Defying the cycle of thought…

Posts tagged “lightness

How to make “light” of the blox.

Cornell was obsessed with making light of things – he was obsessed with figuring out why things are as they are, how something is defined in relation to something else. It was about the quest for self-identity, to try and figure out his childhood, to capture this childhood and the nostalgia that goes along with it. Cornell was also concerned with the source of inspiration. He worked hard to make “light” of where inspiration comes from. This lead him to try multiple different methods when it came to organizing his boxes. He was always experimenting. However, part of the process of creating the dossiers, was to allow Cornell a chance to make “light” of his own thoughts. His working method included classifying ideas. Here he was with all these different thoughts, and he had the burden of peeling away some of the weight that accompanied them. Creating a box, in many ways, is about the quest for lightness or understanding. It is about having an idea, some idea, and trying to capture it in a way that portrays it to the best of its ability.

I tried to do just that when it came to creating my blox for lightness. However, it was very hard for me to make “light” of my thoughts, to sort them out according. It was hard to visually embody the simultaneous lightness and heaviness I experienced with this text, because my own thoughts weren’t even entirely clear. In many ways, going through the process of finding images, taking notes, creating my own dossier of sorts, allowed me to understand my own thoughts, to break them down into smaller and more manageable chunks.

While I was trying to map out my own thoughts, I was struck by this sudden idea, that lightness is, in many ways, about mapping out the world around you. It is about making “light” of yourself, the people and events around you. I knew that I wanted the image of a map, or the world, to be a central part of my blox. Not only is it about creating a space for understanding, but the obvious saying “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders,” implies that you have not yet come to a state of lightness or freedom from burden.

Therefore, the central image, when looking at my blox, is one of a globe. Within this globe are the two opposing ideas of lightness and darkness. This geographically makes sense, because when part of the world is in darkness, the other half of the world is witnessing the sun and daylight. Metaphorically, though, this illustrates that within every body, we hold both the lightness and darkness. They coexist in the same world.

On the top half of the globe, there is the night. There is the world guilt, epitomizing the weight of actions, namely the guilt Anna experiences after starting the trial. Every action has a consequence. The burden of consequence is a heavy one. There is also the clock housed in this portion of the globe. Here is the reminder of time, of the fact that time is limited. The ultimate threat of time is death. In this novel, death is a highly relevant topic. It is what causes much of the heaviness or weight throughout the text. Up on this part of the sphere is also a locket. Anna sacrifices her locket to be able to afford the cost of a lawyer. Sacrifice is a burden, but it can also result in lightness, if the sacrifice ends up being worth it.

The bottom half of the globe illustrates more of the lightness. There is sunlight shining and a kid running around free flying a kite that is light enough to defy the burden of gravity. There is someone smiling. A sunflower is planted in this part of the globe. A little girl is swinging off the bottom of the globe. There is a freedom and lightness felt in this sphere. It is the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the middle of the globe, kind of bridging the two spheres is an actual image of the light at the end of the tunnel. There is the shadow of a figure walking towards the light, embodying the hope that lightness, or the quest for lightness, can bring.

On the bottom of the blox, is a scale with books on either side of it. Here is a literal depiction of the weight of words. In this novel, much of the heaviness comes from things that are spoken aloud. Anna opening her mouth about how she feels is the impetus for much of the heaviness and drama throughout the text. I put images of people holding the weight of the world in their hands on top of each of these books. To the right is a child holding up this weight, a weight that a child shouldn’t have to hold. This is symbolic of the children in this book losing their innocence too fast and dealing with weights they shouldn’t have to. On the left is the image of someone holding the world in his or her hands. These images of weight ground the image.

The scale is in balance, though, because it is not just holding up darkness, but also lightness. There is both in this blox, because there is both in the novel. The dichotomy of the two characteristics is what keeps the image balanced. Both aspects are needed for survival.

And, finally, at the top of the image is a starry night. In the novel Anna is named after a star. Her father is obsessed with stars and there are many stories about stars throughout the text. The interesting thing about a star is that it is light despite the darkness around it. It can shine, despite the constricting heaviness around it. The fact that Anna is named after a star, provides hope that she will recover her lightness once more – it is who she is, in essence. The starry night also serves to further illustrate the simultaneous coexistence of light and dark.


How to make “light” of the adapatation process.

Part of the adaptation process is determining which parts of the work of literature hold weight, or importance, and which are insignificant light details. However, light aspects still must be included to counter the weight – the only way to recognize that certain parts do hold weight, is to be aware of how they differ in relation to the light. Adaptation is a process of including some plot points, and dismissing others. It is about focusing in on what points of view should be included, and which can be left out of the adaptation. Which characters are integral to the adaptation, and which are not? When it comes to adaptation, it is about selection.

