Music We Love

About the Artist



xoxo
Paula M. Stinson is an NYU acting school dropout and 2011 graduate of California State University, San Bernardino, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. This milestone coming seventeen years after skipping out of David Mamet's Practical Aesthetics Workshop at the Atlantic Theater CompanyIn addition to writing her "Probing and insightful" (—Playwrights Horizons, NYC) two act play with music, THE MIXTAPE: An Urban Love Story, she's an award-winning poet, prolific photographer, Cards of Destiny reader and pug addict. When not dreaming up dialogue or divining futures, Paula teaches drama and language arts to exceptional children around the Southland. She lives like a queen in a magical forest north of Los Angeles with her husbanda crime novelistand their four adopted children. Saturn was transiting the 11th House at the time of her birth.



                                


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A Good Planet is Hard to Find



"If there's a Hell, this is it."



I WAS a friendly 7th grade student at Precious Blood Catholic Elementary when it happened
when I became obsessed with two disturbing things: (1) Mark Thomson, my drop dead gorgeous 1/2 Mexican 1/2 Scottish paramour one grade younger and (2) nasty old chewing gum plastered underneath restaurant tables. 


Inexplicably, after being seated at any restaurant beginning around age 12my mind, body and soul would suddenly be seized by a tormenting current of joy and disgust. Joy, because I love nothing more in life than dining out. Especially when the ocean or bean and cheese burritos are involved. And disgust, because the act of sitting down for a meal at any public table grew increasingly unbearablecausing me to unravel from the inside out. On the rare occasion when there was a tablecloth present, my anxiety would subside a bit. But like true lovetablecloths were few and far between. 


As with most pleasures in life, eating out became an icky-blicky double-edged sword. Nothing was ever smooth sailing for this kid. Every happy occasion had to be tainted by some nebulous, free-floating fear that forever threatened my fragile state of mind. I come from a long line of fragile minds. On both sides. This means I could never just walk into Taco Bellorder a bean and cheese burrito, some cinnamon twisties and a medium Mountain Dew, plop my rump in the corner booth by the window and rip into my refried joy, unscathed. No way, no way. There was always some nasty catch hooked into every would-be good time. And the nasty that caught meruining countless middle school meals: vile old chewing gum staring down at me whenever I’d compulsively peek underneath my table in public; dead, stiff whatever the hell it is in a tidal wave of defunct colors and flavors that some phagocyte smooshed up there months, perhaps years earlier. This scenario never failed to unhinge me whenever I dined out. It was a living hell.

Here we are today: Friday, April 22, 2016. It’s been decades since the agony and the ecstasy that was the 7th grade. I’m grown up now, as friendly as ever and still not a Catholic. I’d like to think that I’ve recovered from my obsession with the obscene leftovers of strangers. And I had. I had until that terrible day when I learned of something far, far worse than gobs of Juicy FruitThe Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I’m not gonna lie, hearing the description of it made my dreary life flash before me like a 5 watt bulb. 


For those of you who don't know, the GPGP is a massive (and I mean colossal) vortex of global trash that has collected in the Pacific Ocean gyre halfway between San Francisco and Hawai’i. Over time, the force of ocean currents have moved it all there. And get thisit’s twice the size of Texas. TEXAS! Not Rhode Island. Not Colorado. Motherfucking Texas. And not so much a dense carpet of trash as I had initially imagined, the Garbage Patch is more like a gigantic trash soup gurgling with every piece of floating filth a fertile mind could conjure. In particular: water bottles and other disposable food and drink containers as far as the eye can see. Resent estimations have it at more than a hundred feet deep and growing. What’s worsethe whales, dolphins, sharks, birds and fish that call the Pacific Ocean home are mistaking the debris for food (especially the red-colored debris) and actually eating itmaking it a diet of certain death for them. Scientists and researchers have cracked open the rotting carcasses of countless creatures strangled in the mess and found their bellies overflowing with everything from disposable lighters to bottle caps. O Lord. The bottle caps. These (virtually indestructible) objects, when nobody bothers to recycle them, often maim and even murder God’s children of the sea

