What does your ice smell like?

Personal response in which you compare a childhood experience of your own to one of Lynda Barry’s. Who was involved in the experience, and what happened? What did it teach you, and how did it shape who you became as an adult?

In Lynda Barry’s “One! Hundred! Demons!” there is a chapter that refers to the scents of people’s houses.  N’ako, the main character, remarks the smells of people’s houses that she has been to.  There is one house with a cat lady, one with a disinfecting air freshener person, one that smelled like mint, tangerines and books, along with her own house.  This chapter seems like a childish and naive observation, but the way the chapter progresses along with the animation depicting the way scents were experienced suggests that there was more meaning the the chapter than merely the scents of people’s houses from the point of view of a child.  It is suggested that the book’s characters and N’ako’s interpretations of them were dependant on the smell of their houses.

As a chef, smell is a very important part of my life.  It is able to help me identify if something will cause harm if ingested and it is able to hint at the presence of deliciousness.  From studying organic chemistry, I have also learned that our understanding about the way smell is processed in the brain is still very limited.  There are molecules that can look almost identical and have totally different smells, as well as molecules that look very different from each other and smell almost identical.  It is not yet well understood how the brain processes scents and so all we have to go on for now is the way we feel about certain smells.

Scents evoke memories.  When you walk by St-Viateur street it smells like the first time someone brought you there for bagels.  It does smell like bagels, but what your brain reminds you of is the memory associated with the experience of that smell rather than the bagel itself.

When I was a child, I enjoyed playing outside in the winter.  I would often go skating on outdoor ice rinks, and play in the snow.  It would not matter very much at all what I was doing outside.  Sometimes I would just walk around in the forest during the night with friends or with my brother.  We would talk about things, and sort of have a philosophical conversation, to the extent that children can.  Sometimes I would go skiing with my dad.  When I was young, I didn’t see my dad very often, and it was always fun when I got to spend some time with him.  Whenever we were outside skiing together I felt a sense of happiness.  At twenty-two years of age, I still enjoy the cold winter and usually benefit from this season by playing hockey outside.  When I tie up my skates, and start skating outside, I get these childhood memories that come back out of nowhere some times.  I realize that what is evoking these memories, is the smell of the outdoors.  It is difficult to explain this scent, but it’s almost as if the ice and snow being around me is what I smell.  I get the same feeling when I walk outside of my house on a cold crisp morning.  This sudden sense of happiness comes to me and I think about hockey, and get the feeling of happiness I would often get as a child.

This has affected my life specifically in the way that I cook.  I often reflect about the ways scents make me feel and think about myself, and I don’t really understand why, but I’ve always been fascinated by this and almost obsessed to search for a way that I can evoke memories in people with my cooking.  I have given a lot of though to this, and any time I am cooking creatively and independently, I try to have certain general memories in mind, and try to use ingredients to generate a formation of memories in people.  I know that in some ways this does not seem very realistic, since we all have different associations with memories.  That is why I try to make very general associations, with the understanding that my memories will not reach everyone, but maybe one or more people will feel the memory that my food reminded them of, this is what I’m hoping to achieve.  And if I’d be able to achieve this with at least one person, what would it say about the connection between this person and myself?  Would they even tell me, or anyone, about the memories the food was bringing to their minds? Would they even be able to realize that the smell of food was evoking their childhood memories?  What is the purpose of these memories, do they perhaps bring us a sense of happiness or fulfilment?

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Shadow

A personal response in which you describe an unexplained experience of “haunting” in your life (ie, a really strange experience for which you were never able to find a rational explanation).

This story is not necessarily an experience that I could never find a rational explanation to, since it was a dream, or rather, a recurring sequence of dreams.

I must have been six or seven years old.   I was a strange child, but I don’t think I lived a life much different from any other typical first world child.  I was very quiet at school, I had some friends, but not too many.  I was usually by myself during class.  I would do math homework and math problems.  I used to make up my own problems, like adding together people ages, or adding together random numbers I saw on the walls in different areas, or while I was driving by houses.  I really enjoyed doing math.  It was, and still is, one of the only aspects of my life where there is always and answer, where I’m not lied to, tricked, or manipulated.  There was no second guessing for me.  I had a problem, I found the answer, I checked the answer, and that was all. This all seems irrelevant, but reflecting back on this time in my life, I somehow find it relevant to my story of haunting.

