In Miller’s passage about Krakauer's Into the wild, he seems to suggest that what we read, and how we read, can say something about who we are and what we might become. This is a very bold claim.”(447). Miller seems to think that we are what we read. An interpretation of this is Miller, says, “Krakauer was able to get inside of McCandless head and speculate with considerable authority about what ultimately led the young man to abandon the comforts of home and purposely seek out mortal danger”, simply because he had access to McCandless’s books, his underlining and marginalia, as well as journals and the postcards and letters McCandless sent to his friends during his journey.
You might say, in fact that Schroeder and I come from the same secular faith traditions, that we share the same belief in readings’s potentially faith tradition, that we share the potentially redemptive power. And yet, there are dark days when I doubt activities of reading and writing have much of a futre. Indeed, after Columbine, it seems almost ludricrous to suggest that the social, pyschogical, and biochemical problems that contributed to this massacre might have been peacefully resolved if only Harris and Klebold had spent more time talking about what they were reading . Does reading really possess such curative powers? Does writing? Does group discussion? Reading, writing, talking, meditating, speculating, arguing:these are the only resources available to those of us who teach the humanities and they are abviously resources that can be bent to serve any purpose.
The dark night of the Soul for literacy workers comes witht the realization that training students to read, write, and talk in more critical and self-reflective ways cannot protect them for the violent changes our culture s undergoing.
Mc Candless was ultimately undone by the great trust he pleaced in the written word. Mc Candless way of reading Jack London’s stories about life in Alaska;”He was so enthralled by these tales…that he seemed to forget they were works of fiction, constructions of the imaginations that had more to do with London’s romantic sensibilities that with the actual ities of life in the subartic wilderness.
Mccandless wanted to believe in the worls London invented.because he wanted wanted to be enchanted, he failed to ask the question thatKraakauer believed must be of concern to all readers namely, what is the relationship between what the author says and the way the author lives?Mc cCandless was killed off by reading practice that placed too much faith in books, a practice that forgets that the world in all its infinite complexity and particularity will always exceed the explanatory grasp of any single text and , indeed of all texts taken in their totality.
I personally disagree with his analysis.
Is it? Because I am asked if am in any danger, like McCandless, who in some romantic reverie goes out to a wilderness and dies because he is ill prepared. I would say with some humor that yes, in a sense I could be in danger of such an impractical act.
I have always loved reading, when I was maybe eight years old my mom gave me a bunch of books or magazines on factoids and trivia. I don't remember much of the content but one pertained to astronomy. There were a lot of interesting facts about Mars. I was realizing that there is a vast amount of information out there and now I knew that even if my family didn't know it, it was available. Whenever I came to books, movies, music, I felt like a door to mysterious vastness opened up, that this literature and the arts, media, etc, nourished me and understood me on a level that I needed. So, from an early age I was thankful and eager for information, knowledge, and very curious what was out there in the world.
I suppose the first tv show I connected with was a martial arts movie. Must have been a 70's flick, because of the style and quality. I have tried to find it since then, and have watched a ton of 70's gongfu movies searching for that first one. Although I was entertained along the way, but still have have not found it. I was completely thrilled to watch this show, I must have been five years old or so. I felt like I was being instructed really. I wasn't just viewing, I was learning directly from these characters. If I could have osmotically become proficient in this martial form by just viewing, I would have done so. There was an ancient sage-like master who was showing some of the deeper secret techniques to his student. I witnessed his martial skill, his moves, the strikes and acrobatics. I got it that there is form and technique, but there was another layer of the skill. I saw that the fighters were striking specific areas of the body and these places were more vulnerable when hit. He was also doing it with minimal effort and maximum efficiency. Of course I knew that there are softer parts of the body that were being targeted, but more importantly there were specific points being targeted. I was curious to know that these places are specific and painful. I sort of remember finding some of them myself.
After I became a bodyworker, later in life, I found that these points are the acupressure points which can be used for health and healing purposes. Yet, a point near the mouth can knock a person out or revive them. I had an opportunity to see if it worked last year in art class. This girl passed out and hit her head right behind me. I turned around because I heard this sickening sound and realized it was her head hitting the ground She was convulsing and I used the ah shir point on her upper lip. She immediately regained consciousness. She seemed a little displeased and perplexed why I was holding that point on a part of the face that is strange when you are a stranger. This is the potent point used to revive or knock out. Generally the Martial Arts have potential to use for healing, or fighting the 'enemy.'
My brother and sister and I played hard and fought harder growing up. There were no real ground rules. We would ruthlessly brawl each other and sometimes it was every person for themselves, sometimes tag team. Perhaps it is because we are all Aries and Scorpios, Mars ruled signs that we loved to fight. But the day I saw that martial flick, the tables were turned, I had a new skill that was so painfully crippling that they no longer had the size and age advantage. I would jab them on these tender points, my favorite was the forearm and thumb jab. They would be racked with pain and look at me like, WTF? They were a little afraid after that. The ah shir point has the meaning special tender point, but what is funny is that it is pressed most people exclaim,”ah, shhhiiii...which is pretty universal apparently. Then there was the movie, Star Wars, and of course, this movie changed my life. Although I never read the books, the director's interpretation is what holds meaning, as the images captured my imagination. It was wonderful because it was so otherworldly and futuristic. But the martial tones resonated, and the characters, and the whole 'good versus evil' of the Jedi Knights and those on the Dark side, the Sith, I loved Obi Won and Yoda. I could see the sage parallels and the mastery component with Luke in his training. I really wished Luke was a better skilled fighter and stronger, better rebel, like Han solo, but somehow Luke was my new hero. I am not sure what play was like before Star Wars, but all the years leading up to middle school were fully occupied with my Star Wars obsession. My cousin lived down the hill from me, was my age, and we played endlessly. He often was the bad guy and liked Darth Vader and I remember wondering why he would align with that character, but actually since it was all Light vs. Darkness it fit our play agenda for years. It was a world that my cousin and I recreated every time we played Star Wars. We would set up elaborate scenes for hours and then have an epic battle, tearing it all down.
