The novel Let the Great World Spin opens up with the prologue titled “Those Who Saw Him Rushed”, in which McCann introduces the reader to the busy streets of New York City in the downtown area of Manhattan. He also describes vividly the activities of the people as they’re beginning their day in the early morning around “seven forty-seven”, as he puts it. In actuality, the prologue is describing the events surrounding the stunt that French high-wire artist Philippe Petit conducted on a tight-rope as he walked between the Twin Towers on the morning of August 7th, 1974. From this moment to the end of the first chapter, McCann takes the reader on a wild journey from the streets of Manhattan, the streets of Dublin, Ireland, to the late 20th Century housing projects of the Bronx.
Having read the first few parts of the novel, it is clear that McCann draws the reader in into the world he creates through his extensive use of vivid details. He is able to bring to life his characters and his settings through this. So far, I am captivated by his world and the voice that he gives his characters as well as the unique personalities they have and the way that they slowly develop into something much more. I am very interested in the complexity of Corrigan’s character because there seem to be so many layers to him. Although his journey ends up in tragedy, it is still interesting watching him grow and develop through the eyes of his own brother. I don’t feel that any certain character is alienated as they all have some share into the story, but I do feel that their mother also had a sense of mystery and complexity to her, especially with the incident of the man in the streets.
Manhattan. Dublin, Ireland. The Bronx. A bar in Queens. Three of these places in the same city, and the other on the opposite side of the ocean. These locations, on the surface, may seem like just a random place. Yet each of these places has a name. An identity. The author of this book, Colum McCann, took us to each of these places and immersed us within each of them for a few pages. We were able to notice the social differences in each of these places around 40-50 years ago. From the business-people of Wall Street to the projects in the Bronx, the drunk-filled streets of Dublin to a quiet bar in Queens – all of these differences are made apparent. Such vivid description has only led me to have a greater appreciation for New York City, to embrace the differences in culture between the boroughs yet bond over our similarities.
The book so far led me through a roller-coaster of emotions. From a mother’s never-ending love for her alcoholic son to a mother-daughter pair of hookers, there is no one word to describe the characters or my feelings after reading this. Even though all of the characters developed their own interesting personalities, a few stood out more than the rest. Corrigan, for one. Corrigan is seemingly trying his best to find religion yet has so many questionable traits that it is hard to tell. His internal conflict between his piety and desires truly interests me.
One thing that really surprised me from the beginning was the young age of most of the characters. Corrigan having his first smoke at 9, getting drunk at 13; Jazzlyn, a street hooker no more than 17-18 years of age. This really lead to me realizing what a different world we live in than what it was 40 years ago. A much safer, sheltered world for sure.
Is it a better world? Only you can answer that for yourself.
By Jolaynie Bonito
Behavior has several definitions. It could be defined as the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others or the way in which an animal or person acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus or the way in which a natural phenomenon or a machine works or functions. A sign is an object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.
So a behavioral sign must be defined as an indication that someone is acting a certain way in response to something else in its environment.
Behavioral signs in this text basically means that in society we behave a certain way that can be perceived as beautiful. The way we behave became something as a part of our routine. If someone did something that could possibly be viewed as “ugly”, it would hinder that person in the “productive – reproductive routine”. In today’s society everything is determined and very precise, everyone plans out what their next step is going to be and how to look better than the next person. It is constantly happening all around us with the help of social media and advertisement of both men and women who fit a certain description of “beauty”.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines telos as “an ultimate end”. In other terms, telos can be referred to as having a goal or purpose. In “The Beautiful and the Ugly are One Thing, the Sublime Another: A Reflection on Culture” by Stanley Diamond, the word telos is used in the following sentence, “For culture is itself a transcendence, making available a commonality of language that can be combined and recombined into the most illuminating construction of the human telos”. In this statement I believe Diamond is conveying the message that human beings will alter cultural practices to better suite their own goals, or telos. Throughout this section, Diamond describes how culture itself is being diminished in society due to either “productive-reproductive routine”, or “mechanical materialism”. Meaning that some humans are currently living with the notion of simply reproducing and surviving on a day to day basis , or satisfying their materialistic wants. These can both kill a society’s cultural values and goals. Are goals set for just individuals, or for entire groups? Are all goals deliberately made? All over the world people are heavily influenced by different platforms of media: television, magazines, social media, etc. Using beauty as an example, in America there has been an increasing trend in having bigger lips, which sky rocketed after reality star and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner had her lips enlarged. This even caused the viral Kylie Jenner Challenge which actually caused some participants to have permanent damage to their mouths. Overall, a telos is an ultimate goal that can either be one set for an individual or group by the individuals themselves or influencing factors.
