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Little bits of myself.

A Voyage

Well, it’s the last one for the school year, blog post number twenty-three. I’ve gotten used to sitting down on Sunday afternoons to think and write and read blogs. Of all my assignments this year, I think these posts have required the most careful thinking. They haven’t been easy, but they’ve been very valuable. I have a newfound appreciation for writing as a way to organize my muddled thoughts.

In terms of AP Lang as a whole, writing is no longer a scary stranger. I have spent many hours interacting with writing, and while it’s still not always enjoyable, I am much more comfortable around writing now. Whether in blog posts, essays, or emails, it’s easier to string words together that accurately reflect my thoughts and intentions. It’s difficult to tell whether my writing has actually improved but I’d like to think it has.

Of everything we were assigned to read this year, I think the chapters from the book about writing simply will have the longest lasting impact for me. My writing is full of useless nonsense; I love the words “perhaps” and “suppose”. I also tend to use the most intellectual-sounding terms my brain can come up with. But after reading the chapters, I’ve tried to write more simply and directly, not bothering with fancy vocabulary and unnecessary disclaimers. I want to write words that people can understand, which requires eliminating distractions. If something is worth being said, it shouldn’t be obscured by overly complex language and a “perhaps” starting every sentence.

Because I’ve decreased the amount of time I spend agonizing over my vocabulary, I can write more freely. My writing also sounds more like me (or so I hope). And that’s why it’s comfortable now. Writing isn’t as daunting; it’s just a visual representation of my thoughts and ideas, not a perfect dissertation. Granted, writing still isn’t easy, but it’s more familiar.

I will always write. I don’t know what forms that will take, but I’ll be creating sentences in some capacity for the rest of my life. Regarding this blog specifically, I would like to post occasionally, but again, I’m not sure when or why I will decide to publish anything.

I truly hope that my blog has encouraged or inspired you in some way. Even if I have changed your perspective on one topic, or caused you to wonder anew for one moment, my words have not been wasted.

I hope the rest of your year is filled with laughter and lovely memories.

~Katie

A Culture-Death

I know that I feel entitled to entertainment. If something isn’t interesting and entertaining, it isn’t worth my time. Half way through this blog post, if you’re not entertained, you’ll most likely stop reading (unless, of course, you are required to trudge on by your English teacher, in which case I leave you my greatest condolences). We love to be entertained, to feel that our lives are exciting and meaningful. Not every culture and time period idolizes the same forms of entertainment. Today, we are entertained by reality TV shows, hateful politicians, and mindless social media platforms.

This week, we are supposed to decide if entertainment has the capacity to ruin society. I don’t think entertainment is inherently bad. But trouble sets in when we expect to be entertained by everything and value those things that entertain the most.

In his Novel Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman warns of the danger of letting a society become consumed by entertainment. He contests that “When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” What happens when we are unable to appreciate real beauty and truth because it is not presented in an entertaining fashion? Inevitably, we begin to assume that the value of a thing is directly proportional to its ability to excite and amuse. Therein lies the danger.

When a new book is passed out in our English class for assigned reading, I rarely wonder how the themes and ideas contained in the novel will enrich and expand my world view. Rather, I count the pages and examine the print size, quickly deciding how interesting the book will be. If I gauge the book to be a manageable size, and it seems relatively funny or exciting, I automatically determine  it will be a worthwhile read. If it seems too long and tedious, however, then it is quite the opposite. The apparent ability of the book to entertain is its most important characteristic. Even if the pages are filled with nonsensical garbage, I’ll convince myself that it is of import because it may be entertaining. As previously mentioned, I do not want to argue that all entertainment is invalid or unhealthy. I only maintain that “entertaining” should never become synonymous with “valuable”. When society is unable to determine the true value of something outside of its ability to amuse, perhaps it will truly be ruined, perhaps we will meet some kind of “culture-death”. Since we’re heading that direction already, I suppose we will only have to wait and see.

~Katie

 

A Controversy

I thrive on harmony, not controversy. I don’t like to take definitive stances on popular debate topics nor do I enjoy attempting to convince others to adhere to my beliefs. I wish everyone could always agree on everything, but that would be neither realistic nor beneficial. Of the three AP Lang essays, my least favorite is always the argument essay. The prompt for the 2004 argument essay instructs the student to write about a controversial topic, and present some solution or compromise. That’s what I’m supposed to do here.

