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Ŕ Bout de Souffle
Out of Breath
Satan’s Plan for Adam and Eve
334
Satan finds the display of love and affection shown by Adam and Eve to God and to each other “hateful” and “tormenting” (l. 505). This comes in the very first line of the monologue in which he will reveal his malicious scheme to persuade Adam and Eve to consume the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and go against God’s rule. How Satan finds their love “hateful” mirrors how he sees good as evil, evil as good. Satan, at least in his own mind, has become the antithesis of God, and everything God views as evil or wrong, Satan will view as good or right.

But he also finds pain in the fact that Adam and Eve can display and share their love so openly and happily. Just as God allows them to be “Imparadised in one another’s arms” (l. 506), God has subjected Satan to utmost punishment in the depths of Hell, the true anti-paradise. Satan now not only envies the powers and might of God, but he also envies the caring relationship God has with Man, which ironically mirrors the relationship God once shared with Lucifer in heaven.

Satan then interrupts his thoughts of pain with the situation at hand: he has learned that Adam and Even have one rule to follow. They are not allowed to taste the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Immediately he questions God’s reasoning behind forbidding knowledge, calling it “suspicious” and “reasonless” (l. 516). Satan, very ironically, accuses God of envy in forbidding his creations knowledge; but here he has a point and seems to genuinely disdain God’s restriction, whereas in the past Satan normally only disagreed to be difficult and evil. He calls this law from God a “fair foundation laid whereon to build / Their ruin” (ll. 521-2). Satan no longer has his beliefs just to spite God, just to be the evil to God’s good; he has finally found an action by God that he opposes and truly believes to be unjust. Of course, Satan fails to see that God made this rule and gave Adam and Eve the means to break it to allow them free will.

It is then that Satan reveals his intent and plan. He is going to persuade Adam and Eve to desire knowledge and reject God’s commands. Satan says of God’s rule that it is “invented with design / To keep them low whom knowledge might exalt / Equal with gods” (ll. 524-6). Here Satan seems to want to help Man see things from his point of view. He wants Adam and Eve to be jealous of God’s rule over them in the same fashion that Satan was jealous of God’s power earlier.

Satan has already developed an angle with which to approach Adam and Eve: with knowledge, they might become equal with God, in a way, rendering the fact that they would be breaking his rule obsolete. Satan uses his silver tongue already in this monologue, accusing God and his commands of being “envious” of Adam and Eve. Surely, he is preparing to mount a persuasion so fierce that his mischievous meddling will not go in vain.

Satan addresses Adam and Eve from a distance: “Live while ye may / Yet happy pair! Enjoy, till I return, / Short pleasures, for long woes are to succeed!” (ll. 533-5). Satan uses “succeed” here in two ways: not only does this mean that long woes will “follow” the short pleasures, but Satan is confident that his plans will “work” and he will accomplish his evil deeds. Satan’s pride shines through here with this taunting exclamation, showing that he is becoming wholly encompassed by evil pride and ambition.



Based on lines 505-35 in Book IV of Paradise Lost by John Milton.

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On "On Forgiveness"
320
Forgiveness is too sacred a sword of social relations to be unsheathed for the pettiest of offenses. This sword should only wear the trickling blood of what is unforgivable, slay what beast steers to spawn enmity between men. For if the vociferous loon is slain over the murderous bear, what is need of a sword over a knife? “If one is only prepared to forgive what appears forgivable . . . then the very idea of forgiveness would disappear." No, this sword was tempered to vanquish not venial iniquity, but mortal. Its very point in being is to strike down the immortal foes of our immoral deeds.

To neglect the sword of its duty is in turn an offense worthy of the blade. Unforgiveness lends itself to unforgiveness; to harbor a grudge is to handle a shield impenetrable to reason, ever-protecting of hate. While I tend to witness people justify resentment towards those that have wronged them or for those that have been wronged, I believe it is tragic that grudges must be held. Don’t grudges usually seem to be used as a weapon to fill the offender with regret? What purpose can this regret serve if not to shame the offender to seeking the forgiveness of the victim? And when the victim denies the offender forgiveness, thus completing the circle, it appears to me that the victim is all too misled or blinded by his indignation to realize his purposeless, ceaseless brooding.

