Endings

So this school year is coming to an end. It has been difficult, in a number of ways. Looking back at this year of AP Language, I have improved a lot. I have learned so much about the world and about writing. However, it has taken me working my butt off to see this improvement. When we first started this class this year, I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t anticipate the amount of work that I would have to complete for this class. Weekly blog-posts, essays, vocab quizzes, textbook reading, books, mini-lessons, and projects are only some of what we accomplished in this class. There was a lot of time and effort put into all of these assignments. Often, the assignments didn’t feel like they had an immediate effect, and it was only after much practice that I began to feel it all pay off. Looking at my work throughout the year, I am proud that I continued to push myself to do all the homework, and do it well. I can see improvement in my writing from the beginning of the year, and that’s what I ultimately wanted from this class.

So I’ve been reminded that seeing improvement in myself isn’t always easy. Things that take a lot of work, often also have a high reward. If I can do something easily, it likely won’t be as valuable to me as something I have to put effort into.  The people who become masters at certain skill don’t get that way by accident or pure talent alone. Mastery comes from thousands of hours of practice. This year in AP Lang was a good reminder that I can’t expect to get everything in life easily and that if I want something badly, I will have to work for it.

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Darling

(This is a letter to Eliza Hamilton, a musical character based on a historical figure.)

Dear Eliza,

My darling, how have you been? How are your children? Is William doing well in school? Has Angelica gotten over her cold? Has your sister visited from London recently? How are you doing on organizing all of Alexander’s writing?

Over here this year is wrapping up. I’m in the midst of exams, auditions, tests, projects, and applications. With your help, somehow I’ll survive.

As it is finally the end of the year, I realized I owe you a letter of gratitude for everything you’ve done in my life. I’m sure you have no idea how instrumental you’ve been. Scarcely a week has passed where I haven’t thought of you and how you’re doing. Your constant words of encouragement have kept me afloat many a hard evening.

Thank you for being a role model of selfless love. I will never forget your example as a wife and mother. Thank you for so clearly living out many of the Bible’s commands; the way you forgave Alexander after what he did to you is truly unbelievable. I wish I could have more of your caring and gentle spirit that desires to connect deeply with those around you. I will never understand how you can love so fully and dedicate yourself to your family so well.

I have poured over your words to the point of memorization, and they always pop into my head when I most need them. They help me process my feelings into words and understand that I am not alone. You let me be a part of the narrative.

Always remember “how lucky we are to be alive right now” (song here).

Love forever,

Caroline

Skirts

About a week ago, 3 boys wore skirts to school. They were wearing them for a school project in which one of their friends was doing a presentation about raising children based on their individual preferences and not gender stereotypes. Not even five minutes after arriving, they were called into the principal’s office and asked to take them off. This was obviously a controversial decision.

The skirts were clearly long enough for dress code so that obviously wasn’t the problem here. The dress code does prohibit clothing that is offensive or immoral which could relate to this situation.

This type of rule carries inherent gender inequality to it because it allows girls to wear something that boys can’t. Even if it’s not saying that one gender is superior to the other, it is showing a difference in the rules which is inequality. Then again, the dress code is not normally enforced equally, though usually girls are more likely to be called out than boys.

Clothing is such a cultural concept. There is no higher moral law that says skirts are for girls; in fact in many other cultures men wear tunics or dresses as well. Whose to say that Western culture is the right one?

While these things may make it seem clear cut, it was not so easy for the principal.

The school is a conservative Christian school that is supported by conservative Christian owner agencies. The school has a stance against supporting homosexuality, and some parents or students could see boys wearing these skirts at school and get offended, and the school wants to make everyone happy, as much as possible. On top of skirts potentially supporting cross-dressing and homosexuality, the Bible does have verses about dressing in a way that lines up with gender rules of the time: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this” (Deuteronomy 22:25). The principal had many different people to consider when making this decision.

In a complicated situation like this one, there is often no right or wrong answer. I’m not even sure what I would’ve done in that situation, had I been making the decision. But what I would propose is that everyone involved should be careful not to jump to opinions. The principal should’ve waited longer and thought more carefully about both sides before deciding, and the students need to be fair-minded when thinking about and talking about the situation in general. This way, even if not everyone agrees, at least everyone will have made a logical decision.

It is important to be fair-minded and consider the valid points on both sides before jumping to hasty conclusions. Sometimes, it is helpful to seek out someone who believes differently on a certain issue to hear the other side. Maybe if we were all a little more careful and informed with our judgements and opinions we wouldn’t have so many conflicts.

Water

I recently finished Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time. This book is her reflections on faith and how it relates to art and writing. This book has a unique writing style. The ideas are loosely connected into chapters, although she jumps around a lot. It feels very much like a stream of consciousness, which means the ideas don’t always connect logically to each other. I personally do not enjoy this type of writing; I prefer much more structure, although it does help the writing feel more personal. Despite my not preferring the writing style, I was fascinated by many of the ideas she explored. The content of this book was extremely interesting to me as I consider myself a Christian artist, and this helped me ponder how I relate to my art as a Christian.

The first point that I took away from this book is the idea that we create art to strive for wholeness and holiness. This is brought up in multiple different chapters. L’Engle writes, “If a healthy state of mind means to be whole […], and if to be whole means to be holy, then wholeness is what the Christian artist seeks. It is what the Christian seeks. It is what any artist seeks” (136). This idea of wholeness is even extended to experiencing art as wholeness: “Bach’s music points me to wholeness, a wholeness of body, mind, and spirit, which we seldom glimpse, but which we are intended to know” (49). I love this idea of art healing us, as I have seen this in my own life. In pain, I go to music, and I intrinsically feeling its healing.

Another very important point that L’Engle mentions many times is that the artist serves the work. The work knows more than the artist and the artist is just discovering the work and following it where it goes. She writes “It is a joy to be allowed to be the servant the work” (163). The work can become something greater that even lasts beyond to artist and the artist’s abilities. Sometimes the work goes in a way that way not originally intended and “has a reality beyond the artist’s vision” (73). The artist needs to get out of the way to truly let the work speak: “When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens” (14). I had never really thought much about this idea before, so it was pretty fascinating to think about.

Another idea that I really enjoyed pondering was the inherent connection between creativity and freedom: “the artist has retained some of the freedom we have lost in the industrial dailiness of our living” (76). In my mind, creativity as freedom makes sense. Someone could be locked in a room, but with creativity, they could be journeying anywhere. With this idea of freedom, comes her idea of control. L’Engle discusses how creativity is letting go of control: “if we insist on intellectual control we have to let go our archaic understanding and our high creativity, because keeping them means going along with all kinds of things we can’t control” (81). She even connects this to our faith by stating,  “the only way we can brush against the hem of the Lord or hope to be part of the creative process, is to have the courage, the faith, to abandon control.” (153). I am a control freak so this part of creativity and even my faith is a hard one to learn. Focusing on the conscious and intellectual seems much safer than what can happen in the unconscious and creative parts of my mind. Nonetheless, I can see how part of faith is trust, and part of trust is letting go of complete control.

L’Engle also keeps revisiting the idea of the beauty of a child’s creativity and faith: “Those mighty acts of God which we forget how to understand because our childlike creativity has been corrupted and diminished” (34). This is seen in the Bible when Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those with faith like the children. She stresses that artists go back to that childlike state “and during the writing of the story or the painting of the composing or singing or playing, we are returned to that open creativity which was our when we were children. We cannot be mature artists if we have lost the ability to believe which we had as children. An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith” (47). To me, a child painting a picture only they can decipher is a beautiful image of creativity completely unfettered by society or rules. I have often been inspired by a child’s wonder about the world and it makes sense that this wonder could transform into creativity.

