Clarity

Lying across my neatly-made bed, rays of sunlight breaking through the glass panes that separate me from the outside world, my mind fills with a sense of clarity. For a moment, time seems to slow as my gaze falls on the gentle swaying of the trees. Mere feet away, my tree – with its resilient, delicate white flowers – begins to glow with the warmth of approaching spring. As my eyes take in the dazzling sight, an idea takes hold of me. With my mind as clear as the mid-morning sky, words flow through me and onto the bright screen of my laptop. In a rare moment of solitude, I remember how liberating this feels. Transforming thoughts into words. I hear the lively singing of birds as it joins the symphony playing in my head. I watch as my story unfolds.

Chasing Her

She picks up speed, legs turning beneath her faster and faster until she can no longer feel the ground beneath her bare feet. Her legs begin to feel like lead, growing heavier and heavier as they threaten to give out. Her feet ache and knees burn as she pushes past the bile in her throat and the roaring in her body.

Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot.

Forming in her mind, these words repeat with each pounding of her feet on the uneven gravel. Willing herself to breathe – each sharp intake of breath filling and crushing her lungs, creating a dry, burning sensation in the back of her throat – she ignores the rising pain on the bottoms of her now bloody feet, glass shards digging in deeper with each fall of her leg.

Again. Again.

Bile travels from her throat to her nose; liquid fire gathers behind her eyes.

Pain is nothing. You are stronger than this. You have to be stronger than this.

Desperation takes hold of her as she sees the metal bar grow further from reach. Losing that railing would mean losing her daughter.

Faster!

Leaning forward, her strides quickening and lengthening, her body seems to tumble forward – edging closer and closer. The sharp pains in her feet from the glass – now deeply embedded in her flesh – grow in intensity, yet her gait grows lighter. Faster.

Not even a train can steal my baby from me.

Lifting both arms, outstretched and searching, she forces her legs to push off. Her body begins its jump toward the railing, arms flailing and weak, but as her fingertips brush the metal she feels the gravel slide from beneath her…

No–

Her legs buckle and she begins to fall, the ground rushing toward her face. A scream rips its way from her throat, not from a fear of falling but of failing to reach her daughter.

Still reaching forward, she suddenly catches hold of a chain dangling from the back of the train. Grasping the chain more tightly, she begins desperately to climb when a sudden, searing pain shoots through her right leg as a rusty nail on the ground catches on her leg; it drags its way through the flesh on her shin and hot blood begins pouring from the wound, but – determined to reach the platform – she ignores the pain.

Almost… There…

She finally grips the railing and, with all her strength, pulls herself up and over onto the platform. Eyes ablaze, fury filling her, she starts for the door. They destroyed her home. They ransacked her village. But there is one thing they cannot keep.

I’m taking her back.

And they are going to pay.

Style Challenge #2

4) More exercises on style, i.e. rewrite the sentences below to make them BETTER in terms of clarity, coherence, conciseness, correctness (and/or even creativity).

  1. a) There was a fight.

An all-out brawl broke out as my hungry sisters lunged for the last slice of cheese pizza.

 

  1. b) DX is annoying. It is convenient.

At no point in time has DX been convenient nor pleasant.

Never has DX been pleasant yet it remains convenient.

DX is annoying but convenient.

Although DX is annoying, it is also convenient.

Even though DX is convenient, it is still very annoying.

 

  1. c) Orwell talks about nature a lot. He praises the value of nature for England. He says to his audience that spring is a time of renewal that is free for English people and they should appreciate that.

Orwell consistently praises nature’s value, saying spring in England is a time of free renewal and should be appreciated.

 

  1. d) Bells were rung, horns were blown, confetti was thrown from every office window, and embraces were exchanged by total strangers.

As total strangers embraced each other, bells ringing and horns blowing, confetti flew from every office window.

 

  1. e) The sound of dishwashing was heard.

Suddenly and most peculiarly, I heard the sound of dishwashing coming from the kitchen.

 

  1. f) The room was filled with the sudden sound of laughter.

The very sudden burst of laughter in the room stunned me into silence.

Laughter filled the room.

Laughter echoed through the room.

Laughter broke out and filled the room.