On some nights, when I would go to sleep, I knew it was coming.  I could feel something before I’d be ready to fall asleep, telling me that as soon as I fell asleep, the episode was going to replay over and over until I woke up again.  I’m not sure how I knew, but I just felt something.  I can still understand that feeling today, but the episodes have since stopped.  Before I would fall asleep, I wasn’t scared.  I knew the episode was coming soon in my head, and I knew that when it came I’d once again be terrified, however, I didn’t feel scared until it was happening. When I felt it coming, and then fell asleep, I would dream like I normally would.  Then, all of a sudden, it would just suddenly come from nowhere.

What would happen was I’d be planning to go up the stairs inside my house.  But before I could step onto the first step, I was confronted.  There was a shadow that came out of the corner leading to the first step, and I had to fight it if I wanted to ascend the stairs.  The setting of my dream was always a weekend, in bright daylight, during the middle of the day.  My family would walk by me, up and down the stairs, without acknowledging, or helping me.  I was too busy fighting the shadow that I absolutely no remaining time or energy to ask for help.  I would fight this shadow over and over again, and I was always able to just barely hang on, but I could never defeat it.  I felt as if my efforts were being stressed to their absolute maximum potential, yet I could never manage to fight this shadow.  No matter how much effort I put in, the dark shadow put in the exact same amount, and kept me from going up the stairs.

Eventually and suddenly, I would not be there anymore.  I was on the side of a stream with a strong current.  These two dreams always followed each other, and they would recur almost once a month during a certain period of my life.  Once I was at the stream, I always touched the water to see how strong the current was.  I remember thinking about what would happen if I was pulled in by the current.  Where would I go? Where would it lead me to?  Every time, I would come closer and closer to falling into the stream, and then suddenly, I’d end up back at the corner of the wall, for just a split second, before I woke up crying, and went to see my parents.

I must have had these exact two dreams at least twenty times, until one time, it didn’t end the same.  I went to the stream, like usual, but this time I put in my hand too far, and the stream pulled me in.  I was carried quicker and quicker by the accelerating stream.  I passed by rocks, that scraped against my body and were ripping and tearing my skin apart.  The stream continued destroying my entire body, until I died.  I remember dying, which always seemed strange to me.  Afterwards, I slowly and peacefully woke up.  This time however, I wasn’t crying, I was actually very calm.  I had accepted that I died.

From this point on, I never once had the dream again.  I never understood what it meant, or if it even meant anything at all.  In any case, i’ll never forget the day I fell into that river.  The memory of that is still so clear in my mind, and I feel as if my entire consciousness changed from that day on.

Milk Under a Klan?

Most fictional novels employ a traditional structurally oriented composition. They have introductions to main characters, an antagonist and protagonist, climax, ect… This is a basic blue print on how to write a novel, so themes can be explored through various literary devices, and so overall, one or many new concepts or ideas can be introduced into a readers mind. In essence, this is the goal of writing a fictitious novel, to tell a story. Milan Kundera’s novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” however, employs an extremely unorthodox structure while telling the story. The timeline structure in non-linear to the point where it is sometimes difficult to decide which part happened when. The narrator switches from first to third person often and unexpectedly, and the use of literary devices seems to be either very well hidden, or blatantly exposed to the point where the narrator is almost analyzing their meanings for the reader. The fifth chapter of part six, demonstrates Milan Kundera’s ability to use “The Unbearable Lightness of being” to carry the reader along his chosen train of thought, in order to attempt to obtain a full understanding of his writing techniques. This suggests that the narrator is the author.

Chapter Five of Part six in “the Unbearable Lightness of Being” uses a largely debated subject, the concept of creationism vs evolution, to hook the reader onto his train of thought. He does this by first dividing the reader (whoever that may be) into two categories; “those who believe that the world was created by God, and those who think it came into being of it’s own accord” (247, Kundera). This allows all readers to fit themselves into one of the two categories presented, and forces the reader to stand on either side of the invented “line separating those who doubt being as it is granted to man (no matter how or by whom) from the those who accept it without reservation”. He then carries each of the two divisions into the frame of mind he desires his readers to be in, and calls this “a categorical agreement with being”(248). This forces all of his readers to agree on the ideas that he wants them to agree on. There is a way to his writing that enables the text to carry the reader, sentence by sentence, along a particular train of thought, without realizing it. An example of this literary structure is the use of the word “shit” thirteen times in the five pages preceding chapter five. This repetitive use of a newly introduced concept within a very short time frame and in various contexts, forces the reader to accept the proposed definition of the word. This is very important to the authors writing structure, since in chapter five, he uses this word, to describe another abstract word “kitsch”. Before doing this however, that narrator ensures that no opposing ideas can be born within a readers mind with regards to the word “shit”, since it is essential in defining “kitsch”. He gathers any opposing ideas by pointing out that “either “the daily defecation session” is acceptable (in which case don’t lock your self in the bathroom!) or we are created in an unacceptable manner”.  After this definition, the first person narrator then informs the reader that the repetitive use of the word kitsch “has obliterated the original metaphysical meaning”. He immediately insists on providing an alternate definition, and defines it as “the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence”. These examples are two of just a few of many throughout the entire novel about how Kundera employs unorthodox methods in the novel. This chapter in particular, is used to demonstrate the definitions of two very important and key concepts to understanding the novel as a whole. This suggests that Kundera is using the narrator, both in first and third person, to direct the readers’ minds where he wishes, and therefore suggests that the narrator is indeed Milan Kundera.

