Life of “Story”

Truth is subjective, affecting the individual in the present moment. In efforts of survival, Yann Martel’s protagonist Pi Patel shares two stories of the same incident in Life of Pi. Human thought and imagination use critical thinking skills as creative ways of envisioning outcomes for situations. Jonathan Gottschall calls imagined scenarios elements of “story” and sees “storytelling” as an evolutionary adaption. In The Storytelling Animal:  How Stories Make Us Human, Gottschall illustrates the authoritative human voice found in “story.” Forms of fiction such as literature, film, and video games, provide imaginative experience that propels the participant through the critical world of “what-if.” Reality can be harsh. This essay shows that creating elaborate delusions soothes one’s spirit and presents room for possibility.

The facts of Pi’s tragedy are:  the Patel family, with their zoo animals, were aboard the Tsimtsum; the ship sunk in the oceans’ depths, leaving Pi as sole survivor. Japanese officials investigate the occurrence and interview Pi who issues his circumstance through two “storytelling” methods:  subjective-spirituality and objective-rationality. In the first “story,” Pi’s narrative voice constructs the events by offering a rich, detailed observance of the animal world and religious connection with three belief systems. However, the second rendition of the same event at sea presents an anticlimactic dose of reason that issues the ugly truth. Neither “story” explains why the Tsimtsum sunk, and the reader is left deciding which tale holds preference:  the facts or the fabrication.

The second “story” rudely shows face at the end, shocking the reader who longed for Richard Parker’s noble inclusion. This action turns the tables on truth, showing the reality of Pi’s situation as distasteful. The reader comes to love Pi and finds disgust at acts of cannibalism and primal brutality. The reader wishes the truth was not real, that the first “story” was instead possible and accurate. More than likely, the “storyteller” also sides with the tale involving the tiger because the means for creating this “story” lives in survival. In order of simply making it through, Pi relied on the authority of his imagination. Pi created another individual – Richard Parker – from his memory and veterinary knowledge. In avoidance of absolute solitude, Pi utilized the power of “story” in creation of a reality he could deal with or accept.

“Story” is not limited to fiction, and Gottschall notes religious institutions as harnessing societal needs with “story.” The catch, however, is that different religions may tell contrasting versions of “stories.” He said, “Religion draws coreligionists together, and it drives those of different faiths apart” (Gottschall 123). Pi connects with three opposing religions. Forming a bond with each deity, Pi picks and chooses which religious message he prefers. In this way, Pi internally avoids religious disagreement. By subjectively addressing belief, Pi sculpts his own understanding. This essay notes the value lay in accepting multiple “stories” for individual comprehension.

The evolutionary benefit lay with the first “story.” Evolution supports the betterment of species. Gottschall calls the characters from “story” – including fictional, historical, and religious figures – “ink people,” recognizing the “ink people’s” way of wielding authority inside reality (144). He said, “[Ink people] shape our behaviors and our customs, and in so doing, they transform societies and histories” (Gottschall 144). Giving slave-narratives as reference, Gottschall shows that through Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe brought atrocities of Southern slavery into the consciousness of Northern citizens. Readers connected with Eliza’s character and empathized with her plight. Pi presented a case for relation and interaction with the animal world as means for survival.

Humans are social creatures. In absence of society, Pi’s “story” provides a sense of community with Richard Parker, Orange Juice, the hyena, and the zebra. Pi creates an animal society in avoidance of insanity, he said, “Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it” (Martel 91). Pi could not accept that the Chinese sailor was murdered and eaten by the French Cook, or that his dear mother stood up against inhumane cannibalism, also falling at the cook’s hand. Instead, Pi let the cook be a hyena, his mother Orange Juice, and himself Richard Parker. After all, a tiger is not afraid of a man. Better to be a tiger than a victim.

Truth alters along with the individual, and what is true for one now may not be true after experiencing a challenge or traumatic event. Truth – like humans – is victim to subjective encounter and interpretation. Pi’s truth is that he survived by any means necessary. Pi’s struggle was holding onto his humanness. “Storytelling” is a unique trait of humanity. Through art and literature, humans envision wonderful and terrible outcomes in efforts of lessening life’s struggle. Pi’s “story” encourages that the reader becomes their own tiger. Accept what one has but work towards creating the best scenario.



Works Cited

Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal:  How Stories Make Us Human. New York:

Mariner Books, 2013.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. New York:  Mariner Books, 2003.


