Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cute Ferocious Animals: Oxymoron? I think not.

Frankly, the human race as a whole is very self-centered. We constantly aim to become the greatest power in the world, the apex of the entire community of living organisms. Although all organisms endeavor to pass their genes on successfully, we humans have especially survived many tests and obstacles set up by Nature. Over time, we had become the most advanced creatures on the planet. However, when we get attacked by mighty bears or feel the sheer terror of seeing a killer whale annihilate its prey, we begin to realize that we are not the strongest force out there. In order to sustain our omnipotence, we developed a special tool, also known as the media. The media imprints cuteness or lovingness on truly threatening animals, creating a sense of domestication in them. The media is symbolic of our denial to the existence of greater powers.

“Free Willy” and Shamu of Seaworld are examples of the media trying to hide the true viciousness of killer whales. In Free Willy, a twelve-year-old kid befriends an orca whale in a marina and teaches it tricks. In Seaworld, Shamu, an orca whale, is taught many tricks by its trainers. The fact that we can train orca whales into making them do whatever we want is one way for us to put ourselves above them; taking advantage of the orca whale’s cartoonish and visually pleasing looks to make them seemingly harmless is another. Even today, after watching the Youtube videos of orca whales killing sea lions, we still retain the typical friendly perception of orca whales. The media has tricked us into constantly feeling more powerful than this animal.

Similarly, we take advantage of the Great White Shark’s grotesque image and monotonous grey color to make the shark seem like the greatest predator in the sea with movies such as “Jaws” and “Deep Blue Sea”. But in reality, they aren’t the kings of the sea; orca whales predate on sharks, including the formidable Great White. The seemingly playful and kind orca whale is actually far fiercer than the shark. Furthermore, we exaggerate the image of the shark. Eighty percent of all shark species are virtually harmless to humans. Again, this makes us lose focus of the true aquatic power.

Finally, in movies like “The Lion King”, the media helps us create a sympathetic connection with Simba. Kids all around the world have come to love him, despite the wild beasts lions are. When many of us see lions, we think of Simba and the aura of “good” that radiates from him. But in real life, lions are dangerous animals that have no sense of morals. If you were to encroach too far into a male’s territory, you had better prepare yourself with a tranquilizer gun; otherwise, you would risk getting slaughtered.

As seen in the examples above, animals that are intrinsically threatening in nature are downsized into these cute, loving things by the media. On the other hand, the sharks are raised up to look fearful, even though the entire community of sharks is generally harmless to us. We do these things to make us (or make us feel like) the strongest creatures of all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pastoral, Sublime, and YIN YANG Natures!

Sublime and Pastoral Natures are defined by humans; therefore, they have to exist because we exist. As the distance of one point is relative to the position of another point, the Sublime and Pastoral are relative to our existence: the emotions these two types of Nature elicit from us are the very things that define them. But in my opinion, I think there should be another type of Nature in which humans can live harmoniously in. Lets call this the "Yin Yang Nature" for obvious purposes. One way or another, we're constantly living in either the Sublime Nature, Pastoral Nature, or Yin Yang Nature. We get to choose where we stay, but we cannot escape the three doors that lead different paths. If we decide to live the life of a normal Menlo student (or any person living in the technologically developed world), we would be living in the Pastoral Nature because civilized human life is determined by the conquering of Nature's crudeness. Lets say you decide to escape the banality and superficiality of the technical world. You let Nature nurture and feed you as you relish and admire its beauty. This would be an example of the Yin Yang Nature: humans coexisting with Nature. Finally, you come across one of those ineffably magnificent things: the things that completely deluge your mind with awe. Be it a desert with no visible end or an enormous waterfall that can eat up anything that dares to trespass, these are all examples of Sublime Nature, the inexorable force that has complete control over humans.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The War Between Nature and Humans

In both Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Disney’s Bambi, animals and humans belong to two completely different realms of life: Nature and human society. The former was once an accepting refuge for any living creature on Earth. However, Her balance was hindered by the evolution of Man, an anomaly among all living organisms. Furthermore, humans have begun to take over Nature with their technological innovations. What was once their home is now but a memory of a distant past. Pure Nature has become off-limits to humans and human society has become off-limits to Nature’s normal animals; the growing dichotomy between Nature and human society is strongly accentuated by multiple physical conflicts that occur in both the book and the film. As long as one remains above the other, humans and Nature cannot live together in peace, for the battle to dominate will continue perpetually.

