Fantasy Meets Reality

Ever since I first read Tennessee Williams in high school I’ve had great respect for him, which has grown even greater after learning about all of the personal hardships he endured. He had a troubled life, which might be why he was able to write such profoundly tragic stories. In high school I read A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie; I also watched The Rose Tattoo and saw school productions of Streetcar and Menagerie. Everything of Williams I’ve read and seen has left a lasting impression upon me.

His works seem similar to each other, dealing with recurring themes and scenarios. Blanche, the mother in Menagerie, and the main character in Tattoo (whose name I cannot recall because I watched the movie several years ago) seem like the same type of character. It has been speculated that they were based on the author’s family members, particularly his mother and sister who had mental problems. Williams also inserts himself and his alcoholic father into his stories. Perhaps he wrote as a way to sort out his trauma.

His work is on the realistic and tragic side, yet with a sense of humor and surrealism that keeps it from being overly cynical, modernistic, and depressing like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Eliot, who dwell upon the depravity of humanity and the meaninglessness of life. Williams has enough of a sense of humor to take the depressing edge off his work…and the humor, in my opinion, makes his stories more realistic, since funny events happen every day even in the midst of quarrels and drama. This also makes his plays more palatable and entertaining than the aforementioned authors.

Rereading Streetcar a few years after reading it the first time gave me an odd, almost surreal feeling. The text hasn’t changed, but I suppose I have, because I felt as if I read an entirely different play. The first time I thought Blanche was nuts and rather annoying, which is true to an extent, and I could not understand her behavior at all. She really irritated me, and it was very apparent to me that she provoked Stanley and caused problems for everyone with her overly dramatic antics. When Stanley raped her I didn’t understand why, though the scene disturbed me; I thought he was simply an abusive jerk and that was that.

This time I see all of that is still true, yet I understand the themes and characters at a deeper level than I could before. This time I felt sorry for Blanche and identified with her loneliness; I saw that she isn’t simply mentally ill and annoying, but troubled and driven by pain. She wants to escape reality and create a life that’s more ideal and fantastical than her drab surroundings and the hardships she dealt with.

Blanche is indeed flawed, but this time I perceived her as a victim; I understood that Stanley raped her as a symbolic act of power and dominance. He is an emotionally dense guy who disrespects women and can only relate to them in one way. Rape is the ultimate act of disrespect.

As for the other characters, I hardly remembered them, though I recall strongly disliking Stella the first time and thinking she was stupid. This time my opinion about her didn’t change; actually, I dislike her more now because the first time I thought she truly didn’t believe Blanche about the rape. This time I gave her a bit more credit and figured she isn’t completely dumb; she knows how her husband behaves, and believing that he is a rapist wouldn’t be too difficult considering his physical abuse and disrespect toward women.

In her heart, I believe Stella knew that Blanche told the truth, which makes what she did all the more deplorable. In fact, I dislike Stella almost as much…or maybe just as much…or maybe even slightly more than Stanley. And I wasn’t too impressed with Mitch’s hypocrisy either.

One aspect of Streetcar I appreciate is the realistic and interesting dialogue. The sentences are short, like how they usually are in real conversations, which gives the play a quick pace. Most of the dialogue is actually quite mundane, such as, “Honey, do me a favor. Run to the drugstore and get me a lemon Coke with plenty of chipped ice in it! Will you do that for me, sweetie?” This quote seems commonplace and theoretically boring; since Streetcar is composed of sentences like this, one might think the play ought to be boring, yet it’s not. On the contrary, the realistic dialogue makes the characters relatable and therefore interesting.

There is also an underlying sense that all of the characters are concealing their innermost thoughts and emotions. In real life, people are rarely direct about saying what troubles them. People tend to avoid tough conversations and prefer superficial banter.