Reading assignment written for Bev Zizzy, on Martel’s “Life of Pi”

Discussion Request: Yep…on Consciousness

Currently reading JJ Semple’s The Biology of Consciousness:  Case Studies in Kundalini

Dear fellow blogger who recommended this title…Where for art thou? lol Let’s get an online “Consciousness Hangloose” rolling <>

I have only begun reading Semple’s piece, but I am eager to discuss what has transpired thus far. What I am finding as crucial is the value of variant experiences in regards to spirituality/consciousness, and the relation betwixt the two. What I mean is:  to define Kundalini, as primordial formative authority, takes more than one individual’s contemplation and it is better understood by multiple voices. Semple notes early on that no two experiences are the same, indicating that an individual’s connection to primeval life force is a personal “relationship.” On the negative side, for empirical considerations, if no two are the same than neither can be properly tested or observed. Semple attaches the senses – where empirical data is acquired – to consciousness, specifically to the Ego or “Conscious Spirit” as opposed to the “Primal Spirit” (21).

Ahh…more dualism. The conscious human being is aware of the self’s inner abilities to think, observe, and theorize. The Primal Spirit, however, is the other half to the whole – the way an individual viewed the self before the individual was told what one was supposed to think {social conditioning}. The Primal Spirit is able to be in relation to the Conscious Spirit through Kundalini and mediation. If possible, this process – referred to as “Evolutionary Impulses” – the Primal Spirit is able to reconstruct, fix, or improve the individual based on one’s internal blueprints. Semple said, “Kundalini doesn’t only reengineer the body; it remakes the psyche” (22).

In the brain lies the blueprints for how the individual is supposed to be formed. Due to accidents throughout one’s life, development and growth may be stunted or halted. Semple claims that through Kundalini meditation and practice that the Primal Spirit can fix experience’s errors. <>Interesting.

This will be a challenge for me – to try Kundalini, not to read the book – as I am leery of the term spirituality because it initially conjures up images of the Transcendentalist movement and a rejection of the material world. Due to my graduate studies, my thinking process has greatly altered. Currently, I look to science for answers demonstrated through the empirical method. Semple says that one must discard what one knows to start fresh. Like he quotes in the text, I agree with Socrates in that “all I know is that I know nothing.” But, I’d like to note the context of this quote:  it is found in Plato’s The Republic and shows up when someone credits Socrates as the person who had the most knowledge – but Socrates, because he is wise, thinks that he knows very little because there is so much more knowledge to discover. On another level, the angle I think Semple is demonstrating, is that Socrates – or any human organism – is not formulated to understand primordial ordeals through the conscious mind. This indicates that there is another “voice,” one that is above the animal kingdom. The Primal Spirit – or primordial voice – sings in tunes that human ears cannot hear because we are blocked by Ego. By reducing the ego, the individual may commune with the primordial.

Important to Note:  the primordial voice is Natural and connected to natural selection and evolution; the primordial voice is biological and interactive with human consciousness.

I have a meditation routine I practice nightly to help me fall asleep. My motivation lies in the fact that I have 333 billion thoughts racing through my mind at every given moment. I use meditation to slow my brain and calm my breathing. I envision that I approach a plank, lie down on it stiffly, and let the plank move back and forth slowly swinging. By concentrating on breathing, I am able to ignore rampant thoughts. I tried one of Semple’s breathing methods last night, and I experienced something different than usual.

Kundalini Meditation Experiment #1

Something I can only describe as an intense “heat” or “energy” rooted in my spine mimicking the beating of my heart. I was more “aware” of my heartbeat, it’s weight, pulse and sound. I had to cease the breathing method and resort to my tried and true mediation breath patterns to “calm down” my heartbeat and blood circulation. I slept well and awoke refreshed. Will note next experience.

DISCUSSION:  How do you define spirituality? Can spirituality be compared to, or a parallel of, consciousness? How would you define Kundalini?

Works Cited

Semple, JJ. The Biology of Consciousness:  Case Studies in Kundalini. Bayside, California:  Life Force Books, 2013.

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Review: “The White Queen”

As reward for a beneficial session, I treated myself to AmazonPrime and the mini series based on Phillipa Gregory’s historical novels The White Queen, The Red Queen, and the King-Maker’s Daughter. Fascinating story line! I was left wanting more, and I plan on following up with The Tudors.

The story revolves around England’s War of the Roses, and it does grandly at portraying the ideals and concerns of the aristocrats. Possibly because I took the Enlightenment course last session, I noticed that “the people” are rarely mentioned. The lives of the nobles and clergy were all that mattered.