I feel like I am now looking back on the impact of this upbringing that includes martial arts movies and Star Wars.. I was really trying to understand this whole concept of duality. Good versus Evil. I have not come to any real conclusion except that there is no 'Good and Evil.' Mainly because nothing is static. A murderer loves his mother and was held lovingly by her. A honest person lies to themselves. A predator eats its prey, but can also be eaten. The definitions and words that we build into our worldview can be deconstructed with care and attention. Sometimes it is important to lie, to hate, to go to the dark side. It is through the opposites that we can see the possibility of the whole.
On reflection I am aware that these movies had a huge impact on my development and belief systems.. I have followed my interests in Healing Arts and Martial Arts for most of my life. I am fascinated with all the parallels between the polarities of harm/healing embedded in the Eastern Arts How these 365 points on the body correspond to the days in a year, the meridians, which are rooted in the organ systems. Traditionally, healers would use this system for understanding the rhythms of nature, how the macro is embedded in the micro, how the seasons affect health. The IJing, The Book of Changes speaks of this system and philosophy. The same system can show where there are weaknesses in the body and in other layers of a person, as well as the route to healing. I see a lot of Eastern philosophy in the underpinnings of the movie Star Wars. I mean look at Yoda, “try not, DO!” Seems very Daoist. That old martial art movie showed me the early opposition strategy, how to use the points on the body for defense, and attack. These points were dramatically displayed on screen as a ruthless blow to a point can damage an internal organ. Later I learn that the forms preceded Martial Arts and were originally a form for healing. It shows the opposites in the yin- yang theory, the light and the dark are not separate but a merging and interplaying whole.
One of the prompts in the assignment was the question: Are you in any danger, like McCandless? I think that in my story there is perceived danger when speaking of duality. If a person identifies too strongly with one, they lose sight of or reject the other. When I step back and watch it, it is more an integration of opposites, an understanding that our language and experience set up opposites. But in a way, there is no danger, because without the voice of judgement that comes with weighing the rights and wrongs, there is none, life is a stage for learning, period. There is only growth through experience from that perspective, no right or wrong way, really. You will have learned either way. It is theory, but it seems to work. I realize that pop culture is not knowledge, or wisdom, but it certainly has shaped my unfolding interests and has nurtured a philosophy I can relate to, a lens to perceive the world.
In this essay, Miller says that there are interesting ways to think about reading and writing in today’s society. Miller uses the stories of traumatic events such as the Columbine High School massacre and other horrific events to question if our current educational system. He seems to argue that there is power in literature. In today’s day and age, Miller argues that our children are becoming more violent because of technological advances. Children play out violent fantasies and they don’t seem to understand its limits. As Miller states, “together have blurred the line between fact and fiction.” (pg. 422) Miller is referring old-fashioned ways of entertainment, such as the reading of novels which would allow for greater human interaction.
Miller also says that reading and writing are also somewhat dangerous. He refers of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Miller also says that Chris McCandless dissolved his trust fund, sold all of his stuff, burned what money he had left, and started out on a cross-country adventure that ended with him dying of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. Miller comes closer to explaining McCandless's dangerous relationship to books about adventure and self-reliance. Miller also talks about, philosophers and people before coming to his final conclusion that the world needs to change and one change that he would favor most would be for the next generation of humans to be exceptionally critical readers, writers, thinkers, and activists; as quoted on page 442,
He also says, “Can teachers of first year writing be moved beyond praising students for generating arguments without consequence, thought with no interest in action? He further states, If there is to be lasting hope for the future of higher education, that hope can only be generated by confronting our desolate world and its threatening, urgent realities.”
As for “the felt experience of the impersonal”, the course of any given individual life cuts through or around a set of institutions charged with responsibility for nurturing both a sense of self and a sense of connection between self and society. It goes without saying that the relative influence each of these institutions has one nay given individual depends on a number of variables. By linking the institutional with the autobiographic, my goal is not to draw attention away from our individual differences, but rather to show that we all internalize institutional influences in ways that are both idiosyncratic and historically situations, open-ended and over-determined, liberating and confining. We all go to school bringing both our minds and our embodied histories: what happens there is both utterly predictable and utterly mysterious, the circumscribed movement of a statistical norm and the free flight of the aberrant data” (p. 442).
Finally, I believe Miller wants the reader to think critically and have better communication with real human beings. He also wants the new generation to continue reading in the traditional old-fashion ways, using some modern technology, but only to a certain extent. Millers also says, "if there can be secular institutions of higher education to teach use of writing by fostering a kind of critical optimism that is able to transfer idle feelings of hope into viable plans of sustainable action” and “If there is to be lasting hope for the future of higher education that hope can only be generated by confronting our desolate worlds and its threatening, urgent realities “The only way out is through.” (pg. 442)
Miller, Richard E. "The Dark Night of the Soul." Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Eds. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin's. 2011: 418-444. Print.