Monday, November 30, 2009
The eternal song of youth whistles
Through the golden grass of the past.
The stream babbles across the forest floor
Dodging every tree, root, and trunk as
Log draw bridges span the great creek bed
Paving an adventure through
The treacherous territory of the imagination.
Moss seeps through the bark of the trees
Down to the jeweled pebbles and
Up to the veined canopy above
Covering the world with a velvet sage.
Through sun, through rain, through snow,
The melody carries over the glassy pond;
Sun kissed faces reflect in the water
Only to grow wrinkled and then disappear
With he setting of the copper sun.
The moon cries fiery tales that lick
The freckles of those sitting nearest
Her warm witty embrace.
The stars bounce through the heavens
Trumpeting the wishful ode
Carried on their shimmering tails.
And off on the distant horizon the beams
Of the promised morn beckon
To the golden grass.
Well I decided to write you about my adventures here in England since my time is almost coming to an end. It truly has been an adventure. I arrived at Palace Court 27 and found a charming victoiran building beckoning me into its fold. I have 13 roommates and out lives are filled with much joy and laughter, little sleep, and hairballs the size of small toasters. The mice really like us too and I often find my self waking up to the scratch scratch of their little paws. It took me about a week to learn how to flush the toilet and I have mastered the art of washing my hands. Step one: Turn on both the hot and cold spouts. Step two: apply the soap to hand. Step three: swish your hands violently back and forth between the two spouts to remove the soap so you don’t burn your hands. It has been interesting not living around any boys. I can honestly say my best male friends are the missionaries serving in my ward and a middle aged coach driver named Tony. He is great and we have had some good times together. I will really miss him. It is a funny thing to wake up in the morning and head down to breakfast in your pj’s only to sit down next to your professor who is also wearing his pj’s. I have had my fill of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches due to the unlimited supply kept in the servery. The one thing that kind of bugs me is when I walk all the way down 5 flights of stairs to get a piece of nutella toast and find that there is no nutella. We never know where it goes and some speculate that Mrs. Shepherd comes down in the middle of the night and eats it. I never feel too bad when I eat a lot just because I get such a good exercise walking up to my room I can even eat an extra galaxy bar bar on laundry days. I love being able to walk down to class in about 12 seconds but it is hard when you want to skip class. It is not like BYU when one teacher has 1,000 students and you don’t make a difference, they know who I am, where I sleep at night, and weather I am missing because I am sick or because I am lazy.
Being in London I have picked up alot of the culture in my everyday life. I can know pronounce every tube line with a perfect British accent while “minding the gap.” I know to avoid the circle line and I know how to get around with out pulling out my big map like a lost tourist. Shakespeare is idolized here the way Brad Pit is idolized in the states. I have learned to love him like an infected ingrown hair. We travel a lot on coach bus and I could write a book “101 Ways to Sleep On A Bus.” When we aren’t traveling there is wooden bunkbed waiting for me. I love the hustle of the city but I miss my family and I can’t wait to be around some other people besides 20-year-old girls. This is really what my life is! I didn’t want to sugar coat anything so you can a real view of the life here. I can’t wait to see you in a couple weeks! Hope all is well in the states. Lots of love,
Shakespeare, the Underrated Biologist
Biology is life. From the flesh on bodies to the dirt on the earth, from the full moon to the crawling lady bug, from the Redwoods in California to the bobcats in Arizona, biological forces are at work. Many figures from all walks of history have recognized biology as a predominating force in day to day life. Notably Charles Darwin, Alexander Flemming, and Aristotle have studied life and organisms to discover the nature of life and the environment. Each of these great men were either a scientists or philosopher so merit is natural; but one of the one of the greatest pursuers of the study of biology is often overshadowed because of the glory of his literary accomplishments. Who is this underrated biologist one may ask? It is none other then William Shakespeare, a man considered to be the greatest literary geniuses of the 16th century and possibly of all time. His repetitive use of biological elements in his works literally give life to his literary purpose: to define the idea that Biology “is life”.
Shakespeare depicts how biology is life though his reference to nature, nature being the literal flora and fauna of the earth. As presented in the comedy “As You Like It” Shakespeare contrast the sterilness and haughtiness of the court with the edenic qualities of the Forest of Arden. The forest is described as a lush forest filled with trees and streams. There is plenty of wildlife to eat and places for livestock to be kept. The land is fertile and good for growing crops. These biological elements help sustain yet another biological element, humans. The residents of the country not only live off of the land but are morally restored by the land. In the plot Duke Senior is a man of court but is banished into the Forest of Arden. There he realizes the importance of acknowledging and giving head to nature in ones life as a way to find peace within. He describes the court in a way that the “icy fang” and “winter’s wind” are not as harsh as the court. He moves to the forest and finds what really makes him content:
“Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam…”
He realizes life lived in court is incomplete because they cut themselves off from the earth. The court in this story can be compared to places in present time where people cut themselves off from nature either from circumstance or choice. It is like a student ignoring the directions at the top of test and then wondering why they did so poor. People ignore this undeniable biological force and their lives and wonder why they aren’t content. This shows how biology “is life” by the way nature sustains, supplying food and shelter, and restores, accepting nature as a dominating force, human life.