Plastic, humanity's "miracle material", is one of the most abundant ingredients in the Garbage Patch. In particular, the raw feed stock of plastic known as polymers or “nardles”. Nardles are tiny translucent pebbles hatched in manufacturing plants throughout Texas and Louisiana and are chemically-treated to be hard, soft, colorful, colorless, ultraviolet or shatter-resistant. In this form, before corporations have melted them into disposable drink containers and bottle capsnardles make up 10% of all the plastic found in the ocean. The world’s largest landfill ain’t even on the land. It’s out there. In the water. What's worse, the GPGP is but ONE OF FIVE of these massive ocean landfills worldwide.

What's so bad about plastic? you ask. That’s an excellent question and one that everyone should be asking. The simplest answer? Like certain pesky viruses, it never goes away. Over time it gets smaller and smaller, yes, but forever remains plastic. When we die, we decompose. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Not plastic. And yet, we keep making more and more and more and more of ita staggering 300,000,000 tons more per year. Then we wonder why so many loved ones get cancer, Alzheimer's, etcetera. Because disease and death are the end result when tons of plastic doesn’t get recycled, floats down storm drains and merges with our oceans (and their inhabitants). Bodies of water that cover 70% of this exquisite little planet, our home, Mother Earth, GaiaIn the end, there’s no getting out of this onewhat we don’t recycle, we’ll probably eat. And what we don’t eatthe whales, dolphins, sharks, birds and fish surely willpromising them a painful death. 

Now is that something you want to let happen? 


In many ways I wish I'd remained oblivious to this floating, bloating hell on earth. The mere knowing it’s out there makes me wanna drown myself in sorrow. This whole dirty water epidemic is like suicide on the installment plan anyway. But, by the same token, I’m glad I know it exists. Ignorance, after all, is the greatest sin. I’m the kind of gal who’d rather know the truthno matter how awfulversus stumbling drunk through this toxic dream. I need to know what’s really going on so that I might do something to change it. Before it’s too late. For the children's sake.

When I first learned of this travesty on some idle Friday in April, I found myself flash-dancing back to 1985: a tempestuous year when something inside would force me to flop over sideways and closely examine the underside of Bob's Big Boy tables from here to the Salton Sea. Me making myself face the horrifying truth wedged in petrified patches an inch beneath my unhappy meal. Except this is different. This makes me feel utterly swindled. Heartbroken. Scared shitless. Contemplating thisour great environmental holocausteclipses all that chewing gum and even the awful night in Indio when I learned that Mark was dead

So behold O! monks and monkettes, this is my parting truth for you: Like true love and tableclothsa good planet is hard to find. 









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The Devil Inside: Shakespeare's Medievalism




-- Billy Shakespeare


Though timeless in themes and unforgettable in style and execution, the plays of William Shakespeare aren’t entirely to his credit. But while it’s true that he liked to draw inspiration from previously existing tales and texts, and often modeled his plays after Roman tragedies, there's no denying the fact that he put a decidedly secular stamp on whatever source/structure he appropriated. Nowhere is his creative licensing more true to worldly form than in his tragedy, Othello: The Moor of Venice. Tapping the Medieval morality play a la Everyman and Mankind, Shakespeare drops notions of envy, jealousy, and mercy into a 17th Century Italian Navy. Unlike the Medieval tradition, however, Shakespeare offers no moral resolution for his characters. What he does do is put a chilling new spin on dramatic conventions by making his protagonist amoral, his hero too passionate for his own good, and the act of forgiveness...a perilous game. In doing so, the playwright presents complex, intemperate, and deadly versions of Medieval concepts that transcend the divine by showing us that in the real world…some things never change.
           
