Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Red Wheel Barrow"

So much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

"William Carlos Williams's most original work." (Break, Blow, Burn; Paglia, Camille. pg.128)

This poem is found about halfway through Camille Paglia's book, "Break, Blow, Burn" and more than any other poem up to that point it forced me to ask myself, what is the point? What "depends upon the red wheel barrow"? The easiest answer is, nothing depends upon a dew sprinkled wheel barrow. There is nothing that could be characterized by the phrase -so much- that could depend upon a wheel barrow, regardless of the color. Yet, Camille Paglia declares in the first sentence of her analysis that this is William Carlos William's most "originial work". I am reminded of something that Jason Bateman's character says in the show Arrested Development whenever his son declares his love for his dowdy, plain, dull girlfriend; he always looks at his son and asks, "her?"

This poem is daring and original? Her? In some ways this poem proves the cliche; you get out what you put in. Having encountered this poem, as I have in the context of another person's analysis, I am presented with the difficult position of engaging the poem and the interpretation at the same. If I had encountered this poem on it's own it would be easy to dismiss it and move on (which was my initial inclination), but if I were to do that in this situation I would have to dismiss Camille Paglia's interpretation along with it. Being a gentleman, I was unwilling to do that, which posed another difficult situation, finding meaning and purpose in a poem that struck me, from the outset, as one that lacked both.

So I re-read the poem trying to anticipate what I felt the author was going to say about it, and a funny thing happened, I began to make things depend upon that wheel barrow. I thought of Citizen Kane and Rosebud, I thought of a person unable to work and whose tools are left to rust, forgotten. What if this is a memory? What if the wheel barrow carries significance to the author, or a character the author has created? What gives me the right to dismiss this poem, memory, or idea? I slowly found myself enduing the poem with meaning, or entertaining possible interpretations of this simple poem. Perhaps that is the whole purpose of art, to cause the observer to ask questions of themselves and to invite them to interpret the work for themselves. In my questioning had I just justified this poem's existence? (In my life at least?) Yes. I find myself thinking about it and blogging about it. Thinking about simple discarded items and their significance, but where to draw the line? At what point have I read too much into a poem like this? Is it when I begin to see the plight of all mankind in this wheel barrow?

The poem clearly serves a purpose and, for me at least, it serves it well. Not saying I would want poetry to be overrun with simple poems describing abandoned items, or with obtuse references to meaning that exists only in the reader's ability to supply it. After being forced to confront this poem it has further opened the idea that art serves a multiplicity of purposes and more than one of those purposes is given over fully to the audience. In my own way, I have just as much a right to declare judgment on a poem as Camille Paglia, and that is a great realization that art affords us. It levels the playing field, you can underthink a poem, but in the same way someone who has been dealing with poetry all their lives can overthink it as well. We must be honest in our assessments, but good art will (should?) always yield a return on every investment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Problem with Blogging (Part One)

In Part One of my "The Problem with Blogging" series, I plan to set my sights on the method of blogging. The first problem of blogging is the most obvious, typing. This may be a more general problem with computers, but the issue is that my thoughts have access to immediate expression, and many times I find my thoughts to be trailing my fingers. Perhaps not all my thoughts, just the most rational of them. The thoughts that lead the way are full of misspellings and poor word choice, but I don't have enough time to reflect on what I am thinking, my fingers are already three words ahead trying to predict what the next word will be.

On a side note, I blame our emphasis on typing speed. Surely rational thought cannot keep up at a 76 word a minute typing speed. Just try to sit back and think up 76 rational coherent words that string into one or multiple coherent ideas in a minute...it's impossible!

How many people who blog go back over previous posts and edit them for content and better word choice after hitting the submit/publish button? The method is too quick, the pressure my brain is under to keep up with my fingers while writing any one post, I have a suspicion, has to have real medical consequences on my physical wellbeing. Forget cell phone usage's effect on the brain, what about quantifying the mental stress level that repeated status updates, tweets, and blogs have on our minds? I guess we could explain all the mindless updates as our bodies natural defense mechanism, our minds just shut off after a certain amount of stress associated with them constantly having to think of something worth blogging or status updating about.

