Friday, March 31, 2017

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Final Response

The memoir Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard takes place during Dillard's year long stay near Tinker Creek. During the year that Dillard lived near the creek, she has many experiences, some beautiful and some tragic, and she talks about God's role in each of her experiences. For the first half of the novel, Dillard takes a via positiva look at God and his role in nature. At one point in the first half of the memoir, Dillard is describing a mockingbird as it free falls before taking flight and she says, "The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do it try to be there"(Dillard 9). Dillard is claiming that the beautiful parts of the world are not just beautiful for us to see and experience them, they are beautiful because they just are. This reminds me of the common riddle that asks if a tree falls in the woods, does it
make a sound. It begs the question of whether things can actually be beautiful without a person being
there to perceive it that way.

During the second half of Dillard's memoir, she takes a more via negativa look at life. She spends a lot of time talking about some of the more grotesque parts of nature: birth, death, and bugs. She begins Chapter Ten by explaining a nightmare she had where fish hatched from moth eggs, and this began her obsession with the birth of different creatures. However, she does not only mention the reproduction of animals, she also talks about plants. At one point she said "Fecundity is an ugly word for an ugly subject. It is ugly, at least, in the eggy animal world. I don't think it is for plants"(Dillard 185). Closer to the end of this chapter, Dillard talks about how so many eggs are laid, but only so many of each species survive. She sees the cruelty in this and says "Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me. This is easy to write, easy to read, and hard to believe"(Dillard 201). Dillard sees many other cruel aspects of the world in this chapter and further questions God and his role in the grotesque parts.

As the memoir is coming to a close, Dillard seems to take a more neutral stance, accepting both the negative and positive parts of God. She starts to find more admiration for the corruption in the world while she tried to find the beauty in the grotesque. She says "I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are by dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down"(Dillard 278). This passage is talking about the world and comparing it to a wreck that is littered with imperfections, but that is beautiful in spite of all the imperfections. The world is like that in many ways, because even though there is death and destruction and war, we still have hope and faith that
Moth Eggs
get us through the hard times. That is the true beauty of the world.

In conclusion, Dillard uses her memoir to search for God in nature and she find him in many different ways. She sees the beautiful parts, such as the flowing creek and the bird, and she sees the grotesque parts, full of death and bugs. And finally, she sees the world as a whole, where the beautiful and grotesque live side by side. This is the world that God created, and there is beauty in everything.

Monday, March 6, 2017

How does knowledge teach us about who we are?

"Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are." To what extent is this true in the human sciences and one other area of knowledge?"

Knowledge is important to humans, not only because it helps us become more advanced, but also because it can help expand our understanding of who we are. First, it is important to understand what knowledge is. Knowledge is information that is known to be true, and this knowledge can be gained through experiences and investigations.

The quote "knowledge gives us a sense of who we are", is especially important when investigating the human sciences and history. The human sciences, specifically psychology, helps humans study how their brains work and why we behave in specific ways. History shows the past behaviors of humans, including how we reacted to different events. With the use of the human sciences to study the behaviors of humans and history to study the past of humans, we can gain more knowledge that can aid us while we try discover who we are as humans.

This topic uses the human sciences as a very broad term, but there are many different branches of the human sciences. One that specifically applies is psychology. Psychology is defined as "the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context." By studying psychology and gaining more knowledge of the human mind, one can try to understand why they do what they do. Psychology can also help us learn about our emotions. Emotions are extremely important for humans, because they can play a very large role in how we make decisions. The way we feel about a certain choice will greatly affect our lives. Intuition also plays a large role in psychology. Intuition is "an ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it." So a human's initial reaction to something is their intuition, and this can be studied with the use of psychology. This makes the phrase "knowledge gives us a sense of who we are" very true because, by learning about how our minds work, humans can understand more about how we function with emotions and intuition, and this can give us a better sense of who we are.

Another area of knowledge that supports the quote "knowledge gives us a sense of who we are" is history. History is the study of the past and the events that took place then. The past that humans are mostly concerned with is that of human affairs. This is the history that is taught in classrooms, where students learn the who, what, when, and how of the years prior to now. By studying history, we can form patterns of how people reacted to certain events and the actions they took. The knowledge of these patterns inform us of the ways we usually act and help us see what worked and what did not. As George Santayana said, "those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." History helps us understand what mistakes we have made and allows us to learn from those mistakes.

Together, psychology and history can teach people a great deal about who they are. By applying psychology to an analysis of the past, we can not only determine what mistakes we made, but also why we may have made those mistakes. Think of when South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Thanks to history, we know this event took place and we know that it caused more states to secede and eventually led to a four year long war. By looking at this cessation through a psychological lens, people can try to understand why South Caroline decided to leave the Union. People can look at the emotions that may have been felt by the leaders of South Carolina and the intuition that led them to secede. By learning about these, we can try determine what caused South Caroline and the states that followed to secede. This can then help us learn about who we are in times where we feel trapped and angry and can help us prevent drastic measures similar to the ones taken by South Carolina.

However helpful these areas of knowledge may sometimes be, they are not always accurate. Psychology is largely based on uncertainty, because the research conducted cannot give people a definite conclusion. It can only give evidence, which can be used to create ideas of how people act. However, none of it is for certain. History also has some limitations. History is largely based on memory, perception, and language, and each of these can cause it to be highly conflicting. Memory is not always reliable and can be under or over exaggerated with time. This can lead to events being much different than they actually were. The way a person perceives something can also largely affect the history that they describe. Different accounts of the same historical events are often extremely different. Language also plays a large factor because it is how we record our history. Before written word existed, people recorded history orally. This was a problem because those stories evolved over time and are now either lost or completely different. Due to this, people do not know much of the history that took place before written word. There are even some problems with the written histories. There is no guarantee that what is written is true. Just like psychology, there is no certainty, only
evidence that supports it.

By using the human sciences to study the behaviors of humans and history to study the past of humans, we can try to gain more knowledge that can help us while we try discover who we are as humans. Psychology helps us realize the behaviors of humans and history informs us of the patterns of the past, and by combining the two we can try to understand why we have taken the actions we have and what that says about who humans are.