In “Romeo and Juliet” Shakespere uses the allusions to the heavens and plants and herbs to also show how Biology is life. One dominant reference to biology throughout the play is the sky. One example is found in Friar Lawrence’s speech as he describes morning as “The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night, Checkering the eastern clouds with streaks of light, And fleckled darkness like a drunkard reels From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels.” The fact the sun rises everyday and sets every night is a concept definitely taken for granted. The days are divided by this, the months are marked by this, our lives revolve around this. Reading Shakespeare’s beautiful description of this rising sun is his way of slapping everyone in the face and saying “don’t take this biological force for granted!” Friar Lawrence also refers to “...herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities.” He describes the these as nutrients in a mother’s womb that “children of divers kind, We sucking on her natural bosom find, Many for many virtues excellent.” This can literally be translated as the powers of herbal medicine. Since prehistoric times the earth has been giving cures and remedies for many health problems. It was more prominent in Shakespeare’s time, as noted by “Romeo and Juliet,” but it is still practiced today as well as being the precursor to modern medicine. Both of these are elements of biology that help show the how Biology “life is”.
The idea of decay presented in Shakespeare’s 15th sonnet also conveys how biology “is life.” He states that “ every thing that grow holds in perfection but a little moment” and then it starts to decay. Shakespeare is ultimately referring to love but to understand what he is really trying to portray one has to understand decay. “Plants increase” to a peak of growth and then decay into the earth. Animals reach the height of life and then decay to death. Days peak at the height of the sun and then decay to night. Humans reach a peak in life and then it could be described as decaying into old age and then dying. Decay is biological circle and encompasses every aspect in the human perspective from emotions such love to the decay of actual lives. Social customs and holidays revolve around the cylce of decay with the celebration of birthdays and deaths and the changing of the seasons. Men try to fight this biological impact with procedures such as plastic surgery just as plants and animals try to fight it with adaption and evolution. But despite all the efforts this biological phenomena still occurs and still shows how biology defines life, or more bluntly stated, “is life.”
Shakespeare understood what a preeminent influence biology is and uses this to articulate that biology is life. Biology is the nature of the earth that provides and restores for the human body and soul. Biology is the reassurance that the sun will rise everyday and that the herbs of the earth can heal. Biology is the cycle of decay that defines the cycle of life.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The pond at Benbow Farms where 1,200-1,800 saints were baptized...
The top of Herefordshire Beacon...
Well today we had the chance to go to a Muslim Mosque. It was very interesting. We sarted off the day walking through Regents park towards the mosque. It is hte central mosque for London and it is pretty big. It is big building with a gold dome on top. When we go there we were met by our guide Omar. He is a 24-year-old and he seems very accomplished for his age. He travels all around the UK teaching to universities and other groups all about Islam. He has been to Mecca twice and he has also written literature about Islam for people learning about it. We started out tour in the big chapel area where Omar taught us a little about the prayers they say. We watched them do their prayers and it was really neat. They line up in straight line and go through this procession of bows. They do this 5 times a day. The procession starts with a cal to prayer and then them opening the prayer by a simple gesture and they go though the bows a certain amount of times depending on the prayer then they can pray about whatever they want followed by a closing of the prayer. The person leading all of this is called an Imam and they are like priests that have to go through certain amounts of training and they have to memorize large parts if not all the Qur'an, He said there are Imam's as young as 10 who lead entire congregations because they are qualified. We then headed upstairs so he could teach us more about the religion. He explained that Mosques were only considered mosques if they have some type of library. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant just some place there are books you can study from. He told us about his trips to mecca and the type of things you do there. He showed us a couple of pictures and told us about the actual building they go to to pray in. It was amazing to see so many people devoted to that faith and hear the stories of Muhammad, peace be upon him. He also told us about the prophet Muhammad and the start of religion including the marriage between him and his wife. I really liked that story. He talked about the 5 pillars of their religion. I really enjoyed learning about the Mosque. Omar was a great guide and answered all of our questions. I feel like a better person for learning more about their religion.
Monday, October 26, 2009
For my Enlgish 300 class we have been studying the affect that nature has on literature. We have mostly been reading poetry. We recently wrote a paper on one of the poems we have been studying in class. In it we were supposed to discuss how the use of nature can relay the real message the aurthor was trying to make. Here is my paper. Hopefully it will impress you and my professor! Enjoy...
