The readings this week examine one of the most basic, yet hard to answer, questions: who are we? From Milton’s “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” to Shakespeare’s “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “One Word”, they all examine the thought of who we are.
In John Milton’s “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent,” Milton writes about himself—a middle-aged blind man who is struggling with the reality of his disability and future. He says, “And that one talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless though my soul more bent…” Milton thinks that just because he is blind his talents are useless. In the end, Milton decides that he should continue to keep writing poems. This poem reminded me of a classmate in high school. She was born with deformed legs, which prevented her from walking, and was wheelchair-bound her entire life. Although she had this disability, she looked at it as actually an ability—she competed in wheelchair basketball games and was even one of the managers for the varsity basketball team at my high school. What I gained out of her story, and this poem, is that our disabilities do not characterize who we are. Blindness, the inability to walk, and all other disabilities should not dictate who we believe we are—it is our thoughts, emotions, and actions that determine what type of person we are.
Shakespeare writes a poem that looks into physical perfection. The speaker says that his “mistresses’” lips are not as red as coral, her cheeks are not like roses, her breath does not always smell good, and music can be more pleasing than her voice. When reading this, one may think that the speaker is degrading someone—however, this is not the case. The ending reads, “My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground. And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she, belied with false compare.” The speaker is saying that what some might consider perfection is not always perfection. After reading this poem, I came to the conclusion that perfection is subject to how we perceive it. What I may think is perfection, may be the opposite of that to someone else. Most importantly, I think we should all strive for our own personal perfection. We should accept who we are and realize that we are all perfect in our own ways.
Finally, the last reading was by a lady named Elizabeth Gilbert and was titled “One Word.” The speaker in this poem is having a conversation and they are talking about one-word descriptions for different places. This inevitably leads to the speaker asking herself a very central question: what is her word? I began to think of what my word would be, and I was stumped. Assigning one word to someone seems so simplistic from the outset. But when you try to think of one central word to describe a person, you have a bit of trouble. I think it’s because as a person, no one is as simplistic as one word. We are all so much more than a simple description—we have relationships, feelings, emotions, opinions, knowledge, and the list goes on.
When I think back to the original question that characterizes all of these pieces of literature, who are we, I think its actually quite simple. We are all different. None of us are the same, as we all have different life experiences, we all come from different backgrounds, and we all think differently. One of the most important things we can remember as a society is that we are all different, and when we realize and accept that, we will be closer to be coming unified.