Friday, February 27, 2009

Today's Assignment

In Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein’s monster reads Plutarch’s Lives, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther. These books give shape and context to the world that this child-like being is trying to understand.

Using works available now, what three works would you use to help the creature have a more successful view of the present world? [You may not use Shelley’s Frankenstein.] Give the titles and then explain in detail what the works would teach one.


Chris said...

Shel Silverstein - The Giving Tree
This is a simple story about a boy, a tree, and the world. The tree gives all it has to make the boy happy, though after growing up, the boy rarely returns such affection. Through a series of several interactions throughout the boy's life, the tree gives to the boy what he needs to satisfy him. Then he leaves the tree and goes back to the world, only to return with new needs. In the end, as the boy has aged, and only once the tree has given all that it can, the two find themselves perfectly at rest with eachother. The tree teaches us to give all that we have if we are to be satisfied. The boy teaches us first to cherish friendships and second that the world is demanding.

Theology of the Body - Pope John Paul II
A series of addresses given over several years and an exploration as to the nature and language of the body. As signs around us define and tell us about our world, our body is a sign of who we are to those around us. The body is more than just a complex biological system - we are more than just a sum of atoms, muscles, bones, and nerves. We are all familiar with body language, but that only begins to get at it. A simple example of this is a smile. The biology of a smile is simply a bearing of ones teeth. Though a baby is not taught to smile when he is happy, it is clear to anyone around how this natural expression of the body reveals us to others. From eating, to work, to recreation, sleep, and everything along the way, our bodies allow us to express our self, but also reveal universal truths about who we are and the world around us. The universal truth of happiness is revealed through a smile to others. We all experience these truths through others, but they also may be understood by looking to ourselves and our own bodies. The body is an expression of the person, but even moreso a manifestation of God, as we are called to act and love as God loves, and are made in His image. By understanding our bodies and how they function, a revelation of God is engrained into all of us by the very nature of our bodies.

Hot, Flat, Crowded - Thomas Freidman
This last one could have gone several ways, but to complement the others and to give purpose to action, a description of the environment and society is in order. Though I considerd putting in The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler, I think that is too bleak and narrowly focused to get an overall picture of the world. The Party's Over by Rich Heinberg does an excellent job of conveying our energy use, expecially oil, but again I don't think it's the broad overview needed to begin to grasp all of facets of what we face. It may just be that I recently finished Hot, Flat, and Crowded that it stands out, but I include it with reservations. It does an excellent job of laying out the gravity of the situation, but some of the arguments and logic are distracting from the thesis of detailing where we are, how we arrived at this point in time, the main hurdles we need to cross, and some good-intentioned parameters of what a world may look like after we do.
As outlined by Al Gore in an Incovenient Truth, Hot, Flat, and Crowded expounds upon our current system of "dirty fuels" and how it is stressing the planet. A continuation of the status quo will result in disastrous consequences. While America has had the luxury of using dirty fuels to advace and grow throughout the 20th century, today's emerging markets cannot have that luxury as another America will most definately push us over the tipping point. Clean energy must be utilized and developed so that non-industrialized countries can grow sustainably. America is in a position where we need to develop the technologies needed for this in order to maintain our power and political stature. Burdened by the dirty fuel industry, it seems that our willful laziness to move beyond it may endanger not only our worldly stature, but the world itself. Other countries have begun to step up development of clean fuels, though not on the pace needed; and America's example that dirty fuels are fine hasn't helped. Hot, Flat, and Crowded is a plead for sensibility, sacrifice, and solutions.

After reading these three, one should have a sense of how to discover who they are, how to serve others in a healthy and positive way, to consider their actions toward others, and live in a sustainable fashion in a very complicated, demanding world!

Anonymous said...

Definitely, he'd have to read Paul Auster's novels. Why not starting from his latest "Man in the Dark". He would learn a lot about American history (in a nutshell), he'd learn about human affection, support and hope.