Defying the cycle of thought…

Posts tagged “escape

Experience can be quick.

Time is relative. Sometimes it seems like life is moving slow, so slow, that each second is dragging into the next, just barely inching along. Other times, it seems like the world is spinning, fast, too incredibly fast, that you just can’t breathe. Then there are the times,you reflect on how a day can seem so long, but how the week just flew right by. You think you just met a person, but it feels like it has been forever. One musical that I really enjoy is Rent. In this musical, there is a song entitled “Seasons of Love” and it talks about the ways in which people can measure time. There is no set way to measure how quick something happens, however, we all use like tricks to mark the passage of life.

Calvino described quickness as the shortest distance between two points. In literature, quickness has to do with style, theme, word choice, plot, characterization. A text that embodies quickness, though, also emphasizes the idea of digression. It illustrates how, if we get too caught up in the details, a quick text can “quickly” become slow. Also, sometimes a heavy idea can be diluted if it is told quickly, or if the idea changes rapidly after. Quickness can be used to make heavy ideas easier to deal with. It is also a means to uphold attention. However, quickness, like time, is not black and white.

My Sister’s Keeper embodies the idea of quickness in many ways. Most obviously, is the main plot: a young girl, Kate, is dying of leukemia. Her life is passing by at a rapid pace. It is limited. A sense that life is finite, seems to accompany the idea of quickness. We are quick, when we know we don’t have much time. The novel requires the other characters to make quick life or death decisions. Sacrifices must be made. However, the idea of an approaching death is quite heavy. It is slow and difficult to grasp. While Kate’s death is approaching at a fast pace, as she is in the final stages of renal failure, her death has been slow coming. She was diagnosed at the age of three. Her life is measured in relapses and remissions. It is about time slowing down, and then hoping it will speed back up and that she will get better. It has not been a question of will she die, but a question of when. The question of “when?” automatically situates the reader and characters to focus on time.

This fixation with time – how much time is left, how one is spending time, how time can be borrowed – all of these have to do with the idea of quickness. When we sense that time exists in an hour glass, we are forced to make wise decisions with what to do with our time, all the while knowing that as we sit and ponder, more sand is falling through the glass.

The way the book is written, also lends to its quickness. It is separated by days of the week. Each section is a different day, in chronological order. The book spans two weeks. Therefore, as the reader flips through the pages, he or she can’t help but be reminded of time and how quickly it is passing. With each day – or each section – Kate is closer to dying. Another method that Jodi Picoult, the author, utilizes, is differing perspective. There are about seven characters that she migrates between. This makes the pace seem quicker. It also helps diminish the heaviness of each passage. You read something deep or painful and intense, but then it is quickly over and you are on to the next person. It is used as a means of relief for the reader.

This makes me wonder if quickness is something we use to escape from really immersing ourselves in the hard stuff. If we can quickly brush something off, is this the simpler thing to do?

My Sister’s Keeper also involves a legal battle. Kate’s sister, Anna, was genetically modified to be the perfect bone marrow match for Kate. She was engineered and born to save her sister. She is, in essence, her sister’s keeper. However, the decisions were always made for her. She was quickly told to help her sister, but Anna never got the chance to really think about the implications. The novel centers around her realization that she wants control of her own body. She sues her parents for medical emancipation – or rights to her own body. Therefore, the sense that Anna is fighting not to give her sister the kidney that is need to save Kate’s life, adds to the urgency of Kate’s situation. It makes it all that more important that the court hearing occur quickly, so that the family can then figure out what to do with their lives.

Another way, perhaps one of the most poignant ways, in which quickness can be seen in this novel, is the way in which all the children in this family must mature at a rapid pace. Their innocence is taken away at a young age. They must cope with problems way beyond their years. Childhood, for them, occurs too fast.

The characters in this novel have most of their problems because things occurs too quickly – before they could breathe, gain control, really assess the situation. They had to be quick, or else they wouldn’t survive. Jodi Picoult crafts this book in a clever way by jumping from one narrative and one day to the next. She is forcing her readers to be quick, with the characters. She is telling us that we better keep up, or we will fall behind – that life can be rough and horrible and hard to grasp, but that we need to, and then we need to keep moving. Through her style, she creates a pulse, a propelling motion forward. Whether this is to Kate’s death or not, we are moving, we are discovering, we are learning, we are feeling. The journey is deep, but it is quick – much like life, itself.

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Analogy of Lightness.

The fairytale entitled, “The Light Princess” by George MacDonald illustrates this idea of lightness. In this tale, a young princess has a curse upon her that results in her having no gravity. While at first, this seems to simply relate to the princess’s body, to her inability to stay on the ground – she floats up in the air whenever she is not constrained – it soon becomes clear, that the princess also has a lightness of mind. She cannot cry, she cannot take things seriously – basically, there is no weight to her thoughts. This story emphasizes the idea that gravity is not only something that constrains the body, but also constrains thought. The image of a princess – someone grounded by duty and family – being light in body and mind, epitomizes Calvino’s description of lightness.

Another instance of lightness, and this is what I also realized to be my personal motto, is the scene and song entitled “Defying Gravity” from Wicked: The Musical. The song title itself illustrates this idea that if you can defy gravity, you can achieve lightness. Visually, in the play, this scene shows Elphaba, the Witch, rising high up in the air on her broom. This is interesting because she is a witch dressed in black – something associated with weight and power and darkness. These ideas are all heavy. Instead, though, the audience sees her rise up into the air – literally defying gravity. In the song, Elphaba talks about how no one can bring her down, and in response the townspeople shout out that this is the very thing they are going to attempt to do. Here we see the clashing of heavy versus light – and the fact that Elphaba is flying up high illustrates that she can rise above it. Also, Elphaba’s thoughts are heavy, but she is able to defy the gravity of her thoughts and rise up to great heights to escape her death, the ultimate burden in life.

Excerpt from the song lyrics:

ELPHABA
(spoken) I know:
(sung) But I don’t want it –
No – I can’t want it
Anymore:

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!

GLINDA
Can’t I make you understand?
You’re having delusions of grandeur:

ELPHABA
I’m through accepting limits
”cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down:
(spoken) Glinda – come with me. Think of what we could
do: together.

***

However, there is a difference between the lightness seen in this scene in Wicked and the lightness seen in The Dreamlife of Letters. In The Dreamlife of Letters there is a lightness that is definitely present, however it is really only seen because we become aware of the lack of weight. Meanwhile, in Wicked, Elphaba seems the very opposite of light, instead, there is a sort of spitefulness to her defying gravity, a sort of finding a loophole against the weight. It seems less innocent. Elphaba’s lightness, if possible, seems heavier. At the same time, Elphaba conquering the weight, defying it, seems a more accomplished feat than those of letters flitting across a page. While Elphaba’s lightness provides substance to her image, the fleeting words seem less significant due to their lack of weight.