Essay: Testing Morals Green Knight Style

Testing Morals Green Knight Style

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 520 Fall 2014}

Gawain discovers he is two miles from his destination of the Green Knight’s castle and decides to take his host up on the offer of hospitality. Gawain’s host offers unusual stipulations for his knight – excluding Gawain from the hunt so as to allow him rest and relaxation with the lady of the house. The hunt itself is seen as means to avoid sin by partaking in the natural thrill of the chase of man versus animal instead of man versus woman. These are moral tests: will Gawain give in to his lovely hostess and take advantage of his position of the unsupervised guest? Will he succumb to the seduction of a married woman? Gawain appreciates the beauty of the lady – but once he realizes that she is the host’s wife, the desire is removed. The lady wishes for Gawain to school her in the art of love as knights are deemed to do, but Gawain relents to only a kiss: “Watz neuer freke fayrer fonge / Bitwene two so dyngne dame, / Pe alder and be zonge; / Much solace set bay same” (Pearl Poet 1315-18). The crone and the coquette are Gawain’s company while the men continue the hunt – the Green Knight has left Gawain in temptation’s domain in samplings of his moral fiber.

The motivation of the Green Knight is to see if Gawain is morally astute. While the two continue with the hunt/bedroom activities during the day, the prizes are dealt out at the end – with Gawain receiving feasts of food and the host receiving secondhand kisses from his wife. All the while, the wool is pulled over the head of the knight as the host is the Green Knight, and the lady is Morgan la Faye…the tests of the Green Knight begin long before Gawain realizes that he is in peril. Fortunately, for Gawain, he is a good person who wishes to follow the love and light of Christ. The last gift of the lady, the magical girdle, is dual purposed. The girdle protects the wearer from any mortal damage, and the girdle is symbolic of purity of self as it protects the soft underbelly of the wearer. As the girdle is worn against the skin it is related to the lady’s susceptibility and tenderness; the fact that Gawain gives his host a kiss instead of the girdle expresses his guilt for accepting the gift from the man’s wife as such an intimate piece of clothing may have been removed pre-coitus.  Gawain’s acceptance of the magical item also diminishes his faith in God by replacing deity with a supercharged piece of Pagan lore, he said, “Lo! ber be falssyng – foule mot hit falle! / For care of by knokke, cowardyse me tazt / To acorde me with couetyse, my kynde to forsake: / Pat is larges and lewte, bat longez to knyztez. / Now am I fawty and falce, and ferde haf ben euer / Of trecherye and vntrawbe – bope bityde sorze / And care!” (Pearl Poet 2378-84). Gawain’s faith was placed in the belt not in the strength of God; his confession wipes the slate clean and the two are still friendly with one another.

This exchange of kisses and underwear happen during the day while the host and the other men are on the hunt. Gawain is left with the women to lounge around the castle: “Pe lorde is lyzt at be laste at hys lef home, / Fyndez fire vpon flet, be freke perbyside, / Sir Gawayn be gode, pat glad watz with alle – / Among be ladies for luf he ladde much joye” (Pearl Poet 1924-27). The host places Gawain in the lair of temptation to test his mettle – Gawain succeeds with modesty, accepting the meats and pelts for harmless kisses. This suggests that Gawain does not require the distraction of the hunt to resist sexual digression because he is an honorable knight, in tune with the purity of Christ.

Works Cited

Pearl Poet. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript:

Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ed. Malcolm

Andrew and Ronald Waldron. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 2011. pp.


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Essay: on Boethius’ Gifts of Fortune, Philosophy, and Reason

Contemplative Nature of Humankind:

on Boethius’ Gifts of Fortune, Philosophy, and Reason

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 520 Fall 2014}

Who better to offer guidance than real aspects of human nature? Human aspects that assist the self in distinguishing emotional experience are displayed through contemplative reasoning and the guidance of Wisdom, Truth, Fate, and naturally – Philosophy. Boethius invokes the celestial elements of the universe along with the human experience; Reason and Philosophy grant him comfort: “There is a moral here for you to learn: / Deceitful are the goods you first discern. / Withdraw your neck, and leave their yoke behind; / Then truth at once will infiltrate your mind” (Boethius Book 3 Chapter 1 Verse 11-14).  Speaking of the autonomic self and the ability to contemplate appropriate actions via Reason, man is able to achieve fulfillment to duty while maintaining a decent grasp on self-love and community expectations. Philosophy suggests he look inward first, and return to the natural now that deceitful pleasures cannot sate his hunger. His exile and eventual death equated to a separation of the luxuriant and worldly customs which his position afforded him, raised as a privileged, though orphaned, child.