Mahatma Gandhi was compassionate enough to invent the vaccine for world blindness. Nothing is made equal with revenge. The only way to level the battlefield is to respond to a wrong with a right, forgive offense instead of perpetuating it. If Rwanda refuses to help New Orleans, where will the cycle end?

The quicker the slash, the sooner the sword rests in its sheath, unneeded.



Based on "On Forgiveness" by Jacques Derrida.

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Love and Nature in Frost
306
Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds' song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.

Frost would declare and could himself believe that nature, through human attribution, sustains so vividly an aspect of human affects that he wagers “probably it never would be lost” (l. 12). In “Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same,” he offers that Everyman over the years has heard and can still hear as Adam the human tone of meaning Eve so softly and eloquently imbued in the birds. Along the course of the sonnet, there is ample room for elements of separation from love and nature that could normally cast loving humans into sorrow, but instead are used to display that a more positive yearning exists. Careful language also affects how the poem’s meaning is relayed. By using his mythological backbone of Eve instilling an oversound into birds’ song, Frost manages to précise the history and everlasting effects of love and nature according to Romantic ideals.

Adam, as the first man to exist, was also the first man to love and be inspired by love when Eve was created. Without any precedent, we have to wonder what it is that made Adam connect the voice of his love, Eve, to the song of birds. The first sentence of the sonnet tells us something about Adam’s location and influence from his surroundings:

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound.
(ll. 1-4)

Adam was dwelling in the garden, able to hear the birds around him singing their usual song. He needed something to equate his love for Eve with, and when in a lush garden with many animals a person is likely to hear the beautiful and prevalent song of birds. But Adam went further than just to equate them; he declared that the birds extracted what they also loved from Eve’s voice and imbedded it into their own song in what probably would be the first act, according to Frost’s interpretation of mythological events, of poetic Romanticism.

The “He” in the poem may explicitly refer to Adam, but Adam is implicitly used as a figure for Everyman. Adam was Eve’s companion and the only other human alive to bear witness to what Eve did to the birds’ song. Only Adam could know that “Never again would birds’ song be the same” (l. 13) because he was the only person around before Eve was created to have heard both the unchanged song and the altered song after. Adam, however, can represent anyone that has ever realized or has been inspired to place a human affect on nature. In using the idea of the first man and woman ever to exist, Frost sets a precedent that the entire human race, as Everyman, is able to follow. The temporality of the poem also hints that Adam is intended to represent Everyman. We can only assume when “now” is, but juxtaposed to the modal “would” it appears as though the poem takes place in the past looking forward to the future. The “probably” admits that the future is still uncertain, but up until the present Eve’s voice has probably not been lost. The same applies in saying “Never again would birds’ song be the same” (l. 13); what is also added, though, is the fact that Eve’s effect was a permanent one. The finality of “Never again” resonates through the entire sonnet from the onset because of the title, and when it is repeated as the turn we come to truly understand what it means in the context of the first 12 lines. The reiteration serves as a coda to Frost’s proposition that lasts for all of time and through every human heart.

Despite Frost’s suggestion that this superimposition of human affection and nature is experienced by every passionate human through time, there also exists a tension in the distance between the speaker and Adam. The speaker does not appear to take on any specific identity, so the poem remains presented by an anonymous narration. The fact remains, however, that this sonnet was written in the 20th century: far past the time of Adam and Eve and the simplicity of their garden. This brings attention to what differences the speaker and Adam, referred to only in the third person as “He” (l. 1), might have. Surely Adam in ahistorical times “would declare and could himself believe” (l. 1), but perhaps the speaker serves to point out that this belief in modern times no longer truly exists. With the knowledge thrust upon us at the Fall of Man, nobody could honestly believe it is true that birds would or could consciously imbue their song with Eve’s “tone of meaning” (l. 5), whether it was their intention or what seemed to be evident in Adam’s ears.

Furthermore, with his mythological proposal Frost must confess that in order for humans to tie our emotions to birds in such a disjunct manner we must have viewed ourselves as something separate from nature from our very inception and especially after the Fall from the Garden of Eden suffered by Adam and Eve. Here we see Eve’s voice as separate from the birds’. The birds, “having heard the daylong voice of Eve / Had added to their own an oversound” (ll. 3-4). Birds and Eve each possessed their own distinct voices while in the Garden of Eden despite that humans were still supposed to be connected to nature then. Later in the poem exists even more grinding between the voices than before: “[Eve’s] voice upon [the birds’] voices crossed / Had now persisted in the woods” (ll. 10-11). “Crossed” is presented as a past participle describing voices, which suggests an uneasy friction between the voices of Eve and the birds. In fact, it makes the voices appear to work against one another. There was even less unity between humans and nature: a downward trend that mostly would continue for the rest of time alongside the advancement of human knowledge.