Williams skillfully portrays that in Streetcar. The important conversations regarding Blanche’s past, Stella’s marital problems, and Stanley’s abuse intermittently occur between lots of talk about fluff, mostly from Blanche. The mundane conversations ironically drive the story forward and kept me interested as I tried to guess the characters’ true motives and waited for the next juicy bit of gradually revealed gossip. Williams certainly had a talent for dialogue, realism, and creating characters that readers and viewers can sympathize with.

“I don’t want realism! I want magic!

Coronavirus and the Constitution: Entering the Not-So-Brave New World

Two months have passed since the lockdown began, and statistics indicate that the coronavirus death toll hasn’t risen as high as we might have supposed. Yet already we hear rhetoric of a “post-COVID world,” hauntingly reminiscent of the “post-9/11 world.” However, unlike the tangible event of 9/11, COVID is a threat of an entirely different nature, an “invisible enemy.”

The enemy isn’t “out there” to defeat in the old-fashioned way, with bombs and machine guns. But all the same, its pervasiveness renders us into a constant state of paranoia. Even our loved ones become potential threats; we all pose a risk to those around us, therefore perpetrating the omnipresent danger.

To use the post-9/11 term, we are all terrorists. That’s why we must stay under house arrest until a treatment is produced to save us from ourselves. The alphabet agencies even gave us a script: we’re supposed to play the part of Sleeping Beauty as we await Prince Charming’s cure for our mysterious ailment.

But the problem with fairytales is they fall apart under scrutiny; we struggle to believe in the knight in shining armor because experience has taught us again and again that he doesn’t exist.

So it is with tales spun by government officials. The real Sleeping Beauty still needs to pay the bills, and a check of $1200 simply won’t do. She doesn’t have time to wait around for Bill Gates to unveil the miracle vaccine.

And by the time he does, who will still believe the fairytale? As fatalities continue not to skyrocket and hospitals are underwhelmed, life goes on….Everyday events begin to overshadow media induced hysteria. The spell breaks; the masquerade ends.

Yet the question remains: will the sociopolitical climate restabilize after the invisible enemy’s defeat? We’ve entered a Brave New Normal, we are repeatedly told. Life so eerily resembles the flick Contagion that we might be tempted to fast-forward and spoil the ending.

Is the final solution portrayed there a realistic possibility? Imagine — a cashless economy (since cash is germ-ridden), centralized global government, and militarized police force guiding the frightened masses like shepherds watching over their flock! The CDC’s contribution to that particular film production suggests they think it could solve the problem. The cure therefore must not only be physical, but socioeconomic.

So, suddenly the government cares more intensely about citizen health than most citizens care about their own health. The TRACE Act permits contact tracers to keep an eye on whether we’ve crossed paths with the invisible enemy; with Operation Warp Speed, troops will administer vaccines door to door.

But all of this reveals the patronizing mindset of our benevolent shepherds. We are no longer to trust our own research and direct experience — after all, unlike other flus, this one has the curious tendency of manifesting no symptoms. Instead we are to place our wellbeing into the hands of contact tracers, the WHO, the military, anyone other than ourselves.

In other words, we’re allowing authority to dictate reality, and furthermore our every movement.

But if we ignore all of this and go about our business, aren’t we at risk of spreading The Virus? Doubtfully — but if we allow the Naziesque strategies of “flattening the curve” to escalate, we certainly put our liberties at risk. Our Constitutional rights — freedom of speech, religion, and assembly to name a few — have come under fire behind the veneer of “health and safety” measures against the seemingly almighty Virus.

Meanwhile, many of us suspect that if we defend our God-given rights, the invisible enemy will fade like smoke — or like any other virus.

***

This essay was originally published at Global Research.

The Best Book in the World

Now that I am out of school and essentially under house arrest due to the lockdown, I have plenty of time to read…not dull material for school, but whatever I want for fun!

Recently I’ve been finding good deals on used books online and building my personal library. In particular I’ve been rediscovering books that made a strong impression upon me during childhood, though I’ve been discovering some new favorites as well. After finishing a book, I carefully decide if I’d like to keep it or not, since I have limited space on my shelves. Sometimes these decisions aren’t easy.