The significance in contemplation and the acknowledgement of human thought thrives passionately in his words, retreating back to when man and nature held closer bonds, when man remembered the plentiful splendor of the earth. Philosophy reminds Boethius that long ago, when man was natural, he loved the earth and succeeded in his life. She said, “Acorns at hand, when day was spent, / Sated their hunger. None then knew / the liquid honey to apply / To Bacchus’ gifts; nor to imbue / The sheen of silk with Tyrian dye” (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 5 Verse 4-8). Manners of old are noted as wholesome; man would benefit from a natural approach to life. The narrator speaks to the elements, as old as time, and personifies the abilities of man – to think and put into action possible changes which effect the world at large. The winds and sky are prevalent in The Consolation of Philosophy which implies respect and significance of the air and/or the vastness of the unknown; the sky as a natural wonder sure to offer hope.

The writing style of the text, at once personable and quick to empathize with, utilizes the sense of the divine through verse, and then on a deeper level demonstrates that man holds great gifts which he needs only to activate by acknowledgement of the struggle of man – that joy may be appreciated only when great sorrow is inflicted, that lifelong gifts of Fortune, once withdrawn, were still grand gifts to be pleasantly remembered in times of strife. Philosophy sings of the greed of man: “Relentless greed devours those earlier gains, / Reopens wide its jaws; / Can headlong lust be curbed by any reins, / Be bounded by fixed laws? // Thirst for possessions* blazes all the more, / The more those gifts extend; / With anxious sighs, believing he is poor, / The rich man hates to spend” (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 2 Verse 13-20). Man is greedy, filled with a lust for riches but loathe to let them go once attained; man is constantly wanting more without the appreciation of what he already has/is experiencing. Philosophy urges to absorb happiness as it comes, to store it up in memories so that in times of strife grand pleasure may be contemplated.

The imagery cast by Boethius in divine revelry of the celestial bodies {such as: the directional winds, firey volcanoes, abundant sands, crashing waves, bountiful soil, natural man} imply not only that man is related to an a priori connection and understanding of life, but also that Wisdom, Fortune, and Reason may or may not assist during the mortal struggle. The key factor is that man, once enlightened to life’s systematic offerings, understands the need for his suffering – one cannot know safety without experiencing fear, or recognize happiness if misery had not been a shadow. The careful man is noted by Philosophy as wise for respecting the east and south-west winds, steep mountainous terrain, consumptive sands, and wave-tossed deep and building, appropriately for safety and success (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 4 Verse 1-14). She goes on to say, “Enclosed by your walls’ silent strength, / You’ll live untroubled for the length / Of all your days; and by and by / Smile at the anger of the sky” (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 4 Verse 15-18). A careful man will succeed once he accepts his slice of the vast universe of life – man is not the center of existence but a mere counterpart.

Work Cited

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. P.G. Walsh. New York: Oxford

University Press, 2008.

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Essay: Beware the Imagination

Beware the Imagination

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate studies; originally written for Humanities 530 Spring 2015}

The French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, takes a new approach with expository writing in the form of the essay. His tone is unlike other philosophers in the sense that the writing itself is very casual and easy to read. Faculties of thought are expressed in his Essays, and Montaigne’s initial perspective of the imagination is that it is a tremendously powerful thing – if one perceives the imagination to be true, it may conjure a new reality. By his empathetic nature, Montaigne notes his avoidance of his imagination as much as he can as: “…the very sight of another’s pain materially pains me, and I often usurp the sensations of another person” (364). Empathy, or understanding another person’s grief so truly that it resonates inside the self, to Montaigne is a wonder of the imagination. He recommends keeping the imagination in check so as not to arrive at a misfortunate end.

Too much authority is awarded by the imagination. In Gallus Vibius’ case, his fascination with madness drove him out of his mind, and he was known to be lost to wisdom (366). The capabilities of the imagination appear limitless, according to Montaigne’s stories, as long as one fully gives over to the power of internal thought or awkward mishap. Mary Germain underwent serious physiological changes due to a robust leap – she became a he. Mary Germain was a girl from her birth till her twenty-second year; Montaigne met with Germain who was: “…very full of beard, old, and not married. He told us, that by straining himself in a leap his male organs came out; and the girls of that place have, to this day, a song, wherein they advise one another not to take too great strides, for fear of being turned into men, as Mary Germain was” (368). Biology was not understood fully in the Renaissance, but the altering of one sex to another seems a bit extreme for a power of thought. If manliness were related to exertion alone, then all women – in wanting to maintain their sex – would avoid leaping about in fear of physical activity encouraging the growth of male organs.