Possibly my favorite point from the whole book is that creativity is inherently Christian. In the first verse of the Bible, Moses writes, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This verse is easy to skip over, but here we are introduced to an essential part of God’s character—creativity. God is creative and when we are creative we reflect His character. Therefore we are called to creativity, as we are called to imitate God in other virtues: “we become what we are called to be as human beings, cocreators with God, touching on the wonders of creation” (88). She also stresses the importance of doing good work as we are called to excellence in creativity. We need to make good work because we are representing God in our art and “if it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject” (4). Creativity is a holy act and by creating we are becoming more like God.

If you are a Christian artist, I would definitely recommend this book. So many of its points were meaningful and helped me think about how my faith and art relate. I had honestly never pondered this topic much and I learned a lot from this reading. I am inspired in my creativity and can’t wait to go and create.

Entertainment

Who doesn’t love to have fun or share a good laugh with a friend? Most people would agree that it’s pleasant to be entertained, but is too much entertainment dangerous for our society? Entertainment can become dangerous when it becomes the main focus of our endeavors.

Let me start off by establishing that there is nothing wrong with entertainment. It it enjoyable to be happy and I would much prefer to be laughing than crying or being bored. I enjoy the occasional movie and watch a few videos for pure entertainment almost every day.

Not only is entertainment not wrong, but it’s actually good in moderation. I find it incredibly entertaining to watching cute animal videos. This is an innate desire because I’m sure Adam and Eve enjoyed watching animals in the garden of Eden. When I looked up synonyms of entertainment words like amusement, enjoyment, and pleasure came up. I’m sure that God wants us to enjoy life and find pleasure in what we do, so entertainment is good.

The problem comes when we learn to value entertainment above anything else. Our current society has evolved in a way that glorifies entertainment above learning, productive work, knowledge, or beneficial choices. For example, much of the learning in school has become entertaining. This is not a problem, as long as the learning is still the first priority. In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes, “[N]o one has ever said or implied that significant learning is effectively, durably, and truthfully achieved when education is entertainment. […] [L]earning to think conceptually and rigorously do not come easily to the young but are hard-fought victories ” (146). Here Postman discusses how learning can’t be pure entertainment, and how focusing too much on entertainment is dangerous to learning. This is just one of many possible example of how looking for amusement as our ultimate goal is destructive.

Entertainment in itself is not bad, but it can become dangerous when we care more about it than anything else. Postman writes that the problem is not that we are “laughing instead of thinking, but that [we do] not know what [we are] laughing about and why [we have] stopped thinking” (163). Amusement has become a king to us, and, if we’re not careful, he could become a dictator.

 

Debates

I got 5 minutes into one of the 2016 presidential debates and almost stopped watching. It was painful to listen to because both candidates were constantly using logical fallacies. This week I’m writing about these fallacies specifically in this debate.

First of all, ad hominem. This fallacy is attacking the opponent instead of the argument. This one is a favorite of Trump, although both used it. Trump called Clinton a liar with terrible instincts and bad judgement, a nasty woman, and said she has been outsmarted and outplayed worse than anybody ever seen in government. Clinton said that Trump was the most dangerous person to run for president in the modern history of America.

The next logical fallacy is emotional appeal in place of an logical argument. Both also did this.  Trump said “children have been killed, brutally killed, by people that came into the country illegally.” While this may be true, these may be a few specific cases and are more appealing to emotion. Clinton said “I am not going to slam the door on women and children.” and “I don’t want to rip families apart. I don’t want to be sending families away from children.” This is also emotional appeal because who would want to do that? Neither of these arguments really address the complicated issue of immigration well.

Another fallacy used is strawman which is misrepresenting your opponent’s argument. Trump said that Clinton wanted open borders. Clinton called him out on this fallacy saying “We will not have open borders. That is a rank mischaracterization. We will have secure borders.”

Another fallacy used is tu quoque which is responding to criticism with criticism. Clinton did this when being questioned about immigration by switching the topic to Trump’s connections with Russia. Trump responded “That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders. Okay? How did we get on to Putin?” Trump also used this fallacy when asked about his treatment of women and very quickly switches to talking about Clinton’s email scandal.

Politics are full of these sorts of fallacies. In my mind, these tactics for arguing, though they may sound nice, actually discredit the speaker. I wouldn’t want to vote for someone who’s attacking their opponent or avoiding responding to criticisms. Sadly, most Americans watching these debates aren’t watching for these fallacies. They’re listening to whose argument sounds the best or who can get the best roast in. So these fallacies largely work, which leads to presidents who can sound nice in a debate but have trouble actually helping the country.

Education

I am at school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 36 weeks per year, 19 years. Someone must think it’s important and beneficial if I spend a majority of my days growing up in a classroom. What is the purpose of education?

The purpose of education is not only to impart facts, but also to teach how and why to think.

At my school, we emphasize intellectual virtues. These are ways of thinking that help one pursue the truth. For example, intellectual courage is the ability to question your beliefs and consider new ideas, and also speak out about your ideas. Discussions in class may serve to help us learn about a particular topic, but it may also help us develop intellectual courage in sharing our views with others and listening to others’ views.

Some courses are more for helping one become a better thinker. I have found this in my Precalculus course. It is fairly advanced math that isn’t normally useful in everyday life. We learn it because it helps our brains to learn advanced math: we learn how to think quickly, make connections, and see patterns. These help our thinking, even if graphing hyperbolas is not immediately applicable.

School should also show why we learn. If a class is taught well, it can instill a sense of curiosity in the students and give them a desire for learning. If a student loves learning, they will then be likely to continue learning even after they’re done school.

School also teaches practical skills to help in life. School has taught me skills like time management, responsibility, respect and how to work under pressure. Of course it has also taught me how to cram and function on insufficient sleep, but these are side effects.

Schools are not just to teach children a bunch of basically useless facts. They should teach children how to think well, pursue truth, and be curious, as well as giving them practical skills for their lives.

Pie

I am a lover of almost anything sweet. Ice cream, brownies, chocolate — yes, please. I actually really enjoy both cake and pie. But, in the end, one clearly wins. Pie is better than cake.

Pie is more versatile than cake. Although it’s normally a dessert item, pie can also be wonderfully adapted into a savory dish like meat pie or chicken pot pie. I have never had a savory or remotely healthy cake. One could go the whole day eating pie and it could still be healthy.

Pies, or at least good ones, are not too sweet. If done correctly, they mix the tartness of the fruit with sweetness in the crust. Also, crust is amazing. It’s flaky and a little sweet. I would gladly eat crust by itself. Cake only has icing which is weird overly sweet goop stuff. What even is icing? Basically sugar.

Pie has substance. Pie is made with a solid filling of fruit, meat, chocolate, or something else. As one of my friends told me “Cake is just a sponge of air.” So true. Cake is filled with holes so there is so little actual food there. A pie has condensed the goodness down and gotten rid of all the unnecessary air.

Cakes are trying too hard. One knows that cakes must not be as yummy because people have to be all elaborate with the colors and decorations to make them appealing. It’s like they think “Oh, if I put some pretty fondant on top they’ll forget to actually taste it.” Pie is not pretending to be anything that it’s not. Small and unassuming, pies don’t have to make up for a lack of flavor with flashy decorations. The promise of heavenly flavor is enough to make anyone want to dig in.