In psychology, the question of Nature vs. Nurture is viewed as incredibly important. It is the age-old debate of whether humans are influenced primarily by genes and heredity or environment and upbringing. Are our personalities and behaviors fixed at birth or susceptible to change?

Many of the most influential psychologists have argued one way or the other, and reputable studies have found evidence to support both sides of the debate. The famous Little Albert experiment demonstrated that fear is often learned, not innate. Studies on parenting have established that differing parenting styles can influence one’s locus of control, self-esteem, and independence. So environment is critical. On the flip side, various studies conducted on twins separated at birth have shown that genetics are incredibly influential in determining social attitudes, sexual orientation, intelligence, and religious preferences. Our genetics are undoubtedly influential as well. In many instances, a person’s genes provide a predisposition towards a certain behavior, but their environment dictates whether that behavior will actually be exhibited or developed. As far as I know, no one has been able to prove definitively that one side of the debate is more correct.

Now comes the part where I draw some magnificent and profound conclusion. Hmm. Well, it seems reasonable to say that we are shaped both by our genes and environment; nature and nurture share the responsibility. Goodness, that was pretty profound.

In all seriousness, I love that we are not easily categorized. Humans are beautiful, brilliant balls of atoms and life. We are born and grow and learn and develop into beings who cannot be predicted or replicated. And there is something incredibly fascinating and comforting about that. Maybe we don’t have to completely understand why humans are the way they are. Perhaps we don’t need an equation. We are each irreplaceable and indefinable. And I think that’s okay, even wonderful.

~Katie

 

A Tragedy

Assigning blame in a situation can be incredibly difficult. This task is made increasingly challenging when nearly every person involved in the situation can rightfully be held accountable for a tragic outcome. In Shakespeare’s Othello, the scheming villain Iago sets into motion a web of lies and jealousy that eventually leads to the death of four central characters. But is he wholly responsible for the tragedy?

Over the course of the five acts, every character arguably plays a role in the downfall. Othello ultimately kills Desdemona and himself, while letting Iago corrupt his judgment; Desdemona lies about her handkerchief and fails to discuss the tension with Othello; Emilia aids Iago by giving him the handkerchief; Roderigo furthers the conflict by provoking and later attacking Cassio; and Cassio lets himself become drunk and then falls for Roderigo’s bait. Each character had the potential to alter the spiraling series of events, but did not. Therefore, the blame cannot wholly belong to Iago.

After Iago, Othello is the next likely candidate for being the cause of the tragedy. He allows Iago to poison his relationship with Desdemona, eventually succumbing to insecurity and jealousy. Rather than discuss the rumors directly with Desdemona, he trusts Iago and then strangles his innocent wife. Regardless of Iago’s role, Othello ultimately murders Desdemona; it was his choice. But although he is responsible for one murder (and his own suicide), Othello cannot be held accountable for the deaths of Roderigo or Emilia. Othello placed his trust in his longtime friend and comrade Iago. Unfortunately, he reaped the consequences, but Othello is still not completely at fault. So perhaps more responsible for the tragic outcome are pride, insecurity, reputation, and jealousy.

Realistically, the tragedy of Othello is a result of those characteristics, pride, insecurity, etc., combined with circumstance and the shortcomings of the characters. All of the factors provided kindling, and Iago’s scheming lit the fire. The blaze gathered and travelled, consuming characters, not leaving anyone untouched. Even Iago was defeated. Finally, the fire sputtered out, and all that remains, my friends, is a story.

~Katie

A Speech

The current American election is decidedly baffling. Donald Trump is currently the frontrunner in the Republican polls and I don’t understand how. People actually seem to be voting for him. From the little I know about Trump, he is not fit to lead a nation that supposedly stands for equality and tolerance. In his defense, however, I have not spent time investigating his stances and arguments. And any views I hold about him are based on personal beliefs, not necessarily his reasoning ability. So I decided to examine the transcript of his speech given at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January of last year, specifically looking for any logical fallacies. And after reading only three lines, I already regretted my decision.

