Faulkner’s Patient Noiseless Spider

Faulkner once said that, “man’s tragedy is the impossibility or at least the tremendous difficulty of communication.” In the same fashion, merely saying something does not guarantee a true conveyance of a message or a connection between two individuals; people verbally exchange statements, but unless the individuals involved in the conversation understand the words spoken, real communication is impossible. Just saying a word does not guarantee that it has the same meaning and importance to whom it is being said. In the same way, true communication is only possible if it connects the speaker and the listener. In the novel As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner shows how some meaning is lost through language; in doing so, he demonstrates that communication is not always possible through words alone, and that sometimes actions create a greater resonance than simply creating a sound to fill a void in time.

Unless statements bear meaning to both the speaker and the person to whom it is spoken, they remain to be mere words or a shape to fill a lack. Throughout the novel, Cora assumes that Addie and Jewel’s unorthodox relationship implies that “Jewel is [her] punishment,” while Darl, the unfavorable one, had the “true love.” Cora never truly communicates because she has no message to convey; she only produces audible air and strings of words conveying nothing. Like an empty barrel making the most noise, she states things without fully knowing the situation and what lies beneath the surface. Her statements do not mean anything to her or to anyone around her. Likewise, atonement is just a word unless the sinner genuinely tries to redeem his or her sins. Upon realizing that Addie did not proclaim their illicit affair, Whitfield thinks, “He will accept the will for the deed, who knew that when you framed the words of my confession it was to Anse I spoke them, even though he was not there.” Ironically, “confession” or honesty and truth have no magnitude to Whitfield, a minister, a man of God. Though ministers are supposed to know the significance and the meaning of confession and salvation, Whitfield disregards them to maintain his righteous image. He feels vindicated and relieved that his reputation remains untarnished even after the scandalous affair. Like meaningless words to Cora, to Whitfield, salvation and love are also just words, simply a name or a label to hide the contents or the true meaning.

Unlike words, actions bear a greater magnitude that connects individuals. Unlike Cora’s careless statements, Addie concludes, “words are no good…words don’t ever fit even what they are trying to sat at.” The difficulty of choosing the right words baffles Addie to the extent that she ends up refraining from ever saying what she feels. To Addie, physically expressing an emotion is better than saying it, because when the timing is right, “you wouldn’t need a word for that [feeling of love] anymore than for pride or fear.” Like his beloved mother, Jewel acts rather than talks; his actions speak louder than words. He strenuously works for a horse that represents his love for Addie. He loves his mother so much that he endures crossing a frigid river and goes through fire just to comply with her wish. His heroic feat speaks magnitude about his relationship with his mother. Verbal communication fails to detail the magnitude of love Jewel has towards his mother. He cannot say it therefore he acts upon it instead. The two characters exemplify the inefficiency of words to fully describe a tremendously complex emotion like love.

In contrast to Jewel, Darl struggles to communicate which hinders him from ever creating healthy relationships. The lack of familial affection ultimately leads to his mental deterioration. Throughout the novel, Faulkner never shows any indication of love towards Darl from anyone including his parents instead, is referred as the “queer” and “lazy” one. His gift of perception delineates him from everyone else; his mind can comprehend what others cannot. Unfortunately, he uses his gift in the wrong way. Upon knowing Dewey Dell’s secret, Darl tortures her instead of helps her. He states, “The reason you will not say it is, when you say it even to yourself, you will know it is true”. This causes Dewey Dell to face the harsh reality of her untimely pregnancy; the statement strips her from the lies she tells others and herself leaving her bare and defenseless to the piercing truth. Darl forces her to face her demons. It causes Dewey Dell to harbor hatred towards Darl. Once an opurtunity arises, Dewey Dell “jump[s] like a wildcat so that one of the fellows had to quit and hold her and her scratching and clawing at him like a wild cat”. Because of the torture that Darl causes, it destroys their relationship. Darl’s inability to communicate efficiently not only sends him to the asylum, but it also hinders his ability to form a functional connection with his family. Without any support, nor strong bonds, Darl cannot use his mind for his benefit, it leads to his demise.