This may be a generational issue, perhaps my mind just isn't nimble enough, but I can't imagine how I could get it to be any more limber in order to keep up with the endless outlets to its instantaneous expression.

One last parting thought. I wonder, if you were to study it, how often a person needs to update a blog to keep interest in it? Is it once a week? a month? a day? Anyway, I'm sure I will be back to this post in a day or two to touch it up, once my brain has time to catch up with all I've written. Till next time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Petition for Motown

It has recently come to my attention that at work I am allowed to play music in my office. I immediately set about building playlists to run softly in the background. My first impulse was to assemble a classical playlist. After all, that is the traditional music you associate with the work place, but i quickly found that the music is too soft and then too boisterous, there are too many peaks and valleys (volume wise) with classical so I decided to venture into uncharted professional waters. Motown was my next thought. So I set about constructing the ultimate smooth motown mix for work. I began to rack my brain and within a few minutes I had pulled together my core group of songs and started playing it. Soon after I realized that Motown worked far better than classical in my office. And now I am convinced Motown is the best choice for offices, waiting rooms and possibly elevators. It is more than just pleasant melodies and it can more easily (in my estimation) elicit an emotional response from the hearers and, in turn, make them happier. I think this is the reason: for the most part people have a reference for Motown hits and they identify with the song almost immediately. And the memories that have Motown songs attached to them are pleasant ones. I am willing to venture a guess that at least 98% of memories that are recalled because of a Motown hit are pleasant ones. Regardless of the particular memory the point is that it has immediate impact that classical music fails to have. How many people have a specific reference for Chopin and Handel or some piano concerto in their everyday life? I won't say none, but I will argue an extremely small and easily dismissed percentage. So this is my petition to have all offices, waiting rooms and elevators replace their classical music with Motown.

Some quick obvious benefits:
1.) Enhancement of positive feelings and an optimistic outlook on one's day, future and life.

2.) Weightloss. People will lose wait and help loosen their tightened muscles through their unconscious dancing to the irresistable pull of the music.

3.) Joy. People's joy will be enhanced by watching people unconsciously dancing and/or singing along to the background music. (something you cannot do to classical)

These are just to name a few. There are other reasons as well. Just put "Just My Imagination" on in your place of work and tell me your day hasn't just gotten a bit sunnier.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Quick Thought on Diaper Art


Currently my son has Big Bird grinning half mad on the front of his diaper with a few other choice Sesame Street characters looking like they are planning a jail break out of the fixed ink of the diaper and into real life. Since noticing their queer placement on my son's underthings I have wondered about the purpose of putting art on baby diapers. And then I realized that it's not art at all, it's advertising. The company is advertising to the parent subtly leading them to believe that when their child gets older they will want to watch Sesame Street. When I realized this I felt besmirched and soiled, that a line had been crossed and a good faith pledge was broken. I am not sure if sometime in history, corporations got together with a representative council of consumers and hashed out a few ground rules to help direct the undeveloped capitalist model, but they should have. And one of the requests by the consumer representatives should have been, "You must not use a necessary item to my family, especially to my innocent baby, to advertise to me. No advertisements on trash bags for food products, no shampoo plugs on toilet paper, and no Children's programs on my 3 month old's diapers. I bought one product be happy with that."

So now I am fighting the feeling that it is inevitable that my son will want to watch Sesame Street, maybe that's just the diapers talking. All this got me thinking about advertising in inconvenient or absurd places that anyone else has seen, I'm interested to know if anyone else has any examples.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Humanity is a poor lens to see God through

I was at work the other day and got into a discussion with a coworker about Christianity. During our conversation he kept recalling all the Christian leaders he could remember who had experienced a public scandal, but would not discuss the theological points of Christianity. For him Christianity was all about the hypocrisy of it's "leaders" and nothing more. I realized that these people gave him an excuse not to deal intellectually with the principles of Christianity, but instead gave him an easy out, a way to take the focus off of God and put it back on fallible man.

