Friday, September 26, 2008
I love TV.
I know TV is supposed to be guilty pleasure if one admits liking it all, but guess what I do.
Especially the CW Thursday night. My friends tease me (good-naturedly I hope) about how much I love the shows Supernatural and Smallville. Well now I m going to explain why I love Supernatural, especially the current season, which started last week.
1. Jensen Ackles is really hot. See the above picture. (I don't know who took this, but I assure them I respect their copyright.You know, as if their reading this.) -Sigh.- But more than that, his character Dean Winchester is a bad boy, but he's bad because he has to be to do what's right. So he's a righteous bad boy. This is my favorite kind of boy. This is the boy who answers to a higher ideal than other people. So I am very in love with his character, as opposed to just lust, which describe my feelings for the actor. So there's my superficial, junior-high groupie reason for loving this show.
2. I, strange as this may sound, relate to various aspects of the show. Philosophically. I first watched it thinking hey, this is sort of like the priesthood. That might sound weak, but I pick up philosophical (?) patterns in the world like that guy in A Beautiful Mind picks up mathematical ones.
3. I especially love this season. I'm going to discuss in detail the first two episodes now, so cover your eyes if you don't want to know.
This season seems to be explicitly Christian. I find this cool for couple reasons, the first being that I'm Christian. If you don't know me maybe this seems kind of bigoted, or maybe it does even if you do know me. But I think it's good for me, as a Christian, to have a show like this that isn't really cheesy. And I relate far better to these guys doing the best they can and hoping they're not damning themselves along the way than someone who volunteers and then gets the warm fuzzies from it.
So this season Dean got pulled out of Hell by an angel, heretofore not realizing they existed. (But if you have demons it only makes sense that you have angels.) This angel then tells Dean that he needs to work for God to fight Lucifer. I of course imagined they were doing this all along, but that these two beings exist also blows Dean's mind. Then, if the mention of angels and Lucifer hadn't convinced you, the angel and Bobby (another demon hunter) mention specific things from Revelations. So here's another reason I think this is cool-it's bold to be so explicitly Christian, especially on a show like this, prime time, on the most coveted night of the TV week.
I mean this is not Sunday afternoon nor friendly non-denominational angels whose only real religious standpoint is God loves you (cough, Touched By An Angel, cough). While it seems weird to describe an angel in these terms, even a fictional one, Supernatural's angel kicks ass. There is just no other accurate term. When we meet him for the first time he walks right into a knife and keeps on going. It's pretty cool. I mean he's sent from God right? So a knife wouldn't freak him out. But he's also compassionate, asking Dean why he doesn't think he deserves to be saved. It's awesome. It's not dumbed down, and it's definitely not a kids show. It's not what I would immediately call uplifting, but it kind of does make me want to be a beacon of truth, fight bad guys like Satan and Oppression and Really Stupid Governments. (You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)
My religion doesn't completely agree with every idea on the show (though it doesn't explicitly disagree with much either). But one of my humanities professors is always talking about how much the US misses out on not having many basic heroic stories anymore, which is why if we even get a scent of one we milk it for all it's worth. (I think this is probably why we make so many super hero movies.) So most of all I'm excited to have a hero I can relate to-a righteous rebel fighting the bad guys in his own special way.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
There was a man named Samuel Swift Merritt. Samuel was said to have powers. Nothing extreme, just party tricks, your run of the mill telekinesis. He could make “spoons dance and tables jump” (Kelsey, 2008). Samuel eventually left his family and joined a controversial new religion called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He forsook his abilities and came west. But Something followed him. One morning at a camp by the Snake River he arose stricken, pale, and looking many years older. Accounts say he looked as if he had seen death. It was beyond a bad night’s sleep. Indeed, his descendents say he was wrestling with evil spirits.
Samuel Merritt is my ancestor, and as far as my family can tell, the first person in our line to experience weird hauntings, strange abilities, and unexplained knowledge of some things. If hearing this, one wonders how this is possible; if maybe we’re just crazy; making it up, imagine being the one on the receiving end of this otherworldly birthright. In an attempt to understand myself, I will examine several stories in my family history and their individual significance. These stories have all been told by my mother, who received them orally from other members of my family.
