October 3, 2013
Simplicity is Key
It is rather common for humans to seek simpler times, but it is less common for us to appreciate the simpler things in life. In two of our readings, the writers talk of the yearning they have to return to a simpler time. “Liberty”, by Thomas Lynch is one mans yearning to exist in a time where men were free, and things were simpler, like in the time of his ancestors. In “Suburban”, John Ciardi shows his distain for modern standards of behavior, in his case, the idea that one is obligated to pick up after their animals. Edgar Allen Poe emphasizes a different message. Rather than wanting a simpler time, he actually just yearns for something simple-respect. This principle is also one that is echoed in Zen Meditation. By doing nothing else besides sitting and breathing, we learn to appreciate the simple things in life as we calm down from all the pressures of the modern world.
The poem, “Liberty” opens in a rather crass way- Thomas Lynch expresses his strange habit of urinating outside, rather than in his toilet. Although this may only seem vulgar to the reader, Lynch is actually saying something valuable. He doesn’t just yearn for a time where public urination is acceptable, rather he seeks to return to a time without so many social expectations and restrictions put upon the people. He describes the times of his ancestors, and explains to the reader the professions of his ancestors, and the stories they passed down in his family. By using those allegories, Lynch shows his fondness for the past. He did not live through it, however he feels a certain attachment, mostly stemming from his resentment for modern times. Indeed, he feels his public urination is a form of rebellion against society, for it goes against everything civilized people are taught from the time they are old enough to be out of diapers. Lynch uses this small rebellion to exact a sort of revenge society, to protest modern expectations he does not like.
John Ciardi expresses a similar sentiment in “Suburbs”; however, he uses humor to express his opinion. While he is seemingly extremely polite in the conversation with his neighbor, the reader is able to see inside his mind through the poem. The snide comments he thinks, but does not say aloud, are evidence to the reader about how he feels about his neighbors complain about his dog’s excrement on her lawn. Ciardi actually can prove the feces are not from his dog, but rather he does not. Instead, he goes to pick up the waste, and to make a statement. When he removes the waste from his neighbor’s lawn, he does not do what the reader or the neighbor expects. Rather, he flings it into his petunias, exactly the place the neighbor was complaining about seeing the feces in her own yard. Not only does he do this to rub it in the neighbors face, he also does it to show his distain for modern behaviors that have come to be expected. Formerly, animal feces were used as fertilizer to help the plants grow. These are the same plants that help sustain human and animal life on earth. However, the neighbor and many others seem to have forgotten that. Rather, it is now expected for the owner to pick up after their dog constantly. Although there waste is natural, it is something that faces a lot of distain in the modern era. By treating it like a part of nature, which it is, Ciardi shows his dislike of modern expectations and social codes.
In “the Cask of Amontillado”, Edgar Allen Poe’s message differs from the message in the other two works. While the other men want to return to simpler times, Poe would prefer one simple thing from his supposed friend, Fortunato. That one thing is respect. However, Fortunato is a bad friend, insofar as he is constantly insulting the narrator. In the end, the narrator kills Fortunato, which is very drastic of a measure for something so simple. However, it is sometimes the simplest things in the world that mean the most to people. This is one of the most important principles taught in Zen Meditation. Each week, we are urged to simply sit in silence and think. We leave behind all our worries and concerns, and the thousands of other things going on in our lives. Doing this teaches us the importance of the simple things in life- taking time for yourself, and time to decompress.
All three readings describe the search for something simple- a simpler time, or a simple wish. The authors that express a desire for simpler times make small actions that echo their wishes, and go against modern society. Poe’s narrator goes so mad for something simple that he kills someone. The authors want their readers to understand that simple things and simple times are available even today, if we only look hard enough.