Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lyrics to Diamond Eyes by Shinedown

(A thought before you read: I certainly do not feel this way all the time-much of the time I see the world with eyes of coal rather than diamonds. However, I like the idea of new beginnings as well as the celebration of those periods when we rise above the clouds and see the world with new eyes.)

I am the shadow, and the smoke in your eyes
I am the ghost, that hides in the night

Wait, wait a minute take a step back,
Gotta think twice before you react.
So stay, stay a little while cause a promise
Not kept is the road to exile
Hey, what's the circumstance
You'll never be great without taking a chance
So, wait you waited too long
Had your hands in your anekatips pocket
When you should've been gone.

One push is all you need
A fist-first philosophy
We watch with wounded eyes.
So I hope you recognize.

Out on the front line, don't worry I'll be fine
The story is just beginning
I say goodbye to my weakness, so long to the regrets
And now I see the world through diamond eyes

Damn, damn it all down
Took one to the chest without even a sound
anekatips so, what, what do you want
The things you love or the people you hurt
Hey, it’s like deja vu suicidal maniac with nothing to lose
So wait, it's the exception to the rule
Everyone of us is expendable

Out on the front line, don't worry I'll be fine
The story is just beginning
I say goodbye to my weakness,
So long to the regrets
And now I know that I'm alive

Out on the front line, don't worry I'll be fine
The story is just beginning
I say goodbye to my weakness so long to the regrets
And now I see the world through
Diamond Eyes

Every night of my life I watch angels fall from the sky
Every time that the sun still sets
I pray they don't take mine

I'm on the front line, don't worry I'll be fine
The story is just beginning
I say goodbye to my weakness so long to regrets
And now I see the world through diamond eyes

Out on the front line, don't worry I'll be fine
The story is just beginning
I say goodbye to my weakness,
So long to the regrets
And now i see the world through
Diamond eyes anekatips

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Day by Elie Wiesel Part Two

Quite frankly, there is not much of a story in Day. Mostly it is the portrait of a haunted man. Again, it seems written for the sake of catharsis-for the sheer release of removing thoughts from one's head and putting them on paper. It comes across as a journal in the guise of a story. The story does come to something of a conclusion, but mostly it just ends. In proper existentialist fashion, a path away from suffering is suggested without in any way negating the bleak vision of existence. However, there is little indication that Eliezer will take this path-exorcising his ghosts (the memories that haunt him) and opening himself up to others: "Maybe God is dead, but man is alive. The proof: he is capable of friendship" Instead it appears that he will remain in a closed-off state of suffering (self-pity and resentment)
   While the narrative falters and the ending is unsatisfying, Day is not without merit. Not only are there elements of Wiesel's writing that help redeem the shortcomings, we are reminded what traumatic suffering can do to a person. We should leave this book behind with a renewed sympathy for victims of cruelty.

Book Review :: Day by Elie Wiesel Part One

Day is a powerful, haunting book. It is NOT, to say the least, a light read. Life is presented, at times, in its ugliest form-no sugar coating here. This bleak tale is full of poetic, descriptive language. Here are two examples: "I closed my eyes. Suddenly I became conscious of the pain that was torturing me. I had not realized it before. And yet the suffering was there. It was the air I was breathing, the words forming in my brain, the cast that covered my body like a flaming skin." "I still had a desire to leave. But why run away? And where to? The desert is the same everywhere. Souls die in it. And sometimes they play at killing the souls that are not yet dead."
   Day appears to be a thinly-veiled autobiography, like an addendum to his explicitly autobiographical Night. He admits in the preface that the main character and he share similar life circumstances. They even share a name. Eliezer (the character) is a sick man, full of disgust and rage directed toward existence itself. He is unable to forgive. The question arises, Is this Wiesel, or does he put forward the darkest aspects of himself as a form of catharsis?
   Here is a quote from Night: "But now, I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long." This haughtiness is echoed in Day: "I felt very calm, completely controlled. If I had searched further I might have discovered that my calm also hid the satisfaction, the strange joy-or was it simply humor?-that comes from the knowledge of one's own strength, at one's own solitude." He continues the theme of condemning God as well: "Suddenly she turned her darkened eyes toward me: God was still in them. The God of chaos and impotence. The God who tortures twelve-year old children." "Why should God be allied with death? Why7 should He want to kill a man who succeeded in seeing Him? Now, everything became clear. God was ashamed." These last quote are taken from a portion of the book that is particularly hard to read, the story of Sarah, a prostitute who was violated as a 12-year old in a concentration camp. She repeatedly makes reference to men's affinities for 12-year olds. One can almost picture this hollow, tortured creature as she states simply and emphatically: "Men like to make love to women who are twelve" Why does he include this anecdote about Sarah when it adds nothing to the story? Perhaps only to shore up his case against God (against Life).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Just A Story? (Some Brief Thoughts on the Significance of Fiction)