“‘Lear’, that sounds familiar,” I thought as I was assigned this word. I was taken back to Junior year English Literature class when my teacher was spouting “King Lear” in his lectures, and myself liking the grand, regal name, but not really knowing what it meant. One definition, according to Dictionary.com, is that Lear means learning in Scotland and Northern England. Secondly, According to Merriam Webster, Lear is a legendary king of Britain and hero of Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear. King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare that about the development of madness of King Lear after he resigns and bequests his kingdom to his three daughters, which brings grave consequences for all. Lear is the King of Britain. Before he divides his kingdom among his daughters, he gives them a test in which he asks them how much they love him. The oldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, give him positive answers. Then the youngest and the favorite daughter, Cordelia, tells him that she loves him more than words describe, something along those lines. This response “pissed” him off so much that he gets into a fit and disowns her. Then, she is off to marry the French king, with her father’s permission, of course. But, Lear soon learns that he made a terrible mistake. His older daughters do not respect the little power that he still has. He goes insane because his daughters betray him. This tragedy is particularly famous for its observations, notions of human suffering and kinship.
Structuralism, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is defined as, “a method of analysis (as of a literary text or a political system) that is related to cultural anthropology and that focuses on recurring patterns of thought and behavior.”
Simply put, structuralism is a way of analysis focusing on recurring patterns of thought and behavior in societies. How societies think, adapt, and behave over different periods of time is studied deeply by anthropologists using structuralism.
In “The Beautiful and the Ugly Are One Thing, the Sublime Another: A Reflection on Culture” Stanley Diamond criticizes Keats for believing that “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever” and discusses this in depth in relation to differing societies and cultures. He believes that beauty and joy are very different when seen from new perspectives and new cultural views. He says that “Ultimately, all forms of structuralism and mechanical materialism define human activities as universally conceived functions that lose their cultural-historical specificity.” Diamond thinks that studying recurring thoughts and behaviors in societies defines human behavior as widely known functions that lose their cultural-historical specificity. He believes that, for example, eating is a universal function but everyone eats in different ways and eats different meals. Therefore, Diamond is accentuating that all forms of structuralism define human behavior to be universally known functions that are losing their cultural-historical value.
According to the little, yet very telling information we know about John Keats, he seemed to be sure of one thing throughout his short life (only living 25 years). He was absolutely certain that the only thing that one needs to know in order to survive in this dominating and exploitative world is that “beauty is truth, truth beauty,” a phrase first coined in his poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” Though this is heavily disputed throughout Diamond’s piece, there is one word that completely invalidates Keats’ belief system, which is contingency. If simply Googled, which is a commonality for anybody of the 20th century that doesn’t understand something, you will immediately get a definition stating that contingency is “a future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.” In other words, it is something that could happen, but can’t be said with certainty that it will happen. Keats’ philosophy from one of his most famous poems is a prime example of contingency. This is so because a thing of beauty can’t be enjoyed forever, let alone a human being’s lifetime, because it won’t always be beautiful. Any piece of writing, specifically including Keats’ famous line, represents a frozen time in history. Of course, from Keats’ minute perspective, beauty seems to stay constant forever, because beyond human limitations to imagine any other world but ours. This obviously excludes some variations brought on to us by the Television and our own imagination, yet even then, we are only picturing the world changing around us, not us changing around the world, which is what is really happening. For a second just picture the future, let’s say… 500 years from now, what do you see? I can probably guess that it involves flying cars, futuristic buildings, and robots. How did you picture the people? Probably at least similar to what we have now, am I right? We don’t realize that in that time, we will have much smaller jaws and teeth, but much larger eyes that seem to bulge out of our heads. Why don’t we picture that? It’s simple: humans are stubborn creatures that would much rather believe that the whole world will change before they do because they think they have total control of their destiny, both socially and physically. My point is that since people believe that beauty is in their eyes, they can control it and know exactly what they are looking for. However, in reality, Diamond proves throughout his piece that time is one of the biggest controllers of beauty, not humans, as something beautiful from Keats’ time can be considered ugly today. Therefore, Diamond believes that the only thing certain in the world today is the struggle for something and the contingency that that very something can be obtained, rather than actually obtaining it. If it were certain what we would get and what we need, we would only have one culture, not the millions we have today. In simple terms, life and its joyous wonders are from the battle itself, not the actual achievement of getting it.
