Mar 22, 2013

The long awaited essay!

I don't remember which blog it was in that I said I would post my essay on why tragedies are better than happy endings, but I do remember saying that I would, so here it is, in all its glory:

Happily Never After

I am a sucker for a good happy ending.  It provides good closure.  The bad guy gets caught, the hero and damsel end up together, and all is well.  This is true for anything, in my opinion.  Books, TV shows, movies-- whatever.  No matter how rugged and rough the journey is, a happy ending always wraps up the loose strings and leave you with a strong sense of satisfaction. Happy endings seem perfect, but in reality, they are far from perfection.  Tragedies.  Now that's where it's at.

Tragedies never turn out right.  That's the very definition of them.  They leave you feeling deprived with a hole that can't be filled.  But that deprivation is something we yearn for, as human beings.  The best selling books, movies and plays in the world are tragedies.  Andrew Laeddis doesn't stop hallucinating.  Cobb's totem doesn't stop spinning.  Romeo and Juliet don't live happily ever after.  There's always something small that gets in the way of the happy ending, turning the entire story sad and creating a large hole.  Since that hole, which would usually be filled with the closure of "happily ever after," can't be filled by these movies, we go about trying to fill it in different ways.

Most commonly, we try to fill the hole by analyzing.  It's what your brain wants to do.  The human brain wants to think and have something to dissect or work through.  For that same reason, people do crosswords and Sudoku's and riddles.  However, analyzing a movie or book doesn't have to be that formal.  No one normal sits down during a movie with a pen and paper to write the events, themes or motifs, or to jot down characteristics of the main characters so they can later go though and properly analyze this piece of fiction.  Yet all of us analyze movies and books constantly.  It tends to start with question of, "Why?! Why didn't that work out?!" and most of us probably think that's where it ends because we continue analyzing so subtly.  But, let's be honest, the thoughts never stop at asking why.  They will always try to answer why and to find meaning.

And finding meaning is what humans really want.  Even the couch potatoes want to think and find meaning.  No one has ever sat down and said, "I hope I think so little today that my brain actually withers."  As they lounge on their couches, they still think about the show they're watching.  Their mind keeps track of the story line of each individual show.  Their mind mulls over the characters to find likable traits and connects with the characters.  Their mind uncovers the puns and jokes that make the shows watchable.  That's where the genius of tragic movies and TV shows come in.  Everyone can watch and enjoy and dissect until they can find a lesson in the tragedy that a happy ending just can't provide.  Happy endings already have all the loose ends tied.  They don't leave you wondering.  They leave you satisfied.  What kind of a lesson can you draw from that?

For an English class I took in high school, we read a play called Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.  It's a tragicomedy about two men, Vladimir and Estragon, who are waiting by a tree to meet a man named Godot, who said he'd meet them there later that day.  Vladimir and Estragon waste their day talking to two travelers who pass them and talking to each other, until at the end of the day Godot sends a little boy to tell Vladimir and Estragon that he won't make it that day, but he'll be able to meet with them tomorrow.

The next day, Vladimir wakes up to find than Estragon has changed overnight.  He's much more scared and he can't remember anything that happened the day before.  Vladimir tries to write him off as being crazy and forgetful, until the same two travelers pass them again.  The travelers are also different, acting completely the opposite of how they had been the day before, and they show no memory of having met Vladimir and Estragon.  Similarly, Estragon doesn't remember meeting them.  Only Vladimir remembers anything that happened the day before, and only he remembers that they are waiting for Godot by the tree.  Vladimir is concerned about this, until night falls again and the same little boy comes to tell Vladimir and Estragon that Godot won't make it today, but he'll be able to meet with them tomorrow.  Vladimir gets excited to see this boy and begs him to say that he remembers coming the day before, but the boy doesn't remember anything of the sort. It ends with Vladimir thinking he's gone mad.

After we read the play, we had to write a paper about what we thought Godot was supposed to represent.  Many people in the world believe that Godot is supposed to represent God, but when asked about that in an interview, Beckett responded by saying, "If I had wanted Godot to be God, I would've called him God."  I took this to mean that Godot couldn't represent any one thing, and ended up writing that Godot represented anything you wasted time waiting for.  Given this, Beckett is showing the world that you can't wait for your life to be handed to you, and you have to go out and make your life happen. Beckett is saying you should be proactive, not reactive and that it's absolutely necessary to make your life your own, instead of living for someone else.

Now, had Godot showed up in the end and made everything right for Vladimir and Estragon, I would have never been able to draw that meaning.  Had this not been a tragedy, I would have had nothing to write about.  Similarly, lessons are harder to draw from happy endings.  You can still find a moral, sure, but they aren't as effective.  When it comes to teaching life lessons, scare tactics are much more prominent.  From happy ever after, you learn how your life could turn out.  You learn how perfect your life could be.  But people will settle for less than perfect, as long as they'll still be happy.  From happily never after, you learn how easy it is to mess your life up.  You learn how you don't want your life to be and what you have to do to avoid that kind of miserable nightmare.

I am a total sucker for happily ever afters, but I don't like them.  I much prefer to be left with loose strings dangling in my mind.

The end. I got an A, and my professor wrote, "Interesting thinking. I like the way you set up the idea and then moved into Beckett. (That play seems perfect for what you're discussing.) One question: do you like unhappy endings more because they create a sort of poignant feeling of loss, or more because you see what not to do in your own life? (In other words, is it the catharsis or the lesson you're after?)"  He also wrote, regarding the part where I talk about the mind uncovering jokes and puns, "Do you think this is conscious? It's an intriguing point."

Mar 12, 2013

I think I'm having a mid-school crisis.