When I think of warm homemade cooking, pies come to mind. Nothing sounds better than one of my grandma’s famous Saskatoon or apple pies. While cakes are generally impersonal or store-bought, pies bring connotations of love and home.

Now that I’m sure you’re thoroughly convinced, you may be wondering “Why does it matter?” Of course you can love and enjoy both cake and pie. But you never know when you’ll have to make a choice between the two, like which to serve at your next dinner or which to eat when you’re so full after a meal that you only have room for one.

In conclusion, next year I want a birthday pie.

Wild

I recently finished reading the book Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It follows the life of Chris McCandless who gives all his saving to charity and ventures alone into the Alaskan wilderness to his eventual death. It’s a fascinating story, and I would recommend the read.

While this book is almost completely fact-based, it still has a purpose behind it. Otherwise why would Krakauer write it? The purpose is to confront society with our tendency to judge others without knowing the whole story.

This whole book is a response to the negative publicity that Chris’s story originally got. It’s pretty easy to hear about a young boy who died in the wilderness because he was completely unprepared and immediately label him as stupid or selfish. Krakaurer is challenging people by making them question those easy judgements. He presents evidence that Chris was actually not stupid or unkind, by talking to many people that he interacted with. This makes readers realize the human flaw to quickly judge people, which inevitably makes them question when they have done this before. This specific story is just one good example where snap judgement is easy, but there are countless others, and Krakauer wants us to see that.

In today’s world, we like headlines that sound interesting. We like to assume that we know people from one quick article online or even a picture. Almost none of us would take the time to actually do more research and look into someone’s life in a deep and meaningful way to find out who they really are, like Krakauer did. I can’t even imagine how this world could look different if we all put in the work the get the whole story about people before making judgements. I imagine it would have dramatic ramifications in many aspects  of society from news to immigration policies to personal relationships to wars. It would make us all much more understanding and accepting.

Metaphors

For our AP Language class, we did research on a poet and are supposed to use a series of metaphors to explain our poet. My poet is Lin-Manuel Miranda, a contemporary composer and the writer of Hamilton.

1. Animal- parrot. A parrot is vocal, creative, and musical, just like Miranda. Parrots are social and colorful, which also reminded me of his outgoing personality. (Here is a video of a parrot making sounds over the soundtrack of Hamilton, just for fun.)

2. Plant- sunflower. A sunflower is bright and colorful and actually follows the sun as is moves across the sky. This reminds me of Miranda because he is always looking for light in this world to incorporate into his music.

3. Article of Clothing- mismatched socks. Mismatched socks are perfect because they are a mix between the practicality of still keeping the feet warm but also does it in a fun and unique way. In Miranda’s musical Hamilton, it has enough history to be practical, but enough music to be fun.

4. Day of the Week- Friday. Friday is a day of excitement and creativity, because it’s almost the weekend, so one wants to work hard to get everything done. It almost has the feeling of running out of time, which is a reference to Hamilton. Miranda writes with a fervor and excitement that seems like he’s running out of time before the weekend.

5. Food- chicken curry. Curry is spicy and full of life, like Miranda, but, unlike a spicy pepper, is still filling enough to make a whole meal. Miranda may be fun, but he also has real substance.

6. Color- red. Red is passionate and loud and shows love. Miranda is a generally passionate person that loves a lot.

7. Geometric Shape- septagon. I chose this one because, too me, a spetagon is a fairly unique shape. It has seven sides, and is not as well known or used. Miranda is surely unique, and has ideas like no one else.

8. Fragrance- petrichor. This is the smell of rain and rain signals growth and new life. Creativity is new ideas and Miranda’s mind must get enough rain to grow what it does.

9. Type of Building- theater. This seems like an obvious connection with Miranda performing on Broadway and winning Tony awards.

10. Word- nonstop. This word is a reference to Hamilton where it describes how Hamilton seems to be constantly writing and making things happen. It would be easy to say the same about Miranda. Looking at his career, it’s quite surprising how much he writes and works.

11. Musical Instrument- snare drum. I chose this because of his rhythms. Although he writes melodies too, his rhythms are extremely unique and important, especially in his rap. He isn’t actually a particularly good singer, but feels much more comfortable rapping.

12. Season of the Year- spring. This has to do with spring being the beginnings of new life and how his creativity reminds me of springtime.

13. Appliance / Machinery- electric kettle. Miranda is always bubbling with ideas, and could just spill over at any time.

14. Natural Phenomenon- volcanic eruption. Volcanoes are hot and passionate, just like Miranda’s intense personality. Also, I like to think of an eruption when I imagine him writing songs or freestyle rapping.

15. Literary Character- Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing. I couldn’t help thinking about how Benedict and Beatrice and constantly making clever puns and playing with words, which is exactly what Miranda does in much of his work.

Resumes

A good resume can be the difference between a job or not. It is essential to have an impeccable resume to put your life and career in the best way possible. A resume is essentially an advertisement for yourself. Besides the usual rules about what to include, here are some helpful rules for making your resume as convincing as possible.

Do fit your resume to match the specific job you’re applying to by highlighting previous experiences that would be most beneficial for this job. Do research about the job.

Do use action words when possible. Words like improved, spearheaded, tackled, approved, and coordinated help dramatize past positions.

Do make sure you’re being truthful. You should be able to back everything up.

Do make it easy to read by using a sensible font and color and being consistent with formatting.

Don’t make it too long. Most employers are reading so many resumes, that they don’t spend much time on each one. Cut down all unnecessary details like personal facts about yourself, like height, religion, or marital status. Don’t write about irrelevant hobbies. Generally, unless you have an extensive career or education, try to fit it on one page.

Don’t have any grammar or spelling mistakes. This is an easy way to disqualify yourself.

Don’t try to fit too much information on a page by using tiny fonts or big blocks of text.

Don’t include a picture of yourself unless it’s an acting or modeling job.

Don’t try to be funny. It probably won’t come across well on paper and could be interpreted as unprofessional.

Remember that you are trying to convince someone that they should want to hire you. Make it sound like you are perfect for the position and would be very beneficial for the company. Focus on what you’ll do for them. Good luck!

Here are my sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6

 

Truth

Humans are born to try to find the truth. Little children are constantly asking questions about why and how everything works. People in every profession like scientists, pastors, and artists are all searching for truth. Our search for truth is one of those qualities that sets us apart from other animals who don’t have a need to figure out why the world works like it does.

But why? Why does truth matter? As a Christian, I believe that truth is intrinsic to God and searching after truth is trying to better understand God and His world. Solomon, an extremely wise man who wrote Proverbs, wrote a lot about the value of wisdom. “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding” (Proverbs 3:13, New International Version). We are called to search after God and His truth because God wants us to get closer to Him.

Interestingly, there is also some truth that we aren’t supposed to know. Adam and Eve sinned because they wanted to become like God, and the knowledge of good and evil caused their death. There are many other truths that God has that humans don’t understand. “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.” (Acts 1:7, New International Version). However, just because we can’t know everything, that doesn’t mean we should stop searching. God wants us to keep learning about Him.

Even for those who aren’t religious, everyone is somehow searching for meaning and purpose in life. The more we learn, the more we can get closer to this meaning and purpose. This is why we ask questions about our origins as a species or the way color works. Answering these questions, or any questions, bring us closer to discovering why we are all here. Searching for truth is a way to find purpose in life.

