Considering our class discussion and the text of the interview (between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers) at the end of the previous blog post, answer the following prompt on the "Comments" section of this post.
Last week's text, The Little Prince, was quite critical of adulthood. Being an adult was equated with short-sightedness, an inability to imagine, greed, small-mindedness, etc. But is that a universally accurate, definitive idea of what adulthood is? Is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry saying that when you become an adult, you aromatically become dull and narrow-minded? Hopefully not: you are all moving into that realm yourselves, and if those things were inevitable, it would be a dire prospect, indeed. So, what does literature teach us about what it means to be an adult?
We encountered one helpful part of a definition back when you were Sophomores. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden's English teacher, Mr. Antolini, gives Holden a slip of paper with these words on it (a paraphrase of a quotation from Otto Ludwig, a German dramatist): "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one." That is, a child dreams of sacrificing himself in a grand moment, dying dramatically and heroically in a way that will gain him fame and leave his loved ones in tears and admiration; a mature man does not aim to give his life in one final, dramatic move but, rather, gives his life--over an entire lifetime--to serve a cause that he believes noble and good, and even though there may not be statues erected in his honor, he knows that the good he has enacted in the world will live on after he dies.
We have also encountered parts a definition in Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. While the details of both of those works are absolutely different, both protagonists, John Proctor and Huck Finn, achieve a marked maturity (and hero status) when then decide not to do what's only best for only themselves and in the short term but, rather, to do what is truly right even though that decision costs them their lives (in Huck's case, his soul) and their comfort.
As you consider what it means to be an "adult," watch the following short videos. One you will have seen before, but it it provides helpful context to the others, and it's not at all long, so give it a go. But, before we get to that video list, two important things:
I'd recommend watching each of the following in the order they're presented: top-row first, left to right. In total, these will not take you more than a half hour. Don't make them background noise: sit down, do not browse your phone while they're on, turn off the TV, etc. Keep the above three questions handy as you watch to keep in mind what you're looking for and to consider your own responses.
See you all on Wednesday!
A brief addition that we will tackle together in class:
(An excerpt from Bill Moyer's interview with Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth: The first Storytellers.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: I had it every time. Now, what were these caves used for? The speculations that are most common of scholars interested in this, is that they had to do with the initiation of boys into the hunt. You go in there, it’s dangerous, it’s very dangerous. It’s completely dark. It’s cold and dank. You’re banging your head on projections all the time, and it was a place of fear. And the boys were to overcome all that, and go into the womb of the earth. And the shaman, or whoever it was that would be helping you through, would not be making it easy.
BILL MOYERS: And then there was a release, once you got into that vast, torchlit chamber down there. What was the tribe, what was the tradition trying to say to the boy?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That is the womb land from which all the animals come.
BILL MOYERS: I see.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: And the rituals down there have to do with the generation of a situation that will be propitious for the hunt. And the boys were to learn not only to hunt, but how to respect the animals and what rituals to perform, and how in their own lives no longer to be little boys but to be men. Because those hunts were very, very dangerous hunts, believe me, and these are the Original men’s rile sanctuaries, when: the boys became no longer their mothers’ sons, but their fathers’ sons.
BILL MOYERS: Don’t you wonder what effect this had on a boy?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, you can go through it today, actually, in cultures that arc still having the initiations with young boys. They give them an ordeal, a terrifying ordeal, that the youngster has to survive, makes a man of him, you know.
BILL MOYERS: What would happen to me as a child, if I went through one of these rites, as far as we can…
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, we know what they do in Australia. Now, when a boy gets to be, you know, a little bit ungovernable, one fine day the men come in, and they’re naked except for stripes of white down that has been stuck on their bodies, and stripes with their men’s blood. They used their own blood for gluing this on. And they’re swinging the bull-roarers, which are the voice of the spirits, and they come as spirits. The boy will try to take refuge with his mother; she’ll pretend to try to protect him. The men just take him away, a mother’s no good from then on, you see, he’s no longer a little boy. He’s in the men’s group, and then they put him really through an ordeal. These are the rites, you know, of circumcision, subincision, and so forth.
BILL MOYERS: And the whole purpose is to…
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Tum him into a member of the tribe.
BILL MOYERS: And a hunter.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: And a hunter.
BILL MOYERS: Because that was the way of life.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yeah, but most important is to live according to the needs and values of that tribe. He is initiated in a Short period of time into the whole culture context of his people.
BILL MOYERS: So myth relates directly to ceremony and tribal ritual, and the absence of myth can mean the end of ritual.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: A ritual is the enactment of a myth. By participating in a ritual, you are participating in a myth.
BILL MOYERS: And what does it mean, do you think, to young boys today. that we are absent these myths?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, the confirmation ritual is the counterpart today of these rites. As a little Catholic boy, you choose your confirmed name, the name you’re going to be confirmed by, and you go up. But instead of having them scarify you, knock your teeth out and all, the bishop gives you a mild slap on the cheek. It’s been reduced to that, and nothing’s happened to you. The Jewish counterpart is the bar mitzvah, and whether it works actually to effect a psychological transformation, I suppose, will depend on the individual case. There was no problem in these old days. The boy came out with a different body, and he’d gone through something.
