Heroism, Tradition, and Jesuit Ideals
During the reading done by Stephen Graham Jones, of some of his works, two of the excerpts that were read fit well with what we have been reading in class. One of these excerpts was of a native American playwright that traveled around the united states and encountered other people who made assumptions of him based on his culture. The other book was a zombie book in which a father had an injured six year old to look after in an era he designated “the era of hasty retreat”. The first book emphasises on cultural traditions and their validity in the modern world. The former is a great example of how ordinary people can be heroes and how that action can lead to other acts of heroism and kindness.
In the piece about the native American playwright as he travels around he encounters people who have perceptions of the old native American culture and traditions and in those perceptions, offend the character. This relates to parts of the novel Whale Rider and to Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall. In both the reading and in the Whale Rider the cultural traditions of the natives come into conflict with the modern world. In the Whale Rider the native’s ideals of aiding and protecting the conflicts with the modern capitalistic world. When the whales are beaching themselves the opportunistic people of the modern world try to exploit the whales by butchering the whales and trying to make a profit. In the reading it is the native American culture that is in contrast with the modern world. The native American character is asked intentionally hurtful questions such as if he has scalped anyone today and he is also asked other questions such as what animal made these tracks, stereotyping native Americans. In this story the traditions of the native Americans are hurt by stereotypes that likely come from the American film industry where over the years many western type movies have misrepresented native American culture.
This situation relates to the one in Frost’s poems Mending Wall because in the poem one of the neighbors has at least somewhat advanced with the times, past his father’s misconceptions, while the other neighbor still holds on to the ideas of his father that do not fit the day. The neighbor keeps a wall up between his land and the other man’s land simply stating that “fences make good neighbors” even after being shown the error of logic with this statement, given what the wall is, or more accurately is not, holding in or out. This relates to people who in the reading hold onto misconceptions of native Americans despite the logical fallacy in believing things that were not taken from a primary source even when someone who can clarify the misconceptions is available to ask questions of.
The second reading from a zombie book by Jones relates Strongly to the Whale Rider and also relates well to The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education. In spite of having a mostly comical tone the story conveys messages and ideas that are represented in these other works. In the story the character talks about how even in this vastly different world parts of old world customs still exist. The main character continues to feed animals, such as cats and small dogs largely to help him to escape zombies but also as he acknowledges to keep a connection to the old world. In the Whale Rider Koro is the one who holds on to the old ways in order to keep the identity of the tribe and to preserve the old ways. This preservation of the former ways of the world is mainly for the sole purpose of comforting those who know how things used to be. This comfort is often more important to people than making things easier as they would be if Koro in the Whale Rider or the protagonist in the reading would accept the new world. If they would accept the new world and adapt to it it would open new possibilities for their continued survival as a people or as individuals. The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education shows the importance of adapting to the modern times and the benefits that can come of this adaptation. In The Service of Faith it is mentioned how a Franciscan mission first became a university under the Jesuits and then further evolved into what is now known as silicon valley. This adaption to modern time quite literally allowed this area to transform the world by fostering the information revolution of today. However even with these huge evolutions the university never forgot its past and held onto its Jesuit tradition. This Jesuit tradition is also represented in the poem Learning to Read by Frances E. Harper. In the poem a former slave is being taught likely by the freedmen's bureau and is determined to learn how to read her bible being already about sixty years old. This fits perfectly with the Jesuit motto of “In the service of faith and the promotion of Justice”. The service of faith is the former slave learning to read so that she can read her own bible and the justice portion is fulfilled at the same time because the former slave was formally deprived of the opportunity to learn or to read so as to help the slave master keep order.
The reading of the zombie book connects strongly to the idea from the Whale Rider that heroes can come in a very unexpected form and can be “ordinary” people. In the reading while getting chased by a zombie horde the father exhausts all of his decoys and has nothing left with which to evade the horde. He prepares to kill himself and his injured son that he carries on his back to prevent themselves from being mauled by the horde. As he is preparing to do this his injured son of only six years detaches himself from his father and tells him to go on sacrificing himself for his father. This is strongly reminiscent of Kahu in the Whale Rider who climbs on the ancient whale and is taken out to see believing that as Koro had said if the whale dies then their tribe dies so she sacrifices herself to save the tribe. In both stories I believe that the authors choose to have a child do this to show how they are real heroes in that they have the most left to live for but give it all up for those around them. In using children the authors also are showing that those who are sacrificing themselves are pure and good attempting to draw connections to Jesus dying on the cross for humanity. In The Service of Faith it is mentioned how the Jesuits often sacrifice comforts or other luxuries of modern life in the attempt to help those less fortunate or those that are in need such as the father in the reading or the entire tribe in the Whale Rider. In the poem Accident Massachusetts Avenue by Jill McDonough there is another example of an everyday person being a hero in a much different way than in the Whale Rider or in the reading. In this poem the writer is hit by another car in Boston and being Boston the two involved get out of the cars and get into a shouting match about who’s fault it was and how much damage was done. The write after an amount of time arguing realizes that not much was done to his car and that the woman he is arguing with is becoming frightened and he becomes a sort of everyday hero simply by apologizing and hugging the woman.
The Readings done by Stephen Graham Jones have themes that can be related to many themes of heroism, traditions, and Jesuit ideals. Many of these themes can be seen almost everywhere especially here in Baltimore. Baltimore may not be New York but it is still a very diverse city with people who have backgrounds from all over the world. Here you can find many different aspects of tradition many times just by observing people. Occasionally you may even see someone acting as a hero many times in a small sense but to be a hero you do not need to help everyone a single person who needs the help is enough to be heroic. Finally here at Loyola being a Jesuit institution the values developed by the Jesuits can be seen implemented everywhere from the curriculum, to the community service programs, even to the guest speakers such as Stephen Jones who are meant to expand our learning outside of the classroom.