Although tremendously difficult, achieving communication produces healthy relationships. Before he goes to the mental institution, Darl vulnerably asks Cash, “Do you want me to go?”. The statement produces a scene where Darl finally establishes a true connection with someone. Because Darl creates a bond with Cash, his fate is less tragic. Now, he has one connection, one hand to save him from drowning in his complex thoughts. Cash responds to Darl’s plea assuring him, “It’ll be better for you…Down there it’ll be quiet, with none of the bothering and such”. By comforting Darl and reassuring him that going away is better than staying with the family, Cash provides something Darl desperately needs: a connection. If Darl and Cash established a stronger relationship early on, Darl could have been saved from the precipice of madness.

Man tragically struggles to achieve true communication. People, in order to truly communicate, must understand the implications and the significance of their statements unlike Cora and Whitfield.  The relationship Addie creates leads to a great hindrance because each problem goes unresolved; dilemmas just linger under a façade, getting worse by the day. Ultimately, Darl suffers from the lack of true communication. His gift of perception is tragically wasted because he cannot express the beauty of his mind to good use. Darl’s depth and awareness is lost in translation, it conveys only to madness in the eyes of the family. In trying to contain or summarize a feeling in a word, the less powerful and significant it becomes. The more one verbalizes a pure emotion, the more obscure it becomes. Verbally stating a feeling is like describing a work of art, no amount of words can ever express the impact and feeling it evokes to whom ever sees it. In a way, verbalizing emotions like love, fear or pride just gives it a label, a mere box in which to confine it. Unless man understands how to truly communicate through words and actions, he will be like a futile spider launching forth a filament trying to connect to its vast surroundings.

So I guess this is growing up

To most people its just the beginning of August. But for me its that time of year again, its time to look back and see the changes that’s happened. It’s my birthday. It’s been a roller coaster of a year, and I’ve gained life lessons from every twists and turns.

I started working in a real lab, a job that I would cherish forever. It gave me a first glimpse of what my future holds, and I can’t say that I’m disappointed. For the first time, I felt like I was making my contribution to mankind through the work I was part of. One day, I can tell my grand kids that I took part in finding the cure to cancer.

I’ve realized that a simple act of kindness can make someone’s day better. Be nice to people, because you have no concept of the weight and magnitude of the baggage they carry. A little gesture can make a world of difference in someone’s day or even their life.

For the first time, I realized that I was capable of liking someone. Consequently I was hurt for the first time. From this, I’ve channeled my pain into art and writing. Without having gone through that trial, I wouldn’t have realized what I deserved, I wouldn’t have renewed my passion in art and in English, and most importantly I wouldn’t have felt so alive. For as long as I can remember, I’ve numbed and subdued my emotions in order to avoid the dismal feeling of heartbreak. In doing so I’ve denied myself of bearing real emotions; I kept myself away from pain and hurt, but also love.If I was capable of liking him, then I can be capable of liking someone else, someone who’s a better match for me. In a way, he was the pick ax that broke the frozen sea inside me, and even though it didn’t work out between us, I am still grateful.

I’ve realized that true friends aren’t always your best friends. True friends are the family you chose. True friends want the best for you and can see the real you even if you put a thousand masks on. Sometimes they know you better than you know yourself, and can tell when you’re acting up. They point out the errors of your actions in order to save you from complete disarray. You may go through rough patches and misunderstandings, but in the end they’re the ones that stand by you when everyone else has left. These are people that I will forever treasure and will forever be grateful for in my life.

I’ve realized that making dreams into reality takes hard work and even more courage. It’s tremendously difficult to remain steadfast in your dream when everyone else tries to shake you into letting go.

I’ve realized that at only at the darkest hour can you really see the light on what’s important in life. Struggle builds dignity: it’s not until you’re forced to the extremes when you realize what you’re truly capable of and how much you can bear. From all the curve balls life has thrown at me, I know now that I can handle it with my dignity intact.