BILL MOYERS: What about the female? I mean, most of the figures in the temple caves arc male. Was this a kind of secret society for males only?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: It wasn’t a secret society, it was that the boys had to go through it. Now, we don’t know exactly what happens with the female in this period, because we have very little evidence to tell us. In primary cultures today, the girl becomes a woman with her first menstruation. It happens to her; I mean, nature does it to her. And so she has undergone the transformation, and what is her initiation? Typically it is to sit in a little hut for a certain number of days, and realize what she is.
BILL MOYERS: How does she do that?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: She sits there. She’s now a woman. And what is a woman? A woman is a vehicle of life, and life has overtaken her. She is a vehicle now of life. A woman’s what it’s all about; the giving of birth and the giving of nourishment. She’s identical with the earth goddess in her powers, and she’s got to realize that about herself. The boy does not have a happening of that kind. He has to be turned into a man, and voluntarily become a servant of something greater than himself. The woman becomes the vehicle of nature; the man becomes the vehicle of the society, the social order and the social purpose.
BILL MOYERS: So what happens when a society no longer embraces powerful mythology?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: What we’ve got on our hands. As I say, if you want to find what it means not to have a society without any rituals, read The New York Times.
BILL MOYERS: And you’d find?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, the news of the day.
BILL MOYERS: Wars…
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Young people who don’t know how to behave in a civilized society. Half the…I imagine that 50% of the crime is by young people in their 20s and early 30s that just behave like barbarians.
BILL MOYERS: Society has provided them no rituals by which they become members.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: None. There’s been a reduction, a reduction, a reduction of ritual. Even in the Roman Catholic Church, my God, they’ve translated the Mass out of the ritual language into a language that has a lot of domestic associations. So that, I mean, every time now that I read tile Latin of the Mass, I get that pitch again that it’s supposed to give, a language that throws you out of the field of your domesticity, you know. The altar is turned so that the priest, his back is to you, and with him you address yourself outward like that. Now they’ve turned the altar around, looks like Julia Child giving a demonstration, and it’s all homey and cozy.
BILL MOYERS: And they play a guitar.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: They play a guitar. Listen, they’ve forgotten what the function of a ritual is, is to pitch you out, not to wrap you back in where you have been all the time.
BILL MOYERS: So ritual that once conveyed an inner reality is now merely form, and that’s true in the rituals of society, and the personal rituals of marriage and religion.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, with respect to ritual, it must be kept alive. And so much of our ritual is dead. It’s extremely interesting to read of the primitive, elementary cultures, how the folktales, the myths, they are transforming all the time, in terms of the circumstances of those people. People move from an area where, let’s say the vegetation is the main support, out into the plains. Most of our Plains Indians in the period of the horse-riding Indians, you know, had originally been of the Mississippian culture along the Mississippi in settled dwelling towns, and agriculturally based villages. And then they received tile horse from the Spaniards, and it makes it possible then to venture out on the plains and handle a great hunt of the buffalo herds, you see. And the mythology transforms from vegetation to buffalo. And you can see the structure of the earlier vegetation mythologies under the mythologies of the Dakota Indians and the Pawnee Indians and the Kiowa and so forth.
BILL MOYERS: You’re saying that the environment shapes the story?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: They respond to it. Do you see? But we have a tradition that comes from the first millennium B.C. somewhere else, and we’re handling that. It has not turned over and assimilated the qualities of our culture, and the new things that are possible, and the new vision of the universe. It must be kept alive. The only people that can keep it alive are artists of one kind or another.
Good morning/afternoon, Seniors!
With getting all of the classes set up online this week, I'm afraid I had to drop the ball on providing feedback on your Pursuing Success essays. So, I'll be taking this week to do that, and your revisions will be due on Monday, April 6th at noon. Note that I'm not grading these first drafts; I'm simply providing feedback that allows you to revise. Only your final draft will be graded. However, if you discover that I left only positive feedback on your draft and/or went ahead and put a grade in the grade book, you don't have to worry about revising: you're good to go.
So, because you'll be busy revising at some point, you only have a reading assignment this week--and just a short response to this blog. I think you'll really enjoy this week's reading.
This week, you will read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Note, when you click on the link, that you have to sign in with your school credentials to read the text, since it is copyrighted). The Little Prince is a deceptively simple book; it is a children's story written for grown-ups. Throughout, de Saint-Exupéry distills the wisdom gained throughout his life's experiences (Google him; he's an interesting fella') into the adventures of an aviator/narrator and the titular Little Prince.
Throughout, especially as the Little Prince meets new characters, searches for water, and discovers the importance of his rose, consider the lessons communicated by each of his experiences. When you've finished reading the book (it's quite short; I imagine it won't take you much longer than a couple of hours, total), respond below (leave your own comment by filling in the boxes under "Leave a Reply;" you should not enter anything for "Website") by explaining your favorite "lesson" from the novella. I've done one below, as an example.
But, before you get to that point, settle in to a comfy chair or couch, turn off the TV and/or phone, grab a cup of hot cocoa, coffee, or tea, and relax into the delightful story of The Little Prince .