Within the first twenty sentences, I found evidence of at least seven logical fallacies: false dilemma, faulty cause, sweeping generalization, hasty generalization, begging the question, inconsistency, and slippery slope. Trump makes broad generalizations about the people of Iowa, attributes the collapsing of the world to a “grossly incompetent president”, and claims that the “country is in serious trouble and total disarray”. He also says that “politicians are all talk, no action.  They are all talk and no action”. Since Trump is a politician, what is he saying about himself? Please bear in mind that all these statements are made within the first two minutes of the speech.

The rest of the piece was an emotional roller coaster for me. His words evoked anger, shock, disbelief, pity, amusement, and confusion. It was really quite impressive. Other fallacies I noted include bifurication, damning the source, red herring, non sequitar, and straw man. Trump attempts to completely discredit his opponents by identifying one of their small weaknesses or by simply labeling them as incompetent. Trump loves the word incompetent. He also loves to make catastrophic statements, refer to minute and irrelevant details, and make generalizations about everything, whether that be countries or people groups. If I had the energy and patience to examine the text carefully, I could probably find use of all twenty three fallacies. Here are a few of my favorite parts:

“The other day in Ohio a bridge collapsed.  Bridges are collapsing all over the country.  The reports on bridges and the like are unbelievable, what’s happening with our infrastructure.”

“Now, we have to build a fence.  And it’s got to be a beauty.  Who can build better than Trump?  I build; it’s what I do.  I build; I build nice fences, but I build great buildings.  Fences are easy, believe me.  I saw the other day on television people just walking across the border.  They’re walking.  The military is standing there holding guns and people are just walking right in front, coming into our country.  It is so terrible.  It is so unfair.  It is so incompetent.”

“He’s very, very weak on immigration.  Don’t forget–remember his statement–they come for love.  I say, what?  Come for love?  You’ve got these people coming, half of them are criminals.  They’re coming for love?  They’re coming for a lot of other reasons, and it’s not love.”

“And in a certain way, I wish I weren’t doing this, but our country is in such trouble and would be so easy to fix.”

It doesn’t seem like Trump is worried about utilizing logical fallacies. People are voting for him regardless. There are definitely ways that he could strengthen his arguments, but he doesn’t need to. He ends the speech with “I know what needs to be done to make America great again.  We can make this country great again.  The potential is enormous.  And I am serious[ly] thinking of running for president because I can do the job”. Well, he is definitely running for president now, and the cornerstone of his campaign is still making America great again.  After reading this, I feel like I know Trump a little better, so now I am even more concerned with the state of the American elections. If you would like to examine the merit of Trump’s speech for yourself, I will copy the link below. But a word of caution: I needed a sizeable chocolate bar to retain my sanity while reading, so please proceed with care.

~Katie

http://www.p2016.org/photos15/summit/trump012415spt.html

An Excellent Work

As a perfectionist and achiever, I feel rather hypocritical writing about excellence. I have molded my life around pursuing excellence in school, or rather what the world has told me is excellence (“excellence” is such a tricky word). I like to fool myself into believing that I strive to perform well in school because I want to glorify God. I pray before all my tests, hastily asking God to help me do my best so that I may honor Him. I justify my striving with 1 Corinthians 10:31, claiming that I’m doing everything for His glory. But I know that my desire to perform perfectly isn’t glorifying. School has consumed all the time that I should be using to glorify God in other ways. I should be appreciating the beauty of creation, loving people, reading His word, and simply spending time in His presence. So from a Christian perspective, my achieving in school is not excellent, not even close.

So what does qualify as excellence? Is it even the same for everyone? God tells us to rest and not to worry, but also to work and care for people. We know that we are broken, imperfect people, capable of nothing good without Christ, and yet we are instructed to bring Him glory. It all seems rather complicated and contradictory. Somehow, our efforts must combine with God’s perfection to create an excellence.

I can only think of one way to go about excellence. God is infinitely excellent. He creates excellent things, He has excellent plans, and He wants excellence for us. So the more I align myself with His calling for me, the more I shape my character to that of His son, and the more time I spend in His presence, the more excellent my life should become by default. And I believe this brings God glory. Not that we strive to be excellent on our own, but that we attune ourselves to His perfect excellence.

