Monday, May 27, 2013

Star Wars (1977)

Guiding Questions
1. Darth Vader is looking for some plans. These plans have been taken away by R2-D2 on a smaller ship.

2. Luke Skywalker wants to get out of there and help Princess Leia. His uncle wants to keep him until the crops grow and are harvested.

3. Ben Kenobi is Obi-Wan, an ex-Jedi master, in reality.

4. Ben describes the Force to Luke as a force that gives power to Jedis and an energy field created by all living things. It binds the galaxy together.

5. He matures by becoming more responsible, wanting to become a Jedi, and by learning the ways of the Force. This is triggered by the death of his family and destruction of his home.

6. It narrates the story of a hero and answers the QUESTions. Luke is protected and then he leaves. Just like Siddhartha, but he wanders off with the help of an ally, just like Gilgamesh.

7. Luke dies and resurrects when his uncle and aunt die and his home is destroyed. He passes from psychological dependency to independency. He is able to understand the force and harness its power, and with its help destroys the Death Star. In the movie, there are two deaths and resurrections. First, is Luke's family death, in which Luke resurrects and matures. The second is when Obi-Wan Kenobi is killed by Vader and a part in Luke dies. Obi-Wan resurrects as a voice in Luke's head, but Luke resurrects as well. 

8. A) According to Star Wars, we form the Force. We contribute to it and take from it.

B) We are ever locked between the constant conflict and contradiction between the Light and Dark sides of the Force.

C) We got here by destiny, because the Force will not take sides, and where there is greater evil, the light side will prevail.

D) We are here to be part of the Force and participate in the constant conflict between the two sides of the Force.

E) Our body disappears, but our spirit, knowledge, and claim to the Force will stay forever.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Power of Myth: Final Exam Preparation

"Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings." - Salvador Dali

I feel entirely connected with this aphorism personally. Since I am regarded by my classmates as one of the most intelligent students in the 9th grade, I feel as if this quote was meant for me. My classmates ask:
"Jack, why are you so smart?"
I answer:
"I am not that smart, but I do try my best and work hard to achieve my ambitions."
After that, they are just like, "stop kidding me" and "are you joking?"

In reality, I do not believe I am the most intelligent student in my grade, but I am one of the most hardworking and committed students. I believe that is what Dali meant: intelligence is driven by desire as a bird's flight is driven by its wings.
Although I possibly have 9th grade's highest GPA, I know at least ten students who are smarter than me, and more than 20 if you believe in Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
Another example I can think of is Math Olympics. Since Math Olympics is mandatory (at least the first round) for PreAP Math students, many do not take it seriously, but it is an opportunity to ambition; an opportunity to become more intelligent.

Ambition is a trait that does not belong to a child. Ambition cannot be possessed during childhood or infancy. In a way, it is possible to conclude that ambition kills childhood. This is what Campbell talks about: a death and resurrection (2:37). When a child decides to grasp ambition as a trait of its own, (s)he is dying, and then resurrecting as a psychologically "self-dependent" individual. Moving form psychological dependency to psychological self-dependency is the basic motif of the hero journey. In my own personal experience, it was ambition the one that helped me move on to my psychologically independent form of myself.

"I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved." - Soren Kierkegaard

I recently won a chess tournament (actually today, Thursday, May 16) which is why I chose this quote. Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author who happened to play chess. Although he lived in the XIX century, I can closely connect to his quote due to the fact that I love chess. Hence, I can suppose that Kierkegaard is saying that he hates it when his chess piece is pinned and his opponent reminds him of it. I interpret this as people not knowing what to do to be able to please everybody, and when they are about to make their move they realize they are unable to do so. 
Even more devastating is when people are reminding you that you cannot act that way, but you keep thinking of doing that, which makes it even more stressful. 

In my life, the only example I can think of right now is a situation in which a friend is bullying, passive-aggressively, another friend. I do not know how to act. Another friend tells me I should report it to the counselor and the HS Office, but I don't know if they will know about my 'betrayal' (since they will see it this way) and not accept me back into their friendship. This is how I feel, like a chess piece that is not allowed to move, and it is what will probably happen; I will not move.