Life

“Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute? No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.” – Our Town

Pondering this, I am deeply saddened because I suddenly feel the weight of every person who has ignored the beauty of life.

I just went outside and laid in the grass on the field in the sun. The sky was an unapologetic blue stretching further and further into infinity until I became so small and insignificant and the sky became so important that I was nearly crushed under the expanse. A grey ant crawled on my left arm, each leg thinner than a strand of hair, slowly traversing up my skin, making my arm into its tiny path, before meandering back into the grass. The sky and the ant combined in my mind to create a balance that is at once holy and breathtaking, as I realized the immense sky is held up by that delicate ant. The birds proclaimed their jubilee and the sun passionately showered me in heat as they gladly welcomed me into the beauty they create.

Go. Get off your computer. Drink tea and dance and eat mangoes and do cartwheels and cry. Cry for the people who don’t understand the precious life they are living. Run outside barefoot. Smile so wide that the world can scarcely contain it. Grab other people by the hand and belly laugh so your sides ache with joy. Treasure connections. Become acquainted with the stars until you can call each one by name. Wear bright colors and kiss flowers and shout so loudly that other people have to notice life. Open your eyes to the divinity of it all. Appreciate pain and healing and chaos and order. Breathe deeply. Play music and become music and tell stories. Love others ferociously. Cling to delight and cherish magnificence and embrace wonder. Befriend the ant and the sky.  Allow the world to accept you into its beauty. Find what makes you realize life and do it. Now.

Go.

Poetry

I don’t often write poetry because it doesn’t come as a natural way of expressing myself. Possibly against my better judgement, I recently wrote a haiku.

Ants in our kitchen.

Nature is slowly claiming

what is hers to keep

I don’t know  exactly why I wrote a haiku about the ants in our kitchen. One day I was looking at them and was struck with the beauty and humanity of these tiny creatures that have forged a way into our house and now walk around my sink and wander on the walls. The beauty of it all made a poem. I took an slightly irritating, everyday experience and highlighted the life in the situation. This is why poetry is so powerful.

Many poets write about simple objects or experiences. A flower, a cloud or a smile makes great options for a poem. Most longer stories are not about something as simple as can be captured by a poem. Poems take these simple moments and expose or highlight the beauty and humanity of them, making the reader feel an appreciation for that rose, cloud or smile.

Poetry can humanize people. Naomi Shihab Nye writes, “Poetry humanizes us in a way that news, or even religion, has a harder time doing” (here). Poetry not only exposes the humanity in moments and also in people. Poetry is beautiful and vulnerable in a way that is inherently human. No other animals write poetry. By reading someone else’s poetry, it helps one to confront the humanity in them.

I’m sure there are many other reasons for why people write poetry, but those ants taught me an important one.

Defy

Ever since I was young, I got in trouble for breaking the rules. At a young age, I was taught rules and that bad consequences would happen if I didn’t follow them. I would get a time out for being mean to my brother or a scolding for touching something I wasn’t supposed to. As I got older, the list of rules grew longer and more complicated with many of the new rules being unspoken social rules. I don’t think anyone ever sat me down and taught me the rules of personal space, but I learned how far to stand from someone when talking. The consequences of breaking unspoken rules are more ambiguous and less immediate.

Rules are guidelines for behavior in a certain circumstance that have negative ramifications if not followed. On a daily basis, I follow rules from my school, my parents, my peers, the Bible, my country, and human society at large. Generally, it is beneficial to follow rules because it protects one from the consequences of breaking them and it helps society run smoothly. For example, there is a law in most countries that one should not kill another. Following this rule would be generally beneficial for everyone because people are important for society to run.

However, disobedience to rules can also facilitate change. When a rule is broken, it makes people aware of the rules in the first place, making unjust rules obvious, and hopefully compelling people to change the rules. Rosa Parks disobeyed a segregation rule in buses, which led people to realize and question the rule, and it was changed. Disobedience can change unjust rules.

What about those unspoken rules? Disobedience can change those too. Walt Whitman, an eighteenth-century poet, broke unspoken rules about poetry. He wrote free verse that sounded like normal speech and was about everyday themes. This was shocking to the readers of his day, but he changed the rules of poetry. His disobedience made people question the unspoken rules about diction and form, which opened up the gate for poetry that looks very different. Artists are always breaking the rules, which makes society feel uncomfortable, but can enlarge everyone’s minds to look outside the rules.

Disobedience is a beautiful trait because of its ability to stretch boundaries and change unjust rules.

Heights

“In the heights/I flip my lights and start my day.”

In The Heights is a contemporary musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It follows an eventful three days in Washington Heights, a part of Manhattan. This neighborhood is run down, but the culture of it is spicy and colorful. The musical integrates rap and Latino music styles for a very unique feel. The story has many important characters like Usnavi, Nina, Benny, Vanessa, and Claudia. The plot has multiple romances, a lucky surprise, a painful loss, and all of that is wrapped into questions about identity and belonging. While Miranda’s most recent musical, Hamilton, is currently extremely popular, In The Heights has many unique and beautiful aspects to share, and should not be overlooked.

One of my favorite parts of this masterpiece is the characters. The beauty of it is that there is no main character, no obvious plot line. There are many characters, each interesting and vital to the story. Their roles intertwine in family relations, romances, and friendships to create a tapestry of a story. Each of the twelve main characters are unique and special. The biggest male part, Usnavi, is awkward and hard working, with big dreams for the future. The biggest female role, Nina, is smart and beautiful, but she’s struggling to find her place in the world. Another girl, Vanessa, is working to get enough money to start her own business. Not one of the characters is perfect, which makes them relatable and different. Most simple stories have one bad guy, one good guy, and some other people for comic relief or sidekicks. In The Heights has a fascinating cast of characters who struggle with hard decisions that affect all those around them.

Another aspect that makes this musical so appealing is the music. Miranda has a unique and distinct way of composing music. This musical has a blend of hip-hop and salsa styles. The musical has six large numbers with almost every character singing layering melodies in a way that reminds me of “One Day More” from Les Miserables. Usnavi raps many of his parts, and there are some great songs for belting. Some of my favorite songs in the whole musical are the duets between Benny and Nina, because of the soul-filling  harmonies. The songs are powerful and memorable, and can easily get stuck in one’s head. They perfectly show the diverse blend of American inner city and Latino cultures, making them a wonderful way to experience this story.

Probably my favorite part about this musical is the themes represented in it. The characters are all 1st or 2nd generation immigrants, which adds so much life to the musical because of the frequent Spanish and large Latino personalities. It also adds the theme of identity and belonging. Am I from my parents country or the country I live in? What would my life be like if my parents never came to America? In one song the characters raise the flags of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. They sing about how their flags contain their souls and how they love their homelands. There is also a song called “When You’re Home” where Nina talks about how she isn’t sure where home is. These themes resonate so deeply with me, because I live in a different country than my parents are from and go to an international school. Where is home? Where do I belong? These struggles are relevant and hard, and it’s inspiring to see how the characters answer these questions along the way.

I love this musical. Among other components, I love the characters, the story, the music, and the themes. I would strongly recommend that you go see this musical, or at least listen to the soundtrack. I find it is deeply energizing and enriching, and I suspect it might be the same for you.