Cervantes once said, “Make it a business to know yourself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world.” I’m not completely certain of who I am, but I know what I’m not. I can’t say that I’m completely free from all the veils of doubt and pretense, but I’m a lot closer than before to the right path towards my personal legend.

I still have a lot of learning to do, experiences to face, and challenges to encounter. Who knows what the new year holds, but with eyes clear, and heart full, I can’t lose.

Yeah, Why AREN’T More Lady Neuroscientists ALSO Supermodels?

Yeah, Why AREN’T More Lady Neuroscientists ALSO Supermodels?

“My impression of the Conference of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. There are thousands of people at the conference and an unusually high concentration of unattractive women. The super model types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone..” -Dario Maestripieri

Yes, it’s nice to know that regardless of what contribution I make in science, I’ll just be judged on my looks. And yes because every unattractive woman want to pursue a career in neuroscience, and attractive women just wince at the thought of neuroscience. Truly progressive sir, truly progressive.

All sarcasm aside, I’m sure he’s not alone in this opinion. Regardless of where I stand in the spectrum, as a woman it’s just discouraging and offensive to be solely judged on looks rather than merit, especially since I’m trying to pursue a career in neuropharmacology.

Disparity

I told myself that I wouldn’t blog for the next few days until my academic obligations are fulfilled, but there is a matter that has been brewing in my mind that I need to let out. After all writing has been my form of cheap therapy so here it goes…

A few days ago while I sat in traffic on my way to class, NPR had a story about what people say and what they do. A survey was asked regarding a person’s church attendance. The poll results showed a high percentage of individuals saying that they always attend church service every Sunday. Based on the results churches should be full packed with parishioners,  however pastors and ministers beg to disagree with the results due to the actual attendance they observe. The story goes on to explain the case. When asked the question, “Do you attend church service every Sunday?” people perceived it instead as a question of “Am I the kind of person that attends service every Sunday?” Most people answered according to how they perceived themselves to be, instead of what they actually do.

The two questions may seem similar, but they’re not. In theory, people that go to church learn lessons of goodwill towards man causing them to do good unto others. People want to say they’re the kind of person that goes to church, or the kind of person that helps out, or the kind of person that does good. In a general sense, people want to be a person that does good for humanity. I may be naive in saying this, but I think people have an inherent altruistic side, we want to help others facing dire situations. However, simply wanting to help without the corresponding action to make it happen will be for naught. Desire is the first step into change, but further action is required to get there. Wanting to be a kind of person that does good and actually being a person that does good are different things; being good takes action and consistency.

Take for example personal statements of students aspiring to be, “the change they wish to see in the world.” I do not question the genuine intent of their noble motivation, but without the necessary steps to make “change” happen they simply remain as words. If there is no proof showing actual steps taken, then how can a person affect change? Although having an enthusiastic attitude is important in any undertaking, only actions are the true hallmarks of change. Instead of wanting to be the kind of person that wants to do good, why don’t we break the inertia and start living it. I know that visible change in society does not come from a solitary action from a single individual, but if more and more people rally in the cause maybe then we’ll see a noticeable change for the better.

I am not without my faults, flaws, and short-comings, it would be hypocritical of me to simply preach without enacting what I say. When I applied to college, I wanted to make a difference in the world, and I wanted to help humanity, I wanted to be the kind of person that affected change. All these desires were well intended, but I realized that there was nothing I was doing to make it happen; I was in the same place where I started. I took an honest look at my life and was dissatisfied with what I found. So wanting to break my streak, I picked a cause I truly cared about and looked up ways to help or contribute. Eventually, after countless rejections, I landed a job as an assistant in a cancer research lab. I know that what I actually do in lab isn’t always exciting or grand, but I know that all the little things add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. After breaking the inertia of passivity, I realized that it was the necessary step that started the momentum to start living what I desired to be.