 

  1. g) Alliteration and symbolism were used by Atwood to demonstrate her anger about patriarchal attitudes towards women and people being really sexist. The poem was created to protest gender inequality and social injustice.

In her poem – created to protest gender inequality and social injustice – Atwood uses alliteration and symbolism to express her anger about sexist, patriarchal attitudes.

In her poem – created to protest gender inequality – Atwood uses alliteration and symbolism to express her anger about sexist, patriarchal attitudes.

In her poem, Atwood uses alliteration and symbolism to express her anger about sexist, patriarchal attitudes toward women.

 

  1. h) She walked confidently and in a big hurry.

Swiftly yet confidently she hurried toward her meeting.

 

  1. i) He was an expert car driver and could also repair cars.

His status as a car repairman and expert driver made him quite popular with his neighbors.

The car mechanic was an expert driver.

  1. j) In Virginia Woolf’s essay, she includes sentence variety, parallelism, concrete details, and sounds as if she is just talking to friends.

As if engaging in casual chatter with friends, Virginia Woolf’s essay incorporates sentence variety, parallelism, and concrete details.

Virginia Woolf’s essay incorporates sentence variety, parallelism, concrete details, and colloquial language.

 

  1. k) The conclusion shows how deep his emotions are.

Through the masterful and well-crafted conclusion, the readers are taken down deep into the watery chasm that is his grief.

 

5)  Write the longest grammatically correct sentence that you can which includes either of these sentence stems: “they laughed” OR “he wept”/“she wept”

She wept over the six hundred gallons of spilled milk, watching in dismay as pigeons – of varying sizes, shapes, colors, and breeds – flocked around her, forming a tightening circle that made her feel as if she were being choked, and not in at all a pleasant manner – despite her past life as a fierce German shepherd with a bright red collar on at all times to indicate to all passersby of her extraordinary bravery, commitment, devotion, and passion for her job as a baby duckling rescuer – that only worsened as she remembered her birdseed-filled pockets that surely would attract the birds directly to her where they would poke at her until the very last seed was consumed.

 

6) Diction matters! Try at least 3 of these short writing exercises just to challenge your imagination and stretch your range of vocabulary:

  1. a)Write alphabetically, i.e. your first word needs to begin with “A,” your second with “B,” your third starts with “C”…

Examples:

Agile black crows dive eagerly forward, grabbing…

A bored cockroach directed each furious gadfly higher into jeopardy, killing

[It doesn’t have to be a 26-word sentence. Punctuate the end of each sentence and just continue the alphabetic sequence. Once you get to “Z,” just go back around to “A” again.]

And before Catherine dared enter Freudian’s gallery, having insisted Jeremy kidnap lots more neighbors, openly pointed – quite rambunctiously – straight toward Uncle Vernon’s wasps.

 

  1. d)Acrostic writing: Choose a word or name at least 6 letters long and start each sentence in your paragraph with the letters in that word. The paragraph should be inspired by or relevant somehow to the word or name you have chosen.

Example: delicacy

During the interminable delay at Beijing Capital Airport, the travelers around me were all eating…. Every time I have tried something new…. Living in China means…. In the unlikely event that…. Can you believe…? As everyone’s chopsticks rushed towards the plate…. Crushed between…. Yes, I did….

Word: Diamond.

Down on her knees, she began to scream out his name. In her mind, she thought he was always going to be the one to stand by her, day or night, through joy or pain. And yet, here now she sits hunched, empty, destroyed. Many attempted to provide solace, saying “everything will be okay.” Over and over again they repeated this horrid phrase, unintentionally digging her chasm of grief even deeper. Nothing offered her peace nor relief, rather everything forced upon her pain and despair. “Detrimental,” they said, “were the impacts of his death.”

  1. f) Choose a word or a concept and look up its various definitions and etymology, then write about what it means to you (e.g. heart, abandonment, grammar, cheating, script) OR consider a pair of antonyms (e.g. obscene vs. sacred, worthless vs. priceless) OR distinguish between several synonyms (e.g. sadness, sorrow, grief, melancholy…rebel, terrorist, insurgent, freedom fighter…problem, puzzle, mystery, enigma).