When it came to figuring out how to adapt My Sister’s Keeper, I looked for what aspects of the text stuck out to me, which ones held weight in my mind. Also, which parts did I find myself drawn to over and over again, dissecting them, questioning them, trying to make “light” of them? Which aspects of the novel emphasized the dichotomy between lightness and heaviness?

I thought about the catalyst. This, to me, was highly important. The catalyst holds a lot of weight. In this novel, the catalyst was Anna trying to rid herself of the burden of holding her sister’s life in her hands. The journey then, in a sense, is Anna’s quest for lightness. She wants freedom of choice. Looking at this story as a journey for lightness seemed like a good story line to follow for the adaptation process. The family works hard to fight Kate’s impeding death, to try to keep her young and alive and light. The goal of the book is to obtain this lightness and make the world a bit less heavy. Seger mentions that the easiest story lines are about a mission or achieving some goal. Seger mentions that one can usually find a beginning, middle, and end of a story by asking 3 questions:

  1. What does the character want?
  2. What does the character do to achieve that goal?
  3. When does the ‘want’ begin?

Using these three guiding questions, I encompassed my adaptation around the quest to obtain the lightness at the end of the tunnel However, because lightness is never independent of heaviness, but measured by the degree of heaviness, I wanted to also include road blocks. Life is not always light, but is often times dark and hard to overcome.

Experience can be “enLIGHTening.”

When I hear the word light, I think of so many things. I think of weight – of something that is not heavy, something easily lifted and carried. I think of color – hues that are bright and soft and cheerful. I think of lightness with regards to darkness – of there being light in a place so that one can see. Other types of lightness I imagine, are lightness of heart, soul, mind. Lightness of relief, of a smile, a laugh, a relaxing moment. Often I equate lightness with hope, inspiration, knowledge. The interesting thing about lightness, though, is that it can only be defined with an understanding of its opposite. Much like people are often defined in comparison to others, lightness can only be defined with regards to weight or darkness.

Calvino touches upon this dichotomy in his discussion of lightness. The only way to experience the presence of lightness, is to be aware of the absence of weight. An understanding of how these two states are related, is imperative to understanding the parts. In defining lightness, Calvino mentions a lightness of language, of thought. If something has been made light, then it has often been understood. To be enlightened, means to be made aware of something. Part of achieving lightness, is coming to an understanding, accepting it, and embracing it. Lightness is key to defying the weight of the world, or the potential weight of thought.

In My Sister’s Keeper, lightness is exhibited in many ways.There is the lightness felt as a form of relief when Anna finds out she no longer has to be a donor to Kate. There is the lightness felt when this burden is lifted. However, with the lightness comes heaviness. There is the heaviness of sacrifice. Anna sacrifices a lot by pursuing the legal battle. As someone who was born to take care of her sister, Anna holds the ultimate weight – she holds the burden of someone else’s life in her hands. She, in many ways, holds the weight of the world.

For the whole family, as well as the reader, there is this sense of the heaviness of time. Death is the ultimate weight. Since much of this book is about preventing Kate’s death, there is a constant weight upon everyone’s shoulders. However, the family has hope and this hope is what allows them to relieve some of the weight. This hope lends to a sort of lightness. There is hope that Kate will get better, hope that the legal battle will work itself out and everything will be okay. Anna hopes for freedom. Jesse hopes to be noticed. The lawyer hopes to prove a point.

The fact that the children lose their innocence fast, implies that they lack a sort of lightness. Their worlds have been made heavy. Innocence, or lightness, is gone. The family must also cope with a harsh reality, where laughter and smiles are fleeting, and responsibility and hardship is a daily routine. Their worlds are heavy.

Also, Jodi Picoult plays with lightness of language. She ends each section with a very deep comment, something heavy, that will impact readers. She does this so that readers can’t just move on without thinking. She wants them to take time to reflect and take the time to make “light” of the story line. She wants them to pick apart at the difficult and messy details, until they can come to a sort of understanding.

Not only does Picoult use language to portray lightness and heaviness, but the characters learn that words have weight. When Anna opens her mouth about how she feels, she realizes that her actions cannot be taken lightly. She can’t back down from them. Anna has to hold her ground, maintain her weight. However, there is this idea that with weight, comes visibility. It is only once she speaks, that she is really seen by her parents. Presence or lack of presence, is often determined by how light or heavy someone appears. At first, everyone makes decisions for Anna – she holds no weight or say. She is pretty much invisible, or light. However, once she makes her stance clear, her visibility thickens, hardens, and takes shape.

