Monday, March 17, 2014

Soaring Too High

While reading “The Peaceable Classroom” by Mary Rose O’Reilley, I was immediately reminded of William Blake’s oft misused quote: “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.” In my boyfriend’s room there is a poster of this quote under Michael Jordan’s outspread arms and I cannot help but be annoyed at the use of such powerful words to describe basketball. Words like this, according to O’Reilley, are the sorts of things that change people’s minds about war. The reason her essay brought Blake to mind was her mention of the Gatling gun. This was a gun, one of her students said, that made it “possible to kill too many people” (O’Reilley 107).  With the invention of this technology and others like it, we have given ourselves power beyond what is natural or appropriate. We do not (yet) have a consciousness to control our own creations. Once we become go “over to the side of the machine” (O’Reilley 107), the senseless killing of war becomes not only more possible, but also more acceptable. In removing the human factor and replacing it with technology, we lose control over what we are capable of.

Harriet Deer and Irving Deer in “Satire as Rhetorical Play” along with O’Reilley present a promising solution to this prophecy of self-destruction. Words, like the words written under Michael Jordan in my boyfriends room, have a potential that is for many people untapped. Literature is a way for people to see war and the horrors it brings without actually experiencing it personally. For Deer and Deer, satire accomplishes this particularly well because it implicates the audience, forcing a reaction and decision from the audience. They write, “Repeated satirical probing…display every work, genre, and convention as no more than a process, [art of all the processes by which human beings try through art to stretch their consciousnesses, to engage more of themselves in more of life.” In reading and understanding satire, we, as the audience, open ourselves up to a greater consciousness. In this, we are able to come closer to understanding our limitations as humans and foreseeing the potential problems of the future. In this way, “artists – all artists – should be treasured as alarm systems (Vonnegut). Through the arts, humans have the chance to bridge the gap between our own consciousness and the dangerous abilities we have given ourselves through technology.

No comments:

Post a Comment