 

 

 

 

Bones

Recently I finished a book by Natalie Goldberg called Writing Down the Bones.  In it, Goldberg challenges writers to be real and authentic and dig down the the core of who they are as a writer. It was a fascinating and easy read, so I zipped through it in a few days. I would highly recommend if you’re looking for a nonfiction book about writing.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the short chapters. Each of the chapters is about three pages long, so a chapter may only take seven minutes to read. This is so great for the me, because it feels like I’m making so much progress, which keeps me motivated to read. I also like the short chapters because it is easier to start reading, because I feel like I’m not committing to very long. I know that I can sit down for less than ten minutes and finish a chapter, so I’m less reluctant to start. The short chapters also make a lot of good stopping points, so it’s easier to justify “just one more.”

More importantly than the chapter length, I loved the content of the book. Goldberg writes about simply practicing. She encourages the reader to sit down daily and write for increments of time, not stopping to think, change, or correct, but continuously writing until the time is up. This instruction makes sense, as anyone who becomes excellent at anything has to spend thousands of hours practicing that skill. If I want to improve at writing, I should write. There’s no avoiding it.

Another point that I really liked in this book is the idea of separating the creative writer from the editor in your head. The editor voice is important, but often it can stop a writer from saying something in the best way, or the way she really wants to. Goldberg stresses the importance of turning off that editor voice and just writing down thoughts exactly as they come to the writer’s head. I have tried this a few times and found it quite liberating and fascinating to see what comes out before I have time to edit it.

Through reading this book I realized I need to spend more time with a pen and paper just writing. Writing down the bones.

 

Wonder

There’s a toddler that I babysit. She’s 17 months old and I love spending time with her. If any of you have been around little children recently, you’ll probably realize that they think a little differently than us big people. This toddler has so much wonder at the world. She will spend more than 15 minutes mesmerized by a water bottle. Her favorite activity is taking the lid off and putting it back on. She loves figuring out how objects work and trying them over and over. She also enjoys a sort of peekaboo game where she runs behind an object or into another room and then runs back out. If you gave her a reaction like “Hi!” she’ll laugh so hard. If you hide a toy and then pull it out again, she’ll look so excited and surprised. She loves sniffing flowers, and will go out of her way to find them. This amazement at simple everyday situations is so entertaining to watch. I have stopped being awestruck at a water bottle or a flower.

Part of the reason we lose this amazement as we grow older is the school system. It is built around standardizing the children and making them all learn the same facts and sit in desks and be quiet. Children learn to stop asking questions and to do what they are told. Learning in school often decreases wonder.

Shouldn’t learning increase wonder? If taught in an engaging way by a passionate teacher, it can. For example, before a month ago, I had no idea how muscles worked, and I just took my working muscles for granted. In Anatomy class we learned about the order of steps that happen from your brain thinking and your muscle contracting. It’s not a simple process. For some reason I thought that learning exactly how it worked would make it less amazing because it would be less mysterious and magical. Actually, I am more amazed now because I know exactly how it works and just how complicated and amazing it is every time my muscle contracts. Unfortunately, not all learning in school is like this, and much of it does the opposite.

Does everyone lose the “wonder ability”? Not everyone. The wonderers are painters who spend hours studying the lighting on an orange, musicians who sigh in contentment at a perfectly tuned instrument, or the poets who make a falling leaf the most beautiful experience in the world. All artists manage to hold on to some of that wonder at simple things.

I want a toddler’s ability. I want to be blown away by sunsets and freshly cut grass and juicy apples and tiny ladybugs and smiles and rain and breath and beauty and life. I want to be so overwhelmed by the exquisite vibrancy of my precious, fleeting life that I might burst with joy. I want to wonder.

Curling

What comes to mind when you think about Canada? A 40-pound block of granite, pebbled ice, brooms and slippery shoes? Yah, me too. That’s why Canada should change its national sport to curling.

Curling is a strategy game on ice. Each person in the team takes turns throwing stones of granite down the ice with the intent to get their team’s stones closer to the target. Team members sweep the ice in front of the stone to decrease friction and direct the stone. Many people are not very familiar with it, so here is a short video about the rules. If you have 3 hours with nothing to do, here is a full game. This is the gold medal game in the 2010 Olympics between Canada and Norway.

Canada’s official national sport is lacrosse. What? Have you ever seen a Canadian playing lacrosse? I didn’t think so. I’m joking; Canada is actually really good at lacrosse. The men’s team won the last world championships, although they normally place second to the US. They also took gold in 1904 and 1908 — the only two years lacrosse has been in the Olympics. The reason it’s the national sport is because of it’s First Nations origins and an overzealous creator of modern lacrosse who basically just decided it would be the national sport of Canada (article here).

In 1994, Nelson Riis, a hockey fan and Member of Parliament in Canada, introduced a bill to make hockey the national sport of Canada. Eventually, Canada declared hockey to be its official winter sport and lacrosse as the summer sport. I guess that’s a little better, but neither represents the nation of Canada as well as curling. Why? I’ll tell you.

Canada is cold. Curling is played on ice. That just makes sense.

Curling is not a contact sport. It’s like the least “contacty” sport ever, because one can play the entire game without touching anyone else. Everyone knows that Canadians are notoriously nice people who apologize too much. Canadians should not be known for a violent sport like ice hockey but a polite and non-aggressive sport like curling.

Canada dominates the curling world, and always has, ever since it has been a competitive sport. Canada won gold in both men’s and women’s curling in the 2014 winter Olympics and the 2017 world curling championships. Canada has also won 33% of all the medals ever given in curling in the winter Olympics (article here). Since 1959, when world championships for curling were first held, Canadian men have won 36 out of 58 titles. (The next best team, Sweden, has won only seven times.)  Canadian women have won 16 out of 38 world championships (while the next best country is Switzerland which has won eight). Admittedly, Canada is also one of the top teams in lacrosse and ice hockey, but those teams don’t dominate to the same level as Canadians do in curling (lacrosse)(hockey).

Curling is more than anything a strategy sport. Canadians are deep thinkers. At least, all the Canadians I know are deep thinkers. Maybe Canadians take life a little slower because it’s so cold up there. Curling is not very exhilarating to play or watch. But it is fascinating how the skip (the last player and captain on the team) has to make complicated decisions after every stone is thrown. The game is long and slow-paced, which is how many Canadians live life.

Curling is a team sport. Of course hockey and lacrosse are team sports as well, but the camaraderie of a curling team is a little different. There are only five people on the team, and they have ample time to discuss shots and encourage each other after every throw. Canadians are generally so friendly and good at working together, curling just makes so much sense.

Obviously curling is the right choice for Canada’s national sport. Lacrosse and hockey are great, but they don’t embody the spirit of Canada. Curling does.

Reflections

I learned a lot of things in AP Language this year. I don’t know if my writing actually sounds any better, but technically, I have learned a lot about writing essays that make a point and back it up.

The skill I am the most improved on is writing theses. I started this class knowing only the classic three prong thesis. My teacher quickly taught me that a three pronged thesis can be confusing and distracting for the reader and even the writer.  This type of thesis can bring the focus so much on the sub-points that there is not a clear main point, and the paragraphs tend to each be their own separate point that don’t relate to each other because there is no main point holding them together. This was a pretty big realization that I spent so long long on the sub points that I didn’t have a good main point. Now my theses are all one point which makes the whole essay clearer and more focused.

I also have worked on showing instead of telling. I have a tendency to make a lot of statements and not back them up. In one of my first essays in the class, I learned that sometimes whole paragraphs would be me just making points and not giving any evidence. That is not an effective way to write, and it took a bad grade to learn that.

