Monday, April 7, 2014

“La experiencia es la madre de la ciencia”

Catlin Castan
Dr. Ellis
Banned Books
6 April 2014
“La experiencia es la madre de la ciencia”
            After reading Madeleine L’Engle’s, A Wrinkle in Time, I found a lot of similarities between the themes conveyed within this text and the other literature we have read throughout the semester. Firstly, in Chapter One, we observe that Meg’s teacher and classmates speak to her in a way that makes her feel like an outcast. Creating a negative learning environment, Mrs. Whatsit says “crossly”, “Really, Meg, I don’t understand how a child with parents as brilliant as yours are supposed to be can be such a poor student. If you don’t manage to do a little better you’ll have to stay back next year”(5). Here we notice a teaching style that—as O’Reilley explains in “The Peaceable Classroom”—may not be effective for motivating all students. In Meg’s case, it is these passive aggressive comments that fuel her lack of confidence within herself and drive her to conduct herself in an unacceptable manner. Meg’s discontent with her school environment and social disconnect from her peers subsequently affects her attitude toward learning; this type of environment creates a discouraging space that harbors harmful thoughts and behaviors-- a place where Meg perceives school as a place that is “all wrong”(5). Also detrimental to this experience are the external opinions and pressures Meg audibly receives from her classmates. Upon hearing their comments, Meg thinks “grimly” to herself: “A delinquent, that’s what I am. . . That’s what they’ll be saying next. Not Mother. But them. Everybody Else”(6). As we observe in many other texts and even within our own lives, the way in which people perceive you begins to define how you perceive yourself. Meg refers to herself as a delinquent—the person her peers make her out to be.
Adding to her feelings of rejection and loneliness, Meg wishes to be like everybody else. Bringing her wish to life, L’Engle introduces Camazotz—a planetary manifestation of Meg’s desire to “fit in” and a realm that simulates L’Engle’s extrapolated predictions of a conformist society. As I read about Camazotz I immediately noticed similarities to Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. While Vonnegut blurs the lines that exist between right and wrong, hero and villain, L’Engle does exactly the opposite; however, both authors arrive at virtually the same conclusion. Instead of creating a grey area, L’Engle creates stark contrasts for her reader, separating her novel into areas of black and white. In doing so, she is able to create a literary space in which she ultimately rejects both extremes—like Vonnegut--and introduces the notion that universal love and compassion trumps all. I also felt that Camazotz functioned in a similar way to the function of the Tralfmadores. More specifically, as we discussed in class, one of the functions of the Tralfmadores is to illuminate the potential existence of other opinions outside of our own. The inclusion of the Tralfamadore’s allows us to see that there could be a different way of seeing things, a different perspective that we may not be currently aware of. In this same way Camazotz casts light on and calls into question certain aspects of our human thought processes.
            In a conversation between Meg and her Mother, this essence of this lesson is captured. Meg’s mother explains, “With our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanations. But . . . just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist”(46). Similar to Meg, we all experience great discomfort when others view the world differently than we do; when we are unable to “understand things”(46) as they do; however, as Meg’s Mother points out “it isn’t always possible”(46) to do so. Like the Tralfamadores, the inclusion of Camazotz teaches us something about our own planet; it warns us (as readers) that if we fail to recognize individuality-- if we fail to acknowledge a perspective that is different from our own--that we may end up in a similar situation: living in an “evil” and unfavorable world.
            Once Meg experiences the evils of conformity, she is able to understand and appreciate the importance of being an individual—of being herself. Here, I noticed some similarities to The Color Purple and the scholarly articles we read last week. While some critics may take offense to Walker’s authorial message, critics like duCille explain that we must not limit Walker (or other author’s) literary creativity. duCille also explains that by allowing authors such as Walker to write freely about any topic she desires to write about, we are actually helping to prevent a Camazotz-like society from forming; allowing writers to write freely serves as a creative outlet of expression that helps to defy conformity and helps to maintain a collectively individual sense of community.   

            I also felt that it was important to note the scene on page 73 when Mrs. Who offers Meg some encouraging words from Cervantes, she quotes, “La experiencia es la madre de la ciencia”--Experience is the mother of knowledge"(pg 73). This quote immediately reminded me of our Kolvenbach reading, the Jesuit tradition, and particularly resonated with my experiences at service learning. Hanging throughout our campus are banners that read: “Bright Minds, Bold Hearts”. As we’ve discussed before in class, most college students possess the “Bright Minds” portion of the banner; however, as Loyola students, we distinguish ourselves by identifying with the second half of the banner as well. Specifically pertaining to the statement, “Bold Hearts”, we as Loyola students go beyond the realm of traditional education and seek to act boldly with our hearts through service opportunities. For me, service learning has provided me with direct access to an alternative education realm in which I am given the opportunity to learn through experience: an opportunity to acquire knowledge in an entirely new way.

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