There are two definitions of nature. The first being the nature of a person, the nature of a community, or the nature of any object which refers more to characteristics such as innate personality traits or inherent behavioral patterns. The second being the nature that refers to the actual flora and fauna and landscape of a particular place. Often times the landscape definition of nature is used to characterize the nature of a person or a community. This is precisely what Thomas Gray accomplishes in his poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” A simple reading of this work may convey a picture of a lonely church cemetery but underneath the rural scenes Gray is addressing the social problems of his time. Gray ultimately uses the nature present in a churchyard as an analogy to the social nature of the eighteenth century.
The first parallel the poem makes is the way the poor are defined by nature. The scene opens at the end of the day with a description of the landscape and the animals and trees that cover it, “The plowman homeward plods his weary way” (3) and darkness begins to set in. Through these simple descriptions the dominating force of nature is manifest in a peasants life. They live their life day to day as the sun comes and goes. The plowman’s day is determined by the sun; he returns home when darkness or the elements prevent his work. Their lives have a simple rhythm with the elements of nature. Their station in life is also defined in their working of the land. In farming the plowman uses a sickle to “furrow of the stubborn glebe” (25) which means he creates a small trench to plant seeds into a row. Everything grows in a straight line because it is planted there. This is paralleled to the way the poor live. They are planted into life with it already “furrowed” in a certain direction and the have no way to branch from it. Gray describes a poet who epitomizes this theory. The poet is seen by the “upland lawn” (100), under the “nodding beech” (101), or by the “brook that babbles” (104) just wandering and thinking. He is lead to the places that suit his life and work. His life is simple and lead by nature. The connection of the poet and the nature is sealed when at his death he is buried into the earth that had patterned his life.
Gray also uses nature, or rather the lack of nature, to view the life of the aristocrat. Instead of living in parallel with nature the wealthy go around with “the boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, /and all the beauty, all the wealth e’er gave” (37-38). They seem only to be concerned with one thing, themselves. Gray describes the life of these great men with all pomp and importance of ancestors, all beauty and accumulated wealth, no simpleness or rhythm. They live there lives shut up in their houses and churches and ignore the rhythms of nature. Gray projects that all the counterfeit pride will eventually come to an end because all “the paths of glory lead but to the grave” (36). He is stating that all the dominant acts and superfluity is useless because eventually everyone ends in the same place, the grave. Even in death the rich fight against nature. They chose to be enshrined in a church with “the long-drawn isle and fretted vault” (39) rather then in the earth. The wealthy are not defined by the nature within the churchyard but rather by the church itself. They want to be remembered for their greatness and wealth and not for their deeds. In all their snobbery and royalties, they erect “trophies” (38) and ring bells pleading with the world to never forget them.
Joining these theories about nature defining the rich and poor, two new views emerge: first, the way the aristocrats view the poor. At the start of the poem Gray describes several animals in the churchyard. He describes an owl sitting up in a “ivy-mantled tower” (9) complaining to the moon about things wandering over to “molest her ancient solitary reign” (12). The owl represent the these aristocrats and their idea that they can look down on the poor. They sit on their mantled thrones or in their decorated manors and tyrannize their servants and the commoners who work beneath them. They justify their actions with their power; they believe they have the right because of their ancient solitary endowment. They view the poor as a part of nature, the very nature to whom they are indifferent and ignore.
The second theory that emerges from the description of the rich and poor is the way society, and the poor themselves, should view the poor. Gray discourses on the lives these poverty stricken people could live if they are given the chance. He states “Full many a gem of purest ray serene,/The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:/Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,/And waste its sweetness on the desert air” (52-56). The first two lines of this stanza are referring to beautiful gems on the ocean floor that no one ever discovers. The second two lines are describing beautiful flowers out in the wilderness that bloom but no one is there to see them blush or to smell their sweet perfume. Both the gem and the flower are there and still magnificent but no one is there to recognize it or praise them; likewise, these peasant forced to live a certain life have this potential to become great yet no one is there to discover them or praise them. They could sway “the rod of empire” (47) and be great rulers or wake “the living lyre” (48) and become great musicians but “Chill penury repressed their noble rage,/And froze the genial current of soul” (51-52). Their poverty, which is the very station they are thrust in to, bars them from their potential and represses any high ambitions.
Nature is way of defining nature. In “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” written by Thomas Gray, the social nature of his time is questioned through the simple nature in a church cemetery. Nature, such as the owls of the night and sweet smelling desert flowers, parallel the wealthy and poor and show them as the elite who look down upon the poor and the poor who are channeled into a life there is no branching from. Gray is trying to say that social hierarchy is an ignorant cultural custom. In the end death unites everyone, life should unite as well; yet, as Gram has illuminated, social discrepancies will divide.