Introduction to Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our age is retrospective.1 It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. 2 The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. 3Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? 4The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy.5Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?

[source]

The Maze Runner-James Dashner

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air. 6

Metal ground against metal; 2a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath him. He fell down at the sudden movement and shuffled backward on his hands and feet, drops of sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool air.3 His back struck a hard metal wall; 4 he slid along it until he hit the corner of the room. Sinking to the floor, he pulled his legs up tight against his body, hoping his eyes would soon adjust to the darkness. 5

With another jolt,6the room jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft.

Harsh sounds of chains and pulleys, like the workings of an ancient steel factory, echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls with a hollow, tinny whine.7 The lightless elevator swayed back and forth as it ascended, turning the boy’s stomach sour with nausea; a smell like burnt oil invaded his senses, making him feel worse. He wanted to cry, but8 no tears came; he could only sit there, alone, waiting. 9

My name is Thomas, he thought.

That… that was the only thing he could remember about his life.

He didn’t understand how this could be possible. His mind functioned without flaw, trying to calculate his surroundings and predicament. Knowledge flooded his thoughts, facts and images, memories and details of the world and how it works. He pictured snow on trees, running down a leaf-strewn road, eating a hamburger, the moon casting a pale glow on a grassy meadow, swimming in a lake, a busy city square with hundreds of people bustling about their business.10

And yet he didn’t know where he came from, or how he’d gotten inside the dark lift, or who his parents were. 11 He didn’t even know his last name. 12 Images of people flashed across his mind, but there was no recognition, their faces replaced with haunted smears of color. 13 He couldn’t think of one person he knew, or recall a single conversation.

The room continued its ascent, swaying; Thomas grew immune to the ceaseless rattling of the chains that pulled him upward.14A long time passed. Minutes stretched into hours, although it was impossible to know for sure because every second seemed an eternity. 15 No. He was smarter than that. Trusting his instincts, he knew he’d been moving for roughly half an hour.

 

 

https://www.teenreads.com/reviews/the-maze-runner/excerpt

The Living by Matt de la Pena

Shy went to knock on Supervisor Franco’s open door but froze when he saw someone was already in there – the older black dude with the funky gray hair who was always writing in his leather notebook. 16

Franco looked up at Shy, said: “May I help you?” 2

“It’s okay,” Shy said. I’ll just come back later.”

“Please. 3

You can wait outside. We will be done here momentarily.”

Shy stepped away from the door, leaned against the wall and let his warm eyelids slowly drop. As he listened to Franco’s heavy accent, he tried to imagine his nephew stuck inside the same quarantine room as his grandma. But he couldn’t. Miguel was too tough. Never even caught a cold. He remembered throwing around a football with the kid just a few hours before he left for his first voyage. In the alley behind their building. One of Shy’s longer tosses slipped right through Miguel’s little-kid hands, and the football smacked him in the face, split his lip. But Miguel didn’t go down. Just looked up at Shy as blood trickled down his chin, got all over his T-shirt. He forced himself to smile at Shy, laugh even – though his eyes were filling with tears, too.4

Shy felt a hand on his shoulder and opened his eyes.

The man he’d just seen in Franco’s office was staring at him, holding his shoeshine kit. “How do you sleep standing up like that, young fella?”

“I was just closing my eyes,” Shy said, wiping a tiny bit of drool from the corner of his mouth.

The man grinned. “Franco’s on the phone now. Says he’ll have to check back with you later.”

Shy nodded.

Still no answers about the suit guy or their trashed room. Nothing to tell Rodney.

The man looked toward the window down the hall. “They’re worried about this storm rolling in. Supposed to hit sometime tonight.”5

“It’s an actual storm now?” Shy had yet to experience even a drop of rain in the time he’d spent out with the cruise ship. But he’d learned in training how badly storms affected the way passengers spent money.6

Which meant fewer tips. Less money to bring back home to his mom and sis.

Mrs. Dalloway — Virginia Woolf

“Yes,” said Peter. “Yes, yes, yes,” he said, as if she drew up to the surface something which positively hurt him as it rose. Stop! Stop! he wanted to cry. For7 he was not old; his life was not over; not by any means 2. He was only just past fifty. Shall I tell her, he thought 3, or not? He would like to make a clean breast of it all. But4 she is too cold, he thought; sewing, with her scissors;5 Daisy would look ordinary beside Clarissa. And she would think me a failure, which I am in their sense, he thought; in the Dalloways’ sense6. Oh yes, he had no doubt about that; he was a failure, compared with all this—7the inlaid table, the mounted paper-knife, the dolphin and8 the candlesticks, the chair-covers and the old valuable English tinted prints—9he was a failure! I detest the smugness of the whole affair, he thought. Richard’s doing not Clarissa’s; 10 save that she married him. (11Here Lucy came into the room, carrying silver, more silver12, but charming, slender graceful she looked, he thought, as she stooped to put it down.) And this had been going on all the time! he thought; week after week; Clarissa’s life; while I—13he thought; and at once everything seemed to radiate from him; journeys; riders; quarrels; adventures; bridge parties; love affairs; work; work, work!14 and he took out his knife quite openly—his old horn-handled knife which Clarissa could swear he had had these thirty years 15 – and clenched his fist upon it.

