to be from any particular country or religious group, do not connect too closely to our world. My fear is that Western and non-Muslim readers’ comfort with Nadia and Saeed might not translate to real people from real places, because Nadia and Saeed are simply not real enough without a real country or religious group to be from. Therefore, Exit West might not go far enough to challenge xenophobia and Islamophobia. 

What do you think? Why do you think Hamid chose to leave Nadia and Saeed’s nationality and religion ambiguous, and how does that impact the story he’s telling? Or, am I just dumb and there’s a really obvious plot reason that I’m missing for why Exit West is not set in a specific place? If the last one is the case, someone please let me know!