I’m tired of hearing promises of change with no actions backing them up. I’m not asking for an absolute transformation, but merely signs of progress towards the intended goal. I’m tired of the disparity of what people say compared to their actions, or lack thereof. If you want to help people, then start by volunteering in your own community. I think there needs to be a strengthened connection between what we are now to what we want to be. I think that people need be active participants in course of their own lives, and not just let destiny take over. I do not think that where we are in life now dictates where we’ll end up in the future. I don’t want to passively watch the world while change is happening before my eyes. I know I’m not who I want to be yet, I still have a lot of kinks to work out, and even if I ever become who I want to be it would be self-righteous to make any mention of it. However, I’m hoping that the small contributions I’m making will sum up to a larger cause and close the gap of disparity into becoming the kind of person I want to be.

Don Quixote and the Modern World

was probably one of the best classes I’ve taken in college. Don Quixote has definitely been one of my most cherished books ever since. Cervantes encompassed Spain’s Golden Age in the novel. He personified nobility, cruelty, prejudice, hope, and especially faith through characters in the novel in order to tackle the issues of the era. In doing so, he expressed his view of the static society that hinders an individual’s ability to pursue their chosen destiny, of the prejudice embedded in the populace, and of the purpose of books to individuals and society.

Cervantes didn’t create Don Quixote, Sancho, and others just to tell a story; he created them to reflect society and the complexities of humanity. Through Don Quixote, Cervantes showed that man can change and evolve through the experiences he faces. With each encounter with people, one can gain an insight of life aside from their own. The understanding then elucidates the falsities of ancient prejudices. Cervantes used Don Quixote as beacon of unfaltering faith and conviction. Through him, Cervantes professed the importance of having faith in following his calling regardless of the windmills, canons, and clerics he may face. Ultimately, society can only judge what the eyes can see, but the final judge sees the through the outer shell and recognizes the goodness of the soul, love and faith in the heart and light within.

And like Nobokov said about Don Quixote, “He stands for everything that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish, and gallant. The parody has become a paragon.” It’s taught me so much, and served me so well over the years. Here are my favorite quotes:

  • “They can dress me however they want; no matter what clothes I wear I’ll still be Sancho Panza.”
  • “It isn’t greed that makes me want to leave my hut or rise to better things, but a desire I have to try and see what it tastes like to be a governor.”
  • “… you must look at who you are and make an effort to know yourself, which is the most difficult knowledge one can imagine.”
  • “If you take virtue as your means and pride in performing virtuous deeds, there is no reason to envy the means of princes and lords, because blood is inherited, and virtue is acquired, and virtue in itself has a value that blood does not.”
  • “Take more pride in being a humble virtuous man than in being a noble sinner.”
  • “In short I took a risk, I did what I could, I was toppled, and although I lost my honor, I did not lose, nor can I lose, the virtue of keeping my word

Bring on the cheese

Chick flicks. Most of us has seen them, some of us have rolled our eyes at the thought of bearing through 90 minutes or so of cliches and predictable story lines, and others have regretted wasting time on something that could be summed up in five minutes. I remember watching Twilight with some friends and only going for its comedic value despite the fact that it’s a love story. (Oh the scathing looks I got from tweens when I literally laughed out loud as the vampire started sparkling was priceless, absolutely priceless.) I’m one to snicker at cheesy tag lines, mock the terrible acting, and laugh at corny dialogue. I long for stories showing complexities and plots evoking pathos, not just commercial drivel.

But, maybe there’s some merit beneath the banality. At the core of each movie is a story about love overcoming obstacles. It harps on emotions making us want to hope again, making us want to believe again, making us want to love again. At one point or another, people go through woes of the heart, may it be unrequited, unconventional, or unconditional. These times test the strength of our affection and willpower to with stand the trials of the heart. Its in these times that measures our resolve: to what lengths will one go for love?

I think chick flicks were meant for kindred spirits to renew hope after affairs gone awry. Its a resurgence of belief in love, which in turn makes living worth while again. Although I’ve never truly experienced love yet, I still genuinely believe in it. I think its the one thing that drives us towards dreams, strive for something better, and bear all the tribulations that comes in life. I don’t think there’s a one-size fits all definition of love, rather its whatever you chose to define it as. It comes in many forms, in the least expected places. I’ve seen it in the eyes of my friends looking longingly at their significant other, in old couples holding hands as they promenade, and in the warm and tender embrace of a friend and his/her object of affection.