At first I was frustrated by my coworker's argument, he was using these disgraced figures as deflectors from dealing with the main issue. But as I reflected on our conversation I realized that his argument was one predicted by Jesus in Matt. 5:16 as well as by Paul in Titus 2:7 and also by Peter in 1 Peter 2:12. The basic theme of these verses are "Do good so that you don't become a spiritual obstacle for unbelievers." This appeared to me to be a heavy burden to bear. I am to live my life in a state of constant awareness of how it may look to unbelievers. The problem I have with this reality is that I do not see myself as a good reflection of God, nor do I see myself as a good example of God's nature to humanity, let alone to my coworkers. I started to feel weighed down by this responsibility, until I read Romans 8:10-11, which in essence says that my flesh will always be sinful, but Christ has given me the Holy Spirit who empowers me to not be an obstacle, but, perhaps a signpost pointing someone's gaze back to God.

It is an odd thing that my goal as a Christian is, in essence, not to be noticed. If I am noticed than there is a good chance it won't be for anything I'm proud of. People should look at me and see the power of something greater working in my life, and not see a burdened frustrated sinner struggling to fulfill an impossible command, to be a lens through which unbelievers can see God. Instead they should see God directly working in my life and the focus should not be on me at all, that is exactly what I wanted. To not have to carry the burden of letting my coworker down on my own, instead I am called to just rely on the Holy Spirit to work through me and for Him to be the lens. In this way God is acting as His own lens through which humanity can see Him better...a lens that magnifies itself. My righteousness is imputed to me by Christ. I am holy, because HE is holy. Only through His imputed holiness and righteousness am I able to fulfill the challenge to not be an obstacle for unbelievers. It is not out of my own doing, it is out of the Lord's work in me and through me that I am able to be a person through which people see God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hospital Ruminations

I have been in the hospital with my wife for the past three days. We are currently waiting on some tests to see how Indiana is doing, and to determine if we are going to have to induce labor. One of the most amazing things that I have noticed throughout this pregnancy and especially in the last three days is how little people know about how life is formed and sustained in the womb. I cannot tell you how many times a doctor looked at me and just shrugged their shoulders in response to a question about Indiana's development or questions about how the womb is structured and works, this just heightens the reality that God is truly in control of this situation. I find it interesting that I always hear these New Atheists talking about how unreasonable and unfounded a belief in God is, but in this situation if seems far more reasonable to put my faith in God's ability to know and control the situation than in Science's inability to provide me with even the most basic assurance of Indiana's safety. It seems like with every test there are more questions that arise and less answers.

My brother in law pointed out a verse to me the other night that I thought was really poignant. Ecclesiastes 11:5, "As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything."

Just pray that Indiana gets as much time in the womb as possible and that Elise stays healthy and strong throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. And pray for clarity and discernment on the part of the doctors and nurses. Thanks in advance for all the prayer.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Look Inside Condiment Correspondence (Pt. 1)

Dear Mayo,

First, let me say you are too pale, you should get out more and get some color in you, perhaps that is why so many people look slightly put off when they see you sprawled out on a piece of their lunch or dinner. And please tell me you aren't still considering that foolish move to breakfast are you? I don't care how great the Omelets look there. It just sounds like a bad idea from the start. They have no room for you and they have made it clear that you aren't welcome in the past. I am sorry to hear that Wendy's is the only fast food restaurant that still consider you as a "regular" member on all their burgers. But remember that there will always be some new salad attempted that may need your abilities. I know the Macaroni's swear by you. But we must learn to take the times as they come, the good with the bad, the mayo with the mustard so to speak...that is a saying now-a-days is it not?

Anyway perhaps you would benefit from being out of the limelight for a while hang back in some deli's for a bit, become a request-only member in the fast food chain, perhaps they'll realize they really don't know what they got till it's even more congealed and translucent shoved in the far corner of their refrigerator? Or then again maybe it's best that you just fade off into the sunset, allow another sauce to have its turn, I hear there's this great Wing Sauce looking for a big break...hear he's doing wonders on Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Anyway, I got Hot Dogs, Brats, Burgers, and Grilled Cheeses calling me I gotta run, you used to be big time you know how it can get being "in demand". Look, you were a big surprise to everyone, I think especially to the people who were eating you. Mustard thought you were created on a dare...All I'm trying to say is you had a good run. Maybe it is time to hang it up.

Stay fresh,
Ketchup.

P.S. How'd you get my new address? Just curious.