   I asked a man the other day if he had read any good fiction. He told me that he couldn't stand to read anything that wasn't true. A bit surprised at his answer, I responded that while fiction is not "true" in the sense of presenting facts, it is true in a different sense because it truly gives an account of human experience.  What I was trying to express was that, while it uses imaginary setting and characters, fiction describes what people really experience-not only life events but the inner world of man: emotions, thoughts, impressions.
   Through fiction, we learn about ourselves. While the characters are derived from eh psyche of the author, we can learn from writers who made the effort of going inward and describing what they found. "Good literature is an education in self-understanding" (Aldous Huxley, "Literature and Modern Life")
   Through stories, we broaden our perspective and learn about other cultures, time periods, and types of people. Case in point: while I obviously can never know what it's like to be a mother, I can-as much as it is possible-enter into that mindset through a well-developed character. I'm thinking specifically of Jodi Picoult's The Pact: she presents in depth the thoughts and reactions of a mother whose son is convicted of a very serious crime and sent to trial. My interior landscape has been enriched and enlarged by this ability to peek into different viewpoints via the experiences of fictional characters.
   Stories can also be used to teach or to present a worldview. We are taught life lessons and forced to consider ethical issues-from the simple morals of Aesop's Fables to the prophetic warnings of 1984 and Brave New World to the complex moral question raised by such great writers as Tolstoy and Steinbeck. In ancient times, stories were used to express the beliefs of a people. Myths and allegories were the primary medium used when attempting to explain the world and suggest how we should live in it. In modern times, thinkers have used fiction to expound their philosophies. Conspicuous examples are the existential novels of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The ways in which fiction can be utilized to instruct or to express ideas are endless.
   There is a time for Non-Fiction (History, Journalism, Essay, etc.), but the "truth" is limiting. Coming from a different angle and using its own (wider) set of rules, fiction is just as true, if not more so, than "the facts"

Book Review: Elie Wiesel's Dawn

   Like similar stories from Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Andre Malraux, Dawn examines, in fictional form, the time preceding and following a murder. These murders are not just random killings, but ones done in the name of revolution-killings ordered by one's superiors. Dawn is written like Night-stark and straightforward. It has the feel of non-fiction, of autobiography. In fact, Wiesel mentions in his preface that the story was written as his own alternate history: What if he had been "drafted" from Pairs to fight in his homeland? What if he had been forced to face such a situation as the main character, Elisha"
   The only detour from the simple, realistic style of storytelling is Elisha's interaction with his "ghosts." The remembered dead in his own mind come to life, like the dead at midnight in the Jewish folktale mentioned in the story, to "talk" to him. This element of the book was a bit confusing to me; I don't know if it added anything to the story. However, I will not criticize this inclusion-others may consider that it bolsters the narrative.
   The final scene, where killer and condemned come fact to face, is powerful, and it emphasizes the blurry ethical lines involved in the revolutionary struggle, in war. The concluding words echo the haunted feeling from the final line of Night. But what is haunting to the reader, what remains with us, are the words of pity that the killer repeatedly hears, including the "Poor Boy! Poor Boy!" of his dead mother that echo in his head. These words reveal to us that, while Elisha is not the one dying, he is truly the one condemned.

This Is What I Think of as "Postmodernism" in Literature

   The following is found in Aldous Huxley's Literature and Science (from Aldous Huxley: Complete Essays Volume VI 1956-1963, Ed. Robert S. Baker and James Sexton. Chicago:Ivan R, Dec, 2002) the description of "Dadaism" closely corresponds to the idea I have in my head of "Postmodernism" If any one has a clearer definition of postmodernism (i.e. where Modernism ends and Postmodernism begins), please e-mail it to me and/or link to it in the comments section. I am thinking of the worlds of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, et al-writings which are virtually unreadable but are notable for their attempt to convey words in a whole new way . . . As for me, I believe it is perfectly fine to convey words in the "old way" as long as we understand and accept the limitations of language and reason (i.e. we do not "absolutize that which is relative"-Dr. Glenn Martin) There is still plenty to be said, in fiction and non-fiction, without abandoning logic and clarity.
   An ultimate and total verbal recklessness was advocated by the founding fathers of Dada. In an essay published in 1920, Andre Gide lucidly summarized the Dadaist philosophy "Every from has become a formula and distills an unspeakable boredom. Every common syntax is disgustingly insipid. The best attitude to the art of yesterday and in the face of accomplished masterpieces is not attempting to imitate them. The Perfect is what does not need re-doing . . . Already the edifice of our language is too undetermined for anyone to recommend that thought should continue to take refuge in it. And before rebuilding it is essential to cast down what still seems solid, what makes a show of still standing. The words that the artifice of logic still lumps together must be separated, isolated . . . Each vocable-island on the page must present steep contours. It will be placed here (or there, just as well) like a pure tune; and not far away will vibrate other pure tunes, but without any inter-relationships. So as to authorize no association of thoughts. Thus the world will be liberated from all its preceding meaning, at least, and from all evocations of the past" Needless to say it was psychologically and even physiologically impossible for the Dadists to practice consistently what they preached. Do what they might, some kind of sense, some logical, syntactical, associational form of coherence kept breaking in. By the mere fact of being animals biologically committed to survival, of being a human being living in a certain place at a particular moment in history, they were compelled to be more consistent in though and feeling, more grammatical and even more rational than, on their own principals, they ought to have been.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Addendum to "Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

"Much of what we do as adults is based on this imitative absorption during our childhood years. Frequently we imagine that we are behaving in a particular way because such behaviour accords with some abstract, lofty code of moral principles, when in reality all we are doing is obeying a deeply ingrained and long 'forgotten' set of purely imitative impressions. It is the unmodifiable obedience to these impressions (along with our carefully concealed instinctive urges) that makes it so hard for societies to change their customs and their 'beliefs' Even when faced with exciting, brilliantly rational new ideas, based on the application of pure, objective intelligence, the community will still cling to its old home-based habits and prejudices. This is the cross we have to bear if we are going to sail through our vital juvenile 'blotting-paper' phase of rapidly mopping up the accumulated experiences of previous generations. We are forced to take the biased opinions along with the valuable facts."
--Desmond Morris: The Naked Ape; McGraw-Hill: New York, 1967

My response to the quote: So the unfortunate by-product of the process of absorbing essential knowledge in our youth is that we imbibe the attitudes and prejudices of those in our environment (especially our parents) This would mean that to meet the ideal of objectivity (freedom from bias), we would then be stupid and helpless...Another dilemma of being human.