Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two roads diverged

When I was in university I wrote a paper comparing ideas from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming". I has studied and enjoyed both poems in my Literature of the 20th Century class and wanted to share my excitement with the world...or at least with the professor. I'm not entirely sure what I wrote about, but the paper had something to do with Yeat's lines

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

I was ridiculously proud of my essay. It wasn't one of the suggestions from the professor, and possibly nothing anyone had thought of before in the history of humankind! (Or at least I couldn't find any books or articles written on the topic at the U of R library during the 5 minutes I looked. Hey, back then that was considered serious research!)

When I received my paper back, written on the crisp, white cover page in dark red ink was this: "Very well done. You are a interesting and divergent thinker." Of course, I immediately had to go look up what "divergent" meant and was much pleased by what I read ("Using a variety of premises, esp. unfamiliar premises, as bases for inference, and avoiding common limiting assumptions in making deductions").

Later I excelled at comparing Holden Caulfied (from Catcher in the Rye) to Huckleberry Finn, and green policy in North America and Europe. I struggled through the close reading we had to do in my New Criticism class, and completely wrote off the need for accuracy in my chemistry lab. 14 mL? 16mL? Close enough.

One of my favourite projects from my education degree came from the Philosophy of Education class I took. I chose to present on a South American educator who believed everything in schools is political - from the language we use to the topics and books we study. As I researched my presentation, I learned that because females tend to be more "people pleasing" and males tend to be more "self centered," much of what we study is chosen because it will hold boys' attention.

We want children to learn how to classify things and so we study dinosaurs. Why not flowers or cats? Because we'd lose the boys. In high school we read books like Fahrenheit 451, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Flowers for Algernon...well, I could go on. Yes, these are all fabulous books, but they're also all very male-centric. You know, to keep the boys' interest.

Making these sorts of discoveries and connections and then sharing them with other people made me feel alive.

Since university I haven't had much chance to think. My job is one that forces me to focus on details and minutia, which is possibly why I'm so dissatisfied doing what I'm doing. The other night, though, I got the chance to dust off those old skills again. I was at a pub, enjoying some tasty beer with friends and I managed to piss everyone off.

My friends were oozing superlatives about the TV show True Blood (especially the 2nd season) and the movie Fight Club. I offered up the extremely unpopular opinion that the former ended up being about nothing more than a pathetic, deluded woman searching for a husband, and the latter? Oy. Don't even get me started! They make this cool, anti-consumer, screw the man movie and then they make the character spewing these beliefs bat-shit crazy. And what does he do to make his big statement? He blows up CREDIT CARD COMPANIES! Oh great - now all of us who racked up our cards uncontrollably can go out and do it AGAIN! You can bet that if all of a sudden my credit card debt was at $0, I'd be out there buying a bed - one that had never been owned by anyone else before. Can you imagine how luxurious that would be?

Anyway, I digress. It felt great to use the ol' noggin and piss people off again. I felt that familiar tingle of coming alive. Now if I could just find a job that allowed me to do this.

Cubicle farm


  1. Hmmm...you bring up a good point about Fight Club. I think it's a problem with most if not all of Palahniuk's novels (or movies based on his novels). His protagonists, such as they are, are too deeply flawed. Any truths they uncover, any evils they expose, are essentially negated by their utter lack of credibility.

    I wrote a lot of essays in college, too.

  2. I'm fine with flawed characters. What bugs me about Fight Club is that people miss those flaws and see everything in the movie as awesome.

  3. Stumbled on this and just LOVING it.... I think I've found my newest blog crush. Stay cool Nat!