Tag Archives: Literature

Conversation: Maybe the Trees in LOTR Had Something Right

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Treebeard : “You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”

There is a definite reason why I prefer writing to talking 9 times out of 10, and that is the presence of thinking. In my experience few people allow themselves or others time to truly think during oral conversations. For example, I respect my grandfather very much, but if you pause before answering one of his many questions he jumps to the conclusion that you are going to either lie or hold something back. In order to have a thoughtful conversation, the people involved must allow for it to take time. These days many seem to value speed over quality. We want the fastest Internet, the speediest cars, and instant gratification for our work. It’s as if we were all in some big never ending race. Maybe this is because we feel that the faster we get results the longer our lives will seem, since there will be a larger number of things we can get done. However, what is the worth of the things we are accomplishing with speed?

I do think it’s very possible for speed and quality to coexist, but not often when it comes to developing new ideas. I have fun conversations about nothing of importance all the time with my friends, but the truly great conversations are the ones that make me formulate new ideas. These are the times when the answer is not on the tip of my tongue, but instead I must think about it from multiple angles. Conversations like these are so great when they happen because they always teach me something that I didn’t know about myself, the subject matter, or often both. When my mind is truly working during a conversation (or while I am writing), I start to smile without even being aware of it sometimes. A natural happiness is created within me because my thoughts are flowing with those of the person I am talking to. I suddenly have more ideas pulsing through me than words to express them and this is an extremely exciting feeling. When I am writing something thoughtful I try to develop questions in my head that someone might ask me about my subject matter. Even if I’m writing about memories I push myself to add details that make me think in depth about each experience I am hoping to convey.

In truth, oral conversation is what I would prefer if people were really willing to take time to have one. It is only because few people are willing to take this time, that I prefer writing. Blogs like this one allow for an open conversational format which gives the writer the benefit of feedback. Being able to actively participate in a conversation with countless others, on any topic you could possibly imagine, is a priceless gift. It also presents the benefit of anonymity, allowing people to feel confort in saying what they really think.

I admire the character of Treebeard because he points out that if something is worth doing or saying, it should not matter that it takes time. I would rather say or do less and have it mean something, then rush to do everything and have it all mean nothing.

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Free from the Illusion of Reality

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I recently completed my English thesis on the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee. This play which was adapted into a film version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, is a wonderful plaything for the mind. Whether you are watching the movie or reading the play, there are an endless number of questions that strike you to the core. That is because this play questions the very framework that reality is formed upon. Albee tells the story of a disenchanted couple, Martha and George, who spend an entire night ripping each other apart in front of their guests Nick and Honey. In my paper I spent page after page analyzing the art with which these two main characters were able to break down the comforting cushion of reality in their everyday lives.

Martha and George, constantly straddle the invisible line dividing reality and illusion, until even their guests cannot separate the two. They are powerful characters because they realize that language is a tool used to convey meaning, and not meaning itself. Words are never exact in their definition, because they signify different meanings depending on who is hearing or speaking them. The person speaking regulates tone, truthfulness, and the amount information provided. The person listening interprets based off their knowledge of both the speaker, and subject matter. Martha and George believe that the human mind is too complex to be faithfully conveyed in language, and this understanding puts them in a world of chaos. Throughout the evening they manipulate language based on their knowledge of its gaps and with a complete disregard for the rules that sustain it. They expose truths in their illusions, and prove the gaps within Nick and Honey’s statements to be lies. By exposing the flaws in societies’ most utilized method of communication, they are illuminating the large degree of illusion present in everyday speech.

Even though my thesis work is all done I find myself coming back to the ideas this play evoked in me over and over again. If language is our main outlet for defining the world around us, the truth of the world will always be lacking in some way. The concept that reality is manmade presents a strange new way of looking at things. George and Martha are a dangerous mixture with their shared knowledge of reality’s holes. They have realized that control over their own reality is within their grasp and therefore have conjured up the illusion of a son who never existed in flesh and blood. In a sense they have become their own God, creating a child from nothing and then killing him in the very dramatic final scene.

My advice to anyone who reads this post is to pick up a copy of this play immediately. It will definitely give you something to think about. For anyone who knows this play or just has some thoughts about reality and illusion, please leave comments below.(=