In have also learned about vague diction. The biggest example of this is the word “things.” I never realized how often I used this word until my teacher pointed it out as a word I should never use. Suddenly I noticed that I used things frequently in my essays and notes. I started noticing when other people used this word in writing or speaking. I even observed when my psychology textbook used it. Throughout these months I have been awakened to my bad habit of vague language in everything I write.

AP Lang is not a class for the faint of heart, but I have definitely improved at writing, especially making clear points and backing up my points well.

Compassion

Why is it that those who have the most selfless compassion for others have gone through the most pain? To understand others’ pain one has to have experienced pain to relate.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne has a horrible life of rejection and shame. This pain makes her the best person to help others in need. “In all seasons of calamity, indeed, whether general or of individuals, the outcast of society at once found her place. She came, not as a guest, but as a rightful inmate, into the household that was darkened by trouble; […] Her breast, with its badge of shame , was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one”(Hawthorne, 146). She became the most qualified person to sympathize with those who needed it.

I’ve experienced this idea in my life as well in a much smaller context. After I get sick, for a few weeks, I feel much more compassion for other people I talk to who are sick because the misery of sickness is fresh in my mind. I’m sure if I had never been sick in my life, I wouldn’t be able to comfort others who are sick very well because I wouldn’t have any reference to commiserate with them.

When I think of this principle, one historic figure who comes to mind is Harriet Tubman. After experiencing the horrors and indignity of slavery, she spent her entire life rescuing others from slavery because she knew what it was like. Not many people who have never been a slave would be willing to risk their life multiple times to save others from it.

This idea also applies to Christianity. If I had to believe that some huge God sitting on the clouds suffered with me, it would be a little difficult. Instead, I have compassion from a God who has suffered rejection, conflict, and physical torture on Earth. In Hebrews, it talks about Jesus being a sympathetic high priest. He is sympathetic because he has felt the pain and understands us.

Pain is not fun at all. However, pain can be channeled for good to sympathize with and help those who are also  feeling pain.

Thankful

In my experience, people who are more happy are more thankful, because gratitude causes us to look at what we have instead of focusing on what we want. For thanksgiving, I’m going to list 100 things I’m thankful for. I’m just going to write them as I think of them; there is no particular order.

  1. family
  2. house
  3. cereal
  4. hearing
  5. language
  6. In the Heights
  7. the ability to communicate
  8. food
  9. the internet
  10. fingers
  11. a generally healthy body
  12. doctors
  13. dentists
  14. vision
  15. music
  16. musicals
  17. stories
  18. books
  19. information
  20. piano
  21. singing
  22. vowels
  23. beauty
  24. smiles
  25. teeth
  26. modern appliances
  27. school
  28. friends
  29. water
  30. art
  31. color
  32. opportunities
  33. knowledge
  34. entertainment
  35. words
  36. plants
  37. leaves
  38. my 3 succulents
  39. my sister
  40. my brother
  41. my parents
  42. love
  43. teachers
  44. babies
  45. juice
  46. fruit
  47. my blankets
  48. softness
  49. cleanliness
  50. dirtiness
  51. showers
  52. hot water
  53. loofahs
  54. soap
  55. makeup
  56. my face
  57. my hair
  58. markers
  59. colored pencils
  60. pens
  61. guilt
  62. right
  63. wrong
  64. direction
  65. confusion
  66. games
  67. fun
  68. these braces that are hurting my teeth
  69. plastic
  70. paper
  71. metal
  72. dance
  73. culture
  74. clothing
  75. patterns
  76. cats
  77. dogs
  78. hamsters
  79. horses
  80. hedgehogs
  81. I’m just going to lump all other animals together
  82. nicknames
  83. names
  84. numbers
  85. order
  86. chaos
  87. hard work
  88. rest
  89. faith
  90. inclusion
  91. movement
  92. people who understand me
  93. people that I understand
  94. acting
  95. anything that works properly
  96. time
  97. perception of time
  98. joy
  99. happiness
  100. contentment

I know these were all over the place, but that is how my brain thinks. I hope you have thought of something new to be thankful for.

RLW

Read Like a Writer.

This phrase came from an essay by Mike Bunn called How to Read Like a Writer. The idea is that, as writers, we can benefit our writing by constantly reading for the purpose of improving our writing. Like a carpenter examines a piece of furniture for techniques and styles to use himself, we need to read like a writer.

This idea made a lot of sense to me. If one wants to improve at a sport, one should play the sport, but also watch others play. Even watching someone worse than one can be helpful, because it helps one to notice mistakes and bad decisions.

In the past year, I’ve started hearing like a singer. I am a singer, and I notice it can help me to technically listen to other’s singing and think about what they did well and not so well, and how I can use that for my own singing.

I don’t normally read like a writer. Taking AP Lang has forced me to annotate and think a little more when I read, but I only do it for assignments. When I’m just browsing the internet, I’m not analyzing writing techniques. I’m just lazy, and reading like a writer is hard work. I’m not really motivated to use my brain outside hours of school and work each day. It takes longer to read this way, and time is not something I have much extra of.

Saying this, I know if I started reading like a writer I would get better at writing. Writing is a skill that takes so much practice and years to develop, but reading is a critical part of it. All good writers are readers. I would be lying to say that I’m going to always read like a writer. But I’m going to try to practice it and see how it works and if it improves my writing. Who knows?

Internet

Anyone who writes anything on the internet has to be careful. It is very different than writing on physical paper in many ways that makes the stakes much higher.

Part of the thing that makes the internet such a dangerous place is the speed which posts and comments can blow up. By the time they realize what’s happening, it is already too late for the author to retract their statement or apologize. Before, written statements could only move as fast as the fastest car or train. Now, they move in milliseconds.

100 years ago, anything that was written stayed in the immediate area for quite a while. It could cross country lines only after days and days. Statements on the internet move across space at a mind-blowing rate and cover distance in the blink of an eye. One second I’m hitting send, and the next second anyone from Beijing to Seattle can receive that message.

The internet is also different than physical statements because of the sheer number of people that can read it. If I wrote something on a paper, there is only a certain number of people that could read it before it would fall apart or get lost. Now, if I post something on twitter, literally, billions of people can access it.

The internet is also dangerous because nothing is ever gone completely. Even if I delete a post, it has probably been screen-shotted and retweeted, and it is saved somewhere in internet history. Paper can be burned or ripped.

Nothing on the internet is truly anonymous. Anything I post can be traced back to my computer. Many years ago, handwriting could be disguised, and, without a name, anything written could be nameless.

Despite all these well-known facts, many people are not cautious when using the internet. There are a lot of smart and helpful ways to use the internet, but a lot of careless and dangerous ways to use it. My suggestion: take heed.

 

 

 

 

 

24601

Justice and Grace.

These two values, both so important to me, can they be reconciled? Do I have to decide?

Both of these seemingly conflicting ideas are so appealing and truth filled. I think of God: perfectly just and graceful.

At first I thought these two things were mutually exclusive. As I pondered it more, I realized they work together. Without justice, grace wouldn’t exist. Grace is given to someone who needs it, someone who has done wrong. How could it be grace if there is no right or wrong in the first place?

Which one is more likely to change someone? Justice can sometimes be life changing, depending on the situation. However, in the US the number of people released from jail that end up back in jail is startlingly high. In the US, after 5 years, more than 75% of released prisoners were rearrested (article here.) This statistic somewhat is lower in other countries, but ideally, the number would be zero. Not very many people are changed by justice.