            In his article, The Theatre of the World: A Study in Medieval Dramatic Formscholar Martin Stevens writes, “[Medieval] plays tended to define themselves by the identity of their protagonist. If the central character was Christ, the play was a Corpus Christi cycle; if a saint, a saint or miracle play; if “mankind”, a morality playSignificantly, the forces of good always won out in the end and the protagonist, therefore, could not be essentially evil.” (237) William Shakespeare, a Renaissance man, played things out differently. Iago, general Othello’s trusted ensign and arguably the play’s chief protagonist is a far cry from what most would deem good. Some might even call him a force of evil, a gaslighter, a black magician. More aptly, he is envy personified, and it is by way of his nefarious machinations that the plot advances and honorable lives come undone.
           
            Embracing the secular versus the divine of the Medieval tradition, Shakespeare doesn’t couch his concepts in religious rhetoric. The language of Othello is devoid of proselytizing and is instead rife with false accusations and murderous innuendo; a bitter rendering of life in the ruthless world of European power -- a setting Shakespeare seemed enamored with. By way of Iago’s powers of suggestion, audiences get to savor an act of premeditated first-degree fuckery when the crafty villain (whose name ironically evokes a Spanish patron saint) deploys subtle psychological warfare in order to achieve his ultimate end: the total destruction of another man’s life. Driven by secret fears of inferiority and low self-esteem, Iago accomplishes his objective with ease. His wrath being a byproduct of the nasty little vice he conceals…his envy. But not just envy. Shakespeare digs deeper in his characterizations by showing us the destructive power of envy intertwined with bloodthirsty ambition, an inflated sense of self, and a proclivity for sadistic pleasures. In this form, Iago’s envy is a three dimensional many-a-pernicious thing.

            Lurking just beneath Iago’s envy is a complementary evil: his incorrigible lack of empathy, respect, or authentic concern for others. Heavy in his chest hangs a darker shade of heart, one that throbs to a tempest’s beat anytime he is challenged, rejected, criticized or denied. But rather than draw the life of this dark soul back to the ethics of religious ideology, Shakespeare merely reveals the inner workings of this criminal mind, presenting Iago as a cunning sociopath determined to achieve his ends no matter what the cost to others. Shakespeare seemed intrigued by the ruthless side of human nature as is evident in his malevolent portrait of crafty Iago. If there’s one inarguable through line between Shakespeare and the Roman tradition a la Thyestes, it’s the notion of revenge at all costsan ideal Iago embodies with coldblooded totality. In this context, Shakespeare doesn’t tell us how people should be. Rather, how they can be and often, in real life, are. He implores us to embark on our own exploration of the hows and whys of human ways in 2.3 when Montano asks Iago:

            Perhaps he [Othello] sees it not, or his good nature
           
            Prizes the virtue that appears in Cassio
           
            And looks not on his evil. Is this not true? (2.3.127-131)

But is Iago (or anyone for that matter) truly evil? The tragedy of Othello does nothing if not beg this timeless question. 

      No doubt Iago’s reprehensible scheme could easily be deemed an evil plan in its construction/execution. But more appropriately, I believe it reveals: a man in crisis; an individual of great ambition, savvy and guile who’s lost control of his base nature and connection to his inner feminine. As a result, Iago sees life through a cracked lens, skewed as it is in the direction of his desires above all. But just below the surface, he is a thin-skinned, insecure man driven by a disproportionate sense of entitlement. Linking this idea back to Christianity, Iago can be likened to the Biblical Lucifer whose arrogance begat his downfall. Whether it is initially apparent or not, Iago’s ire is aroused whenever he perceives his authority has been questioned, challenged, or demeaned. In these instances, he becomes a monster, albeit a subtle Ripper. When he is passed up for promotion by Othello in favor of the younger, less experienced Michael Cassio, Iago is consumed by an indignant fury his fragile ego can barely stave off. But rather than reveal his contemptuousness, Iago obscures it in the guise of a sinister sincerity that becomes his secret weapon:

            Touch me not so near
           
            I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth
           
            Than it should do offense to Michael Cassio.” (2.3.210-212)

The problem with crafty Iago is that he likes to talk out of both sides of his mouth, and because he is trusted by Othello, he becomes the worst kind of enemy: the one you mistook as a friend. This fleshed out version of the Medieval tradition reveals Shakespeare’s prodigious understanding of human nature as well as his remarkable ability to manipulate language that it may do his bidding. Staying true to Mankind’s Titivillus, Iago…speaking in several candid asides…is forthcoming with us, the audience, whom he makes his passive accomplice:

            The Moor is of a free and open nature
           
            That thinks men honest that but seem to be so;
           
            And will as tenderly be led by th’ nose
           
            As asses are. (1.3.399-402)

Iago is a master manipulator who appears shameless as he pulls dark wool over everyone’s eyes. From a Structuralist perspective, Iago is an abstract concept assuming a human form; the kind of guy you might live next door to, or work for, or god forbid...sleep with. Barely able to believe what we’re seeing, we watch as he unscrupulously exploits Othello’s trusting nature, and in the process we discover Othello’s secret affliction, of which clever Iago appears keenly aware, “I see, sir, you are eaten up with passion.” (3.3.391) 

            While Iago is plagued with envy (among other tragic things), Othello, on the other hand, is infected ("eaten up") with a different strain of vice ("passion"): jealousy. Where envy covets what another has, jealousy fears you'll take what's mine. In particular, sexual jealousy -- that most despicable of human vices -- which, according to A.C. Bradley in his essay, “ ‘The Most Painfully Exciting and the most Terrible’ of Shakespeare’s Tragedies” evokes both shame and disgust in one who recognizes it in themselves. “But jealousy,” he writes, “and especially sexual jealousy, brings with it a sense of shame and humiliation. For this reason it is generally hidden; if we perceive it we ourselves are ashamed and turn our eyes away; and when it is not hidden it commonly stirs contempt as well as pity.” (236) But not just sexual jealousy. Sexual jealousy intertwined with a deep fear of not being good enough, topped off with tremendous presence and heart. The general seems halfheartedly aware of the frailty that undermines the structure of his life:

            Now, by heaven
           
            My blood begins my safer guides to rule
           
            And passion, having my best judgment collied
           
            Assays to lead the way. (2.3.194-197)

In fact, if it weren’t for Othello’s outrageous jealousy in connection to his wife’s affections, Iago’s intrigues would have no host upon which to attach and systematically destroy. Therefore, the two vices work symbiotically in the tragedy.

            But unlike his Medieval counterpart, Othello (the play’s Mankind character) isn’t offered any moral explanation in the end as to how his life was so absolutely destroyed; how noble order spiraled into chaos. In Mankind, the character of Mercy explains to Mankind the dangers of his folly, “To trust overmuch in a prince is not expedient.” (846) Shakespeare knew this, too. But rather than tell us…he shows us. He shows us that malignant passions lurk in the human heart…that noble men can be easily lead astray by the force of their intemperate desires…that people may not always be what they seem…and that the innocent often die for no good reason.

         Countering the effects of the men’s vices, Shakespeare gives us the virtuous Desdemona: portrait of innocence and matrimonial fidelity. Mercy personified. Even after her husband has accused her of cheating with Cassio (as a result of Iago’s intrigues), Desdemona remains steadfast in her devotion to her husband. She tells Iago in 4.2:

            Comfort forswear me! Unkindness may do much;

            And his unkindness may defeat my life,

            But never taint my love. (4.2.157-158)

If that isn’t the essence of mercy, what is? Except Shakespeare’s version exposes a disparaging and often overlooked aspect of the virtue. Mercy, in the Medieval model, represents a divine ideal that guides Mankind along the path of redemption. In Othelloconversely, Shakespeare reveals the dark underbelly of the virtue. Mercy, according to Shakespeare, is what ultimately brings Desdemona’s demise. But not just mercy. Mercy entangled with a deep passionate love for her husband, topped off with the belief that a woman stands by her man regardless of what form his abuse might assume. The doomed bride tells Iago in 4.2:

            Alas, Iago,

            What shall I do to win my lord again?