What an extraordinary habit that was, Clarissa thought 16; always playing with a knife. Always making one feel, too, frivolous; empty-minded; a mere silly chatterbox, as he used 17 summoned, like a Queen whose guards have fallen asleep and left her unprotected (18 she had been quite taken aback by this visit – it had upset her) so that any one can stroll in and have a look at her where she lies with the brambles curbing over her, summoned19 to her help 20 the things she did; the things she liked; her husband; Elizabeth; her self, in short, which Peter hardly knew now, all to come about her and beat off the enemy.

Acting out: Literature, drama, and connecting with history by Kornfeld, John; Leyden, Georgia

Martha is an example of a student who took a long, hard look at African American history as it was and is. An eager participant in all three plays 21, Martha was a capable actress and an excellent reader;2 yet3 in I Am Rosa Parks, she frequently had difficulty delivering her lines in one scene, when she played a waitress who refuses to serve a black patron who comes in to sit at the counter4. She was supposed to ask him rudely why he had come in and tell him in no uncertain terms to get out. Some days Martha would grimace and stutter her lines;5 other times she would not deliver the lines forcefully enough. One day, as we were encouraging her to speak louder and point to the door as she sent the patron out6, Martha stopped in the middle of rehearsal and burst into tears. “I just can’t do it,” she sniffed. “I don’t want to talk so mean to him. It’s not right!”

Martha had not simply learned the historical information about discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s; she was, in a sense, living it as a member of the cast—7and rejecting the accepted values of that time. She may have previously been aware of the existence of racism past and present, but8 it had had no meaning to her until she participated in the play. As Heathcote (1983) argued9, “In drama the ‘over there’ becomes ‘here’ and the whole world is around me” (p. 695).

It’s Stephen Curry’s Game Now

 

If you have somehow missed watching the Golden State Warriors this season, 10 you might have a quaint notion of how basketball is played. You might believe, for instance, that 3-point shots are difficult. Or that players should generally avoid hoisting jumpers 35 feet from the basket. Or that, in the N.B.A., a team cannot clinch a playoff berth in February, with six weeks left in the season. 2 None of that is true anymore, thanks to one player: Stephen Curry, a butterfly with a jump shot who is reshaping people’s understanding of the game 3. Jargon usually found on airport bookstore display racks has come to the hardwood, thanks to Curry. He is an outlier. He has caused a tipping point in basketball. The biggest disrupter in sports is on display in — where else? — the Bay Area. 4 In recent days, Curry has broken the league record for 3-pointers in a season — which he did for the first time three seasons ago — 5 and the Warriors (53-5) still have 24 games left to play, starting Tuesday night at home against the Atlanta Hawks. He has made 288 3-pointers this season, eclipsing the 286 he made last season. The Warriors could lose the rest of their games and still make the playoffs. They will not lose them all, of course, because they tend to beat nearly all of their opponents, and usually by large margins. The Warriors experienced a rare close call Saturday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder took them to overtime. Curry won the game with a looping shot from a few feet inside the half court line — once considered remarkable, now considered well within his comfort zone 6. As everyone, from players to coaches to fans, tries to make sense of Curry’s breakout performances, some context is desperately needed. To whom 7 can we compare this shooting master? Basketball has had other captivating stars like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James, who all streaked to lasting fame. But the Curry phenomenon 8 is different because of his size — he is a sinewy 6 feet 3 inches, 190 pounds — and because of the way in which he dominates games by scoring far from the basket, somehow stretching the court 9 beyond its conceivable limits.

On Running After One’s Hat by G.K. Chesterton

I feel an almost savage envy on hearing that London has been flooded in my absence, while I am in the mere country10. My own Battersea has been, I understand, particularly favoured as a meeting of the waters. Battersea was already, as I need hardly say2, the most beautiful of human localities. Now that it has the additional splendour of great sheets of water, there must be something quite incomparable in the landscape (or waterscape) of my own romantic town. Battersea must be a vision of Venice. The boat that brought the meat from the butcher’s must have shot along those lanes of rippling silver with the strange smoothness of the gondola. The greengrocer who brought cabbages to the corner of the Latchmere Road must have leant upon the oar with the unearthly grace of the gondolier. There is nothing so perfectly poetical as an island;3 and when a district is flooded it becomes an archipelago.