Montaigne is leery of the imagination in which he charges passion with violent causation – to give into the illusion of the imagination is to give it grounds to grow into an accepted reality. The power of the mind and the human conception of reality are subjected to various weaknesses of fancy, and mankind must keep their emotions in check: “Neither is this disaster to be feared, but in adventures, where the soul is overextended with desire or respect, and, especially, where the opportunity is of an unforeseen and pressing nature; in those cases, there is no means for a man to defend himself from such a surprise, as shall put him altogether out of sorts” (372-73). Care should be taken, in regards to passionate thought, so as to cement the minds of men in realistic reason over imagination.

Montaigne’s credibility is rooted in reason. The anecdotes he shares in Chapter XX, to expound on the powers of imagination, do not belong to him: “…for the tales I borrow I charge upon the consciences of those from whom I have them. The discourses are my own, and found themselves upon the proofs of reason, not of experience; … if I do not apply them well, let some other do it for me” (391). The importance of his stories is not in the absolute truth of the happenings but more concerned with the plausibility of thought. Montaigne concerns himself with what may happen, and given that the power of imagination resides inside all of mankind, he urges caution to the avenues of adventurous thoughts.

Works Cited

Montaigne, Michel de. The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Complete. Trans. Charles

Cotton. Ed. William Carew Hazlitt. Ebook #3600: Project Gutenberg, 2012

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Essay: Boisterous Bawdiness and Brawls

Renaissance via Rabelais:

Boisterous Bawdiness and Brawls

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate studies; originally written for Humanities 530 Spring 2015}

French folklore inspired Rabelais to create Gargantua and Pantagruel in which he shows the importance and benefits of human enjoyment. During the Renaissance, or possibly because of the Renaissance, mankind blossomed with humanistic vigor for the arts – and with what a human being could physically do, whether artist or observer. Historically speaking, the Renaissance was a colorful, loud, humane response to the strict darkness of the Medieval world. Rabelais pushed the social boundaries of acceptable literature with carnivalesque tone and scatological humor. Larger than life, Gargantua and Pantagruel are obscene giants who enjoy drinking and discussing codpieces. They are virtuous in a new sense: aesthetic pleasure. Gargantua and Pantagruel encourage laughter and merriment with the other characters, and they produce laughter from their audience. Utopia for Rabelais’s characters would be a never-ending carnival of feasting and drinking, farting and urinating, sex and a little more drinking…at least on the surface. True utopia is the experience of mankind, and man’s abilities to express aesthetic pleasure.

The beautiful and the grotesque go hand in hand in Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rabelais’ characters are often crude and selfish. While in Paris, Panurge attempts to seduce a wealthy married woman. Even though he states her beauty rivals the goddesses, and notes her character as beautiful and pure, the vulgar demands he issues her keeps her cold to his attentions. Master John Thursday (whom we deduce is Panurge’s penis) is offered to the lady, Panurge said, “He is gallant, and doth so well know how to find out all the corners, creeks, and ingrained inmates in your carnal trap, that after him there needs no broom, he’ll sweep so well before, and leave nothing to his followers to work upon” (Rabelais 772). She finds him rude and offensive so he tries to ‘flatter’ her instead, Panurge said, “Madam, know that I am so amorous of you that I can neither piss nor dung for love” (Rabelais 775). Since the lady refused to submit to Panurge’s lustful advances, he pulls a disgusting trick on her by covering her clothes with a drug to lure dogs, which arrive in droves, to urinate on her – first her clothes, and then to create a creek of urine around her house (Rabelais 782-85). This scene demonstrates beauty being violated by the grotesque. Panurge’s desire for sex is not fulfilled so he cruelly issues humor through the lady’s suffering. The aesthetic nature of Panurge finds satisfaction for himself regardless of the outcome to others – if he can’t fornicate then he will make fun.

Laughter is an expression of pleasure. Before the Renaissance, laughter was held in a different opinion, but for Rabelais, laughter and merriment was his goal: “The sight of their game set them a-laughing, and the messenger of mischief grinned also for company’s sake” (Rabelais 3,998). Scatological humor was appealing to seventeenth century Europe, possibly because of the restraints of elite court society. Rabelais wanted to offend the upper-crust and clergy by using bawdy situations and extravagant decadence to satisfy the aesthetic designs of mankind’s human experience.

Works Cited

Rabelais, Francois. Gargantua and His Son Pantagruel. EBook #1200: Project

Gutenberg, 21 Jul 2014. Web.