Emblem of Lightness.

My emblem for lightness is the image of a cloud. The thing about a cloud I find interesting, is that as a kid, you imagine jumping up on clouds as if they are cotton ball fluffs in the sky. However, at some point you grow up, lose your innocence, and you realize clouds are nothing more than particles of dust, that if you jumped onto one, you would fall right through until you crashed into the ground. Gravity would take a hold of you. However, if you think about a cloud, those particles of dust have to be light enough to defy gravity. They have to be light enough to practically float. Therefore, the image of a cloud is so light, it could not possible sustain any more weight. Once it compiles too many rain particles, a cloud bursts. It is now too heavy.

A cloud, like letters, has a sort of lifespan. A cloud, also like letters, implies a sort of dream. The dream is that clouds hold weight- that they could hold us. The dream of letters, is that they hold meaning. However, letters and clouds are light. If you jumped on a cloud, you would fall. It is only through stringing letters and words together that weight can be formed. It is only through rain particles compiling in a cloud, that weight can be obtained – but, ironically, this weight is the demise to the cloud.

There is something nice in the lightness, in this knowing that things don’t really last, that, like a dream, they don’t hold long-lasting implications. If something is light, it can’t touch us. It can’t hurt us. Light things are easier to cope with than heavier ones. If we can keep ourselves trapped in the lightness of a dream, in the lightness of language, thought, visual images – we can defy the burden of weight. At least until the next storm.

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:

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

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!

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

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.

Graphic Design and Lightness.

Ellen Lupton says that transparency can build relationships between layers of graphic elements. Transparency can “serve to build complexity by allowing layers to mix and merge together” (147). 

The beginning of this section of her book, opens up with a quote by Gyorgy Kepes (147):

Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations…The position of the transparent figures has equivocal meaning as one sees each figure now as the closer, now as the farther one.

Visually, this E-lit exemplifies transparency. The “Dreamlife of Letters” is this idea that the life of a letter is finite, it is limited, that soon the letter will become transparent and will die off. And when this happens, the next letter will jump in, only to eventually be replaced by another. Because a letter cannot last, it is light. Visually, we see the letters fade into the background and lose their weight – they become transparent. Something that is transparent, cannot stick. It will fade. It is often hard to notice or grasp or touch. Like fog, you can’t put your hands around it and hold onto it. Instead, the letters, like the fog, will slip out of reach.

However, this idea that transparency can add complexity and “simultaneous perception of different spatial locations” is interesting if you think about the idea of a dream. Since this whole E-lit is playing off of the idea that letters have a sort of dreamlife, then the fact that they drift in and out of our consciousness, illustrates a tendency of dreams. In our dreams, there can be a sort of complexity with what is going on – we often have many different thoughts occurring simultaneously. These thoughts flit across our mind, but their dreamlife is short. They, too, will fade like the letters in the E-lit piece. In dreams, brief ideas or words will form, and will morph into other ideas or words, but none of them ever really last. And when you wake up, they have usually faded from your memory. There is a sort of lightness to our dreams – they cannot stay in our minds. They don’t hold enough weight. Just like “The Dreamlife of Letters,” they become transparent.

Lightness in E-lit.

My E-lit example of lightness is “The Dreamlife of Letters” by Brian Kim Stefans. In this E-lit piece, we are visually shown images of letters, in alphabetical order. Therefore, our first images are ones that start with the letter ‘A.” Different words that start with “A” flit around the screen – they twirl, they swirl, they glide, they float. All these letters, and the ease in which they morph into one word to the next, illustrate a sort of lightness of language, as well as a lightness of thought. The idea that one word can easily transform into another, which can disappear in the blink of an eye to be shifted into something entirely different, illustrates that our thoughts are often not held down by gravity – they are subject to change. There is a definite lack of gravity, or weight, in this e-lit piece.

This E-lit also hints at the idea that letters, or words, alone, are not enough to form a heavy enough weight. You often need more than just a letter or a couple words for the meaning to stick. Often, you need a sentence, a complete thought. Lightness is what is obtained when thoughts are broken up and dissected into their smallest, or lightest, parts. The fact that this E-lit is entitled, “The Dreamlife of Letters,” is fascinating, because dreaming can be seen as a sort of escape from the heavy burdens of everyday life. When you dream, you can feel lighter. The scenes in dreams morph quickly form one thing to another, and they often don’t form coherent thoughts. And the lifespan of a dream is short-lived – it ultimately does not hold much weight, because in a couple hours you wake up and the dream bubble has burst.

The Dreamlife of Letters