“I don’t know where I end or where I begin. All I know is that I’m delicious.”
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"Do it all."
A professor of mine just past me on the sidewalk. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes. This literally happened five minutes ago, so my thoughts may still be a bit jumbled, but if I wait to write this down I may loose this feeling, and I'd be doing the exact opposite of his advice- "Do it."
Somewhere along the line I was taught, or taught myself to believe, that the truely great people are the ones who invest themselves entirely in their passion. Mozart in his music. Martha Graham in her dance. I think I've conditioned myself to believe that if you truely want to be great, unique, groundbreaking, you have to choose a passion and develop into it.
Five minutes ago, my professor said, "Do it all." DO IT ALL...
I thought having more than one passion meant you had to split yourself up, and therefore never fully commit yourself to one thing, one mode, and become truely great. I'm not sure I think that anymore. Maybe a person is more whole than that, and is able to take their "self" completely from one passion to the next, never spiltting, but fully investing with each new passion.
Very often I turn to my friends at the dinner table and say, “You know what would be cool…” or, “I have this great idea…” or, “What would you guys think if…”. Very often ideas pop into my head and I spit them out like rotten cherry tomatoes. What makes them rotten is because as soon as dinner is over and we leave the table, the idea leaves my mind or I become disinterested. The idea rots. But, not this time. I refuse to believe this idea will become rotten, and I’ve instead committed to its growth: I will create a literary lab that applies the scientific method to story creation, and I’ve devised a model and a 4 step guide to making it a reality.
So, I’ve decided to read Slaughterhouse Five as an anti-Stoicism novel. After today’s class I can’t stop noticing parallels between the Tralfamadorians and the Stoics, and I can’t stop viewing Billy Pilgrim as a perfect example of the faults in this philosophy.
First, let me explain Stoicism, to the best of by ability, based on my readings of The Handbook by Epictetus which I was assigned to read in one of my philosophy classes last week. Stoicism is a philosophy that sees the world as a whole, neither good nor bad, and because that whole is not entirely visible to human perception, a human can only do his best to eliminate blinding emotion and act in accordance with reason. To act in accordance with reason, Stoicism provides two major claims, of which 52 precepts follow: 1) Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us; 2) Nothing good or bad happens in nature. By accepting these two claims and the subsequent precepts, a person can live “The Good Life”- one of equanimity and inner peace.
So, I was sitting in my English class at Haverford, Topics in 18th Century Literature, and my professor shows us a website, The Brown University Women Writers Project. It's "a long-term research project devoted to early modern women's writing and electronic text encoding." One of the tabs on the site caught my eye- WWO Labs.
My initial reaction was, Oh Sh*t! My English Lab idea isn't as original as I'd hoped! I'm doomed! Then, after I recovered from my melodramatic thought-explosion, we explored the labs I found the Women Writers Projects Labs to be fascinating, fun, educational, and luckily, nothing like the labs I had imagined in my head- hallelujah.
Nevertheless, these WWO labs truly speak to just how broad the definition of "lab" really is. I implore you all to play and learn. You couldn't ask for a more direct link of science to literature!
So, I've been interning this week for a publishing company called, Just World Books, LLC. I was lucky enough to secure this position through Bryn Mawr's externship program and fortunate enough to be welcomed by the company's wonderful founder Helena Cobban.
Perhaps this is still premature, because on my limited experience, but publishing seems right for me. I want to share this with you all since, first off, this is an English class, and second... there is so much I was unaware of, and this whole experience has got me thinking about English as a profession.
Most people won't admit it, but we very often claim to know more than we do. We nod our heads, pay close attention and interject when it seems safe. This is helpful in many situations, and I'm glad I've learned to do it. After all, "knowing" is a key to gaining opportunities- a necessity when trying to climb whatever ladder you set before yourself. But anyway, there comes a time when "knowing" can only take you so far. Eventually, when it comes time for you to take the reigns, asking questions is more important than just saying "yes". We've all heard this before and it seems obvious, but practice in doing is very different than learning how to appear knowledgeable. A fact that hit me like a hammer this week when I learned where ISBN numbers come from! Did you know you have to buy them? Anyway…
Before you read this paper, do me a favor. Sit down, relax, and try not to think too much. This paper asks the question, how do you think, and if you are thinking while you are reading about how to think… you can see how the question can become very complicated. Let’s avoid complication for the time being. I want your initial reaction, raw and instinctual. Then, we can debate and complicate the issue until our brains explode.
Now, look at the three pictures below, and for each, say out loud any words that come to your mind.
This is one of the most exciting and challenging assignments I’ve ever received. Laying out a syllabus that uses science fiction to exemplify how and why genre borders blur is daunting. I’ve done the best with what I know, while striving to keep away from works I’ve already read. After all, if we are all going to read together, we might as well all start from A.
Anyway, we have 9 classes so I’ve chosen three books. I think it’s fair, and not too slow to explore one book for three classes. I’ve tried to choose books based on author, summary, theme, and recommendation. However, being that there are so many science fiction novels, I’ve also offered a supplement to try and feed everyone’s “English” hunger.
1st BOOK: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.
I thought it would be best to start with a classic, and read a book that is “obviously” science fiction, just so we can all get our footing before being knocked over. This novel has also been made into a movie and has resulted in many adaptations on tv etc. This can provide us with a multi-media view if we want to go there.
2nd BOOK: Jay’s Journal by Beatrice Sparks.
Today’s class, (well it’s 12am, so technically, yesterday’s class) is still spinning through my head. I am not a silent person, and I can’t stop wondering why I was so quiet during class. The answer I’ve come up with is, that although I’m not a silent person, I definitely am a fixating one, as in I have a fixating personality. When I hear something that strikes me differently, I fixate and think-it to death, and thinking something to death takes a lot of effort- how could I have strength to speak?
So now that I have had some time to let my fixation formulate, I can talk. The fatherly advice froggie generously shared with us yesterday got me thinking. I’m paraphrasing, so forgive me, but it was something to the effect of, “you don’t have to work in a corrupt system.” I don’t think the word corrupt was used, but it was something like that. This advice struck me as odd, because it is the opposite of what I’ve been taught, that is not a judgment on the advice, it’s just a noting of difference.
“The key issue is interaction” (Fitzpatrick 20). People have become so afraid of interaction, so afraid of collaboration. Instead people run behind the title of author. An author has power; the ability to create and influence others through words, or art. However, if an author is so powerful, imagine how powerful co-authors would be, or multiple authors, or a piece produced through a collaboration of dozens of minds! Most pieces are collaborations, but their “authors” won’t admit it for fear of loosing status in an academic world that praises individual genius. Yet, if people would only harness the power of collaboration and commit to it boldly, not in shame, then the world of writing would expand exponentially, inclusive of all those unable to be published or heard for whatever reason, and best of all, more people would be able to have fun.