However is love always that simple and easy? Is it always just a matter of two people wanting to be together fighting the odds? I don’t know, but maybe someone somewhere out there knows all the answers to the uncertainties boggling my mind. Until then I’ll just keep believing, and keep searching. If there’s one thing I learned from chick flicks is that there’s hope, my person is there somewhere (hopefully). Regardless of the outcome, its a journey worth having and a risk worth taking. I don’t know if I have to travel half-way across the world to find him Eat, Pray, Love style, but maybe it’s necessary to take that leap of faith and venture in uncharted territory not only geographically, but more importantly the uncharted territory of the heart. Whatever the case, I just know that every failed attempt brings me closer to my person.

I’m not about to camp out for the next chick flick to come in the theaters, but I’d be remiss if I dismissed them completely. If they can turn a cynic like me into a bit of a romantic, then maybe there is some merit to chick flicks after all.

Catalyst in Unexpected Places

Last night I was listening to NPR on the drive back home. They were discussing the topic of destiny: does where we come from dictate where we’re going?

It was a about a man who became mayor in Silverton, Oregon. Silverton is a small town in rural Oregon, most of the resident are conservative and staunchly Republican. Stu Rasmussen, the man who would be mayor, is a native son- he was born and raised in Silverton with no plans of leaving his beloved town. To make the long story short, he had undergone a gradual transition from a conservative, flannel-wearing, all-American man, to a full-on transgender. He became the first openly transgender mayor in America. The line that particularly stood out for me, was how small towns like these can be the frontiers of progression.

Although most people don’t understand what compelled Stu to undergo such a radical transformation, they still defended him against Evangelists wanting to throw him out of office due to his gender identification. Regardless of his vast transformation, they still see the same man that ran the theater, that fixed computers, and that man with good moral characters. By knowing Stu and not seeing him just as the person that dresses as a woman, they’ve come to accept and embrace him despite their conservative values.

It made me realize that hatred stems from fearful ignorance. People hate what they can’t understand, despise what isn’t easily digested for comprehension, judge solely on the surface. In hatred, a single trait is isolated obscuring every other aspect making up a person. It degrades a person, strips all his humanity and turns him into a one dimensional being. People de-familiarize themselves from the possible links connecting them to the perceived enemy- by doing so they place the perceived enemy far away without relatable traits. People shut-off any redeeming qualities which makes hate thrive and flourish. It’s so much easier to blindly hate, rather than grapple with moral ambiguity, use reason, and see the other perspective. It’s the hatred of the unfamiliar that hinders progress. If we all took time to look past the veils and pretense, maybe we’ll gain a better understanding of the world around us, gain a new perspective on issues, and find solutions to problems plaguing us all.

I know its not easy, a lot of people are stuck in their ways, they are steadfast in the beliefs with which they were raised, but maybe we can learn a lesson from Silverton. Its not a betrayal of principle, but mere adjustments and alterations to accepted beliefs, just a change in perspective. It takes a brave individual to be the catalyst of change in a placid and unchanging town. I admire Stu for stepping out, embracing who he is, and still never giving up in his dream even after knowing the critics ahead. Despite the grand undertaking I think there’s hope that one day it wouldn’t matter what you wear, where you came from, and who you love, as long as there’s genuine intent and clear plans for a better tomorrow a person can lead the change necessary for progress. In a broader sense, I think it’s possible to change a set trajectory, and forge a better road ahead. It may seem like an impossible dream, but this I believe.

