After reading Mending Wall, Accident on Mass. Ave., Learning to Read, The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Education, and hearing Steven Graham Jones speak about his writing, it is very evident to me that there is a common theme linking these various items together. All these things touch upon happiness and what enables it. Each author discussed how taking risks and skewing from the “norm” can lead to greater happiness and intellectual freedom. This theme also coincides with the Jesuit ideal of being “open to growth”, an idea that encourages students to try new things as that will help them achieve cura personalis.
In Mending Wall by Robert Frost, a man deals with a deteriorating stone wall on his property. Every year the wall comes into disrepair, and the man wants to leave the wall as-is rather than repair it. However, his neighbor wishes to repair the wall, as he thinks “good fences make good neighbors.” The poem itself is a metaphor for the accepted beliefs of society. The man feels that it may be better if they don’t repair the wall at all as it doesn't really serve a purpose other than divide them. However, the neighbors was stuck to his old ways, and stubbornly clung to his old ideas that were represented in the wall.
Learning to Read by Frances E. W. Harper, touches upon similar subject matter. This poem is about one slave’s determination to educate herself and learn to read. For many years in the South, slaves and African-Americans were denied the chance to be educated. This deprivation of knowledge contributed greatly to their continued slavery even if they were in fact free. It kept them in the lower classes of society and hindered their ability to advance in life. The slave in this poem wouldn’t take no for an answer. She knew that knowledge was power and was not about to let society deny her of a chance at that power. She talked about how she and other slaves would steal or memorize excerpts from books and then try to learn them later. At the end of the poem she says, “Then I got a little cabin — a place to call my own— And I felt as independent as a queen upon her throne.” It is very clear that by going against the beliefs of society at the time, the main character gained freedom by educating herself and ended upon “upon her throne.”
Accident on Mass. Ave. by Jill McDonough, is a poem about how two people get into a huge argument after a car wash. It is somewhat humorous because before either of them looks at the damage done in the accident, they start swearing and ridiculing each other. The narrator acknowledges that she only started yelling because in Bostonian culture that is simply what one does after a car accident (I’m from Boston and this is definitely true). Midway through the argument, the narrator realizes that there was in fact no damage done in the accident. At this moment, the narrator takes off her pugnacious Bostonian mask and asks the woman if she was ok and then they share a warm embrace in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Boston. It was by straying from the “norm” that they experienced this wholesome and friendly moment together that otherwise would not have happened.
In The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Education by Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., the role of Jesuit higher education in modern times is discussed. Kolvenbach talks about society puts huge amounts of pressure on the students of universities to end up with a high paying job with lots of prestige. This has become so big that society rates schools by the average income of their graduates. However, this is not the goal of Jesuit education. The main goal of the Jesuits is to produce good, loving, and well-rounded people. Kolvenbach stresses that Jesuit Universities avoid falling into this system that society has created and focus more on stressing the importance of being a good person, because in the end money is not the source of happiness.
The last component of this analysis is a speech by an author by the name of Steven Graham Jones. Jones is an accomplished science fiction writer and his works consists of topics ranging from zombies and werewolves to a dad who has lost a nipple in a bow-hunting accident. Often humorous and definitely far-fetched, his writing is by no means mainstream. In his speech Jones said he hopes that he inspires people to take risks. He said that most of his family are farmers and that for a lot of his life he was inclined to do that too. However, he took a chance to do something that he loved, write sci-fi and horror novels. By making his own path in life and not simply following what everyone else in his family does, he ended up extremely happy and content with what he has become.
It is by being open to growth that we can improve as people. Each of these works and speeches give us examples of someone who is willing to not let society restrict the growth that they can experience. They realize that, what is considered normal may not necessarily be right. By not being afraid to take risks and being willing to skew from what’s commonplace, one can truly experience freedom.