The repetitive nature of the authors unorthodox literary techniques throughout “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” demonstrate Milan Kundera’s superb ability to carry the reader along his train of thought with regards to the way he wishes his readers to view his novel. The collection of unorthodox techniques used by Kundera is a very effective way of writing, and introduces to the reader an unexpected structure throughout the reading of the novel. This supports the argument of Kundera being the narrator of his own novel, since this is almost never the case in fictional novels. However Kundera seems to have broken so many other rules with regards to writing novels, that it does not seem unlikely for him to decide to break another one.

Andrew Liberio

803 Words.

Doggy Power

Milan Kundera’s novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” uses characterization to explore the roles various characters take on in the novel.  This characterization works to develop many of the themes that the novel explores such as eternal return, lightness versus weight, and “es muss sein”.  The development of these themes explores the way that our own societies should be criticized when it comes to the values and actions we explore and perpetuate. The first chapter of part four of the book refers to the influence that Tomas and Teresa’s dog Karenin has on them to develop the themes of “es muss sein” (Kundera 195), lightness versus weight, and eternal return.

Karenin’s persistence in gaining territory in the bed is used to demonstrate Tomas and Teresa’s lack of persistence. Karenin is “more headstrong then they [are] and [ends] by defending his rights” (131) which is what Tomas and Teresa have trouble doing in social contexts.  Karenin’s dominance over Thomas and Teresa demonstrates the weakness of these characters when it comes to defending their rights while living in a communist regime.  This chapter specifically empowers the dog with regards to Tomas and Teresa as the dog is being analogously compared to Tomas and Teresa the same way that Tomas and Teresa should be compared to the communist regime. It is therefore implied that if one of the three characters in the chapter were to oppose the communist world view, Karenin would have the best chance at succeeding.  Tomas and Teresa “had [initially] tried to curb [Karenin] and push him off the bed” however Karenin controlled this relationship, thus he did not allow for this behaviour.  This relates the way “a certain Dembscher … heaved a mournful sigh and said “muss es sein?” To which Beethoven replied, with a hearty laugh, “es muss sein”” (195).  Tomas and Teresa are asking Karenin if they can have what is theirs, wanting to know if it’s the way that it has to be, and Karenin is replying by telling them that it is the way things must be.

This chapter describes the way the Teresa awoke and the way that Karenin awoke to demonstrate the concept of lightness versus weight.  Karenin woke up “with sheer delight … [and] he always showed a naive and simple amazement at the discovery that he was back on earth” wheras Teresa “awoke with great reluctance, with a desire to stave off the day by keeping her eyes closed” (132).  This suggests that Teresa lives her life with the weight that she wishes would be enough to keep her eyes closed in the morning, but instead she is forced through the day by the lightness of Karenin.  Teresa “postitively [enjoys] being welcomed into the day by Karenin”(131) since it gives some lightness to her heavy outlook on life.  Karenin also would regularly play with Tomas.  It is part of his morning ritual, and is also part of Tomas’ morning ritual. This suggest that Teresa and Tomas feel burdened by weight, and need the lightness of Karenin to help them restore the balance of lightness and weight in themselves.

The emphasis put on routine in the chapter develops the theme of eternal return, and demonstrates the way that Karenin has a repeating effect on Tomas and Teresa’s well being.  Karenin follows the same routine everyday, he wait’s until six for alarm to go off for his “right to jump on the bed, trample their bodies and butt them with his muzzle”, he then goes on a walk with Teresa, where she buys “his [usual] morning roll” (132), and then plays a game with it and Tomas until he was finished, and wanted to eat it.  This very specific usual routine shows the repetition that all three characters are going through.  The narration of the chapter suggests that Karenin is the one determining all of this, as he shows his assertiveness over Tomas and Teresa.  He wakes them up, makes Teresa bring him on a walk to buy his toy, and makes Tomas play with him.  All of this is being developed in the chapter as if the dog is conscious throughout the eternally returning steps of the day’s progression, however it is merely the chapters expression of the details that is used to demonstrate the repetitive eternal return of Tomas and Teresa’s lives.

