Sunday, March 30, 2008

Independent Reading Explication


In Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Vonnegut suggests that life amounts to purposelessness through John’s irrational behavior and change of tone. John begins an angry confession of his dreams when proposed with the question of finding a “neat way to die, too”(190), as the end of the world approaches with the number of known survivors dwindling down.

John’s previous calm manner of speaking, “murmur[ing] huskily”(190), changes as he “blurt[s] out [his] dream of climbing Mount McCabe with some magnificent symbol and planting it there”(190). He becomes infuriated and shows his frustration and anger through action as he “takes [his] hands from the wheel for an instant to show [Newt] how empty of symbols they were”(190). John is encompassed with the lack of symbols, of purpose, from his empty hands as he does not think logically and risks danger by removing his hands from control of the vehicle. He then further questions Newt, who he expects no answers from, yet continues to do regardless, while incorporating foul language into his repetitive questions. His tone and speech also become nonsensical, when asking “but what in the hell would the right symbol be, Newt? What in the hell would it be”(190). His anger results from the fact that he does not know what his purpose in life is. John then regains composure as he “grab[s] the wheel [of the vehicle] again”(190), and seems to have calmed down a little.

John comments on his inability to reach his goal in life, speculating that “Here it is, the end of the world; and here I am, almost the very last man; and there it is, the highest mountain in sight”(190). John laments that he is so close to finding his purpose, yet it seems unreachable. It causes him to think illogically and contradict what he has learned in Bokononism. He states that “I know now what my karass has been up to, Newt. It’s been working night and day for maybe half a million years to get me up that mountain”(190). John believes that he knows the will of God, what God’s intentions are, when claiming that he knows about his karass. He contradicts one of the first main teachings of Bokonon ,as “a person trying to discover the limits of his karass and the nature of the work God Almighty has had it do . . . are bound to be incomplete”(190), and that “anyone who thinks he sees what God is Doing”(190) is “a fool”(190).

John, despite Newt’s lack of response, continues his rant, although slowly bringing it to an end. He conveys his emotions physically as “wag[s] [his] head and nearly we[eps]”(190), ending his melodramatic confession with the question “But what, for the love of God, is supposed to be in my hands”(190). John still questions his purpose, his existence, although he already possesses knowledge through Bokonon’s teachings that it is impossible to do so. Through John, Vonnegut suggests that humans, even though they may acknowledge their inability to find purpose in life, will continue to do so, regardless. It perhaps, is in human nature, to find purpose in life. However, all effort is lost, as the world will someday come to an end, be it due to humanity’s strife in warfare, or through natural means when the Sun explodes.

Camus Paper

Illogical Logic

In The Stranger, by Albert Camus, Camus suggests that mankind is illogical by nature through the illogical actions of the most ideally logical character, Monsieur Meursault. Meursault is habitually indifferent and acts only with regard to his physical being. He is the perfect model for the most logically sound person, as he utterly lacks emotion and thus is able to live life through pure logic. However, Meursault carries out the most illogical actions even though he is supposedly logical, a contradiction that leads to his death sentence and execution.

In the passage where Meursault fires his revolver upon the Arabian man, Camus suggests that Meursault’s actions are illogical, since he has no definite or reasonable reason to commit murder. As “it occur[s] to [Meursault] that all [he] ha[s] to do [is] turn around”(58) and not pursue the Arabian man, the logical thing to do, “the whole beach, the throbbing sun, [presses] on [his] back”(58), “burn[ing] [his] cheeks … the same as it had been the day [he’d] buried Maman … [and] it was this burning, which [he] couldn’t stand anymore, that made him move forward”(58-59) and act illogically. It is not out of his emotions, be it hatred, revenge, anger, or invidious feelings towards the Arabian man that causes Meursault to kill, rather, Meursault kills as a result of his desire “to sh[ake] off the sweat and sun”(59). Meursault, usually logical and defiant of doing any more action than is necessary, contrarily acts out of character and illogically takes the life of another man with the simple reason that his physical surroundings bother him. He feels no remorse or emotion in what he does. He postulates that “the cymbals of sunlight crashing on [his] forehead”(59) and the reflection of the sun’s rays against the knife “[which] slash[es] at [his] eyelashes and stab[s] at his … eyes”(59), along with the sun’s other annoyances, causes him to commit murder. His justification of such an unforgivable crime is illogical, absurd. Meursault, the perfect example of a logical being, illogically kills someone. His reason for doing so is ridiculous, absurd. Camus intentionally has Meursault act illogically, as a basis to suggest that human beings are inclined to be illogical.

Camus further develops Meursault’s illogic behavior in the passage where Meursault engages in a conversation with the magistrate after his arrest. The magistrate forces his beliefs in God on Meursault, in which Meursault “sa[ys] no”(69), that he does not believe that God exists. The magistrate states that Meursault’s claim is “impossible; all men [believe] in God, even those who turn their backs on him”(69). Meursault’s logical perception of physical objects is revealed. He does not believe that God exists, simply because his logic does not allow him to. He has not seen definitive evidence that suggests God exists, ergo his logic concludes that God does not exist. Contrary to Meursault’s opinions, the magistrate proves persistent. He incessantly showers Meursault with his beliefs, that “if he were ever to doubt [his beliefs], his life would become meaningless”(69). He continues to barrage Meursault with the same questions, when asking Meursault, “How can you not believe that He suffered for you”(69). Meursault then feels it “getting hotter and hotter”(69), as he has “had enough”(69) of the magistrates droning. “Whenever [he] want[s] to get rid of someone [he’s] not really listening to, [he] ma[kes] it appear as if [he] agree[s]”(69). The magistrate, whose presence and indulgent questions seem to evoke the “hot” temperature and feeling within Meursault, causes Meursault to act illogically. Meursault illogically degrades himself, feigning his agreement with the magistrate and shaming his own intellectual opinions. The contrast in Meursault’s logical thinking and illogical actions, create uncertainty to the true persona of Meursault. Meursault proves extremely logical as he denies his belief in God, but illogical when belittling himself to purge the feeling of warmth. Similar to the events with the Arabian man, Meursault again, illogically does whatever is necessary without logically thinking to rid himself of the feeling of warmth.

Camus creates Meursault to be the model logical person, as he can act solely on logic without emotions interfering. Human beings are less logical than Meursault in this sense, since they are plagued with emotions and difference. While Camus’ Meursault, a truly logical being, acts illogical with consideration and regards to the idiotic reason of his physical environment, then the logically inferior human beings other than Meursault are then inclined to be illogical by nature. However, the degree of the illogical actions of Meursault, compared to those of human beings is on a different scale. Camus suggests that although human beings are illogical, it is their nature. He also shows that even though humans may act illogical, their actions are justified by their reasons, whereas Meursault’s actions are not justified in the least. He demonstrates this idea through the ultimate conclusion of Meursault’s death. Meursault being condemned to an early death through execution as a result of his illogical actions serves to be a warning to readers.

College Essay

A Sad Story Made Funny[1]

Call me Will, or William. My parents called my Leng, but that’s because they are Asian. Anyway, when I was a younger student, five hundred hours of sleep ago, eighty racks of ribs ago, and one thousand Sprites ago . . .

My parents’ good-willed "push" for my success in school resulted in mine and their own downfall. I crashed. Burned out. Gave up. My interest in school gradually changed into nothingness. My grades plummeted, and my parents grew disappointed. I did not try in school anymore, either out of my lack of interest and motivation, or out of rebellion and intention to damage my parent's pride. I had brought shame to my family.

Of course, I didn’t tell them that. If I did, that would be what my parents called a pulika, or a stupid thing to do. My parents preached lessons like this through their short articles about living life. They collected and kept records of these articles, called libings, literally meaning short lessons.

This pulika went something like this:
“Be nice, and nice, but never request a price, For if you expect a reward, only receive a sword,
Selfishness and greed, do to a degree,
Too much of either, you should have neither.”

I was a Rebellious back then. But now, I am an Obedient. I would have been an Obedient back then, too, had I known what Obedience was. How my parents and I interacted in the following years is indescribable. Our relationship deteriorated to a point where everyday life was awkward. I wanted to live my own life, forge my own destiny separate from their control. However, I could not endure what our relationship had become. It felt like they didn’t even notice me anymore. I began to accelerate in my studies once more, this time, for myself, according to my own standards. I came to the realization that, I could not live without feeling loved by my parents. If I could kill two birds with one stone, why not do it? I was only hurting myself by remaining indifferent and rebellious in my studies. If I became more considerate of school once again, I could make something out of my future and life: go to college, become an engineer, all while reestablishing my relationship with my parents. Although I could not regain the degree of geniusness I once possessed, I could finally become happy. My parents eased up with their obsession regarding my grades, and without them breathing down my neck, I lived life without pressure for the first time.

[1] I will be attempting to mimic Vonnegut’s style to make a personal, hard to describe, pitiful, and depressing story about my life comedic and light-hearted.

Page 206 of Tom Phillips' A Humument

Picture of page 206
On page 206 of Tom Phillips' A Humument, Phillips creates two different interpretations of life through images contrasting both in palette of color and complexity. The uppermost image portrays pessimism, with a dark and cynical viewpoint of life. Ironic to its lower position, with up being optimistic and down being pessimistic, the bottommost counterpart depicts optimism, with a hopeful, upbeat, and positive outlook on life. With both contrasting perceptions of life, Phillips offers advice with scenarios involving objects and organisms.

The first noticeable detail viewers will observe is the top image, with its blurred swirl of dark purple as it approaches and transitions into utter black darkness. The darkness at the center of the image seems to draw and suck in the surrounding purple, almost as if it is a living organism that is swallowing color. Peering into the darkness provides viewers with viewers with a sense of depression, as well as an abundance and variety of negative and pessimistic feelings. The image also contains very little text. It is intricate and indistinguishable; it immediately draws attention to itself. Phillips perhaps suggests that humans may tend to find a negative viewpoint of life, as with the above image’s complexity compared to the bottommost picture’s simplicity, more attractive and appealing than the positive viewpoint of life.

The text within the uppermost image is very cynical when providing context to its surroundings. When answering the command written at the top of the image, “explain its history”, the image, by being indistinguishable visually, also denotes its nothingness and lack of the past when describing itself as a “queur photograph”, as queur is not an existing or known word. Without a history or origin, the uppermost image produces a negative aura and outlook on life.

The bottommost image is the second thing viewers will see. It is extremely simplistic, containing a dull brown background clashing with its display a plethora of colorful, lively boxes, with colors ranging from: bright red-orange, grassy green, dark green, velvet red, sunflower yellow, and black. It differs completely from the image atop of it, as the palette of colors not only increases dramatically, but the simplicity and realness of it is opposite from the abstract and intricate design of its counterpart. It offers a positive and uplifting viewpoint of life, with its lively boxes and text. It starts off with the exclaimed word “Ah!”, while the uppermost image begins with a strict-like command. Contrary to the uppermost image, the bottommost image signifies two or more people, with the notation of “our boxes”. While the uppermost image also displays solemnity and loneliness, the bottommost image embraces togetherness with its bevy of boxes, “laughing bricks”. To sum up all of the feelings shown in the bottommost image, the text ends with the word “assembled and hoping”.

Phillips offers both interpretations without the usage of human beings, but with objects, to indirectly warn viewers of the paths available in life. While the bottommost image proposes an interpretation of life embedded with hope, togetherness, laughter, and overall optimism, the uppermost image depicts life cynically with an outlook of despair, loneliness, darkness, depression, and overall pessimism. Viewers can follow the uppermost scenario, with lives similar to a dark hole, solemn and alone, or perhaps follow the latter, living as a happy, colorful box amongst box friends.

Metamorphosis Blog

I could not agree more with Rodney's post regarding Gregor's sister and his theory about society treating those who are different poorly. As Rodney previously mentioned, that as time passes by, Gregor's sister, as well as his father, start to develop feelings of wanting to get "rid" of Gregor, as a result of their inability to accept his change. However, what proves interesting is the fact that Gregor's mother refuses to stop loving her son and continues to care for him regardless of his metamorphosis. "She had to be held back by main force ... cry[ing] out: 'Do let me in to Gregor, he is my unfortunate son! Can't you understand that I must go to him?'"(114). Gregor's mother senses the fact that Gregor is in dire need of seeing her, vice versa. When "Gregor's desire to see his mother [is] ... fulfilled"(114), he regains a little bit of humanity. "He had indeed been so near the brink of forgetfulness that only the voice of his mother, which he had not heard for so long, had drawn him back"(116). Gregor almost loses himself to his creature-like instincts and needs, when he "looked forward to having his room emptied of furnishing"(116), yet something as simple as his mother's voice rescues him from wanting to throw away his past life. His mother indeed does truly love Gregor regardless of what he has become. She never loses "hope of his ever getting better"(116). This is shown when she converses with Grete, and comments that "[she] think[s] it would be best to keep [Gregor's] room exactly as it has always been, so that when he comes back to [them] he will find everything unchanged and be able all the more easily to forget what has happened in between"(116). She even goes as far as to choke her husband after his attempt to kill Gregor, "with her hands clasped around [his] neck as she begged for her son's life"(122). What does everybody else view Mrs. Samsa?