Distinguishing between the synonyms of sadness, grief, anguish, and hopelessness:

Sadness is when words cut you deep, when silent tears flow freely from your eyes, when the rain outside becomes so thick that it feels like an unbearably heavy blanket.

Grief is feeling sick to your stomach, when your chest feels heavy with the weight of death’s emptiness, when the very fabric of your reality comes crashing down around you.

Anguish is when you see a loved one in pain, when the haze burns you with its ice, when death threatens to claim you.

Hopelessness is emptiness, when the fight in you has left your body, when your very will to live abandons you.

The Silence Is So Loud (Poem)

Silence slithers along my spine, circles my neck. Chills race through me, nerves burning.
I lose control of my breathing as ice fills my lungs.
The world stops–

or maybe it’s me that stops.
My limbs go numb as the frost spreads, veins heating, blood freezing. Sensations roar, trying desperately to reach me. Only silence breaks the surface.
My head fills with it, fog pressing against my eyes.
Everything is cold.

Voices gather just outside my reach, their murmuring muffled by static. Faces appear, flashes in the fog. Eyes searching, blurry, for mine.
Everything fades. The silence grows louder.
My insides churn until I’m biting back the taste of metal, the coppery scent of blood filling my nose. I try to drag myself out of the silence, only to slide back in. The haze grows thicker, vision clouding, eyelids falling, head sinking.

A new wave of ice crashes into me, my lungs growing weak. Growing dry, the ice burns my insides. Heat gathers in my stomach, traveling throughout my body.
My legs disappear and I can’t move.
No longer able to discern where I am,
I shrink into myself.

The overwhelming silence echoes in my head.
My breathing fills my ears.
My heart thuds in my chest.
Pounding, crashing, screaming, thrashing, I watch as if seeing someone else.
I wait and I wait for what feels like hours, waiting for the silence to break.

But it never does.
It doesn’t break.
And I watch as the darkness begins to claim me

not
yet–

And it starts again.

Just as my vision begins to blacken
A face appears, this time unblurred.
Years pass and the face remains, and although the fog never left
And the ice is still cold
And the silence still visits,
It isn’t quite so loud anymore.
And as I feel my body thaw
I learn again how to breathe.
I did not know it then
How close I was.
But after years of struggling in the dark

I watch as sunlight breaks the surface;

Overthinking in a Nutshell

March 8, 2021

Overthinking in a Nutshell

            Why do we as humans believe that we are somehow superior to other life forms? Is there truly a way to compare the value of one creature with another? Some say that because humans have more developed brains than other animals, we are therefore more important. It is this sentiment of self-importance that so many of us have which I have always found intriguing. Stripped back to our most basic selves, we are mammals that have developed a more complex system of firing neutrons than others. Does this intelligence separate us from the other life forms around us in ways that matter? Does it make us more remarkable?

Complex infrastructure, languages, and political systems are the product of human ambition, a desire to be always better. Yet when I am surrounded by the natural world – this name in and of itself implies that humans are not “natural” – I lose sight of the supposed line that we have drawn between ourselves and the rest of the world. We, too, are governed by the same natural laws that plants and animals live by. We have been given access to the same resources, yet we have taken more than we need. We live by the illusion we have created: we are above the natural world in ability, intelligence, and potential, and therefore own everything around us. I have long been baffled by this belief, observing the differences between the natural world and the artificial world we created. Such confusions continue to plague me, driving me to discover the truth – one that is not forced upon me by the very society who created and altered it.

I suppose that these doubts have shaped who I am, nurturing this inner desire to understand the subjective and complex. Beneath this curiosity, which others interpret as insightfulness, is my most valuable attribute. Ironically, the characteristic I appreciate most is also the one that causes moments of insecurity and confusion. This is the part of me that overthinks and questions everything around me. Whether complex or simple, I am compelled to understand more than what I am told. I tend not to simply accept ideas because I am told they are true. From the concept of life, death, and knowledge to that of time, colors, and thoughts, I never stop inquiring. This trait of mine can be frustrating to others, especially if it is a teacher I am directly questioning. I like to attain knowledge that can be packaged away neatly, in labeled boxes, in my mind. When there are questions I do not know the answers to, this leads to inner discomfort and even anxiety.