As I considered which books to keep, the question entered my mind: what if I could only choose one book to read for the rest of my life?

Well, that’s easy — the Bible, of course.

The Bible is the Word of God, pure and absolutely true, the best book in the world by far. The Bible contains the answers to every question one may have in life. Reading the Bible also fundamentally changes a person, transforming one’s values from carnal to spiritual, if one reads with an open mind and receptive heart.

In other words, the Bible is the key instrument in the process of sanctification.

Confession: I Am a Hypocrite

After expressing my dislike of free verse poetry, I wrote a free verse poem following my dad’s passing. A traditional fixed verse style poem seemed incongruous with his life and character, which were unstable and not traditional in the least. This is the poem, or maybe a more accurate phrase would be a reflection of sorts:

The World Is Slanted

You passed in the night

like a crow on the wing.

After I heard,

everything tastes different.

I encounter now

for the second-first time

the ghost of the person you could have been

and the ghost of the child I never was.

Somewhere, at the intersection of two worlds,

the life that should have been passes by like a shadow.

Sun Moon Stars Rain

Unlike Eliot, Cummings employs a cheerful, humorous, childlike type of nonsense that I favor over the dark and heavy variety.

Yet my initial reaction to Cummings was utter hatred because his misuse of grammar offended my perfectionist tendencies.

“Who,” I thought, “does this pretentious sap think he is? He must be messing with proper grammar in order to distract readers from his lack of substance — or he’s trying too hard to be edgy and different.”

However, I enjoy the themes he explores so much that eventually I was able to forgive him for the grammar butchery…and my favorite Cummings poem is “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” It’s like a cross between a Bruce Springsteen song about the Midwest and a Doctor Seuss book…containing the typical bittersweet feeling of all “life cycle” poems, which is what it essentially is. In particular, I very much enjoy how Cummings uses “sun moon stars rain” to artistically portray the passage of time. He mixes the words around for rhyming purposes and to allude to various life events that occur over a long passage of time.

While the poem is cute, the theme is a bit unnerving. Cummings describes a typical, boring town and the typical, boring lives of the people who live there. He writes, “children guessed(but only a few / and down they forgot as up they grew.” This implies that some children are able to sense and guess at something more profound than the lives they are born into, but they forget this as they grow up.

Cummings writes, “one day anyone died i guess / (and noone stooped to kiss his face) / busy folk buried them side by side / little by little and was by was.”

When people grow up, the business of adulthood causes them to forget what is important in life: relationships, love, fellowship with one another. The man who dies is nameless and faceless, an anonymous individual of no importance. His fellows are too busy to pay homage to him; they quickly bury him and go about their business. Little by little he is forgotten, and all of the other people in the town end up just like him — unimportant and unmemorable.

The poem is a friendly reminder that all is vanity, though written in a cuter style than “The Waste Land,” which may make it even more disturbing in a way.

An (Attempted) Analysis of “The Waste Land”

“The Waste Land” is certainly filled with references.

The entire poem is essentially a jumble of references to other works of art without any underlying theme that my limited mind is able to detect.

In truth, the poem is utter nonsense…a disturbing type of nonsense, unlike Alice in Wonderland, which contains a fun variety of nonsense; “The Waste Land” is more similar in tone to The Book of Revelation.

This isn’t to imply that the poem is pointless, because nonsense isn’t necessarily pointless. However, I don’t believe the point of “The Waste Land” is found within the words themselves…or even by analyzing the various references, because they don’t relate much to each other. Seeing the forest for the trees and considering the poem as a whole rather than analyzing each line is the only way I’m able to make some sense of it.

With that, I believe the theme of “The Waste Land” is similar to the theme of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Like Ecclesiastes and Revelation rolled into one, the poem seems to express that life is pointless and humanity is doomed no matter how hard we try to do good because we’re so hopelessly corrupt to the core. “The Burial of the Dead” reminds us that we all die, and our anxieties about death can’t change that fact. Trying to tell the future and control the world won’t work either, as the fraud Madame Sosotris reminds us.

