Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Post for Learned Youngsters

Oh, man! What a great Thursday! I only had rehearsal for Wednesday so the rest of the week is totally chill. I mean, if you decide to neglect most of the responsibilities that come with my classes it is.

English class is freaking awesome right now. We're in the middle of reading A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and I'm really digging it. Before this we glossed over Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain and we went really in depth with The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Now, being a fan of literature, I can appreciate works like Pudd'nhead and Scarlet Letter on a certain level but the writing is really daunting. Hawthorne's more than anything. Then here comes along Hemingway with a fresh and straightforward story and character. It's great. Everything he writes is completely blunt and repetitive and it drones on and on and it's through his lack of flourish that he is able to tell a story differently from any other literature at his time.

Hemingway is part of a group called "The Lost Generation". This pretty much ran from the 1920-30's. Essentially it was the sign of an age where people of great intellect were overcoming the ideas of American labor. The daily routine of work a 9-to-5 job to support your family was not acceptable for them. They looked beyond their restraints and sulked in their depression at being stuck in a world where so few shared their same outlook. This all comes into place with the concept of existentialism. It's the philosophy of why anybody is who they are at a specific time and why. It also delves into the concepts of human individuality and one's purpose in life. A lot of this came out of post-WWI discussions. Which is the setting of A Farewell to Arms.

So these are the topics that we were discussing today in class. Before today I already had an interest in the ideas associated with existentialism. Not too come across as pretentious or anything but I often myself being lost in my thoughts as to why anything really is rather than keeping my sights set on just making sure it gets done. This isn't necessarily a positive attribute because in the eyes of the rest of the world this would appear as just a common slacker. In the Greek myth of Sisyphus this is referred to as the "absurd hero". Sisyphus, who lives in the underworld, defies the laws of his nature/existence and is condemned by the gods to an endless torture of rolling a boulder to the top of a mountain only to have it fall back down. Yet through his punishment, Sisyphus gains a new view on the world he used to belong to and becomes conscious of his situation. He does not want to go back to his old life because he now realizes that it wasn't the life he ever wanted. So his eternal punishment becomes his greatest gift as he now has grander view on life than anybody that is till trapped within their lives. So this knowledge brings him happiness, but what does he really gain? The truth can often times bring a pain greater than what our realities may hold for us. So did Sisyphus really win? What is our reality but what we make of it.

Existentialism really is an amazing philosophy.It questions our very humanity. I feel like I have a strong connection to the idea and even Hemingway himself. I'm nowhere near as adventurous as him but my writing more often than not has a very flat and direct tone to it. I recently wrote a short story for my english class that I'm pretty proud of. Maybe I'll share it later.


  1. I'm glad you're back at the bloggery, man. Two things:

    (1) If you're interested in philosophy, you may want to give Atlas Shrugged a look. I enjoyed it more since I looked at it as The Industrial Adventures of Dagny Taggart - and while it is very dense, it's also an interesting argument for her Objectivism philosophy. (Short version: be the best you you can be and nothing, nothing else matters.)

    (2) If you are spiritually sensitive or very religious, please don't read the rest of this. It may piss you off. And I don't want to piss you off.

    I find the further back you go, in terms of religion/philosophy, the closer you get to "the best" way of negotiating the human condition. If I had to name a personal favorite, I'd have to go with zen Buddhism.

    Every major religion/philosophy tends to get pared down to its single nugget of truth. Here it is:

    "Don't be a dick."

    Now, if you look at pretty much any successful religion - that's it - that's the central lesson. But only Buddhism kind of sticks to that without throwing a bunch of crap in about how anyone who fits that religion's definition of being a dick will burn in hell/should be killed or whatever.

    It's very pure. It's not a bunch of rules - it's kind of a road map for finding your own path to spiritual self-discovery. You may dig it.

  2. I've intended to read more of Ayn Rand's work ever since I read Anthem for my English last year so I'll probably get around to it.

    And I totally understand where you're coming from with Buddhism. I also read Siddhartha last year and I really found ti be an empowering book and a lot if it's central message made a lot of sense to me.

  3. People are always telling me to read Rand's The Fountainhead, but I can never seem to get around to it.