Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Christmasy Thoughts

I love Christmas so much! This year is especially special to me because it will be the first extended time period I've had home since Beast Barracks. In many ways I feel as though Thanksgiving break was the teaser, while Christmas break is the full length movie. And if you've ever been to the opening night of a movie with me, you know how excited I must be right now.

Today I completed finals, or Term End Exams (TEEs), at West Point. And with that, my first semester of college has come to an end! What a refreshing feeling. I feel like the pressures of the school year have truly lifted for the first time since coming to USMA.

An amazing family friend has put me up for the night in a hotel right outside the airport in Newark, NJ. I leave bright and early tomorrow morning, fly through Seattle, and land in Boise at about 3pm. It can't come fast enough.

As for right now, I'm sitting in the hotel lobby tinkering around online, listening to Christmas music (excellent playlist: Relient K, Sufjan Stevens, Trans Siberian Orchestra, and a mix album of classics) and getting into the Holiday jive. Christmas has to be my favorite time of year. I love how everyone has their own unique traditions and routine on Christmas morning. Talking to one of my best friends at West Point, Dan Bryce, I asked him about his traditions, and it was as though I was getting a look into not only his Christmas morning, but his childhood and family traditions as well. To me Christmas has always been the common denominator of the year. Everything can go wrong during the entire course of the year, but Christmas is always waiting at then end, a beacon of hope and cheer. And it seems like I'm in need of that hope and cheer right about the time it arrives every year.

A particular part in C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe stands out to me. If you remember the story, the White Witch has put a spell over the land in which it is always winter. But that's not the worst part. It's always winter, but never Christmas.

And when you really think about that, it has pretty deep implications.

Is life without hope truly life? When we have nothing to live for, are we really living? Or are we simply existing?

These are the things I'm thinking about as people wander in and out of the hotel lobby. But for me, Christmas has always been a time to reflect and ponder.

What does Christmas mean to you?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Boxed Creativity

Poetry has always been something I love. I don't consider myself a poet by any means, but I enjoy allowing my emotions and thoughts to overflow into something poetic from time to time.

Today in my English/Composition class my teacher gave us a preview of next semester's English class: Literature. He brought four or five poems having to do with warfare, many written by soldiers. He chose a person from the class to read each poem, and then prompted our entire class to analyze each poem.

There are few things I hate more than analyzing poetry.

It's not that I hate poetry; as I said I enjoy writing some myself. When I analyze a poem I feel like I am applying my own emotions and experiences to someone else's work, then assuming their meaning. I hate this because I know that when I write, I don't do it so that "the intended meaning" can be extracted by the reader. Primarily, I do it to express myself. Secondarily, I do it so that others can find their own meaning in my poem.

In a school setting, I don't see how grading poems is fair.

My teacher went on to tell us that a great writer will write poetry that is able to be torn apart and analyzed; true poetry has something the author is getting at and it takes the reader pulling back the layers to fully grasp this point.

This bothers me. Poetry is an art, is it not? As are music and painting, correct? Do we strip apart the musician's song and try to "understand what they're getting at?" Perhaps some do. I find so much more value in letting the song speak to me where I'm at. Many songs have impacted me strictly based on my current circumstances and situation. I believe the exact same thing can be said of art expressed through painting, drawing, or sculpting.

So why is poetry so different?

When walls are put around creativity, it ceases to exist. All that remains is monotonous gibberish written or molded to fit someone's expectations.

I'm not exactly sure why this had such an impact on me, but it did. I grew furious in class as my teacher showed us how to break poetry down line by line. Why?

Maybe I felt my creativity die a little bit.