The theory is that due to Samuel’s strong energetic power and many heirs that would seem to inherit this, evil spirits attempted to woo him away from being a religious man. At the least he would not receive all the salvation he could, at the most he might lend something to the cause of evil. It is also speculated that spirits lent some excess energy to Samuel, that being the reason he could perform his tricks. Herein lies the first rule of being whatever it is we are-just because you are able to do something doesn’t mean you should. One example is the last time I got my Tarot cards read. I know nothing about Tarot cards, but as my friend Jeff was doing them for some people and I was a little curious and a lot hyper, I agreed to have them read.
“Focus on a question,” Jeff instructed. I thought of a question-it was all too vague really, a general “what does my future look like” query. I don’t even remember the specific question though I remember the general idea. I put all the excess energy I had (which was a lot) into that question. Jeff turned over the cards. Love, pain, battle, victory. He told me the meanings skeptically.
“Maybe it didn’t work,” he frowned.
“Why do you think that?” I asked. I had other ideas.
“It’s just a weird reading. These two,” he covered the cards for love and battle, “are supposed to correlate and these two,” covering pain and victory, “go together, but they’re opposites. Did you actually ask a question?” I knew exactly why those cards were together, why they were in that sequence. It was confirming all the dreams (and nightmares) I had had my whole life, the almost memories that didn’t make sense. “Maybe love will sustain you through a battle, and then you’ll think you’ll lose or it’ll cause you pain but you’ll be victorious, or…” he trailed off. He was wondering if I was going to die for something, I think. I didn’t confirm or assuage his fears, I was thinking about a dream I had when I was ten. I was suddenly exhausted
“Do you think it works?” He nodded. “How?”
“I think you put your own energy into it. If you’re tired your readings aren’t as good.” I nodded. That was true I realized. No spirit was whispering in my ear what to ask. As far as I knew, Jeff was not a shaman. It certainly was not a religious experience. But I had spent a lot of energy, and while Jeff was not a shaman I might be something close.
I will never get my cards read again. I don’t want to abuse any power I might have, and I certainly don’t need spirits coming to play with me any more than they try to now. Just because you are able to do something doesn’t mean you should.
Samuel’s daughter Elizabeth married Caleb Bleazard and they had children. One of these children was my mother’s great-aunt Lydia. Lydia had discovered a popular parlor game called Ouija. The premise was you ask the game a question and using a magnifying glass like object you would mysteriously spell out the answer. The times I have actually heard people talk about this game, no one has bothered to explain why it works, or even more interestingly why there are some occasions it doesn’t work. Caleb, who likely had enough sensitivity to recognize danger when he saw it, forbade the use of it. In fact he demanded it be thrown out. Lydia didn’t listen, but hid it from him. After Caleb died, it became a regular fixture in the Bleazard household with Elizabeth and especially Lydia consulting it often. Lydia wouldn’t travel without it. It seems like a joke, this spinster living with her mother and addicted to a board game, but this was the case. Whatever one thinks about the Ouija, one must agree Lydia’s fascination with it was unhealthy. But, like all these stories, there is a deeper, weirder element and a lesson therein. Lydia’s cousin Hazel, my grandmother, was a fairly new bride (maybe five years into her marriage), who nonetheless already had half the children she would ever have. Lydia thought it would still be fun to ask Ouija how many children Hazel was to have. After all, the divination of the number and sex of future children is a common practice. (Brunvand, page 8) The Ouija responded 3 boys. Hazel had already had two girls and in fact would only ever have one boy. Hazel thought to herself that this was unlikely and somewhat stupid. Then the Ouija began to spell out the words “You’ll be sorry for that.” Seeing as Hazel had not actually said anything, this disturbed her a bit. Another interesting story is that the Ouija would not work in the presence of my grandfather Robert, who himself had had some experience in performing exorcisms and held the LDS priesthood. The infamous Ouija was destroyed in a house fire when Elizabeth’s own personal haunted mansion fell into disrepair. From an early age then, we were taught not to play with things we don’t understand.