“A Game of Chess” seems to be about the relationship between man and woman: an unpleasant game in which they try to win against each other rather than a loving cooperation. This applies to all relationships in general, not just a specific case, as there is a scene of marital problems between a rich couple as well as the struggles of a poor couple. “The Fire Sermon” alludes to the immoral lusts of humanity, and how they lead to nowhere at best and destruction at worst.

“Death by Water” might be about the fruitlessness of greed, though I’m guessing a bit.

Finally, in “What the Thunder Said,” the poem ends with a Hindu chant for peace that seems to fade off into frustrated nothingness, feeble and unable to fight against the tide of humanity’s cruelty and meaningless existence as described beforehand.

Therefore, the poem is titled “The Waste Land” because our lives are purposeless and filled with destruction and pain, according to Eliot and other modernists.

The strange references, allusions to art, myths, and religious texts, imply that this theme is universal — applying to all people at all times in history. None of the art, myths, or works of man could save humanity or end the destruction caused by people’s depravity. Considering that Eliot is a modernist, “The Waste Land” is like the poetic equivalent to Andy Warhol’s work, such as the “Campbell’s Soup” painting.

Modern art is full of references and “art of art” or “art about other art.” Modernism also rejects traditional hierarchical order and favors chaos, a trend that continues with postmodernism. All in all, “The Waste Land” contains a theme about chaos, though Eliot seems to be rejecting theme altogether in full embrace of the modernist style.

Why I Have an Issue with Modernist and Minimalist Poetry

Any fool could paint a picture such as the one above, and modernist poetry is the same way. In fact, a girl in middle school wrote a poem similar to the style of Williams and won an art contest against many other entries, including my uncle’s — a large, intricate cabin model made of toothpicks. Her poem is as follows:

Onions

rotting in a

dark bin

The result of that art contest frustrated my uncle so much that he smashed and threw away his project, inspiring me to write another modernist poem:

An art project that actually required talent

rotting in a

dark bin

Though I am sure everyone could agree that the middle school girl’s poem is hardly a stroke of genius, it would be considered genius if it had been written by William Carlos Williams. Though “The Red Wheelbarrow” at least has some sense of theme, while “Onions” does not, not all of Williams’s poetry has any saving grace at all; I am thinking of “This Is Just to Say,” the most pointless poem in existence.

That’s why all in all, I’m not into William Carlos Williams or modernist poetry in general. Finally I sort of see the light regarding “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and I appreciate the complexity of thought involved in “A Sort of Song.” The title “Burning the Christmas Greens” amuses me, so I suppose I also appreciate that one. However, I will never forgive Williams for the missing plums in the icebox.

Eliot’s Most Underrated Poem

Before I read T.S. Eliot I only heard good comments about him, so I looked forward to finding out what all the fuss is about, fully expecting to discover a new favorite writer.

Instead, I became thoroughly confused. Not that I don’t appreciate Eliot’s talent; he is obviously innovative and highly educated indeed — perhaps too educated for my simple minded taste. The poems I read were “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land.”

Though I know I shouldn’t, I tend to judge poems by their titles, and “The Waste Land” sounded more intriguing to me than a love song of some guy I don’t know or care about, to be honest. Also, “The Waste Land” is famous and I’d never heard of “The Love Song.” First impressions often tend to be completely wrong, however, and that proved to be the case with these poems, because I was surprised at how much I appreciated “Love Song” and how “The Waste Land” made no sense at all.

So, I suppose I’ll begin with the good news, which is that “Love Song” pleasantly surprised me. First of all, whenever I see the words love and song next to each other in a title, my mind immediately starts to glaze over. Love songs are so cliche, so overdone, so boring, and they’re all the same…or are they?