 

Some consider such romantic views of flood or fire slightly lacking in reality. But really this romantic view of such inconveniences is quite as practical as the other. The true optimist who sees in such things an opportunity for enjoyment is quite as logical and much more sensible than the ordinary “Indignant Ratepayer” who sees in them an opportunity for grumbling. Real pain, as in the case of being burnt at Smithfield or having a toothache, is a positive thing; it can be supported, but scarcely enjoyed. But, after all, our toothaches are the exception, and as for being burnt at Smithfield, it only happens to us at the very longest intervals4. And most of the inconveniences that make men swear or women cry are really sentimental or imaginative inconveniences—things altogether of the mind. For instance, we often hear grown-up people complaining of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train. Did you ever hear a small boy complain of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train? No; for to him to be inside a railway station is to be inside a cavern of wonder and a palace of poetical pleasures. Because to him the red light and the green light on the signal are like a new sun and a new moon. Because to him when the wooden arm of the signal falls down suddenly, it is as if a great king had thrown down his staff as a signal and started a shrieking tournament of trains. I myself am of little boys’ habit in this matter. They also serve who only stand and wait for the two fifteen. Their meditations may be full of rich and fruitful things. Many of the most purple hours of my life have been passed at Clapham Junction, which is now, I suppose, under water. I have been there in many moods so fixed and mystical that the water might well have come up to my waist before I noticed it particularly. But in the case of all such annoyances, as I have said5, everything depends upon the emotional point of view. You can safely apply the test to almost every one of the things that are currently talked of as the typical nuisance of daily life.

For instance, there is a current impression that it is unpleasant to have to run after one’s hat. Why should it be unpleasant to the well-ordered and pious mind? Not merely because it is running, and 6 running exhausts one. The same people run much faster in games and sports. The same people run much more eagerly after an uninteresting, little leather ball than they will after a nice silk hat. There is an idea that it is humiliating to run after one’s hat; and when people say it is humiliating they mean that it is comic. It certainly is comic; but man is a very comic creature, and most of the things he does are comic—eating, for instance. And the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing—such as making love. A man running after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man running after a wife.

Now a man could, if he felt rightly in the matter, run after his hat with the manliest ardour and the most sacred joy. He might regard himself as a jolly huntsman pursuing a wild animal, for certainly no animal could be wilder. In fact, I am inclined to believe that hat-hunting on windy days will be the sport of the upper classes in the future. There will be a meet of ladies and gentlemen on some high ground on a gusty morning. They will be told that the professional attendants have started a hat in such-and-such a thicket, or whatever be the technical term. Notice that this employment will in the fullest degree combine sport with humanitarianism. The hunters would feel that they were not inflicting pain. Nay, they would feel that they were inflicting pleasure, rich, almost riotous pleasure, upon the people who were looking on. When last I saw an old gentleman running after his hat in Hyde Park, I told him that a heart so benevolent as his ought to be filled with peace and thanks at the thought of how much unaffected pleasure his every gesture and bodily attitude were at that moment giving to the crowd.

The same principle can be applied to every other typical domestic worry. A gentleman trying to get a fly out of the milk or a piece of cork out of his glass of wine often imagines himself to be irritated. Let him think for a moment of the patience of anglers sitting by dark pools, and let his soul be immediately irradiated with gratification and repose. Again, I have known some people of very modern views driven by their distress to the use of theological terms to which they attached no doctrinal significance, merely because a drawer was jammed tight and they could not pull it out. A friend of mine was particularly afflicted in this way. Every day his drawer was jammed, and every day in consequence it was something else that rhymes to it. But I pointed out to him that this sense of wrong was really subjective and relative; it rested entirely upon the assumption that the drawer could, should, and would come out easily. “But if,” I said, “you picture to yourself that you are pulling against some powerful and oppressive enemy, the struggle will become merely exciting and not exasperating. Imagine that you are tugging up a lifeboat out of the sea. Imagine that you are roping up a fellow-creature out of an Alpine crevass. Imagine even that you are a boy again and engaged in a tug-of-war between French and English.” Shortly after saying this I left him; but I have no doubt at all that my words bore the best possible fruit. I have no doubt that every day of his life he hangs on to the handle of that drawer with a flushed face and eyes bright with battle, uttering encouraging shouts to himself7, and seeming to hear all round him the roar of an applauding ring.