My obsession with considering, contemplating, and conceptualizing everything is part of the perfectionist in me, pushing me to learn and do as much as possible. From human rights, social justice, and science to history, literature, and theatre, I am always active in some field of knowledge. I am not always the “best” in these areas, yet I enjoy them nonetheless. There is a certain power in understanding that you are not superior to those around you – that there are others more talented, intelligent, or brave than you are. The power of humility is a concept I feel everyone can comprehend and come to appreciate. In regard to humanity’s “ownership” of the Earth, I feel humility is essential. From climate change, destruction of habitats, and eradication of entire species to social injustices, inequalities, and corruption, I feel these are void of humility. Humankind’s sense of self-importance and dangerously large ego is leading to the death of the world around us, and – although some refuse to admit we are also limited by the natural world – ourselves as well.

It is these kinds of thoughts, inquiries, and questions that fuel my pursuit of understanding. Although I could choose to simply accept what I am told is the truth, I refuse to do so. I will continue pushing the limits of knowledge and change if only to satisfy the part of me that has never been able to leave things the way they are. I want to see a change in the world, and the overlarge perception that humanity has of its worth needs to be addressed in order to do so. So, here I am, overthinking once again. And I will continue to do so.

Things I Know to be True

Over the Chinese New Year break, I read “Things I Know to be True” by Andrew Bovell. I found myself more engaged with the play text the more I read it, consistently discovering new things about each character and being surprised at each secret revealed. The technique of revealing details and secrets about each character one at a time was highly effective at maintaining the reader’s attention and brought more depth to each character and the family as a whole. I found the text to be a commentary on the things that every person and every family hides. No person or family is ever perfect, and this play is a great way to highlight this. The stage directions – which often felt like narration as well – were highly important to understanding the piece and gaining depth of knowledge and insight on the context and inner workings of the story. What especially stood out to me were these two lines: “She could hurt him with a lie or save him with the truth. Or is it the other way around?” (72) and “He could hurt her with the truth or save her with a lie. Or is it the other way around?” (79). These lines were parallel in structure and idea while opposite in meaning, which I found very interesting and felt enhanced the scene. I believe these lines were meant to be a commentary on the impact of truth and deception; sometimes a lie is easier than the truth, while other times a lie hurts more. This emphasizes the existence of a person’s ability to manipulate the truth and illustrates the inner struggle many people go through when deciding whether to be honest or not. The question at the end left room for interpretation from the reader and opened up a conversation on the ethics of what we say to other people, which plays a large role in the piece. Each character decides whether or not to be honest, but the truth is ultimately revealed even if a lie was originally told. I feel that so much could be done with this piece when directing, and the set-up of the last scene – when Fran is killed – is vital to the overall quality of the piece. Another huge aspect of directing the piece would be to incorporate its plot’s realism, allowing for the audience to connect with the characters onstage and leave an impression on them after the performance.

Baby IO #2 Ideas

    • IO Outline #2

       

      Note/food for thought: How does literature affect our world? The way we view a global issue, how a global issue affects us, or how the world could be.

       

      Chosen Global Issue:

       

      Art, creativity and the imagination

      You might focus on the ways in which texts explore aspects of aesthetic inspiration, creation, craft, and beauty. You might also focus on the shaping and challenging of perceptions through art, and the function, value, and effects of art in society.

       

      Chosen Text:

       

      • Grendel by John Gardner

       

      Driving Question:

       

      • How does John Gardner present the function, value, and effects of art in society in his novel Grendel?

       

      Text As a Whole:

       

      Function of art in society:

       

      • Is a means of expressing culture, identity, religion/beliefs, history, emotions, or dreams.

       

      • Ex in text:
        • Storytelling intertwined with history through the use of music and song: “Inside the hall I would hear the Shaper telling of the glorious deeds of dead kings – how they’d split certain heads, snuck away with certain precious swords and necklaces – his harp mimicking the rush of swords, clanging boldly with the noble speeches, sighing behind the heroes’ dying words” (34).
          • Through his musical performances and memorized lyrical “formulas” (34), the Shaper shares the history of their ancestors to the people. Such stories of history (whether true or altered) contain parts of a community’s culture and identity and can be passed on from generation to generation.

       

      • Is a means of entertainment for an individual or community as well as a means to form connections with other people.

       

      • Ex in text:
        • Storytelling is a form of art: “When two hunters from different bands came together in the woods, they would fight until the snow was slushy with blood, then crawl back, gasping and crying to their separate camps and tell wild tales of what happened” (31).
          • These hunters use storytelling – as well as exaggeration – to entertain their fellow hunters and establish their reputation as being a great fighter and brave hunter. Such storytelling also creates a sense of brotherhood and bonding.

       

       

      Effects of art in society:

       

       

      • Can instill a sense of pride or purpose in oneself or the community.

       

      • Ex in text:
        • Art can be physical treasures and symbols of power: “New meadhalls gave tribute. [Hrothgar’s] treasure-hoard grew till his meadhall was piled to the rafters with brightly painted shields and ornamented swords and boar’s-head helmets and coils of gold, and they had to abandon the meadhall and sleep in the outbuildings” (40).
          • Hrothgar and his kingdom demanded tribute from all conquered meadhalls, as a symbol of their superiority and to flatter their wealth- and power-hungry egos. Because of their materialistic nature and great value placed on such tribute, the kingdom began to sleep in smaller buildings – as if their surplus of treasure were more valuable than they were.
          • While the treasuring of such art can instill a sense of pride in one’s accomplishments (such as Hrothgar rising to power and conquering so many neighboring meadhalls) and also pride in the accomplishments of a community, too much of such materialistic treasures leads to greed, jealousy, and hate.
          • Once Hrothgar got a taste of power and treasure, he wanted more. He was seemingly unable to stop this desire, instead, he continued to destroy villages and murder people. Too much pride in oneself or one’s community can lead to injustices, violence, greed, and fear.

       

      • Can persuade people into doing certain things (whether bad or good).

       

      • Ex in text:

       

       

      Value of art in society:

       

       

      • Can bring a community together and form bonds between individuals (but can separate others while doing so)

       

      • Ex in text:

       

      • Allows cultures, traditions, languages, people, events, and ideas to transcend time limits (preserves them), providing future generations with a way to understand and learn from their ancestors.

       

      • Ex in text:

Ventriloquism Warm-Up

Today in theatre, we had a ventriloquism warm-up based on “Cards for Devising Theatre” by the University of Chichester. In this warm-up, there were two performers in each scene. Performer A was the “dummy” while Performer B was the “ventriloquist.” Performer B would speak while Performer A would mouth the words.

During this warm-up, we completed several scenes. The ones that stood out to me were those with deeper storylines, including one about a transgender woman forced to hide his identity behind a facade of masculinity and sports, and the other about a child’s mother who is consistently abused by her husband.

Beyond the actual storylines of the scenes, the presentation was the most powerful aspect. Although Performer A was not actually speaking, I was drawn into the scene and began to believe they were indeed the ones telling the story. During the scene about the transgender woman, I found it particularly powerful that the narrator/ventriloquist was a woman while the dummy was a male. This symbolically expressed how the person feels like a woman inside but must present themselves as a male outside.

This warm-up would be a great way to devise theatre in the future. For example, the scene with the transgender woman could be part of a larger production discussing the ways in which society represses not only sexual minorities but also racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. This production could encompass several ventriloquists acts in which an individual tells their story – of how they were treated/oppressed because of their identity – followed by a scene handling the ways in which they go about their daily lives, the ways in which they attempt to conceal their identity so as to “fit in” to society.

A similar idea could be applied to the scene dealing with abuse. Several scenes in which a story about parent(s) suffering are told from the perspective of their child, through a ventriloquist and dummy. Scenes that follow either the parent(s) or child through their lives – both past, present, and future – would occur in between.

Overall, there are so many ways in which this seemingly simple warm-up prompt could be used to generate theatre. Although at times it was uncomfortable and difficult to begin as the narrator (I felt), after pushing past this initial barrier I found that the boundaries and freedoms allowed by this prompt can inspire creativity because of the unique style in which we create a scene – with one performer speaking and the other miming.