Dear Old Love

So its been a year since you happened. Twelve whole months have passed since I met you, and though we’ve spent a majority of that time apart I would lie if I said I don’t sometimes miss you. Just a year ago, my stomach was aflutter. I couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of you- your warm touch, your comforting embrace, your sweet kisses. I still hear echoes of your voice from our daily calls, resonating in the corners of my mind as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. You were my first challenge, I met my match. I wanted to stop playing the game, in hopes that maybe something real might emerge. Alas, insecurity and uncertainty kept me going in the same old habits, same tricks and techniques to restore my crumbling ego. Maybe it was the distance that separated us, maybe we were at different stages in our lives, maybe I couldn’t thaw the cold exterior fast enough to show a warm heart. Maybe.

Although the wounds have healed, a scar remains. Instead of being a reminder of past pain, its a sign of inspiration. Regardless of prevalent numbness, remains an intact heart still capable of bearing emotions- compassion and hope, sadness and joy, love and pain. That in itself is worth the disappointments, the turmoil, and the suffering that comes as a part of love. It’s worth living knowing that maybe I’ll feel the same with a better match, my match. Inspiration to live in turn is worth writing for: searching for that person, or maybe persons that will irrevocably change me without notice. Its time for new chapters to be written of the long journey ahead, with pages filled with new characters, new encounters, and new possibilities alongside the promise of tomorrow.

With that being said, I bid adieu dear old love.

Better kind of different

I recently watched Dakota Skye, an indie movie in which the protagonist has the ability to extract the truth from the lies people say. Like much of the movies I’ve seen lately, I enjoyed it more than I had anticipated. At the end of the film, she states the following quote which really struck a chord with me.

“Predictable doesn’t always mean boring. Lust doesn’t always mean love. Near doesn’t always mean close. New doesn’t always mean exciting. Different doesn’t always mean better. Far doesn’t always mean distant. Knowing everything doesn’t make you wise. Knowing the truth doesn’t make you superior. Knowing your problem doesn’t solve It. Sitting between your past and your future doesn’t mean you’re in the present.”

For quite sometime now, I’ve been on a consistent dating streak with guys I know I have no future with. I enter the game knowing the probable outcome, but the prospect of surprise keeps me coming back. It seems foolish and maybe I’m a masochist. Maybe I’m an optimist, but there’s a small part of me that wants to be proven wrong. After being around copious male friends, I knew the moves in the playbook yet it didn’t make me any wiser to avoiding the trap. So I go on dates which after a short amount of time, result to awkward disasters. Every date is unique in its own way; every guy has a different set of quirks that delineates him from the rest. I still get nerves for every first date, all the “what if’s” come surging in minutes as he approaches the door. In all fairness, not all the guys from my past have been “bad guys,” but they were just wrong for me and I knew it.

To break the vicious cycle I tried a new approach. I went against my usual patterns and went with a guy different from everyone before. Unlike the ones before, he was more timid and reserved. I was intellectually attracted to him. It gave me hope that he very well may be the guy to defy my expectations. Sparing the minute details, he was just like the rest hiding under a facade. In all honesty, I was disappointed. I thought that going for a different type of guy would land me a good guy.

Talking to my housemate about it elucidated the wrongs that I’ve committed. Just because I was channeling a new route on dating doesn’t imply that it’s the right one. Different doesn’t always mean better. Underlying the differences in the guys prior, they’ve all just wanted one thing. I was focusing on the one thing new and exciting about the latest guy, that I failed to see the similar patterns of my past. My housemate compared my track record to Mexican beverages. He said that I kept going for the same awful tamarind drink because that’s what I was used to. Upon realizing that there were other options available, I started tapping into the pineapple drink-it was different, a different kind of awful. He said that I knowingly try every other option available just because it poses a new and exciting taste but it eventually leads to disappointment. The horchata, “the nectar of the gods” as he lovingly refers to it, is right around the corner waiting to be tapped yet I turn a blind eye to it.

Great men exist. Like the horchata, they might be right around the corner waiting to be recognized and appreciated. After a long run of casual flings, I’ve grown tired of the silly games, the awful pick-up lines, and the over used excuses. Its senseless to settle for lust posing as love. As I move on after my last quarter in college, I’m also concluding my chapter of same difference- different faces with the same underlying desires. Who knows what the future hold for me, but I’m tired of different, I’m ready for better.