For someone who is changed by grace, I kept thinking of Les Misérables. Obviously the story of Les Misérables is fictional, but it communicates a lot of truth about life. Jean Valjean is shown grace by a priest, and this changes his life. Jean Valjean is forced into complying with justice, by 19 years in jail, but is also shown grace and it is clear which one changed him in the end. The time in jail only made him angry and bitter, while the grace put his life back on track.

Even with this example, the importance of justice is shown. Justice is represented by the policeman, ready to take him back to jail, while the priest shows him grace. Without the law about to condemn him, the priest could not have shown grace.

Grace can be more life changing for a person, but justice is essential too. Justice allows grace to exist, and both work together to teach and amend people.

Picture

A picture is worth a thousand words. This is a common phrase referring to how pictures can say what a thousand words can say. I think this is true in some cases. But that doesn’t mean I think that we shouldn’t use words at all. Some things are best explained with a picture, but words hold an important place in the world and can communicate in some ways that pictures cannot.

Let’s start with a simple picture.

Image result for white circle

Photo credits

I think this picture could be properly explained in much less than 1000 words. So this saying is not universal. But this picture is different than most pictures in that it is just a picture. There are no obvious messages or emotions attached to it– things that are a lot harder to put into words.

This is a fairly popular more complicated photo.

Image result for tiananmen square tank man

Photo Credits

This is picture was taken during student protests in Tienanmen Square. This picture is not visually too complicated. It shows three tanks and one person. However, this picture could not be fully explained because it depicts more than just the images in the photo. It shows the bravery of the protests that day, the bravery of any protest ever, and represents bravery as an idea, which is not easily explained by words. It could also mean standing up against authority, strength of the seemingly weak, or foolishness of people who think they can make an impact. These ideas are only a few of the possible meanings that this image could convey. So this picture is worth a thousand words.

All this to say, words are still important. There are some one thousand words that could not be summed up in a picture. If I pulled a thousand words from any great literature, like Shakespeare for example, it couldn’t be summed up in a picture. Just like some pictures create emotions and memories and cannot be explained with words, it can go the other way as well. Good writing uses words in a way that is unique to words and couldn’t be explained with an image.

Images and words are very different ways to communicate. They are both important and are not interchangeable. We need both.

Advertisement

Bramhults Print Ad -  Carrot

We are constantly being bombarded by advertisements. Whether it’s conscious or not, advertisements are telling us not only what we should buy, but how we should think. They tell us what is normal, and convince us that their product is essential to reaching that.

Here I chose an interesting advertisement. I’m going to break down what it’s saying. First of all, this is a Swedish brand, selling vegetable drinks. This particular one is a carrot drink. In this ad, the drink bottle is made to look like a carrot in the ground because it is orange and has the leafy carrot leaves on top and roots.

Now that is all pretty obvious from a glance. I’ll go a little deeper. By formatting the bottle to look like a carrot, they are essentially saying the drink is so full of carrots, it is one. Why would highlighting this be effective for selling drinks?

Carrots are healthy. That is a pretty widely held notion. By saying this drink is packed with carrots, they are saying that this drink is healthy. Why is this effective?

People want to be healthy. Most people care about living long and feeling good, which can be helped by eating healthily. This advertisement is pulling on the hope that people want to eat healthily. They are essentially saying, “If you care about yourself, you should buy this drink.” They are selling the ideal of healthiness.

This is not necessarily a bad message. In fact, being healthy is a good message. The only problem with it is if brands falsely market themselves as healthy or make it seem that their product is the only way to be healthy. Or when they guilt people into buying their product so they can feel healthy. Healthiness is one value that advertisers use to sell products that I don’t have a problem with. These advertisements can actually help society eat healthier which is generally a benefit.

America

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” (Declaration of Independence.) These words were the start of the Declaration of Independence, arguably one of the most important documents in America’s history. For almost its whole existence, America has stood for equality, freedom, and opportunity. People immigrate to the United States for the chance of a better life, where anyone who works hard enough can make it.

Looking at American history, this assumption is very interesting. Many people do make it in the US. For example, Alexander Hamilton came to the US an orphan and immigrant with nothing but a brilliant mind. He eventually became the first Secretary of State, writing his way out of poverty.

However, not everyone has this story.

America has not always had equality and still doesn’t. Starting from hundreds of years ago, inequality was built into the economy, most obviously in slavery. The Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation officially ended slavery, but blacks continued to be oppressed, showing up in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Blacks are not the only people who are marginalized. Many other races have the same burden.

Inequality is not only a problem in races. Women’s suffrage and the feminist movement show the battle for equal gender rights. Women couldn’t vote until 1920 (pass of the 19th Amendment), but they still earn less than men (article here.)

America has not always had freedom or equal opportunity, either. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, owned slaves. The current poverty rate in the US is 13.5% which means people are growing up in broken homes who can’t afford a good education. Many people immigrate to America only to find more hardship and inequality.

Why then, in light of this, is America a symbol of these things? This is a complicated question, but partially answered by the beginnings of the country. America was first “discovered” by brave explorers in search of riches. Many of the first Europeans were looking for wealth and opportunity. Later people flocked to the US in search of land of their own or religious freedom. It became a place where anyone who could survive, could thrive. From its roots, it was a place founded on freedom, equality, and opportunity. Whether or not these labels are accurate in American history, they have served to form the foundation of a country that has been a “Land of Opportunity” to millions.

Community

Recently I tried to write an essay. Yes, I tried. It was a hard writing process. First of all, the prompt was almost as vague as possible. “What makes writing good?” Where do I even start with that? I didn’t even know how to format the essay, much less how to answer the question.

I wrote a draft. After reading through it, I decided it was not salvageable. I completely started over with a new format and a new thesis. The second one was not much better. I brought them to class, embarrassed about both, to be edited by my peers. After three people edited it, my paper was covered in red marks, and almost every sentence had a suggested change.

The next day, I brought the drafts to my teacher, Ms. Magnuson. She read them both out loud, which was not fun, and then we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each one and how I could improve them.

Having people look at my work was not easy, because I was reluctant to let people read my poor writing. However, without them, I never would have improved my essay to make it something I was proud of. I needed the input of other people to see my work with new eyes. I learned a lot from my teacher, because she had much more experience with and wisdom about writing.

Community is very important in the writing process. We can pull from other writers’ ideas and get suggestions from fellow classmates and teachers. Alone I was lost at how to finish this assignment, but I did, only with the help of others.

Tragedy

I love Shakespeare. These past two weeks, I’ve been reading and enjoying the Shakespeare play Othello. This play is a tragedy, and although I prefer Shakespeare’s comedies, his tragedies are equally interesting and compelling. This particular tragedy is caused by an intense villain named Iago. He has an incredible ability to change himself based on who he’s around and to manipulate people’s desires to help him accomplish what he wants. One of the main question this play raises is “What is Iago’s motivation?” The answer is surprisingly unclear and it makes Iago even more mysterious.

In the text, Iago gives a number of reasons for his actions. The first one is his anger at Othello for promoting Cassio to lieutenant position. Iago feels that he deserves this position and that Othello cheated him out of this job (I.i.7-32).

Another possible motivation is Othello’s potential affair with Iago’s wife Emilia. This seems to consume Iago, “the thought whereof doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards, and nothing can or shall content my soul till I am evened with him” (II.i.293-296). He also briefly mentions that he suspects Cassio as well (II.i.304).

These are the reasons given explicitly from the text, but none of them seem to properly explain Iago’s actions. Because he gives more than one, and only quickly mentioned, they don’t seem like the whole story. There are more potential motivations that can be inferred from the text.