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Essay: Madness in Don Quixote: Distorting Reality to Develop the Self

Madness in Don Quixote:

Distorting Reality to Develop the Self

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 530 Spring 2015}

In preference to the chivalric past of the Medieval world, Alonso Quixada considers everyday life in the 1600s to be limited to the realms of necessity – lackluster and boring. Alonso feels that there is much more to life than eating and sleeping. The majority of his waking time is spent reading books written of the legends of old, leaving him to crave a return to the Golden Age. Alonso’s obsession with tales of the knighthood dominate his mind so thoroughly that he develops a fictional persona, Don Quixote of La Mancha, and assumes an altered reality in which his imagination holds free reign, leaving everyday peasants to appear as princesses and windmills to be giants. Seized by his refusal to settle for a dull life, Alonso embraces madness to transpose him to glory through self-fulfilled delusions of grandeur.

Alonso aggrandizes the realms of fantasy and adventure in comparison to the complacent boredom of real life. Disgusted with his lot, he mourns the absence of adventure and lack of passion displayed in mundane reality. Alonso’s housekeeper says, “Miserable me! I am certain of it, and it is as true as that I was born to die, that these accursed books of chivalry he has, and has got into the way of reading so constantly, have upset his reason; for now I remember having often heard him saying to himself that he would turn knight-errant and go all over the world in quest of adventures” (Cervantes 212). This deep dissatisfaction aids the authority of his imagination to supplement delusional acceptance in which distorted realities appear for his pleasure. Average life is not enough to satisfy Alonso: “That is to say, Don Quixote goes mad as a vicarious atonement for our drabness, our ungenerous dearth of imagination” (Bloom 125). Figs and soft bread are not excitement or joy for Alonso, he would rather be a hero on adventure.

Alonso is not content with reality’s bland appeal and believes the zeitgeist of life resides in the past. Kierkegaard discusses the importance of memory in contrast to reality: “A life in recollection is the most perfect imaginable; memory gives you your fill more abundantly than all of reality and has a security which no reality possesses” (50). An experience itself is up for debate as per how the individual remembers the occurrence. The past holds allure because it is unchangeable; however, interpretation of the past is up for emotional consideration. The mind holds onto significant details while discarding the ordinary or repetitive actions. The present is subjected to life’s necessities, and reality, as described in Either/Or, is found lacking:

“When I became older, when I opened my eyes and saw reality, I started to laugh, and haven’t       stopped since. I saw the meaning of life was getting a livelihood, its goal acquiring a titular office, that loves rich desire was getting hold of a well-to-do girl, that the blessedness of friendship was to help one another in financial embarrassment, that wisdom was what the majority assumed it to be, that enthusiasm was to make a speech, that courage was to risk losing ten dollars, that cordiality consisted in saying ‘You’re welcome’ after a dinner, that fear of God was to go to communion once a year. That’s what I saw, and I laughed” (Kierkegaard 51).

Over two hundred years separate Don Quixote and Either/Or, but both display reality as wanting and glorify the aesthetic by means of intense subjective determination. The latter is found through the writings of Author A, a melancholic poet unsatisfied with the meaning of life. The former is understood by the hallucinations of Alonso’s madness in which he plans to return passion to life by way of adventuring through a fictional character. Years of reading about adventure has prepared the knight-errant, so Don Quixote believes, to be able to perceive the fantastical happenings as real and fully breathe life to his imaginations.

Don Quixote does not create something from nothing; he distorts what is really there for that which he wants to see. He is often talking or thinking to himself as to what the heroes he read about would do in the situations presented. The windmills, in example, are structures that Sancho and Don Quixote can both see on the horizon, but the Don choses to believe they are instead giants readying an attack. After Don Quixote falls from the windmill sail, his faithful squire Sancho said, “did I not tell your worship to mind what you were about, for they were only windmills? and no one could have made any mistake about it but one who had something of the same kind in his head” (Cervantes 255). In justification to reality, Don Quixote resorts to additional delusionary authority and claims that an enchanter transformed the giants into windmills to ensure the Don did not receive victory.

The misadventures in which Don Quixote and Sancho participate are derived from the stories about knighthood and chivalry from Alonso’s personal library. He is noted for contemplating on his memory of various stories to understand the created anti-reality he finds himself in: “All that night Don Quixote lay awake thinking of his lady Dulcinea, in order to conform to what he had read in his books, how many a night in the forests and deserts knights used to lie sleepless supported by the memory of their mistresses” (Cervantes 259). To assume the position of knight-errant, Don Quixote forces himself to behave as one, to include abstaining from sleep and fulfilling meals. The effects of hunger and insomnia support Don Quixote’s delusions, and he is content to stay awake dwelling on the beauty of a country girl who he’s convinced himself is the most beautiful princess in the whole world. Dolcinea’s beauty and honor act as the motivations for Don Quixote’s questing, as he believes his valiant deeds will reflect her purity and goodness; therefore increasing his own infamous adventures.