Getting good grades is not inherently bad. Doing well in school can be an excellent endeavor, but it shouldn’t be the goal. Rest can be excellent, exercise can be excellent, grief can be excellent, if they’re done with God’s excellence in view. It’s difficult and I certainly have a long way to go. But how wonderful that the Lord invites us to be a part of his excellent work!

~Katie

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Eph 5:1-2 ESV

A Guideline

Writing a resume is a decidedly tricky endeavor, almost a balancing act of sorts. How do we portray our virtues and successes without seeming overly arrogant and presumptuous? How should we present a suitable amount of relative information, without overwhelming or underwhelming the potential employer?  Now there are probably hundreds of individual guidelines, lengthy lists of resume Do’s and Don’ts. And these regulations are probably exceedingly helpful. But unfortunately, there will never be an equation that guarantees the success of your resume. One company may be swayed by copious facts and statistics, while another may be more attracted to the applicant’s personal voice and expression. So while I can’t provide a foolproof skeleton of a perfect resume, I can lay out two general guidelines that will inevitably lead to a stronger and more convincing resume.

The first principle to writing an effective resume is simply to be truthful—be yourself. That sounds terribly cliché. But I believe it truly is significant. Many applicants will present impressive experience, ratings, and credentials. Your statistical success may not set you apart. So that’s where personality plays an important role. Yes, include your prior experience and achievements, but ensure that your personal voice permeates the entire application. A hiring agent will automatically be attracted to someone who seems friendly, relatable and conscientious. They will favor an applicant who will likely contribute to the workplace atmosphere and interact well with other employees. That being said, remain professional, and portray yourself as truthfully as possible. If you are hired because you’ve presented a specific persona, but that persona is not genuine, your first week at work will probably be slightly (or perhaps exceedingly) awkward. An interview will be similarly uncomfortable and disappointing. You will be hired for who you present yourself to be, so that person should be as close as possible to you.

The second guideline is even more vague: present everything in moderation. This one mainly requires solid judgment, and depends on the situation. List experiences, awards, achievements, volunteer work, personal skills, and references, but only if they are significant and very relevant. Minute and irrelevant information will most likely bore the hiring agent. Use professional language, but don’t attempt to sound overly sophisticated and important. Don’t focus the entire resume on one experience or skill; include a variety of aspects. Portray yourself as confident and competent but not conceited. Moderate and balance the tone and information.

The key to writing an effective resume is portraying yourself as a well-rounded, personable individual. It’s very difficult,  and as mentioned above, there is no formula for a perfect resume. Practice and trial-and-error may be the only true routes to success. I wish you the best of luck in all your future resume-writing endeavors! 🙂

~Katie

A Metaphor

Amy Lowell: a writer of poems with a “variety of beauty as to delight her friends and to bewilder her enemies”.