“Alfred Prufrock’s” love poem is anything but ordinary; I very much enjoy the rhythm of the first two lines: “Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky.” Eliot uses a catchy and elegant rhyme scheme. The recurring lines sound musical: “In the room women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.” This interesting choice of repetition reminds me of Broadway musicals such as Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar that have certain melodies recurring every so often throughout the play, making the songs more memorable. Repetition points toward a theme and causes the reader/listener/viewer/whatever-er to pause and realize, “This is important.”

In this poem, the repeated lines allude to the main theme of Mr. Prufrock’s existential angst. He is a member of the elite, apparent in the way he spends his time: “After the cups, the marmalade, the tea, / Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me.” Poor people don’t lead leisurely lives of tea drinking and gossip, and most middle class people wouldn’t use the word “marmalade” or even know what that is.

Porcelain is also an expensive material, and rich people tend to visit art museums and such, hence women “talking of Michelangelo.” Prufrock is a wealthy member of the high society, yet he realizes that his life is trivial and meaningless. Art, money, and luxury cannot give his life purpose.

The women who are coming and going and talking of Michelangelo represent Prufrock’s aimless comings and goings and conversations. Even discussing “intellectual” topics such as the great artist Michelangelo is meaningless at the end of the day. In high society, perhaps talking of Michelangelo replaces the small talk of the lower classes regarding weather or the price of food, yet they are still empty words.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is therefore not a typical love poem at all, but is about the existence of a rich, comfortable man who feels useless because he concerns himself with trivial matters and generally wastes his time.

The Days Are Evil

Though I have been a Christian for several years now, I’ve never quite felt at home in most churches — especially megachurches — and I have attended almost one hundred of them, of all different denominations.

People who are part of mainstream Christian culture are usually decent enough, and they mean well, yet they are generally lacking in discernment between good and evil.

In my observation, the naivete of Christian culture has rendered the church impotent…not just in a sociopolitical sense, but the majority of churches I’ve visited seem to be spiritually lackluster as well. Materialism might be part of the reason…the focus on attracting more and more members with fancy buildings, catchy music, and so on. In that sense, the church has become indistinguishable from secular corporations.

Yet even before my conversion, I felt as if I had gradually become an outcast of sorts after text messaging and social media became the default method of everyday interaction. In high school, once everyone started to own cell phones, I noticed that people began to avoid eye contact and send text messages rather than speaking to one another. Since that behavior seemed idiotic to me, I didn’t participate…and others thought I was the antisocial one.

Now “smart” technology has reached its peak and blossomed into a poisonous entity that produces the fruits of narcissism, all pervasive surveillance, and endless distraction from reality.

The world is so corrupt. As I write, the government is busy censoring the truth about the plandemic: labeling evidence of a covert operation to install weaponized 5G everywhere as fake news, removing social media posts that expose the truth (as usual), and arresting people who do not comply with our rights being taken away one by one, such as Pastor Howard-Browne in Florida. The virtual war against truth has been ongoing for quite awhile, and has now extended beyond the Internet and into real life.

At the moment, there is almost a sense of peace as everyone is hiding away under house arrest…yet I have a feeling this is a false peace that will not last long.

Lord, don’t let the truth be hidden; please awaken people and bring evil to justice. Bring Satan’s children swiftly to Sheol, never to be heard from again. Father, don’t let their deceptive tactics work any longer.

God, please don’t let the psychopaths behind this psyop abolish the First and Second Amendments. May the American people have the courage to die before willingly giving up our liberty. Shine the light of truth upon the cockroaches who invented this massive lie, and may everyone cheer as they scatter away.

The wicked use their God given intelligence to plot against the innocent — what a waste of a mind! Yet God is well aware of their schemes. God is the ultimate intelligence, the Creator of the world, the great mastermind…not Satan, though he tries to be.

The arrogant and perishing are absolutely convinced that they’re so smart, and everyone else is too dumb to see through their lies. However, a significant percentage of the population saw through this great deception instantly. May there be a great awakening, God, and may the world witness the victory of good over evil.