            Good friend, go to him; for by this light of heaven,

            I know not how I lost him. Here I kneel.” (4.2.149-151)

So absolute is her devotion (even in light of potential danger) that Feminist critics likely recoil at the obsequious degree to which she submits to her irrational husband. On some level, Othello’s faithful wife seems aware that her compassion might bring her collapse but appears to accept it with dutiful resignation. Foreshadowing her imminent death, she tells Emilia in 4.3, “If I do die before thee, prithee shroud me / In one those same sheets.” (4.3.23-24) She’s referring to her wedding sheets, drawing a parallel between matrimony and eternal sleep

            Shakespeare’s method is simple. Guided by the Medieval structure, the Bard of Avon creates unforgettable characters whose breakdowns, sacrifices, and devilish ways never cease to amaze and delight. Iago’s devastating powers of suggestion and innate awareness of the chinks in Othello’s nature make him a formidable foe. A fact that he, too, seems aware of when in 4.1 he tells Cassio (with an irony only the spellbound audience could fully comprehend), “I am a very villain else.” (4.1.127) Very, very. 

            Through Iago, Othello, and Desdemona, Shakespeare presents us with human renditions of vices and virtues underscoring their often bitter, unforeseen sides. In his tragic portrayal of Desdemona, for example, audiences are left to wonder: can a virtue, taken too far, become a vice? Shakespeare shows us, too, that some stories end tragically for the evil and innocent alike. When Othello’s passion overtakes him to the point that he murders the thing he loves the most, we’re left to ponder how on earth such a great man could've ever allowed such an awful thing to happen? And we continue to find ourselves with more questions than answers... 

Welcome to the real world.



*Grade received: B


 ****


WORKS CITED


            Everyman and Mankind: An Arden Early Modern Drama Edition. Edited by

Douglas Bruster and Eric Rasmussen. Arden Early Modern Drama, London, 2009.


            Othello: A Norton Critical Edition. Edited by Edward Pechter. W.W. Norton and

Company, New York, London, 2004.


            Stevens, Martin. “The Theater of the World: A Study in Medieval Dramatic

Form.” The Chaucer Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Spring, 1973), pp. 234-249.


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Greeks Like Us



“Thousands teemed in the womb, wanting to be him.”



What defines a hero? Is he comprised of the same ingredients today as he was in antiquity? Are there immutable dimensions to his character and intrinsic motivation that endure regardless of time, place, or circumstance?  In comparing Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey to the Coen brothers’ 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, I will explore the differences and some similarities between the Greek and American hero. I will also integrate complementary ideas gleaned from scholar Kathleen Komar’s article, "Rilke’s Sixth Duino Elegy or the Hero as Feige(n)baum", a piece that explores the contradictory images in Rilke’s poem, Sixth Duino Elegy, the final installment of a ten-part piece by the modern German poet. 

        The heroic schema -- man embodying the exceptional -- has been a recurring theme in the collective psyche of humankind as far back as recorded time reaches. Proof positive is in the fact that I’m writing this final college paper today, attempting to shed new light on an old idea. The hero -- man’s inner ideal projected -- burns on because he is as relevant of a figure today as he was during the time of the ancient Greeks. His recurrence in our art, literature, and historic texts suggests that he (or she) is a vital and necessary human construct. One might say this is so because the hero is the one many of us secretly long to be, whether conscious of this fact or not. Why else would he stand the test of so much time? However, ideas about what sets him apart from the rest differ greatly depending upon who is telling his story, as well as when and where they’re telling it.

          For Homer (the alleged author of The Iliad and The Odyssey circa 1194 BC) the hero -- boldly embodied in his brave Odysseus -- was, among other things, King of Ithaca. A man of nobility repeatedly described by the poet as “great,” “fearless,”  and “long-suffering.” Employing this type of language in reference to their hero implies that the Greeks worshipped their man of great heart and consequence. The Greek hero was beloved indeed! A fact clearly reflected in the goddess Athena’s human-like compulsion to shield and protect him. In Book Seven she covers Odysseus in mist to conceal him so that he could reach the king and queen of Scheria undetected:

            Odysseus went on
           
            striding down the hall, the man of many struggles
           
            shrouded still in the mist Athena drifted round him,
           
            till he reached Arete and Alcinous the king. (163-65)                                                                                                           
Her “man of many struggles” aroused a powerful maternal instinct in the benevolent goddess, and as a result she helped him traverse many harrowing peaks and valleys on his long journey home, like a mother would a precious son. And even when he is not particularly esteemed in the eyes of certain gods, he is nonetheless of great interest to them. When Odysseus blinds Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus, for example, the earthquake god spares the king’s life, cursing Odysseus instead, sending storms to inhibit his journey back to Ithaca. The fact that Poseidon chose not to kill or otherwise harm the arrogant Odysseus suggests some degree of preferential treatment…even on the part of an immortal adversary. The Greek heroes are undoubtedly fortunate to have some sort of impact on their gods who wield much influence over the ultimate state of their affairs, a fact Homer's hero knows well and laments often. 

            Cut to the dawn of the 21st Century. The gifted brothers Coen co-write and direct a quirky comedy called O Brother, Where Art Thou -- their modern retelling of Homer’s epic set in Mississippi during the Great Depression. Such a parallel confounds some audience members who can’t quite envision Everett Ulysses McGill (a Dapper Dan George Clooney) as a modern-day Odysseus. The two men are worlds apart in rank, reputation and godly favor, and these imperative factors make it difficult for some to perceive Everett in the same grand light. But this everyman’s man is a unique/distinct brand of hero -- he’s a hip, slick American hero. Reborn in a time and place where his unique je ne sais qua serves him well. Because of his profound lack of nobility, however, some might feel more comfortable labeling him an “anti-hero” -- again, a uniquely American idea. Much like the 20th Century idea of “postmodernism” (an amorphous term most often used in reference to Post World War II art, literature and architecture), the definition of an anti-hero is relatively unclear, and depends greatly upon who is doing the defining. Put simply, the anti-hero is not a clear-cut, black and white concept, but one that is more individually interpretive (like the poem itself). 

          Nevertheless, Odysseus is resurrected in Everett: a chain gang escapee who dreams a secret dream: that of recapturing the lost riches of his one true love -- his faithful wife, Penny. When the film opens, he escapes confinement on the chain with two fellow convicts, Pete and Delmar: men of more simple minds. With exuberant Everett serving as the wind beneath their little odyssey, dubbing himself the “old tactician with a plan,” the three set out to retrieve an alleged buried treasure (while simultaneously skirting the law). Everett claims to have stolen it from an armored car and subsequently buried before his incarceration. As the film progresses, however, the deeper desire of their hero’s heart is revealed: to be reunited with his beloved wife, whom he learns has become engaged to another, more bona fide suitor. Where Odysseus’ Penelope had an array of “swaggering” suitors, dripping with greed, all vying for her hand in marriage (along with her kingdom) -- Everett’s Penny, it would appear, has found a new man. 

          Getting wind of this sets Everett ablaze. It’s all the impetus he needs to make his bold escape, unknowingly thrusting himself head-long into his own heroic odyssey; prophesied to him by the blind seer on the railroad tracks and inspired by the most compelling of human incentives: his beloved. Like the Greeks, we Americans love to be in love! At the end of the day only the love story truly moves us. Not so much the love of money story (because that’s the root of all our evil, you know.) But authentic, abiding human love. Love transformed Everett into the hero of his own life. Yet, we mustn’t lose sight of one vital caveat: Everett is a very specific type of hero/lover -- modeled after the Greek’s Odysseus, yes, but fulfilling his heroic destiny (the acquisition of love and a little money) in a very modern and highly individualistic way -- the American way, baby.