What also seems to separate humans from nature and thus birds is our intelligence and language. One of the greatest distinctions between humans and animals is our spoken word. The greater skills of communication have helped the human race develop lasting cultures and ideas, effectively moving us past the nature from which we came. What makes this clear is that when the birds added the oversound to their song, they added Eve’s “tone of meaning but without the words” (l. 5). Birds, clearly incapable of the same level of communication through speech that humans have developed, have not been able to broaden their intelligence; they remain a unified part of nature whereas humans have become something unique in spite of the unity of nature.

Rather than disheartening humans, however, Frost appears to suggest this brand of separation is yet another aspect of what draws our interest to nature and makes us long for it, as well as long to see ourselves in it. Adam and Everyman “would declare and could himself believe” (l. 1) that the birds were influenced by Eve’s voice: by a human’s voice. A declaration is a proud variety of statement; a man declares things that he feels speak of achievement and success. Adam and Everyman seem to herald the discovery that an aspect of humanity, however small, can be found within nature in the birds’ song. That Adam and Everyman “could himself believe” in this discovery follows the notion that we comfort ourselves by believing our achievements to be true, however improbable they are. As mentioned earlier, thinking that birds use Eve’s “tone of meaning” is tough to believe. But whether birds in reality have the capacity to forge into their own song something they admire in Eve’s voice matters little; the belief is primarily a reassuring prospect that drives the nature-lusting mind. Romantic poets embraced everything natural and emotional and tended to eschew reason, logic, and the scientific trend of the Enlightenment period. What they, like the birds, would embrace is the “tone of meaning,” not the “words.”

Although it is not clearly touched upon in the immediate context of Frost’s sonnet, the fact that this story is used allegorically to expand past the time spent in the Garden of Eden is substance enough to consider the Fall and how the meaning expressed is altered from pre- to postlapsarian times. If Eve “Could . . . have had such an influence on birds” (l. 7) to make them change such an essential part of their natural existence as their song, then we can imagine how strongly she could have influenced Adam to consume the forbidden fruit. Eve, as the first woman, was created as a companion to Adam: someone for him to love. They were even told to reproduce: “Be fruitful and increase in number,” the Lord said. But after the Fall, the need of a woman was doubled because humans would no longer be immortal. Adam and Eve were suddenly burdened with the need to have sex to reproduce in order for the human race to live on. However, with the newfound knowledge they received came shame in nudity and in turn a sort of sinful pleasure in sex and eroticism. This is for the most part exclusive in human nature; for the vast majority of living organisms, sex is only for to reproduce. It is no surprise, then, to realize a sexual factor playing a part in “why [Eve] came” (l. 14). Eve at once provides a literal separation of humans from nature with her eroticism and figuratively fecundates nature with her eloquent human voice. It is almost as if her intent was to tear Everyman away from nature just to make him crave it, and effectively her, more. Once again, by embodying in the first woman, Eve, a type of coyness all too common to female nature, Frost sets a precedent to last through all time.

Ultimately, Frost proves that humans, although tragically cast away from nature, still retain a yearning to remain natural entities: a yearning that is frequently played upon due to our love for other humans. Frost is able to capture the essential ideals of Romantic poetry and tie them to the very first instance of love mythologically known to human kind and, in effect, launch them as a permanent precedent that has lasted throughout all of history. And to do that to poetry was why Frost came.

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A Forsaken Website
280
In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland,
  At the sea-down’s edge between wind-ward and lee,
Wall’d round with rocks as on Ishbu Island,
  The ghost of NuTang fronts the sea.
A girdle of lemons and thorn encloses
  The steep, square slope of the server-less bed
Where the sites that grew green from the graves of Dave's roses
        Now lie dead.

The files fall southward, abrupt and broken,
  To the low last edge of the long lone land.
If a ping should sound or a comment be spoken,
  Would a ghost not rise at the member’s hand?
So long have the gray, bare blogs lain guestless,
  Through forums and guestbooks if a member make way,
He shall find no life but Dave’s, restless
        Night and day.