Campbell mentions a turn from psycological dependency to psychologically independency (2:32). In this situation, where one of my friends bullies another passive-aggressively, I am still acting as if I were psychologically dependent. I am not saying I am completely independent, but, yes, my psychological dependency has been diminishing at a constant rate throughout the previous years. By letting other factors, such as friendship and fear (of being socially excluded), get involved in my decision, I am definitely not being psychologically independent. Campbell and Kierkegaard do have something in common in this aspect, since Kierkegaard would then do something about he being unable to move that piece. He would do something about it; move another piece that would let him move THAT piece in his next turn.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Orpheus and Eurydice

Who are Hades, Fates, Tantalus and Sisyphus?
Hades: the ruler of the Underworld. He is in love with Persephone (page 26 Orpheus speaking first line)
Fates: 3 women who decide people's futures, especially their death. They snip a thread when they want a person to die. (Page 25)
Tantalus: A creature from the underworld that is constantly thirsty.
Sisyphus: A creature from the underworld that sits on a rock constantly. (page 26, Narrator speaking first line)

How can Orpheus get Eurydice back?
Hades will let Eurydice walk (or glide) behind Orpheus, but Orpheus must not look back before he reaches sunlight. 
"If you look at her before you reach the sunlight, she is ours. Forever." (Page 26 Hades speaking)

List the ways we are invited to interpret the story.
1. The first version is mostly literal. This happens and is followed by such. There is no need to further explain several aspects of the play.

2. The second version handles the characters' thoughts and emotions, but the play's clarity (physical expression) is not as good.

Which interpretation do you most agree with?
I agree with the first interpretation because it is much more likely to believe that the god of the Underworld has tricked you than to feel anxious to see someone.

Is this a love story? Why? Why not? If so, what kind of love does this seem to be?
Yes this is a love story because it is mainly focused and revolves around the idea of love. It is focused on Orpheus' love for Eurydice. This type of love seems to be Shakespearan love, a tragic but slightly unreal one.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Erysichton Questions

1) Why does Erysichthon cut down the tree?
Because they need wood and he doesn't care about the gods and their altars. He scorned the gods and was careless about his acts, since he only acted a certain way if it was useful. (Page 19; Narrator 3 first line)

2) Define piety. 
The quality of being: 1. religious 2. dutiful; devoutness.

3) How does this term relate to Erysichthon?
Erysichton is not pious. He is quite the opposite. Eryischton doesn't care a bit about the gods. In fact, he doesn't believe in them. "He just looked for the usefulness of things." (Page 19; Narrator 3 first line).
Nonetheless, at the end of the scene Erysichton becomes pious (or at least the second meaning of it) since he becomes so devout to eating that he eats his own foot and eventually his complete self. (Page 24, bottom)

4) What connections can be made between this scene and this children's story?
We can see that both Erysichton and the Boy take away everything from their surroundings. In The Giving Tree, the Tree gives everything to the Boy, just to make himself happy, and the Boy gives nothing in return; he just continues to take more from it. In Erysichton, Erysichton does everything to be able to eat and asks everyone to give everything so he can get food. He doesn't stop asking people to give him food until he eats himself.(Page 24). He sells his mother (Page 23, second speaker), finishes his city's reserves (page 22) and eats his own foot (page 24).

5) Relate the events in this scene to a specific passage in Siddhartha.
When Siddhartha is in Kamala's town, he begins to feed his desires just to please Kamala. He buys himself shoes and clothes, gets a job, and a fancy house. "He learned how to transact business affairs, to exercise power over other people, to amuse himself with women..." (Page 61). Siddhartha starts to everything just for money and to impress Kamala, no matter the cost. In this case, Siddhartha's enrichment is costly for his path to achieve Nirvana. Just like in Erysichton, the protagonist does everything he can to get food and be able to eat, even if it proves unhealthy. (That is if eating one's foot is considered unhealthy).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reading Blog Siddhartha: Part 4 - The Son, Om, & Govinda

Respond to the text personally: 

In "The Son", Siddhartha tries to win over his son: Siddhartha Jr. He does this kindly and generously, without striking or chastising his son. Siddhartha recognizes that Siddhartha Jr. has been spoiled by his mother.  I have never raised an already-spoiled child, but I believe it must have felt like raising a puppy.

Recently, my dad bought my siblings and I a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. She (our puppy is a female) is already nearly 6 months old. I try to get emotionally close to her but sometimes I end up scaring her. This just increases the emotional gap between us. On the other hand, Cumbia, our she-dog, loves my dad. Nonetheless, it is my dad the one who most chastises her. He is the one who strikes her when she pees or poos where she shouldn't, but she still loves him the most. Siddhartha tried to get close to his son by being nice and gentle with him, but by not punishing him for bad deeds, Siddhartha Jr. ended up farther away. 