So I've been thinking recently about my life. I actually wasn't really going to blog about this (it just didn't dawn on me), but then I was looking through some older posts of mine, and there's one where I was talking about how I felt inadequate because I had a couple friends who graduated a semester early, and I didn't. I probably could have, so I should have, yet I didn't. And though I didn't really get a lot of advice on that, I'm hoping all you awesome lovely people who still read my blog will help me out anyway.

At school, I feel like there's this spectrum of classes that people can take. On one side there's the hard sciences, full of facts and right or wrong and true or false, and on the other side there's humanities, full of exceptions to rules and open ended-ness and subjection. I would guess that most people probably find a specific place on this spectrum where their interests lie, and then take classes that fall right around that place. I don't know this as a fact, of course. I don't have any evidence to support or reject it-- not even anecdotal evidence. It's just how I imagine things working in a perfect world.

However, the classes I take tend to fall on opposite ends of this spectrum. I take chem and physics and math, but I also take Chinese and ASL and music. The classes on the hard science end are the ones I need to take, and the classes on the humanities end are the ones that I take for fun. And I feel kinda really conflicted about that? I mean, I really like chemistry. It makes sense to me when explained properly. I have to put a little effort into it-- nothing ridiculous, probably less effort than some other people have to-- but I'm good at it. It makes sense, I remember the rules, I like the order things have. I enjoy being able to learn about how the universe works and explain what it is that makes a ball roll down a hill. I like being able to explain what torque is and why falling at terminal velocity feels oddly similar to standing on the ground. I like learning that you do not add water to acid and how electrons can get excited and release light when they return to their normal state. It's a challenge, but it makes me feel like I'm learning something and growing.

On the other hand, take the foreign languages I've studied. French, Chinese, ASL. I like them a lot, too. They come really naturally to me, and I don't have to put almost any effort into learning them. I continually find myself surprised that the people in my classes there aren't also finding them to be their easiest subjects. I like learning how different languages work together and seeing the similarities and differences between them all. Do the adjectives go before the noun, or after? Is the word order the same as any other language I've taken? How does the pronunciation of letters change from one language to the next? What is the culture like in the places people speak these languages? Where are these languages spoken? What makes France French different from Quebecois? How does the sign change if have my hands palm up instead of palm down? All these languages have rules to them, and there are patterns, but it's also varied. You can say, "That is a small ball," or "The ball is small," without changing too much, but making two different sentences. I like it. It makes me feel connected to the rest of the world. I have considered switching to major in modern languages with French and Italian concentrations. Except what in the world would I do with that?

Actually, the "what would I do with that" problem isn't really the problem. I know if I love something, no matter how remote it is, I can find something to do with it. And then I'll be happy and blah blah blah. The thing is, I love chemistry and it's already what I'm doing (granted, I haven't really gotten all that far into the program, but I love it) and I really really like the end result there. I want to go into forensics. I really enjoyed the ride along I did with the crime lab, even with how "lame" of a call we got. But I also really like the humanities classes I take. They're typically my favorites. I enjoy going to ASL more than I enjoy going to chem.

Especially recently. I said that chem makes sense when explained properly, but I haven't met a great deal of people who can explain in properly (I can think of 2 people). And if it has to be taught to me by someone specific, then is it really something that I'm that good at? Part of me says yes, it doesn't matter who you learn it from, as long as you learn it, but another part of me insists that it's not the same if I can't learn equally from many people. We're not talking about a slight preference for a certain type of teacher, we're talking about an inability to understand unless presented in a certain way.

So why not change majors? If I like the humanities classes more, I should theoretically like a life in humanities more than I'd like a life in forensics, right?

The problem is I feel like if I were to switch, I'd be copping out. You know? I mean, to me, chemistry is the more difficult of the two. It's not one that everyone can do. Some people just don't get it. And since I do, and I like it, I should pursue that, right? If I like it and I get it, I should take advantage of that. Modern language is easier for me, and I guess it's not easy for everyone (a difficult concept for me to understand), but since it's so easy, it's almost like I'm not really learning. Right? Like it doesn't present a proper challenge, so it'd be a waste of my abilities-- especially if I choose to do this after already doing chemistry. It's like I was doing chemistry, and it became too hard for me, so I had to do something easier. If I change now, then I must not be as good as I previously thought I was, because I couldn't handle a chem degree.

And I don't think that it's true that I can't handle a chem degree. I think I totally can. But I think I would have a lower GPA than if I had a modern language degree. Not a bad GPA, but I think we're talking about the difference between a 3.2 and a 3.9. But people wouldn't actually know that. They'd just know I switched from something hard to something easier.

Also, whenever people are like, "What are you studying?" I say, "Chemistry with a criminalistics concentration and a minor in psychology," and they're like, "Wow, you must be really smart!" which is an awkward thing to hear, but I like it anyway. I mean this is the most humble way I can say it haha, but I am pretty smart, and I'm glad that what I'm doing shows that. If I changed and people were like, "What are you studying?" and I said, "Modern languages with concentrations in French and Italian," they'd probably respond with, "Oh, that's really interesting!" which would still be a good response, but it doesn't showcase my abilities. Like it's not obvious that I have a brain if that's all I'm doing. It's still cool, but it's not up to par.

And what would I do with that? Probably nothing specifically, besides be cool. I'd probably go with life plan number 7 and become a writer (minus the transfer to BYU for a semester... probably).

I guess my problem is that I kinda want to pursue this new path, but I don't feel like it's good enough. I feel like I should do better. And I either want someone to convince me that I still want to be on the path I'm on, or I want someone to convince me that this new path is just as good of a choice as what I'm doing now, if not better. That might all be a tall order, but I need help. I'm stuck. D:

Omega 13 Activated!

This is for Shinobi.
And Chaelomen and Berserk.


The only thing to fear is fear itself.