  1. As an animal, Amy Lowell is best represented by a horse. Horses are incredibly versatile, hardworking leaders, determined and controlling. They may also be wild and stubborn, but they are generally admired and can form deep bonds.
  2. As a plant, Amy Lowell is best represented by a dahlia. These beautiful, complex flowers can be light and simple or dark and mysterious. Regardless, they immediately attract attention. In her poem titled Autumn, Lowell describes a dahlia as the last thing she possesses.
  3. As an article of clothing, Amy Lowell is best represented by a scarf. Scarves are oftentimes practical and hardy, but they can also serve as decorative additions to an outfit. Likewise, Lowell seemed down-to-earth and determined, but her poems are full of floral, romantic language.
  4. As a day of the week, Amy Lowell is best represented by Saturday. Saturday is a very flexible day. It can be filled with work and study or daydreaming and dancing.
  5. As a food, Amy Lowell is best represented by red-velvet cake. Red-velvet cake is rich and sophisticated, and usually enjoyed. However, there are a few people who strongly dislike red-velvet cake, as did a few with Lowell.
  6. As a color, Amy Lowell is best represented by silver. Of the ten poems I annotated, the word silver was mentioned five times, each in a separate poem. When Lowell walked into a room, she immediately commanded the attention of everyone else present.
  7. As a geometric shape, Amy Lowell is best represented by a host of “large stars with polychrome needles”. I suppose that’s not technically a geometric shape, but it describes Lowell more accurately than a simple square or triangle. She was truly varied and multi-faceted.
  8. As a fragrance, Amy Lowell is best represented by the smell of spices. Rich and beautiful, she wrote with great depth. In the poem A Lady, Lowell writes of a soul that is “vague and suffusing/ with the pungence of sealed spice-jars”.
  9. As a time of day, Amy Lowell is best represented by evening. Many of her poems take place during the later hours of the day. She writes of the moon and evening rain and late dinner parties. In the darkness, everything seems instantly more romantic and meaningful.
  10. As a word, Amy Lowell is best represented by an adjective. She was the leader of the imagist movement, which is renowned for its use of sensory details and vivid descriptions. She is evidently very adept at using adjectives and descriptions to communicate emotion and meaning.
  11. As a musical instrument, Amy Lowell is best represented by drums. She marched to the beat of her own rhythm. Lowell helped to develop imagism, a style of poetry that suited her taste and desire. She always arrived to events late and controlled the conversation in a room, with everyone present deferring to her.
  12. As a season, Amy Lowell is best represented by fall. Autumn signifies change. An autumn day can be warm or cool, windy or rainy, light or dark. The colorful leaves on the trees are similar to Lowell’s vibrant personality and commanding presence.
  13. As an appliance, Amy Lowell is best represented by a blender. Oftentimes imposing and forceful, she created beautiful, delicious poems full of sweet imagery and romance.
  14. As a natural phenomenon, Amy Lowell is best represented by a thunderstorm. Strong and forceful, but also exhilarating and nurturing, Lowell combined a dominant personality with a softer romantic side.
  15. As a literary character, Amy Lowell is best represented by Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables. Both have a rather severe exterior but are inwardly full of love and devotion.

When I first began reading poems written by Amy Lowell, she appeared to be a rather romantic, emotional, beautiful woman. But as I researched her character further, she was consistently described as a large, dominating woman who forged a path for herself and created a new poetry movement. Perhaps her poetry was the only outlet for her softer side.  Regardless of her intentions, Amy Lowell was truly a versatile and complex woman.

~Katie

A Kindness

Altruism is defined as “the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.” Essentially, an altruistic person is one who is consistently kind to others, even if that requires putting themselves at a disadvantage.

Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection does not wholly account for the existence of altruism. If only the fittest organisms survive, why would I want to disadvantage myself to assist another person? Granted, evolutionists refer to the concept of reciprocal altruism, where one organism helps another in the hopes that the favor will be repaid someday. But oftentimes, humans are simply kind, even when there is no chance of the kindness being reciprocated. Imagine a scenario where you are sitting on a crowded train. If an elderly woman walks onto the train and does not have a seat, would you give up yours? For many people, the answer is yes. If we were to view our purpose of existence through the lens of an evolutionist, yielding one’s seat isn’t logical. According to reciprocal altruism, you would give up your seat because you believe that someone else will eventually give up theirs for you. But as a healthy, able individual, the probability of receiving a seat from another person is slim. In all likelihood, you would let the woman use your seat simply because you wished to be kind. You are putting yourself at a disadvantage to bless another person. Theoretically, it doesn’t make sense.

Yet altruism certainly exists and is active. Charities, hitchhikers, disaster relief programs, and endangered animal programs all rely on the altruistic tendencies of human beings. Studies have also shown that being kind to others is a reliable way to boost one’s life satisfaction rating. In theory, spending $100 to pay your bills or buy yourself a gift should make you happier than spending the money on blessing another person, with no advantage to yourself. However, a study conducted by researchers from Harvard illustrates that the opposite is actually true. Participants reported higher levels of happiness and satisfaction when the same amount of money was spent on someone else through a charity or gift (Dixon). Depending on your religion or outlook on life, you may justify altruism in a certain way, but one thing is definite: humans are born with the innate desire to help other people, and  these illogical acts of kindness provide happiness for the person being “disadvantaged”. Isn’t it encouraging that sometimes humans are simply inexplicably nice? I certainly think so.

~Katie

 

Dixon, Alex. “Kindness Makes You Happy… and Happiness Makes You Kind.” Greater Good. The Greater Good Science Center, 6 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2016. <http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind&gt;.

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