Although Don Quixote strives for honor and justice, his delusions upset his recognition of right from wrong, and he is understood as a backward hero or, as Sobre calls him “The Hero Upside-Down”. The Don confuses monks for enchanters and criminals for victims during his adventures with Sancho. Sobre demonstrates the critics as forgiving of Don Quixote, examining his madness under a positive light: “Don Quixote is a complete fool; his folly, however, is the most sublime of virtues in this rotten world; therefore Don Quixote is saintly, a sublime hero – or so this reasoning goes” (Sobre 129). Don Quixote means well despite his insane actions and avoidance of logic. Sobre notes the qualities of a hero to include longing for respite from duties demanded of one’s country, but Don Quixote is the opposite: “Don Quixote is a bored man who daydreams; once he embarks on his trip, however, he shuns solace and pleasure. … Our hidalgo finally manages to find adventures; adventures seldom find him” (135). Logic holds no lure to the backward hero as logic belongs in the realm of reality.

Reason and logic are found in the Don’s squire. While Sancho attempts to offer reason occasionally, he ultimately enables Don Quixote to continue his quest in hopes of receiving an island as reward. Sancho is not insane, he is uneducated. The promise of the reward came from Don Quixote as offering in payment to services rendered. However, Sancho is noted as a dim-witted and ignorant farmer whose lack of understanding in higher cultures acts as means to allow the authority of the Don to override that of logic. Sancho is hoping for the best – and if he can’t have money he will settle for an island – so long as he returns some profit over to his wife. Don Quixote relies on Sancho’s simplicity as the more intelligent characters in the story are loathe to believe his tales: “Only ignorant people or fools admire him or consider him in any way superior – and often only as a result of their acceptance of a social hierarchy beyond discussion” (Sobre 137-38). The respectable characters in the piece look with disdain upon the knight-errant for his refusal to accept reality.

In creating his new self, Alonso is deemed mad and noted for confused thoughts throughout the piece. Madness can be seen as diabolical actions of the devil for the time period: “In Christian divinity, the Holy Ghost and the Devil battled for possession of the individual soul. The marks of such ‘psychomachy’ might include despair, anguish, and other symptoms of disturbance of mind” (Porter 17). The characters that live with Alonso attempt to take actions to cure him, namely the removal of his personal library as the housekeeper and niece insist the books are to blame for his madness. The curate wants to examine the books, but the niece demands all the titles should be submitted to the flames as all are guilty of instilling a false reality in the mind of her disillusioned uncle (Cervantes 219). They burn the books and seal up the library with a false wall, but then rely on the weakness of Alonso’s mind to believe that an evil enchanter came and whisked the library away with magic.

The library is burned to encourage Alonso back to reason, but he interprets the removed library to signify the end of reading and beginning of action. Much is allowed for the powers of enchantment, and Bloom addresses the importance of the sorcerer to move the story forward: “The Don supposes the sorcerers to exist, and Cervantes pragmatically realizes them as crucial components of his language. Everything is transformed through enchantment, is the Quixotic lament, and the wicked sorcerer is Cervantes himself” (122). Understood reality begins inside the conscious mind, once Alonso grips the truth he is no longer willing to live. An average life falls short in comparison to the adventures of knighthood. Without his madness, Alonso is a shell of his fictional self.

The novel personifies the hopes and dreams of humanity. Cervantes saw through the eyes of imaginative wonder and wanted to grace his audience with the abilities of personal fancy: “Cervantes, the champion of perspectivistic truth, wanted his readers to hear multiple parodies at the same time: for instance, simultaneous parodies of chivalric romance and popular religious beliefs” (Kallendorf 196). Cervantes allowed for the implications of unrequited love, madness, and exorcism to tempt his readers into cathartic expression by suggesting the existence of madness as a response to the mundane. Don Quixote speaks of the power of perception, affording the individual the ability to determine the self.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Riverhead

Books, 1994. pp. 119-36.

Cervantes, Miguel de Saavedra. Don Quixote. Project Gutenberg Ebook #996: 27 Jul

  1. Web. Accessed 6 Apr 2015.

Kallendorf, Hilaire. “The Diabolical Adventures of Don Quixote, or Self-Exorcism and the Rise

of the Novel.” Renaissance Quarterly, 55.1 (2002), pp. 192-223. Web. Accessed 13 Apr 2015.

Kierkegaard, Soren. Either/Or: A Fragment of Life. Ed. Victor Eremita. Trans. Alastair Hannay.