Although my puppy hasn't (and hopefully won't) ran away, she was forced to come into our home. She was taken out of her home. She was forced to abandon the green grasses, the open spaces, her siblings, and all her other dog friends. Likewise, in Siddhartha, Siddhartha Jr. runs away because he was taken to the hut out of necessity and not out of desire. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reading Blog Siddhartha: Part 3 - Samsara, By the River, & The Ferryman

1. By how many years is Kamala older than Siddhartha? (page 65)
2. Why has Siddhartha strayed so much from his path? Wasn't this straying supposed to be momentarily and not last a couple of years?
3. What does Siddhartha's straying mean to Buddhism? If this whom they follow, why is are these events emphasized?
4. Why did the golden bird bring Siddhartha back to his path? What is its importance?
5. Is Govinda Siddhartha's anchor? Is he the one who keeps him on his path, but also keeps him from achieving nirvana?
6. If samsara means the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound (Google Definitions), why does Siddhartha descirbe is as a game, "which can only be played once, twice, or at most ten times"? (page 68)
7. Why is Kamala´s golden bird so important? (again on page 69)
8. According to Wolfram Alpha (, Siddhartha attained enlightenment at age 35 while meditating under a pipal tree for 49 days. Why does the book then say that he was only 40 years old when he left the town? Why has he not achieved enlightenment yet? (page 65)

By the River
1. Why does Siddhartha have suicidal thoughts? Is suicide not badly viewed in Buddhism?
2. What is a cocoanut tree? Is it a typo, and was it supposed to be coconut? (page 71)
3. Was Om really heard by Siddhartha? (page 72) Or did his desperate soul fool his mind?
4. Does Govinda's appearance (page 74) mean Siddhartha's return to his path?
5. Has Govinda really been reaching enlightenment since he did not cry or weep when he saw Siddhartha?
6. What do the yellow robes mean? Is yellow an important color in Buddhism?
7. Has Siddhartha's self really died or does he merely think it? (page 80)
8. Is Siddhartha still able to hypnotize other people after he "killed Siddhartha the priest and Siddhartha the Samana" (page 81)?

The Ferryman
1. How is it that people as wise as Govinda and as humble as Vasudeva (boater) judge people by their clothes?
2. Are listening skills emphasized as great virtues in other cultures? (page 85)
3. Is the river considered a deity in Hinduism? Is it a spirit?
4. What other thing will Siddhartha learn from the river? (page 86)
5. Is the secret knowledge that Siddhartha will learn from the river the secret that there is no such thing as time? (page 87)
6. Why is Kamala's funeral pyre built on the same hill Vasudeva's wife's pyre was built? Who cares if they died in the same bed?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Reading Blog Siddhartha: Part 2 - Awakening, Kamala, & Amongst the People

Connect text to film: Karate Kid

During the chapter Kamala, Kamala asks Siddhartha what skills he knows. He answers: "I can think, I can wait, I can fast." (page 46). He mentions afterwards that he can write poetry, but this feels secondary compared to the first statement. These skills, although they are apparently lame, are what made Siddhartha successful. He waited for Kamala to love him and help him; he fasted so that Kamala would give him delicious food, and he thought before he did any of this, making sure his plan would work. These skills were not only useful with Kamala, but also, later on, with the merchant as well. In The Karate Kid (1984) is about a kid who is taught karate by a handyman. Mr. Miyagi, the handyman, teaches karate in a different style, so Daniel believes that the skills he is being taught are not karate related and, thus, useless. Yet, lame, as they might be, they made Daniel the karate champion.

I completely connect this part of the story with the film The Karate Kid (1984). In the movie, Daniel is supposedly being taught karate by Mr. Miyagi, a handyman. Daniel believes that Mr. Miyagi decided to make him redecorate and clean his house and cars. He starts by making Daniel wax his cars, then sand his floor, paint his house AND even paint his fence! He thinks that he’s been been tricked into acting as a temporary manservant for Mr. Miyagi. Just as Kamala believed that Siddhartha's skills were useless, Daniel believes his "karate" skills are useless. Finally, when Daniel confronts Miyagi with the issue he finds out that Mr. Miyagi wasn't redecorating, he was teaching Daniel-san karate (Okinawa style!). Well, he might have killed 2 birds with one stone since his house was improved by Daniel, but, at least, he taught him karate.

Anyways, in both works some apparently useless skills become useful, and both have a happy ending (at least for now in Siddhartha). So, although thinking, waiting, fasting, waxing, sanding, and painting may apparently not be connected to karate or  usefulness, don't underestimate the power of the Buddha. (Or the handyman/sensei from Okinawa).