          The great American hero of the early 20th Century (Everett), at the beginning anyway, is someone aided in times of trouble not by concerned and benevolent gods, per se, but more so by the latent talents his (Christian) god kindly bestowed upon him. Fortunately for Everett, he has no problem capitalizing on his inner resources as he attempts to dodge the law and actualize his secret initiative. What are some of the inner/outer resources he’s able to utilize to his benefit? For starters, it doesn’t hurt that he is the most handsome of his MIA posse, and we all know how far good looks can take a person in America. In addition to his good looks and abundant charisma, he is a natural leader; a self-proclaimed strategist with the ability to “think abstractly”. More importantly is that Everett (like Odysseus) is blessed with the gift of gab -- being able to bring others around to his point of view with the intensity of his convictions. Within the context of his time, place, and set of circumstances, Everett is a compelling rhetorician -- a quality that American culture at large values greatly and rewards honorably (our current President being a stellar, present-day example of such communicative verve.) This talent is highlighted when Everett convinces the blind radio station owner to let he and his impromptu band, The Soggy Bottom Boys, sing into tin cans for quick cash. Little did he know that by thinking so swiftly on his feet, it would catapult he and his friends toward fame (a fashionably American dream). At his metaphoric essence, Everett symbolizes what it means to do it your way -- an ideal as American as Frank Sinatra and Jack in the Box. Do it your way and (maybe even) get rich and famous in the process! This is at the very heart of the American Dream, and Everett embodies our kind of hero. In the end, he not only wins his beloved Penny back, but he also garners freedom and notoriety -- bonuses he never saw coming. 

             Another important distinction between the Greek and American hero: in the Greek tradition, the gods (most likely) would have had to intervene in order to effect such a fortunate turn of events as the ones Everett and his friends encountered. For the Greeks, the gods had a direct hand in the ultimate success or failure of their hero. This is not necessarily the case for the American hero who, in times of unparalleled crisis is forced to rely solely on his faith in a benevolent God, versus the Greek certainty that their human-like gods will come to their rescue or manipulate events to their advantage. This implementation of faith is evident at the conclusion of the film when, faced with certain death at the hands of the bounty hunters who’d been tracking them, their intense petitioning of the Lord’s pity makes way for a what appears to be a miraculous intervention and just in the nick of time. A local dam breaks just in time to save them and drown their enemies. It wasn’t necessarily their god that saved them, but the faith they had that god existed. Us Americans, we know the power of faith. And it is this quality alone that gives the common, every man -- like Everett -- heroic potential.
           
          Which brings us to Kathleen Komar’s 1985 article on how poetic language in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sixth Duino Elegy attempts to violate it’s own poetic boundaries by painting an unusual and confounding portrait of the hero, comparing him to a fichus tree. (Fichus being an adjectival derivative of an earlier Greek root, ‘sykon’ meaning “cowardly.”) In her 11-page piece, Ms. Komar states that “the hero is, first of all, like the youthfully dead in that he rushes toward death and is not afraid of it.” (30) In respect to Everett, at least, her statement is not entirely accurate. (But this must be so if he’s a hero!) Everett, first and foremost, is a human being. To be human is to naturally fear death. To be a hero, however, is not to deny ones fear but to acknowledge and elect to move beyond it. This is what Everett was able to accomplish thanks to his faith in that great something out there. By no means was he fearless in the face of death. We see his natural, human fear surface like the white tide when he, Pete and Delmar begin feverishly petitioning the Lord to have pity on them. Perhaps this is the heart of where the hero has evolved since the days when Homer was penning epic poetry. 
                 Where Ms. Komar is most astute on is on page 31 of her article where she asserts, “The primary image of the hero, then, is one of constant and furious motion, of activity at its peak. Unlike the meaningless activity of the acrobats, the hero’s frenetic activity is directed and meaningful and is, therefore, aided by existence at large”. Those final five words being key. The hero then, now and evermore is aided by existence at large indeed! What a wonderful thing for all the hero poets to know. And herein lies a connective bridge between the hero’s journey in both Homer’s Odyssey, as well as O Brother -- an idea exquisitely expressed in Paulo Coelho’s allegorical novel, The AlchemistCoelho’s hero, Santiago, comes to discover that when you (the hero of your own life) have a noble fire (that single burning objective that blots out all frivolity) burning in your heart -- all of the Universe will conspire to help you capture it. Odysseus captured his fire. Everett did too.


                                                        Have you?




*Grade received: A-