October 16th, 2013
Pursuit of Knowledge
We as humans always seem to desire something a little more, always trying to obtain our next goal in life, to learn a little more, and advance a little further. It is this theme of always seeking out more that is evident in the writings of Mary Shelly, Paul Dunbar, and Countee Cullen. In Frankenstein Shelly tells the story of a young man who’s desire to learn about the natural sciences ends up becoming his undoing. Paul Dunbar tells us how his soul seeks to return to the kingdom of Heaven in “Theology.” Finally in Cullen’s “Tableau” we see two boys and their desire for equality despite the color of their skin.
Frankenstein’s main character, Victor, first becomes interested in the idea of creation when his mother tragically dies, it is clear how Victor would want nothing more than to bring her back to him. While attending college his thirst for knowledge only grows, as he becomes completely engulfed in his studies. Natural sciences, such as chemistry, “became nearly my sole occupation” as Victor was determined to “explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation” (Shelly, 25). While this desire for knowledge is present in all of us, Victor becomes so determined to find the secrets of creation he loses sight of everything else. Ironically it is his own knowledge of creation, that he once wished to learn in order bring his dead mother back, which ends up destroying most everything he loves. While our desires are what drive us to advance it life, we much still be sensible in how we go about achieving them, and not be blinded by success.
Creation and death have fascinated people for as long as we have been around, which is why so many follow Christianity for an explanation to these questions. In “Theology” Dunbar is convinced there is indeed a heaven, as “the upward longing of my soul” tells him it is true. What happens to us after death has always been a question people long to have an answer for, but is probably one we will never discover. Dunbar however does not seem to be consumed with if there is a heaven or not, as Victor was about his desire to create. By injecting a sense of humor into the last two lines, we get the sense that he is actually poking fun at those who are only worried about what will happen to them in the afterlife. When instead, we should all be more concerned on what we are doing with our lives as we live them right now.
Lastly, in the final reading “Tableau” we see the story of two boys who are a symbol for equality in unequal times. “Locked arm in arm” was “the black boy and the white” as they walked down the street with everyone staring, not knowing they shouldn’t dare “in unison to walk.” The fact that the two characters are described as boys helps us to realize that in the innocence of a child there are no ideas such as racism or inequality. This poem is a simple one, but has a much deeper moral, as all these boys want is to be friends with no concern of the color of their skin. Even as all others clearly are against the relationship they witness, it does not bother the boys. If you know something is right, it doesn’t matter how many others object we should always do what we believe. Inequalities such as this are largely gone now a days, but back when this poem was written it could have been used as a real example for people to learn from, that we are all the same.
For me, wanting to learn more about not only our community but also the people in it was a big factor in choosing service learning. On my first day, the kids had nothing but questions, “Who is this? Are you Mr. Schaffer’s son? How old are you? Why didn’t you shave?” were only the beginning of it. One nice thing about teaching two very different grades, Pre-K and third, is that you get to see a real difference and progression in what the kids feel, think, and act. But no matter what grade, they all have a desire to learn about almost everything, if they can sit still long enough to listen. The differences in what we can teach the young ones compared to the older is hugely drastic. Pre-K we work on simple activities like skipping and playing with a parachute. Then for the third grade they are able to comprehend and organize much more complex activities, even games. Although gym class is a different type of knowledge to learn, it is almost a favorite of all theirs as it is a hands on class that we try to keep interesting. I myself have learnt much in two simple weeks, the most useful of which would have to be how to supervise child as young as Pre-K which is a new experience for me. So far I feel as if the kids are extremely excited to learn more, and judging from all the hugs I get, just as excited as I am for me to help them in that process.