I had managed to avoid such things as the Ouija until I was thirteen, when of course it made an appearance at a friend’s party. It was a present for the hostess given to her by one of her friends who honestly seemed a bit creepy to me, though I was much more judgmental then. The hostess herself was only mildly intrigued, but the giver had a hungry glint in her eye and demanded we try it immediately. I flat out refused, as did my best friend whose father had warned her of such things. This surprised the hostess and annoyed the gift giver.
“Why not?” Natalie, the hostess, asked.
“Sometimes it works-my question is how?” I replied.
“It might not,” said Margaret, the giver, who was obviously hoping it would.
“That thing can’t be good,” my friend Courtney stated emphatically.
“It’s a game-how dangerous could it be?” I raised an eyebrow, and Natalie admitted that she was sounding dangerously like she was offering us drugs. We offered to leave. The question was dropped, or so I thought, yet while Courtney and I were enjoying our mocktails, Margaret entered looking dark and dejected.
“You can relax,” she said. “It doesn’t work.” We looked at each other, annoyed. Yet I have since wondered if our combined resistance, topped with our lack of any real power in the situation with us being only thirteen, managed to protect the party from otherworldly influences of a negative type. Interestingly, there was a brief time that I suspected Natalie and I were on opposite sides of the moral fence. Her lack of respect for my knowledge may have influenced me. The giddy, nervous, experiments with witchcraft that some teenagers go through were always avoided by me. Now that I’m older, some associates try to do the same thing with drugs. One shouldn’t play with things one doesn’t understand. I also learned from this experience that I have more power than spirits do-my grandfather Robert is an example of this as well.
These things have incredible individual significance, and this shapes my social interactions and responses to everything. It is an undeniable part of who I am, and the only veracity I can offer is that I wouldn’t choose to be this if I could imagine any other possibility. Sometimes, when I am able to warn a friend I realize why I know things before they happen, why I see things that I shouldn’t, why I have a deeper understanding of so many things and I am grateful. Other times, when I have dreamt of spirits all night, when they put nightmares in my head, when I arrive at school looking like I’m hung-over when in reality I’ve been casting out demons in my dreams all night, I hate it. And of course there’s the telling people, when I do. Isn’t it so unbelievable? Why would it exist? Why should it be my family? Is it all Samuel’s fault?
A friend called the other day. “What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing. Same old, same old.” As one friend put it, nothing, because “what else can I say to you?” (Anonymous Source, 2008.)
I don’t tell people because they can’t always know it’s true. If it’s just me telling a story, what someone else said, if they play with the idea it’s truer than if I swear it happened, if I write a personal statement. For my own sanity, at least as preserved in the minds of other people, when they ask me what’s wrong I’ll continue to say “It was nothing.” They can think what they want; while I know it’s like my mother Rosalie said in one account-“There was Nothing there. But you know what? There was something there.”
Kelsey, Rosalie. Personal Interview. 28, July 2008.
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Study of American Folklore. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.
Anonymous. Personal Interview. 25 July 2008.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
— Ernest Hemingway
In “His Father, Singing” by Leslie Norris, the speaker describes the tone in which and reasons that his/her father sang. The father does not sing happily or contentedly, but achingly and in anguish. The speaker tells of one specific incident in which the father comforts his son by singing to him. As his singing breaks into “pain and anger”, the speaker takes notice. So much important art is born out of pain, anxiety, and social unrest. It is these wounds we most want to explore. We want to see if they look like our own. I think there is a secret vulnerable part of all of us. Our quest for intimacy and the popularity of sad stories is our desperate need to show someone. The father in this poem, while usually singing quietly in the garden, reaches a point where for whatever reason he shows his wounds. Perhaps he relates to the child crying, perhaps he knows that the baby will not remember or repeat his song, perhaps he just can’t hold it in anymore. Either way, the speaker hears it and instinctively knows that “someone should be listening.”
Hemingway’s quote is apt-all good poetry, even the happy kind, seem to come straight from the writer’s heart, body and soul, to be their blood. A good poem pumps through are veins, drives our movement, becomes a vital part of us. Even the most ecstatic poetry should wrench one’s heart. The best poetry, like the father’s song, does not just tug on the heartstrings; it jerks them out of place. And someone should be listening.
Voice is everything in Jane Kenyon’s “Briefly It Enters, And Briefly Speaks”. In fact, rather than saying it has a speaker, I would almost just say it is a voice-after all, it seems to be an abstract idea that is speaking. The voice is intimate, particularly in the last stanza. It is first person, which always makes the reader feel as if the speaker is talking to him/her specifically. This contrasts with the actual diction of the poem; words which are speaking of a kind of universality between humanity.
It is the contrast between this intimate voice and wide range of subjects that create the magic of the poem. This is done most effectively by using first person. If the one line second stanza was changed to “It is the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . .” the intimate connection with humanity is lost and it remains simply an ideal. By presenting the speaker as It (humanity, hope, love), the reader really believes that there is that connection, that It exists.
The imagery in the stanza that reads “I am the heart contracted by joy. . .the longest hair, white before the rest. . . .” is compelling, again for it’s contrast. A heart contracting is a very dynamic, violent image. A hair that is white before the rest simply is, and there are no other verbs in the phrase. White is purity, white hair is age, and it paints a very serene picture. With the contrast between these two images, we know that the voice resides in the youthful ecstasy of joy and the serene peacefulness of age.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Happiness, on the other hand, cannot be held. Any souvenirs do not begin to touch the actual emotion involved because happiness “doesn’t need anything.” The only thing it leaves one with is a different perspective. With happiness we “wake up with possibilities”. Sadness may make us look to the past, but happiness makes us look to the future. For example, compare being in a relationship and being happy with it to being in a once happy but now unhappy relationship. In the former, one may be filled with hopes of dates, stolen kisses, plans to travel, to marry etc. All of these are hopes for the future, whether distant or near. If the relationship has turned sour however, even the sweetest memory of the lover is made bittersweet.
Happiness is transient; it “goes away when it wants to”. Upon reading this, one might wonder if Nye is saying happiness is hopeless. While Nye speaks of the initial cause for joy being temporal, she leaves us with the feeling that the new perspective gained is not. Even moving from a paradisiacal tree house to a quarry “cannot make you unhappy”. We are still left with the idea that “everything has a life of its own”.
Nye concludes by saying that happiness is too large to be held inside. Instead happiness radiates into everything that surrounds the happy person. We cannot take credit for this beneficence, just “as the sky takes no credit for the moon,” we simply hold it and let it radiate from us. Through this simile we are able to see happiness as a glowing orb that lights our way, once again into the future.
This last stanza can be compared to the first which speaks of holding sadness in one’s hands. This is an interesting progression: first the speaker talks of sadness as something one holds, then she says that happiness doesn’t need one to hold it, and finally she admits that one holds it the same way the sky holds the moon. This last claim implies that sadness does need to be held to exist. This comparison is the key to understanding the true result of Nye’s meditation. Happiness happens, while sadness is something we must take responsibility for. If we let go of sadness, instead of radiating, it will simply cease to exist. By showcasing our happiness, we not only have a better chance of gaining perspective, but shine a light for everyone as well.
The following is a poem with the same basic theme that I wrote as response to Nye’s poem.
I am banishing you,
Small pitiful you,
Undeserving of any tears, time, or thought.
I made a mistake, but I won’t let you tell me that I am one.
I embrace You
Grand, shining You
Conquering the doubt, fear, chaos.
I embrace You lightly like light, knowing You will come back over and over again…
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
I lost him to the narrow passages of his mind
I lost them to the Vista from which I had to recover
I lost her to The Other Side, where I was always scared she was going
I lost him to smoke and holy water
I lost them to the land of peachtrees
I lost her to the real world
I'm losing him to the streets and I might break
I lost Them and I never hope to find them
I keep losing pieces of my soul,
Or at least you all have torn at them
Maybe you will stretch it far enough