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Open Prompt

Turning a Blind Eye: Is Ignorance Ever Bliss?

In a speech entitled Is There an Artificial God? held at Magdelene College in Cambridge, Douglas Adams asked his audience to “… imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in—an interesting hole I find myself in—fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for” (Adams). In this part of his speech, Adams was addressing the tendency of the world’s population to ignore their surroundings and to go on with life without a worry for the future.

Speech: Douglas Adams’ Is There an Artificial God?, held at Magdelene College, Cambridge, 1998.

Biography: Concise biography of Douglas Adams.

I think that Adams’ metaphor of the puddle is extremely relevant in our world today as we, like the puddle, are paying no attention to many things that threaten us and our existence, in the hope that they will just go away. What I am mostly alluding to is global warming, which—though we have scientific evidence proving it exists and that it is doing damage to our planet—people continue to insist on ignoring. Adams addresses the idea in his speech that instead of facing the unstoppable and merely adjusting their perspectives, people have an inclination toward completely avoiding the topic. This is perfectly understandable and is part of human nature, but it is an attitude that too many in our world—in our country—have adopted and live their lives by.

Living this way does not allow for necessary measures to be taken against an impending disaster (or whatever the case may be) or even—in the case of something inevitable—just the changing of one’s mentality in preparation for the event. To those who may argue that this philosophy of embracing the inevitable (or maybe trying to do something about it) is—in the long run—useless as a person would spend life worrying and not living, I shake my head because really opening one’s eyes to reality not only broadens one’s perspective on life but allows one to enjoy it more fully, no matter what it entails.

Proposition: When faced with the unpreventable, people often have a tendency to turn a blind eye and hope fate will leave them alone.

A/N: Mrs. Holmgren—I’m not sure if there was ever a maximum placed on the OP quotes (there isn’t one on the Reflective Learning Site), so I’m sorry that this one is rather long; I just really, really wanted to write on it.

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I recently discovered Dorothy Parker and was struck by her dry sense of humor and the jarring truth of her witticisms. Parker was regarded as one of the wittiest minds of her time and had an opinion on everything. One of these viewpoints, I found interesting: “The only ism Hollywood believes in is plagiarism” (Parker).

Plagiarism: An NPR broadcast (and transcript) regarding a relatively recent accusation of plagiarism in Hollywood

Singin’ in the Rain: A brief overview of the musical, with a mention of its plagiarism

225px-Singing_in_the_rain_poster

It is true that Hollywood has a history of cases of accused plagiarism, in fact it has been said that you haven’t really ‘arrived’ in Hollywood until you’ve been accused of plagiarism, but I had never really thought about it beyond: “Oh, this movie was really similar to that other one about World War II.” One quick Google search later and I had thousands of articles regarding the subject of plagiarism in movies. But the results I had only raised more questions for me. ‘What is plagiarism, really?’ was the foremost of them, as it seemed to me that what many of the articles referred to seemed less plagiarizing and more—for lack of a better term—’recycling’. Plagiarism, according to Merriam-Webster Online, is the act of stealing and passing off another’s ideas or words as your own. This really clarified some things for me as it included the word ‘idea’, whereas I had had the impression that plagiarism was word-for-word copying without crediting the source. This understanding of the true definition cleared up my misinterpretation of many of those articles, but a question still remained: ‘Then what do you call situations like that of the Singin’ in the Rain song, Make ’em Laugh?’ Make ’em Laugh was largely plagiarized off of a song called Be a Clown in the musical The Pirate. Be a Clown was written by Cole Porter in 1948, but when Singin’ in the Rain was released in 1952, Porter made no complaint. So what was that? Plagiarism or the recycling of an idea that fell flat the first time round, but with a few tweaks looked like a good idea? Strict definitions won’t tell me that.

Proposition: A word’s definition is not always applicable in every situation.

Not too long ago in my Visual Art: History and Application class, we looked at the Venus of Willendorf, a paleolithic limestone statuette. When presented with the slide, many in my class expressed disgust, confusion, or amusement at the figure that Paleolithic man had worshipped. Our teacher laughed a bit at our antics and then began to talk about beauty and it’s different connotations throughout history. Though we only stayed on the topic for a minute or so, one thing thing that was said struck me: “Beauty is subjective—it all depends on the perspective” (class discussion).

Definition: The definition of beauty from Merriam Webster Online.

Venus of Willendorf: A basic overview of the Venus of Willendorf.

The Venus of Willendorf

The Venus of Willendorf

It is true that the Venus of Willendorf does not much resemble the idea that our present culture embraces as the ideal female figure, however to those that created her, she was beautiful. But how could one concept encompass two such seemingly unrelated ideas? Maybe it could if it truly were the ideas that were important and not the forms—what is often called ‘inner beauty’. Inner beauty focuses on what something means or what qualities it has on the inside, rather than the actual physical appearance of a person. Perhaps, across the ages, the word ‘beauty’ only refers to what is inside while another word—something more like attractiveness—could be used to describe what is on the outside. I see beauty and attractiveness as two very different things, though they have come to be used interchangeably. Attractiveness is merely superficial, while beauty is an idea that can stretch across twenty-five millennia.

Ironically, the Venus of Willendorf shares the name of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite’s version of ‘beauty’ is a much more modern one than that of this Paleolithic goddess, as she is usually depicted as slender, tall, and well-proportioned (by today’s standards). Aphrodite means to us, what this fertility figure must have meant to Paleolithic man, though if switched, neither would last long in the other’s world.

Proposition: Beauty is subjective, it is merely a concept defined by perspective.

Picture Source: http://www.physorg.com/news137336974.html