The dense, hard connection is blind and stifled
  That crawls by a server none turn to climb
To the strait waste index that the years have rifled
  Of all but Dave, who is touch’d not of Time.
The sites he spares when the server is taken;
  The pages are left when he wastes the plain.
The members that wander, the blogs wind-shaken,
        These remain.

Not a button to be press’d of the finger that falls not;
  As the heart of Hoya, the pages are dry;
From the thicket of thorns whence Papagoya calls not,
  Could he call, there were never a member to reply.
Over the forums that blossom and wither
  Rings but the note of thezebra’s song;
Only Dave and le_battement come hither
        All year long.

The blogs burn sere and the domain dishevels
  One gaunt bleak blossom of textless breath.
Only Dave here hovers and revels
  In a round where NuTang seems barren as death.
Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping,
  Haply, of users none ever will know,
Who left NuTang two to three sleeping
        Years ago.

Heart handfast in heart as they stood, “Look thither,”
  Did he comment? “Look forth from Ishbu to the sea;
For the profiles endure when the blog entries wither,
  And members that leave may die—but we?”
And the baboons sang and the same waves whiten’d,
  And or ever NuTang’s last files were shed,
In the fingers that had commented, the text highlighten’d,
        NuTang: dead.

Or they lov’d their sites through, and then went whither?
  And were one to the end—but what end who knows?
Activity, sea-deep, as a rose must wither,
  As the red baboon asses that mock the rose.
Shall the gone take thought for the gone to love them?
  What blog was ever as deep as a grave?
They are guestless now as the header above them
        Or the wave.

All are at one now, lemons and lovers,
  Not known of the sites and the pages and sea.
Not a breath of the server that has been hovers
  In the air now soft with a server to be.
Not a shoutbox shall sweeten the index hereafter
  of the site or baboon that laughs now or weeps,
When, as they that are free now of weeping and laughter,
        NuTang sleeps.

Here death may deal not again forever;
  Upgrades may come not till all upgrades end.
From the blogs they have made they shall rise up never,
  Who have left no site active to comment and send.
Lemons and thorns of the wild ground growing,
  While Yenamaboya lives, these shall be;
Till a last server’s breath upon all these blowing
        Roll the sea.

Till the slow server rise and the witty comment crumble,
  Till files and bandwidth a member drinks,
Till the strengths of baboons of PPGY humble
  The files that lessen, the bandwidth that shrinks,
Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
  Stretch’d out on the revenue that his own hand spread,
As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
        Dave lies dead.



(Based on "A Forsaken Garden" by Algernon Charles Swinburne)

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Ethics
278
Be it extremely emotional, controversial, messed up, or whatever, this entry has been password protected.

If you know it, enter it; or, ask me for it.

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Spinoza
278
Benedict de Spinoza may be the first person I have read about that was excommunicated from Judaism. It is admirable that he stuck by his beliefs even though he faced persecution from his family and religious leaders and peers. Other philosophers saved themselves from prosecution by arguing things they probably did not actually personally believe. For example, when Descartes told his readers to set aside the notion of God to understand his famous meditations on dreaming and the evil genius, he followed it up by basically reiterating the ontological argument for the existence of God invented by St. Anselm. I feel that he did this to save himself from any persecution. But Spinoza, on the other hand, was not too concerned with pleasing others by going against his beliefs, and so he was excommunicated for his understanding of God and nature being one in the same, and that God did not actually have a personality. This devotion to the topic is what sets Ethics apart from other serious works to me. His assuredness in his own beliefs that he reasoned from scratch shows that Spinoza had a strong personal character and was surely underappreciated in his time.

Spinoza’s idea of God is probably close to what I would subscribe to if I could bother with being spiritual. It relies heavily on logic, does not have anything to do with any type of incredible mythology, and does not deal with a set of strict rules nor arbitrary obligations. What it does seem to offer is a précised system of belief that uses common sense and everyday morals. Spinoza saw the Hebrew Bible not as fact, but as a collection of allegories to show by example the nature of God/natural existence. I feel that even if religions were debunked, they still can teach valuable lessons about ethics. I think Spinoza shows how religion could be found useful within a secular view.

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