Iago understands that his life is not very good- he has a seemingly loveless marriage and not much power or recognition. Maybe the reason he hates Othello so much is because Othello has the life he always wanted and he reminds Iago of everything he’s missing in life.

He also just seems to realize that his life is horrible and he wants to kill everything that is good, or anyone who is happy. He says, “If Cassio do remain, he hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly” (V.i.18-20). Iago compares himself to to the handsome, happy Cassio and it makes him realize how much he does not measure up to all of them. He also desires to turn Desdemona’s “virtue into pitch” (II.iii.48), to take what is good in her and turn it into something seemingly bad.

There is also the obvious issue of race. Othello is black and Iago is white. Race is a theme that runs throughout the play and likely is a factor in Iago’s hate for Othello. Iago seems to despise being servant to anyone, especially a black person.

Although there are many possible reasons for Iago’s actions, there is no obvious right answer. For the amount of death and destruction his actions reap, none of them seem to fully explain it away, so it is up to interpretation.

It is possible that his motivation is one not mentioned in the play, or it could be a combination of many of these. Another option is that he does not have a motivation besides being evil. He may be a villain who is evil just for the sake of it.

Iago’s lack of obvious motivation is one of the things that makes his character most unsettling. The thought that someone would be willing to kill so many people and cause so much chaos, without an evident reason is disturbing. This makes the play different and gives it a unnerving twist. I found this play very entertaining and would really recommend it, if you’re up for the challenge of struggling through the Shakespearean English.

Beauty

Am I beautiful? This is a question I ask myself too often, staring in a mirror. At a glance, I can see every imperfection in my face, everything I wish I could change. My flaws are all too noticeable. But I can also find things I love about the way I look, things that are unique and special.

Who defines beauty? Who makes me feel that I am acceptable and presentable? So many different stories and narratives make up the way that I view myself. I get opinions from my friends and the people around me. People’s compliments or facial expressions communicate judgement about the way I look.

I get affected by media more than I care to admit. I see flawless photo-shopped models in commercials with perfectly voluminous hair that is always shiny and bouncy. Even when its subconscious, the media is constantly bombarding me with stories of how beauty is defined and what the perfect person should look like. I start to compare myself to theses perfect images, and finding all the places where I don’t match up. I am surrounded by “Lose your belly fat in two weeks with this secret method” and “Get flawless skin overnight”

Another narrative, another voice, also speaks into my life. This is God’s voice, through the Bible. This one has a completely different story, and contradicts most of society’s values. This voice tells me that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (New International Version, Psalm 139:14). It tells me that I am created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that I “should clothe [myself] instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). It tells me that “people look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (New Living Translation, 1 Samuel 16:7).

While it is unrealistic to hope I will completely stop caring about what others think, I want to get better at listening to God’s voice and ignoring media’s voice. I believe that God’s voice is the truth, and I want to live my life in a way that brings me closer to the truth. Learning to care less about my outward appearance will make me a more content person and will let me spend my time worrying about things that will last longer than the current clothing trend. I want to invest in things that will last an eternity. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (New International Version, Psalm 31: 30).

Mountains

This past weekend I went on Cultural Field Studies. This is something my school does once a year. We split up into small groups and drive around the country to learn and serve.

One day, on Sunday, we were doing “bush activities.” These activities consisted of shooting a bow and arrow, making a fire without matches, and going on a short walk outside.

Well this short nature walk turned out to be a hike up a mountain. It started out flat, but soon was very steep. For a little background, I hate hiking. I don’t like walking, I don’t like exercising, I don’t like being hot or uncomfortable, and I don’t like going somewhere for no reason. My parents have stopped asking me to go on hikes with them.

When I realized that I had gotten myself into a hike, I was not very happy. We hiked for about thirty minutes until we were 3/4 of the way up the hill. Our guide wanted to stop, but our group wanted to keep going. Eventually we decided that one group would go down and the other would continue on to the top. But it was an all in or all out situation. The guide said it would be another hour of hiking to go to the top and I was already tired out. I had never voluntarily done another hour of hiking in my life.

Something convinced me to keep hiking. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I was determined to try. As we kept hiking, it was not easy. Because I don’t hike much at all, my body was not very prepared. By the end, all my muscles were tired and I was feeling slightly nauseous. My determination won out and I made it to the top.

The view from the top was mind-blowing. I was completely in awe of God and His creation. The view wasn’t even the best part. I got a wonderful sense of accomplishment seeing how far we had come. I had never chosen to anything like this before in my life so I had never known this feeling.

I don’t think I will become an avid hiker, but I did learn something important. I can do anything I set my mind to. I am able to put mind over matter and push through something, as long as I have enough motivation. Looking into the future, I see the importance of this. I should not limit myself based on what I think I could do. If I want something badly enough, I can find a way. With a strong enough willpower, I can climb mountains.

Opinions

I come from a family where everyone has an opinion on everything, whether or not they know anything about it. A saying I’ve heard more than once is “Who says I have to know something about it, to have an opinion on it?” While it is fun and risky to just make up an opinion, that is not the way I want to live my life.

In Wayne C. Booth’s “Boring from With: The Art of the Freshman Essay,” he writes that “choices cannot be made in any sense free if they are made blind: free choice is, in fact, choice that is based on knowledge — not just opinions, but knowledge in the sense of reasoned opinions.”

I had never thought about it this way before. If I do not have knowledge, I am ridding myself of free choices. I take away my opportunity to decide. Arbitrary opinions are not enough. I don’t want opinions just for the sake of having them. I want to have reasoned opinions based on research and careful judgement. I want to make up my mind on topics because I am informed on it and have thoroughly pondered every aspect of the issue. So when someone questions me about something I believe, I will have clear explanations for my opinions. That sounds much more fun than irrational reactions to topics I know nothing about.

It will be more than just fun. Having reasoned opinions is a much better way to use the intellect God gave us. Being attentive and deliberate in what we believe is a more responsible way to use our minds, and it brings God glory when we use our intelligence to seek the truth.

Caroline

Fools find no pleasure in understanding
    but delight in airing their own opinions.

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
    for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Proverbs 18:2, 15 (NIV)

Beginnings

Hello lovelies,

I’m Caroline. I am a traveler, a journeyer, an explorer, a learner, and a discoverer. I take risks, try new things, and meet unique people. I cherish beautiful countryside, breathe in luscious scenery,  and strive to understand what I don’t. I may stay temporarily in a place, but I cannot and will not be tied down forever. I am a sojourner.

That is why I chose this title for my blog. A sojourner is someone who stays or resides temporarily in a place (Dictionary.com.) In my life I am a sojourner. I move around, never fully let my roots become permanent. This is bittersweet, as it holds a lot of insecurity, and I can never truly be in the place I am. But at the same time, I would never choose to give up my life as traveler for security. I am sorry for those who never leave their bubbles, who never have to stretch themselves, who never feel uncomfortable. The things that I have experienced by being a sojourner have shaped who I am in a way I am not completely aware of. Every place I go to, no matter how long I stay, leaves something in my heart that cannot be removed. I am shaped by my travels.

On this blog I will be a sojourner. I will temporarily reside on different topics, before moving on to others. I will explore different questions and ideas and shape how I feel about different issues. Whether you have stumbled across this blog by random chance, or you have come here for a class, I hope that you will grab my hand, and ponder the world with me. Come travel, come journey, come explore, come learn, and come discover. Come be a sojourner.

Caroline

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