According to the dictionary, a Winnebago is a member of a Native American people formerly living in eastern Wisconsin. Rite refers to a ceremony or an act that can be religious. The Winnebago Medicine Rite is a ceremony that gives the initiate a long and happy life on earth and ensures that they will be able to return in the afterlife. The origin story of how the Medicine Rite first began states that the Earthmaker made the earth and other creatures and later made human beings. They were the weakest creatures on earth and not stronger than a fly. As a result of their weakness, they were preyed on by evil spirits and were near extinction. The Earthmaker sent four men to protect them, but when this failed he sent a fifth man, Hare. Hare took a human form and was able to do the job of the other four men and protect the human beings. However, he soon found out that despite all his efforts, like everything, humans were destined to die. Angered at this fact, Hare started to destroy things around him. Hare was sent out of the earth, but Earthmaker felt pity and told him that he was allowed to return and help humans perform a ceremony in which humans would be granted the ability to be reincarnated and live more than one life. In the ritual, the initiate puts a shell in their mouth and pretends to die and then coughs it up to show reincarnation. They are reincarnated when they die and “shed one’s skin and emerge reborn.” All the struggle in the past life would be gone and they would be able to start over, but still have their former being. They would become members of the Medicine Society. Stanley Diamond is trying to say that joy is not a result of the truth or beauty, but of struggling and finally being successful. The initiate finally achieves emancipation after all he has gone through and the joy was a result of the challenge. He argues that joy is only a result of the growth that was caused by pain. What is truly sublime is earning this joy and honor through all the pain, struggle and realization, not through beauty nor the truth.
Origin story: https://books.google.com/books?id=yUvbvgFakkwC&pg=PA73&lpg=PA73&dq=winnebago+medicine+rite+definition&source=bl&ots=yY8JBOsSSB&sig=emdzpTgrBDA7EQmxhwk_MJDGdB8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi9y67NxInWAhVixoMKHQK2A64Q6AEINTAD#v=onepage&q=earthmaker&f=false
As stated in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, existential can be defined as “relating to or affirming existence.” When using this specific definition, existence can be referring to anything in the world such as planes, food, streets, and anything else that is in a state of reality. These are all things that exist; however, when analyzing the use of the word in this piece we can see that the author, Stanley Diamond, is only concerned with human existence. This focuses on the philosophical theory of existentialism which emphasizes the free will of an individual person to determine how they will dictate their own existence. In The Beautiful and the Ugly are One Thing, the Sublime Another: A Reflection on Culture, Diamond states that “the existentializing of our human possibilities… represents a struggle that is constant and renewed in each generation… as [individuals] strive to become cultured human beings.” In this quote, the author is revealing that this existence that humans are bestowed with comes with a battle to stay relevant. For every new generation comes new music, new fashion trends, new movies, and all things that create the culture of the present society. Earlier in Diamond’s reflection, he states that there is a blurred line between what is considered beautiful and ugly since cultures are so different and ever-changing. Therefore, we can refer back to the definition of existentialism and come to the conclusion that if people are actually given this free will then they must face the struggle to become more cultured by differentiating between what they consider beautiful and ugly for themselves.
At first glance, when we see the word epigram just by itself, one might think that its definition has something to do with weights, as it ends with the suffix gram. But that isn’t true. According to the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, epigram is defined as “a concise poem dealing pointedly and often satirically with a single thought or event and often ending with an ingenious turn of thought.” In this case, the poem would be Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats and the thought or idea would be “Beauty is truth, truth beauty-that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
When Stanley Diamond talks about this epigram in “The Beautiful and the Ugly are One Thing, the Sublime Another: A Reflection on Culture”, he says that there are limitations to the ideal mentioned by Keats. In my opinion, I agree with Diamond. This is because he relates beauty with truth, wherein truth is a fact that can’t be changed but beauty is a subjective term because everyone has a different definition of beauty. Diamond does a very good job of explaining how beauty is viewed differently in different cultures and time periods.
Also, if we look at this in a philosophical manner, then there is this question of what is truth? And does it really exist? And if does exist, then how does one know that it exists? This is because everytime an incident takes place, there are three versions of truth: my version of the truth, other people’s versions of the truth and the real truth itself. But no one knows what that real truth actually is because everyone has their own version. So, if we can’t even define what truth actually is, then how would we know that something like beauty, which is subjective, equates to the real truth.