New York: Penguin Books, 2004.

Porter, Ray. Madness: A Brief History. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Sobre, J.M. “Don Quixote, the Hero Upside-Down.” Hispanic Review, 44.2 (1976), pp. 127-41.

Web. Accessed 13 Apr 2015.

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Essay: Synopsis of Descartes: On A Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences

Synopsis of Descartes:

On A Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason

and Seeking Truth in the Sciences

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 530 Spring 2015}

Rene Descartes developed his personal philosophy through his own experiences inside of nature while addressing outside influences in which the self is formed. Cartesian dualism involves the separation of mind from body, or the spiritual experiences from the physical. Throughout the creation of his philosophy, Descartes notes that he is leery to publish his findings because his truths may not be the same as the truths of others. The truth, he moves, is subject to experience and cannot be learned from another individual insomuch that a person will better educate themselves by experiencing life.

Beginning in the academic sciences, Descartes holds that mathematics alone can be recognized as purely true as two plus two will always be four: “Beyond all, I was most pleas’d with the Mathematicks, for the certainty and evidence of the reasons thereof; but I did not yet observe their true use and thinking that it served only for Mechanick Arts…” (17). For his profession he choses the writing of letters so as to better experience the wonders of the world.

The importance of experience over lessons cannot be stressed enough as Descartes leads by example for the rest of humanity. He takes to travel to glean his own experiences: “I wholly gave over the study of Letters, and resolving to seek no other knowledge but what I could finde in my self, or in the great book of the world, I imployed the rest of my youth in Travell, to see Courts and Armies, to frequent people of severall humors and conditions, to gain experience, to hazard my self in those encounters of fortune …” (20). Through living life and writing of his objective opinion, Descartes advises to stick to the roads to avoid the dangers of the uncivilized woods in which he means for the individual to take advantage of known truths found in custom.

In architecture, Descartes preferred one builder to many because too many designers on one object would result in a catastrophic structure. He also favored fewer laws as the less laws there were in play, then more attention could be applied with strict observance. In his quest for truth, Descartes developed four laws of his philosophy: to accept nothing as true unless he was sure it was a known truth, to divide any difficulties into subsequent groups, to orderly lead his thoughts, and to critique his findings with specific calculation (35-36). False reason is seen as contemptible to Descartes as his religious beliefs ensured that God does not let falsity be present in the mind.

Cartesian dualism notes the separation from the physical of the mind, or two levels of existence: that of the material self and the thinking self or soul. Descartes said, “I knew then that I was a substance, whose whole essence or nature is, but to think, and who to be, hath need of no place, nor depends on any material thing. So that this Me, to wit, my Soul, by which I am what I am, is wholly distinct from the Body, and more easie to be known then it…” (59). The human act of contemplation allowed for Descartes to recognize the separation of materialism and spiritualism.

Works Cited

Descartes, Rene. A Discourse of a Method for the Well Guiding of Reason and the Discovery of

Truth in the Sciences. London: Thomas Newcombe, 1637. Project Gutenberg Ebook.

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Book Review: “The Scorch Trials” by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials is the sequel to The Mazerunner in which a test group of children embark on a series of Variables in attempts to save the human race. An apocalyptic disease called the Flare has infected the world, and catastrophic events have damaged the planet. The scientific and seemingly omnipotent force known as WICKED creates and challenges the children to surpass intellectual standards to prove their immunity to the Flare. Maintaining sanity in an insane world involves following certain patterns in the brain. The children selected for observation are referred to as Candidates; WICKED hopes to follow the brain patterns of the Candidates as means to out think the Flare.

The sequel follows right along with the first book in the series. The subject matter and plot line are solid and interesting while the writing construction is easy enough for a teenager to understand. There is a good bit of dialogue and action to quickly move the story along; I quickly read to find out what in the world was going on to these poor children. Now that I’ve completed the second book, I am eagerly waiting Husband to wake up so we can purchase the third book. You guessed it, I didn’t find out very much of anything. but that’s what i get for reading a series… Authors purposefully design series books in this manner so that the story may be drug out, the readers wanting more, and future book sales are guaranteed to produce. I’m glad I started reading this series once the books were already published fully; I’ll never forget the years I waited to finally finish The Clan of the Cave Bear series. I feel so restless leaving characters hanging from quest completion or being dangled in front of unforeseen death.

I enjoyed the piece and hope to start the next books soon.

Dashner, James. The Scorch Trials. “The Mazerunner Series Book 2 of 4.” New York:  Delacorte Press, 2010.