"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Be a Tree

I should probably start off by apologizing. This post could be potentially annoying as I am going to be making some references back to some posts I have made in the past. Basically just two, and I wish I knew how to do that little "click on this and go back" thing but I'm not so good with the technology, so I will just let you know which blogs to check out from the past, if you are so inclined.

I don't know about you guys, but I was always OK with Shakespeare. I respected the man. I mean, you can't deny the man is a genius, but I never felt the passion. Or, I guess, more accurately, I occasionally felt the passion but I never fell deeply in love with Shakespeare. Maybe this is bad for me to be admitting, you know, as a future English teacher, but I share my story in the hopes that maybe other people can also become converts to the Shakespeare.

Just to recap, sure Shakespeare probably liked tea, I would have tea with him, but let's just say he wasn't my cup of tea. But that all changed for me one day. (Refer back to Wednesday, June 1- "The World Must Be Peopled"). For those of you who are lazy (just kidding), that is the day that I saw "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Globe. Not only that, but I actually MET and TALKED with the guy that played Benedick. It was life-changing for me and I would say it completed my conversion to a Shakespeare-ite.

So in previous semesters I might not have been pumped about taking the Shakespeare class, but after London and the Globe, I was ready for Shakespeare class. (PS- Shakespeare must now always be said with an uppity, British accent. Just think, "How would Sir Percy Blakeney, Baronet say Shakespeare" and go with that). Not only was I ready, but some of my London peeps were also game! Remember my dear friends Shelisa, Amy, and Kaylee? They are all in the class with me. Bringing the London party to Provo.

Anyway, first day of classes, I go to my Shakespeare class, Norton Anthology in tow, feathered quill with which to take copious notes. Don't even worry- we have a STAGE in our classroom. Let's just say my hopes were really high for the rest of the course. Naturally, I experimented with the performability of the stage before taking my place on the front row. Just kidding, I actually sit on the second row in that class because if you sit on the front row your feet are hindered by the stage, so second row is the way to go.

The professor walks in and a hush falls over the crowd. Not really, but we jump right in and start discussing how Shakespeah (not a typo, just encouraging proper pronunciation) "has shaped modern consciousness as no other artist has done." And whether or not if ol' Billy really has the power to "make us laugh, make us think, to shock us, to challenge us to be better and wiser." Basically at this point, I was on the edge of my seat, pumped up about life and I was having a hard time containing the excitement. Many a side-long looks were cast in the directions of the London peeps and if somebody listened closely, they might have heard little squeals of excitement escaping. I was trying to keep it cool though, obviously.

First day of Shakespeah class was a dream. And the crazy thing? All uphill from there. Next class, we review the whole iambic pentameter thing. Seemingly boring, perhaps even overdone, but NO! It was brilliant. He compared it to a heartbeat and I was sold, especially when we started looking at those certain lines and discussing how some fit the iambic pentameter and others were slightly off and what that meant. My mind was blown. Or, how sometimes he switches from more prose-y language into rhyming couplets in certain emotional situations. Brilliant. Phrases like "anapestic dimeter" and "acatalectic" were being thrown around. Things were getting crazy!

Then he uttered some statement about how we were now going to read lines and we were going to take it one step at a time and read each word, each line, each thought, but we had to "feel it's energy." We were told to feel "the energy from word to word, the energy from line to line, the energy from thought to thought." Then he said, "Yeah, I know, it's like I'm telling you to be a tree." I was a goner. We started reading lines from plays with a partner, focusing on the energy of the words. Now, I am sort of a cheeseball, dramatic nerd in the first place, so when somebody is encouraging me to get into being who I naturally am, I am not going to resist. (who am i kidding? I don't even need encouragement most of the time. Most of the time, in fact, people try to discourage me). Holy cow. If you don't think that individual words and lines have a specific energy, go and pick some Shakespeah and start reading- because you can tell when you are not reading with the right energy! Just try it. It is wildly satisfying.

Possibly the most fun lines to read were from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I read for Helena (the spurned, slightly pathetic woman who loved a man that did not love her) and just tell me you don't feel the energy of these lines:

H: And even for that do I love you the more.
I am your spaniel, and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me I will fawn on you.
Use me but as your spaniel: spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
What worser place can I beg in your love-
And yet a place of high respect with me-
Than to be used as you use your dog?

Isn't that just so beautifully tragic?! Tell me every girl hasn't felt that way at some point or another? Maybe even some guys... Or, this quote from "As You Like It" that I absolutely love:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages...
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

So yeah, next time you have the chance, maybe just pick up some Shakespeah and give it a second chance. Or a first chance. Shakespeare is too good not to share.I don't want to sound like I am bearing my testimony of him, but let's just say I might have one. In a very non-sacrilegious way, of course. Also, just picture for a minute, an entire class of English dorks reading Shakespeah lines with the "right" energy. Yeah.

Which leads me to my next point. One time I was reflecting on how I have a lot of "bad" habits I have picked up as a result of being an English major (I will refer you back to my October 3rd post entitled "Public Humiliation"). I was lamenting the choice of black as my favorite color in a Miss-Havisham sort of way, but not really because she is awesome, and I realized that there were some other "odd" habits I have picked up. My roommates helped me compile this list. One of my roommates even pulled up her "Tara's Weird Quirks" list to help me think of some. I am not kidding. She seriously has a word document with a list of all my weird habits.

Tara's English Quirks:

1. Has a hard time answering questions with simple answers. Has to give supporting evidence and commentary.
2. Finds John Keats applicable to everyday life.
3. Likes to look for patterns and themes in all media (Star Wars compared to the gospel as a main area of focus, along with disney movies).
4. Makes people like at the sky- at all times of the day. (My roommate specified that she is not quite sure if this has to do with English stuff or not, but it was odd and she thinks there is correlation, if not causation- and if I were not an English major, I would be able to tell you which of those science-y words was applicable).
5. Cries over John Keats sometimes.
6. Thinks everything relates to a book she just read.
7. Has a tendency to scribble in a notebook by her bed in the middle of the night when little insights strike her in relation to the current paper she is writing (Again, the roommate loves this- also, very good at writing in the dark).

Though I am not sure if I really believe her, one of my roommates insisted they were all "endearing" whilst the other one laughed. Most likely at me.

8. Uses the word "whilst" - one of the roommates also said I had a penchant for using big words. She did not seem too pumped about that particular trait either.

In short, this might come across as slightly testimonial again, but I love being an English major even if it has tailored me to be an odd sort of person. Almost every day I get to read something that makes me excited to live and that tugs at the heartstrings a little bit. I read about the darker side of human nature and the sorrow of life, but then I get to read about the joy in living and the beauty of humanity. Every single day I ask myself, "Why does this matter to me? What makes this important? Why is this lasting?" and as I ponder those questions in relation to the texts I am currently reading, my answer are always satisfying and in a lot of ways they reaffirm my actual testimony that I have in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One quote I came across from author John Connolly really resonated with me. He said, "The reading of fiction encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways. I have always believed that fiction acts as a prism, taking the reality of our existence and breaking it down into its constituent parts, allowing us to see it in a completely different form. It allows us to inhibit the consciousness of another, which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of being a decent human being." If you don't like your major, come to mine and make your life better. Or, at the very least, pick up a book and let it affect you. Let Shakespeare inspire you. Build a relationship with the Hogwarts family. Love Captain Jack Elliott. Cry over John Keats (and invite me so I can cry with you). Most importantly, memorize the last part of Tennyson's Ulysses so that you always have some motivation.

Come my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

This is why I am an English major. Amen.