Reflection is a Jesuit belief that should be incorporated into many people’s lives. It is a way not only to learn about others, but also learn about one’s self. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “The Birthmark”, it is evident how by reflecting upon oneself, based on the judgment of others, can negatively affect one’s life. Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows how too much reflection and self-thought can occasionally drive someone insane. William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely On A Cloud” shows a different interpretation on reflection and how it can be used as a peaceful time to get away. Meditation is similar to all three works because my first meditation experience involved reflection. After reading all these types of reflection, the most significant meaning is that reflection, to certain extents, is a necessity in order to live a peaceful, Jesuit life.
In “The Birthmark” Aylmer is a scientist who is married to his beautiful wife Georgina. In the eyes of others she is considered to be someone who men would fancy, but in the eyes of Aylmer she is just “nearly perfect” because of “this slightest possible defect” (Hawthorn 467). On Georgina’s left cheek there was a red birthmark in the shape of a hand. She never felt as if this birthmark was ugly until Aylmer asked to remove it. This revealed to Georgina that Aylmer was not capable of loving her because he was so consumed by the mark on her face, as if that was all he could see; “Georgina soon learned to shudder at his gaze” (Hawthorne 468). At this point it is clear that Georgina should reflect on her life with Aylmer and the birthmark before making any decisions; however, she did not do that and underwent a procedure for Aylmer to remove the mark. Through the whole process Georgina recognized how Aylmer was belittling her and not allowing her to do anything. He gained control of her as soon as she became self-conscious of the birthmark. In the end, she still drank the potion. As she lie there sleeping, Aylmer watched the birthmark disappear, but then also his Georgina; she died. If either Aylmer or Georgina looked back and truly reflected on how the birthmark was affecting their lives then the story probably would have ended differently. This exposes that making extreme choices, with little thought, based on the judgment of others is harmful and in the end nothing is gained, only lost.
Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story about the mind and the many games it can play. The narrator seems to have some type of mental disease so for the summer her physician husband, John, and nurse, Jessie, move to an ancient estate. It seems as if we are reading the narrators diary, or as if she is only writing to us because she is very secretive about her writing. John and Jessie do not want her too. The narrator takes readers on a virtual tour of the house, but then fixates on one aspect of it, the yellow wallpaper. Although John “is very careful and loving” (Gilman 389) he is very controlling over the narrators’ life. He restricts what she must do and eat and basically tells her how to live. She is in a constant struggle, what is keeping her going is this wallpaper. At first she describes it as horrible and revolting, but the more John pushes her away, the more she begins to enjoy and study the paper. She becomes fixated and fascinated by it and ultimately the yellow wallpaper is her life. The narrator would constantly think and reflect about this yellow wallpaper and the woman trapped inside, but ultimately all she did was reflect on the fact that she is trapped. This type of reflection is excessive and may possibly be harmful to oneself.
The poem “I Wandered Lonely On A Cloud” by Wordsworth is a more tranquil form of reflection. After reading it, I felt as if I was the narrator, in a the sky, floating as a cloud. This is the form of reflection I related most to, where sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and observe from a different view the world and its happenings. He even called this time up in the cloud a ”bliss of solitude” (Wordsworth Line 24), which is what reflection should feel like.
Meditation is an art that someone is able to practice with time and dedication. This week was my first time dedicating my mind and body to this ancient practice. I went in with feelings of anticipation and anxiety. I did not know to expect. By first opening up the door to the Fava Chapel, the air in the room was different. This room did not look or smell likes an average Loyola room. By walking in, I felt as if I am leaving normal life outside and entering a different state of being. This state of being is what meditation is all about. I learned that sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to not do anything at all. Although in meditation you are not supposed to reflect, on my first time I it was difficult for me not to do anything but sit and reflect on my life. Although I had tons of work, papers to write, and tests to study for, my reflection was not about those things. My reflection was about my life, family, and troubles in the world. My reflection did not stress me out, but inspired and refreshed me. In some abnormal way, meditation was a way in which I was allowed to think of anything I wanted, now even writing this paper it is difficult to put words to the emotions and thoughts I was experiencing. Even though it is complicated to describe, it is definitely something I would do again because of the way it aided me to reflect on my life.