Part of the challenge of learning how to read complex texts is understanding that sometimes authors have more purposes than easily meet the eye. For example, Tim O'Brien use of narrative storytelling in "How to Tell a True War Story" is a haunting work of art. He creates a simultaneously beautiful and revolting picture of the horrors of war, and in doing so, also communicates a message about the human condition, suffering, and the meaninglessness of war from the perspective of a Soldier.
We spend a lot of time in life seeking our "purpose". What do we want to do? Who do we want to be? How should we make a living? Who will we love? What will we stand for? I think that sometimes when we pursue only one aspect of our lives so strongly, we lose sight of our grander purpose. Like Frankenstein, we lose ourselves in the search for our own identities.
In an era and a culture so dominated by the quest for functionality, and efficiency, purpose has come to take on the meaning of these words. Something must fill a purpose for me here, now, practically. People become just like tools for us, fulfilling a need for connection, validation, or social capital. People who have fulfilled their usefulness to us are easily discarded.
What stands against this bleak view is the reality of our true purpose. Removed from any concept of function, there is meaning in our own existence. We are loved, and in response, we love. Instead of seeing purpose in terms of function, perhaps we would be better off thinking of it in terms of meaning. Fun, beauty, love, art, all have meaning, but perhaps no function. People, have and create meaning, but asking what their function is makes as much sense as asking how efficient a painting is.
In the end, we must remember to make time for us to simply be us. To put aside the things of the world we will leave behind and contemplate things that are beautiful and pointless at the same time.
Today marks an exciting time for me as an educator. Today is the first day, of the last year of school for my first freshman class. My students I had as freshmen are now seniors. I have walked with them on their journey for what will be four years now, and I'm certain it has flown by for them as it has for me.
To all my students: Welcome! This year promises to bring new challenges and excitement for you.
For my seniors: This year your theme will be "Existence, Freedom, and Responsibility". We will be examining our own identities, our freedom as moral agents, and the meaning that freedom carries for us as we navigate our way through life. We will examine the essential question "What maketh thee?" as we explore the canon of world literature together.
For my juniors: This year your theme will be "I am my brothers' keeper: Justice and Society". You will be challenged to read primary source documents, powerful narrations, and to create original work that answers the question "What does it mean to live in community?" This year is a powerful journey during which you will examine your own beliefs and those of your peers around you.
I look forward to working with you all and continuing to build our community of scholars! Comments are welcome, please contribute to our conversation here!