Journal Entries #1-4
19th Century Literature and Culture
Journal Entry #1
Something that struck me during last week’s discussion was the reoccurring theme in art and literature in the 19th century that spoke about nature as being beautiful, sublime, and most importantly, terrifying. The realization that nature and “God” is so much bigger and more powerful than us is a scary thought. That nature can create things like hurricanes, lightning storms, and other natural disasters definitely makes me feel small. The recent Superstorm Sandy wiping out entire communities is just one of many examples of nature’s uncontrollable and unknowable qualities. It is quite a discouraging thought, which makes me (and I’m sure others) feel small and incapable of change. It causes me think about my own place in this world, and the unknown. While this theme reached its peak during the 19th century, it still feels very relevant to me.
It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in my own worries, especially here at art school. Everything revolves around my studies and my life and I often forget (selfishly) that my friends, classmates, teachers, and all people have their own lives and their own problems to deal with. If someone acts rash with me, I take it personally. If someone texts me “OK” instead of “okay” I jump to conclusions. Are they mad at me? Did I do something wrong? The class discussion about nature’s sublime and scary qualities made me reflect on these behaviors. In the big picture, none of these petty worries will matter. Tomorrow, there could be a sinkhole in the middle of campus, and all of MICA could be sucked up in an instant. So although it sounds cliché, the class discussion made me reflect on what is worth thinking about, and what isn’t.
Journal Entry #2
My Right to Peacefully Tell People to Shut Up
Even though I agree with the First Amendment, specifically the right to peacefully assemble, I am often infuriated when I am forced to listen to other people’s ignorant opinions. While it is my own personal beliefs that cause me to find anti-abortion protesters and homophobic people deplorable, I think it should be my right not to have to be subjected to that type of nonsense.
In class, I spoke about how during the 2013 inauguration there was a man in a tree with a sign that said, “Pray to End Abortion”. Throughout the entire program, this man incessantly yelled anti-gay remarks such as “Satan created the homosexuals”. While some of my classmates thought that J.S. Mill would have applauded this protester, I disagree. In my humble opinion, I understood the text to say that people have the right to protest, as long as they do not become a nuisance to others. I think that Mill’s opinion could definitely be argued both ways and it was certainly interesting to hear opposing views from my classmates.
“The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. But if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely acts according to his own inclination and judgment in things which concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should be free, prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost” –John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Journal Entry #3
I feel I have encountered people with very similar opinions and mentalities like the anonymous narrator in "Notes from the Underground". This character is one that I feel I've met before. The type of person that secretly enjoys being sick, so he or she can get attention and be pitied by family and friends. In fact I too, have found pleasure in a sickness, whether it was getting to miss school for a few days with a flu, or being waited on hand and foot by my mom when I got my wisdom teeth removed. I have milked plenty of sicknesses to their full degree, however, I do not think this is quite the same as what the narrator in the book is doing. The narrator retains a certain type of manic depressive and paranoia tendencies that I also find in many people. For example, the narrator constantly convinces himself that someone has purposely offended him. When an officer happened to shove him accidentally, the narrator focuses all his time and energy into over analyzing it, and coming up with a plan for revenge. I certainly know people (I may be one of them) that spend hours internalizing things and picking it apart until I've convinced myself that when my friend accidentally forgot to invite me to dinner, it means that she actually hates me. I think all of us share qualities of the narrators personality, and as long as we don't let them consume our lives and turn us into manic-depressive, bitter hermits, it's all right.
Journal Entry #4
I am quite drawn to write again about the narrator from Notes from the Underground, due to an intriguing class discussion that took place last week. In particular, the portion of the class where we discussed how when people are miserable, they do everything in their power to make sure others share their misery as well. When the underground man has a toothache, he knows that it could easily be treated by a doctor, but rather live with his pain instead. I have definitely encountered this type of person, who is undergoing an extreme amount of stress, anxiety, or maybe just having a shitty day, and to make his pain more bearable, he makes sure other people are aware he is in pain. Whether or not making others feel his misery helps his own misery does not matter. It is all in hopes of affecting someone else happiness. I recently experienced this on a train home to New York. While I, and a long line of 10 passengers behind me, walked from the back of the train to the front looking for an empty seat on this completely sold-out train, I encountered two moody parents with their child, coming from the opposite direction. While I politely informed them that there were absolutely no seats behind us, I was met with a standstill. One of the fathers, angry that he had no way to get past, muttered to his child, "It's okay, it's not like she sees I have a fucking child with me or anything". I could not believe my ears. Not only did this man just curse in front of his child, but his words were aimed towards me! Someone who would voluntarily give up my seat to anyone who I felt needed it more than I did! Shocked, I could not scrounge up the words for a comeback. During the class discussion on Notes from the Underground I quickly realized that this was exactly someone inflicting their misery on someone else. From that moment, I have tried to not take the exchange personally, as he was just a miserable man trying to share his misery with as many people as possible. Somehow though, I still have not gotten over his cruel words. Why is it the harsh words of strangers that hurt the most?