Sublime Nature is Nature’s fiercest weapon, used to force humans back into their lower, primeval positions. In one scene of Tom Sawyer, Tom, Huckleberry, and Joe, were trapped in a menacing storm on Jackson Island. At the peak of the storm, all the boys could do was run and hide from the wrath of Sublime Nature, “The boys seized each others’ hands and fled, with many tumblings and bruises … Now the battle was at its highest” (Twain 126). The use of words such as “seize”, “fled”, “bruises”, and “battle” show that an intense battle is happening. However in this time of strife, the boys were unable to fight back; they were utterly helpless. All three boys survived the battle, of course, because Nature wanted to convey a warning to the boys: If you humans continue your self-centered foolish ways, I will show no mercy next time.

Unfortunately, humans will not settle for the subservient position in Nature. They will fight using their technology to try and rise above. In Bambi, Man is considered the greatest threat to the animals of the forest. Whenever animals see the encroaching danger, they yell, “Man is coming!”, run, and hide, very much like how Tom and his friends fled the storm. A fury of gunshots ensues and many animals are killed. An army of black dogs, basically an extension of human control, is released to kill the animals. Finally, the fight begins when Bambi attacks the dogs that are chasing Faline. Even more serious, Man had inadvertently caused a forest fire. Although the fiery calamity was not created on purpose, it shows how the simple presence of humans can severely damage Nature. After the animals have escaped, the entire mountain is on fire, an exaggerated display that symbolizes the magnitude and extent of human destruction.

From both Tom Sawyer and Bambi, we can see the bitter relationship between Nature and humans. The skirmish between the two powerhouses is ongoing because neither is willing to submit; one is always trying to forcefully dominate and domesticate the other. But more importantly, we must realize that both Nature and humans are hurt in the process, which makes us question whether this war is wise in the first place.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sublime Nature in Tom Sawyer

So far in the book, I think there is only one instance of Sublime Nature that occurred when Tom, Huck, and Joe, were trapped in the fearful storm on Jackson Island. Prior to this event, the boys were swimming in the water, making breakfast, relaxing, and smoking pipes. Suddenly, the sky turned dark and the air became chilly: a very cliché foreboding of some imminent "evil". You can tell when the scene switches from the pastoral "harmonious with nature" to the Sublime quite easily from the conspicuous changes in setting mood. At the peak of the storm, all the boys could do was run and hide from the wrath of Sublime Nature. In the end, all three boys survived the battle. Why did Sublime Nature capriciously appear at this specific time? There are two ways you can think about this: First, Nature was trying to force the boys back to their designated positions in civilized society by attempting to scare them off with the fearful storm. Second, Nature was putting the boys through a test to see if they were fit for becoming one with Nature.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tom Sawyer Passage Analysis

I want to analyze the passage where Tom and his friends, Huckleberry Finn and Joe Harper, decide to leave the town and become outlaws. They began by traversing the Mississippi River to a small, inhabited island: a good example of a relatively untouched nature. After the outlaws had been being missing for a few days, the townspeople began to worry and "tears were being shed" (111). Yet, all the townspeople could do was release white smoke from the ferry-boat; no actual search effort (outside of the town) was performed. This shows that to the townspeople, the boundary of their efforts is nature itself. Ironically, the town and the townspeople have become the outlaws' boundaries. As outlaws, the kids made an agreement to live a life of crime away from all civilized life. Therefore, Tom had to covertly sneak off the island to see Aunt Polly, otherwise he would be seen by his friends as a deserter of their agreement. But one must notice that neither boundaries are permanent. The townspeople have the ability/technologies (ferry-boat) to cross the river and search for the missing kids, and the kids have the ability to swim back to the town and abandon their lives as outlaws. This teaches us an important lesson: there are no absolutes or true boundaries in life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Natural Influences

In my opinion, the almighty force of Nature shapes everything. When us humans are born, the environment begins to affect us from the very beginning. It is the way we are brought up in different environments that then shapes our personalities. Therefore a writer's portrayal of Nature depends on the writer's birthplace, birthdate, culture, etc. To Chief Luther Standing Bear (from Lapham's Quarterly), America was a tame land; the hills, the plains, and the streams existed harmoniously with the Native Americans. On the other hand, the Englishmen from Europe thought that America was a "hideous and desolate wilderness" that contained many unknown "wild" organisms. Because Native Americans and Englishmen had very different views about the same subject (America), it becomes clear that the environments where people are raised affect their portrayals of Nature.