Chapter one of part four is meant to set up the thematic stage for the rest of the chapter.  It does this by introducing the concepts of eternal return, “es muss sein”, and lightness versus weight, by using Karenin’s characterization with respect to Tomas and Teresa.  This chapter describes the way that initial subtleties in behaviours can translate into more meaningful shortcomings, as are seen later on in the chapter.

Andrew Liberio

Words: 787

There Exists no Lightness Without Weight

     Nothing real (or made up) can exist without two balancing extremes.  In order for something to exist, there must be a force allowing it to, and more than one thing can not exist unless there is a counter force, both equal and opposite, that is preventing the first force from becoming everything.  These opposing forces work to force everything into a elegant equilibrium state, and allow for the beauty of the universe.  From this concept, understanding is born, emotions and logic can interpret what we perceive, and place meanings, and names, and concepts on everything.  The very existence of matter is based on the neutralizing complimentary forces of positive and negative attractions and repulsions. without this balance, atoms could not exist, our earth would not be in orbit, nor would it be anything but random dispersion.

     Lightness and weight are complimentary forces.  By definition, lightness is the lack of weight, and therefore, there cannot be one without the other.  This concept comes up in many religious and cultural contexts, such as the concept of yin and yang in Chinese culture.  There is no shadow without the sun.  No force without flexibility.  There can be no closure without an opening.  No peace without a storm to be found within.

The idea of perfect balance, brings forth the question as to what it is we are all trying to achieve: Greatness? Individual or collective? What is greatness? It is not merely getting what you want, nor is it having everything you desire.  There is something more to greatness.  The path which leads you there must be long and hard, tough and  heavy.  And on this path, weighs just as much importance as the end result since neither one can exist without the other.  This path must offer up countless opportunities to quit along the way. Yet when you finally arrive at greatness, through the long hard road that you travelled, it is most often taken lightly, as if there was not much to it.  Those who achieve greatness, and accept it with the balance of weight and lightness, greet it with an unpretentious nonchalance.  These people have travelled the tough road and experienced the weight and so taking greatness lightly gives them the ultimate appreciation for what they’ve done.  Therefore the end product, means nothing without the journey, and the journey in it’s self lacks the personal compensation we yearn for without the result.

     We all want to get away; to escape, from stress, from responsibilities.  We demand time off, relaxation times, weekends, vacation.  But to be honest with ones self, one must ask “what am I getting away from in the first place”!  If we’re always trying to get away, then why don’t we stay away for good.  Why must we put ourselves through agony for the majority of our conscious lives, in order to enjoy the minority? The opposite also applies, there are some who live without intent, wondering why they haven’t been given a chance.  They lounge around, pretending, but that’s all.  They go through their entire lives sometimes, without ever waking up from the hypnotic state of nothingness.  These two extremes allow us to understand that neither makes very much sense.  The solution, or at least a proposition, is that we see everything as one.

      Nature does not discriminate.  we must look at examples that don’t involve ourselves, and from all perspectives of “ourselves”.  By this I mean that we must asses ourselves as humans, and so we mustn’t look for answers within humans.  A problem can not be solved within the same paradigm from which it was created.  If we wish to asses ourselves as life forms, we must look at the non-living.  When we do this at the full capacity by which our feeble minds can handle, we grow, and we can begin to see the harmonious equilibrium in which everything outside of “ourselves” works. And then understand, or guess, that we’ve found the direction in which we must travel. Once we begin along this path, there is no turning back, there are no opportunities to quit or stop, and no intention to do so. Here, on only here, begins the perfectly fused existence of lightness and weight.

Andrew Liberio

Eternal Return     This collection of pictures represents some of the positive and negative aspects of eternal return.  It also demonstrates what the concept represent from our point of view.  The two pictures on the top represent the different ways of view eternity or time.  With one being a point of view where time is one single straight line, and another where times is recurring infinity fast over infinitely small intervals.  This concept is also a key concept in calculus, and it how we are able to find the area’s under curves, by adding together infinitely small “areas” together to get a single real answer.  The bottom of our slide represents the concept of learning, by representing students from various ethnic backgrounds, and also represents different aging all learning the same thing.  This is a more realistic example, since it represents a concrete example, that being education, of something that continues on and on.  The three pictures on the top right of the picture show a counter example to eternal return in a way, since these people have single-handedly influenced the entire course of history in their lifetimes, and it is hard to think of such influential people coming along again and again.  However, this example also brings in a concept on eternal return, since they milestones they accomplished will be effecting people forever, continuously.

Andrew Liberio, Dimitrios Antonios Balatas Lopez