So8 I do not think that it is altogether fanciful or incredible to suppose that even the floods in London may be accepted and enjoyed poetically. Nothing beyond inconvenience seems really to have been caused by them; and inconvenience, as I have said, is only one aspect, and that the most unimaginative and accidental aspect of a really romantic situation. An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. The water that girdled the houses and shops of London must, if anything, have only increased their previous witchery and wonder. For as the Roman Catholic priest in the story said: “Wine is good with everything except water,” and on a similar principle, water is good with everything except wine.

 

Source: http://essays.quotidiana.org/chesterton/running_after_ones_hat/

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

When[1] Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor[2] a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it[3]. Even the grass was not green, for[4] the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but[5] the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

When[6] Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober grey;[7] they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were grey also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled, now. When Dorothy, [8]who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child’s laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy’s merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, [9]from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.

[1] Adverbial clause, suggests that Dorothy’s thoughts will follow. It also makes the following descriptions less boring by having a different start and a compound sentence. If you took away the “when” and just made it a sentence, it would set the tone as being short and simple sentences one after the other, and how quite trite that would sound.

[2] “Nor” is a FANBOY, but here it’s just a negative substitute for “or,” and has the effect of suggesting the scene had no good qualities.

[3] Absolute phrase, further detailing the condition of the soil, “cracks running…” Gives a clearer image of the soil as dry and suggests poor land to farm on, and evokes the question as to why people live there.

[4] Coordinating conjunction/FANBOY to connect the two clauses. The second is closely connected to the first and so, it flows better to have them joined by a comma and “for.”

[5] “But” used because two clauses contrast. The beginning suggests positive/hope but the second, longer clause has more negatives to overcome that hope, which gives the feeling that this place really kills everything.

[6] The “when” suggests dependency, and combined with the period separating it into its own sentence it serves to assert the main subject and provide one sentence to be contrasted by the rest of the paragraph.

[7] Semi-colon used because both independent clauses closely related, in fact the clauses are repetitive. It serves to create strong imagery of fading colors.

[8] Appositive, describing Dorothy as an orphan, which helps explain why she is living with her Aunt and Uncle.

[9] Not quite an absolute because no noun-adj. combination, but does focus in on noun details to show what the uncle looked like. The image is kind of strange, and suggests he is an old man and kind of a wilderness man.

Letter of Recommendation: ‘Pinky and the Brain’ by Jonah Weiner

“Pinky and the Brain,” a cartoon that aired for half of the 1990s 9, is a three-chord kind of show, as bound by formal constraints as they come. Before spinning off into its own half-hour slot 2, the series began life as the best thing about “Animaniacs,” an exuberantly unhinged variety cartoon executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and packed with non-sequitur punch lines, meta-level laughs and so many showbiz in-jokes that you could forget this was a show nominally made for kids 3. “Pinky and the Brain” stood out for its ingenuity and extreme economy. The show has only two recurring characters to speak of — the talking lab mice of the title — 4 and precisely one plot, set into motion in the opening moments of each installment with the same 23 words: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?” “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

 

That the mice will deploy some scheme for world domination is the lone narrative motor, and that their failure is guaranteed provides not only the inevitable third-act kicker but also the condition of the show’s continued existence: a reset button that returns the mice to the lab to plot again. The pair is at once idiosyncratic and archetypal, in a vaudevillian kind of way. Brain is a hyperintelligent, short-tempered straight man voiced by a guy doing a stentorian Orson Welles impression; Pinky is daffy and sweet and speaks in an over-the-top Cockney accent 5.

They are given no back story beyond a stray line in the theme song (“Their genes have been spliced”), and they learn no lessons by episode’s end. Characterization takes the form, instead, of kid-friendly, broken-record repetition 6. In every episode, while unveiling the plan at hand, Brain will ask Pinky, “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”–a question so ritualized that fans refer to it by “AYPWIP”–to which Pinky will offer a reliably outré response. “I think so, Brain, but I can’t memorize a whole opera in Yiddish.” “I think so, Brain, but Pete Rose? I mean, can we trust him?” “I think so, but Kevin Costner with an English accent?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-pinky-and-the-brain.html?_r=0

Black Boy by Richard Wright

A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, 7 standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper 2, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands – a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, 3 though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality.

That day a quarter of a century later when I visited him on the plantation—he was standing against the sky4 , smiling toothlessly, his hair whitened, his body bent, his eyes glazed with dim recollection, his fearsome aspect of twenty-five years ago gone forever from him—I was overwhelmed to realize that he could never understand me or the scalding experiences that had swept me beyond his life and into an area of living that he could never know. I stood before him, poised, 5  my mind aching as it embraced the simple nakedness of his life, feeling how completely his soul was imprisoned by the slow flow of the seasons, by wind and rain and sun, 6 how fastened were his memories to a crude and raw past, how chained were his actions and emotions to the direct, animalistic impulses of his withering body…7

From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; 8 a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city9—that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing.