Newton’s Third Law
Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While English and science do not typically mix, there are many authors who echo Newton’s law through their works. However, they speak of actions, and the consequences they have. Countee Cullen, for one, powerfully writes about the innocent actions of two young boys in Tableau. Their seemingly small act elicits a huge reverberation from the community they live in. Paul Laurence Dunbar uses a lighter tone to wittily express his views on what actions here on earth lead to certain consequences in the afterlife in his work Theology. Finally, Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein is a dissection of one man’s action that led to destruction.
In Cullen’s poem, two boys of different races walk together, arm in arm. While this may now seem like a simple and innocent action, it was seen as anything but in the time in which the poem was written. Their simple action, which they thought nothing of, brings about a reaction that they are oblivious to. Because they are so young, they are unaware of the expectations of the time they live in. Undoubtedly, they would grow up to learn these tacit codes. However, when they are still innocent, the boys pay no mind to their difference in race. It is only the people around them who have negative reactions. Because the blending of races was so taboo, the repercussion of the boy’s simple gesture is large, much larger than it should be.
Theology is a Epigram; that is, a short and witty poem. Despite its brevity, its message is still one that carries meaning. On the surface, Dunbar jokes that he is certainly destined for heaven, while his neighbors are doomed to hell. Below the joking nature, Dunbar also touches on something critical: the fact that our actions can either leads us to heaven or hell. If we do the selfish thing, we may feel fleeting joy, but the repercussions of our selfishness are not worth that one moment. If we do the selfless thing, and put our happiness second, we will no doubt be rewarded later.
Mary Shelley’s revolutionary work is one that still holds cultural significance to this day. Even more important, however, are they ethical dilemmas that are just as valid today. Victor, after learning he has the ability to create life, does so. Despite the havoc it is sure to wreak, Victor follows his curiosities. Shelley poses a valuable question- just because we can do something, does that mean we should do it? It does not seem that Victor stopped to think of the repercussions of his actions. It seems, rather, his only thoughts are of improving science, and gaming fame for himself. When his project goes wrong, he then stops to consider his actions. Only after the loss of many lives does Victor realize he should have thought before he acted. Mary Shelley wants her readers to meditate, unlike Victor did.
Just as Shelley wants her readers to meditate, we meditate weekly in the Fava Chapel. Meditation is all about thinking. That is literally all one does while meditating, besides breath. For one hour, we allow ourselves to clear our minds. It is often in this time that I do my best thinking. When there is nothing else going on around me, I am able to think deeply and cautiously about everything that I do. Instead of acting in haste, I consider what will come of my actions. It is undeniable that every action has a ripple effect; therefor we must sometimes thing before we act.