Nonfiction - Page 6

Are They Really Scars?

Thoughts on “The Greatest Showman”

Dominika Zahar

The Greatest Showman was filmed in 2017 under the direction of Michael Gracey. When the movie came out, I was so excited to watch it. To tell the truth, it wasn’t because of the plot or because it was a musical; it was because of Zendaya and Zac Efron. I grew up watching their shows, so it was obvious that I was going to watch this one as well. In the end I was impressed. I loved the songs, the dances, the acting – basically just the way it was made. But there was one song that really amazed me: “This is Me.” This song has a very clear message that is both understandable and relatable. Nowadays more and more people – according to my own experience, mostly teenagers – feel that they are not good enough to become something and that they have to hide and cover their scars. I love the first line in the song (“I am not a stranger to the dark”) because it represents that they have been there for so long and were still able to get out of it. That’s why the song is so powerful. Because it takes a lot of time to come out of the dark, to gain the bravery that is necessary in the “world of perfection.” This world is full of celebs, stars, models who are considered perfect, and those with low self-esteem think that they have to be them, and only then can they achieve their goals. This song can help you toward finding your place in this world. It says that no one has to apologize for who they are, no one has to hide in the dark, no one has to cover up, because everyone has a place where they are loved and welcomed. Most of us cross this path once in our lives: when we try to find ourselves and our place in the world but have to remember that we are unique because of our scars and so many people love us because of them. So I would like to ask, are they really scars? Or do we just consider them so, out of invented shame? Everyone should truly be themselves, because you never know which one of your faults will lead you to success in your life.

The Comic Nature of “Into the Woods”

Anna Mészáros

In this short essay, the author relates a description of the comic genre–written by Dr. Louise Cowan–to the musical Into the Woods.

What are the laws and customs of [the land of comedy], acknowledged even by those who flout them? Its supreme law, of course, is love; its concern is with physis, the flow of being that animates and connects all things. Comedy takes place in a fallen world; it begins in established disorder, usually with an old regime in control, where people have lived by law, by reason, or by custom, neglecting wholeness, pleasure, and love. It moves toward the recapturing of those qualities by ingenuity and audacity. It may resort to the fantastic in order to effect a needed break with routine, and it pulls others along with it in a creative recapturing of community, with friends and helpers serving as guardians and counsellors. Its justice is mercy and forgiveness. Its supreme fiction is the journey of the soul; its virtues, faith, hope, and charity, its vices the seven deadly sins. Its mode of action is deception and delay, since if Fortune and not Fate is to be the governing authority, one must do whatever is necessary to stave off the ultimate fatal defeat. Life must go on, at any cost, since in comedy life can blossom again even out of impossibility if only the final, unthinkable event does not occur. Life, the élan vital, is far more important than established morality, since the very continuance of the human species is in question. In the end, however, the comic seeks to reestablish morality and to reanimate the life of moral and spiritual forms. The terrain of comedy is, in fine, an image of the world as organic rather than mechanic—as living, interrelating, aspiring, growing, and healing. It is a vision of matter particularly in spirit, of grace permeating nature, of the body being lifted up, like Bottom, in an overwhelming and irrational joy.

—Louise Cowan, introduction to The Terrain of Comedy (Dallas: The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, 1984).

For me, this rather long but mind-opening quote seems to be the perfect basis of Into the Woods, a musical by Stephen Sondheim about characters – taken from fairy tales – who all wish for something.

As Louise Cowan says at just the beginning “[Comedy’s] supreme law, of course is love,” and that is what brings the characters and us through the whole story: Would it have been a happy ending at the very end, despite all the losses and deaths, if the surviving characters (and maybe also the dead ones, like the Baker’s wife or Jack’s mum, hadn’t loved each other? I think love is the main reason for the happy ending in the musical.

It is claimed in the quote that “Comedy takes place in a fallen world; it begins in established disorder,” which is true for this musical as well. Each character has a wish, through which they think they could get their “wholeness” and “pleasure.” For example, the Baker and the Baker’s wife wish for a child, and Cinderella wishes to go to the festival, to dance before the Prince.

So, to achieve what they are wishing for, the characters start to work. They need the qualities of “ingenuity and audacity” during their journey – shown, for instance, in the way that the Baker and the Baker’s wife search ingeniuosly for the ingredients of the potion to lift the spell of the witch: they do anything they can, the Baker’s wife is so audacious, she even cuts off the hair, yellow as corn, of an unknown woman (later revealed as Rapunzel).

The “fantastic” in this case has more than one form. It is the witch and her spells and potions, but it is also present when Cinderella goes to her mother’s place, magic happens, and she gets a ball dress.

Characters become each others’ “friends and helpers”: for example, Little Red Riding Hood helps the Baker and his wife by giving them her cape, red as blood, and they eventually become friends, and it is the same with Jack: at the end they become friends, even though at the beginning the Bakers only want his cow, white as milk.

They go through ups and downs and finally they think they have achieved what would make them happy. This is where the deception comes in, delaying the play. The first act seems to be the perfect ending, but we get surprised, because it was only the first act. Then in Act 2 we realise that “Fortune and not Fate is to be the governing authority”; we realise this is not the end, this stage of their life must not be Fate, their life that continues depends on Fortune, just as in real life. They have to deal with the consequences of their decisions, like Jack, killing the giant, or Cinderella, who decides to leave the prince. All characters have to face the Giantess, who wants to take revenge on Jack. Their houses are destroyed by the Giantess, and many of them die, even the narrator, because of her. In this very low situation, the play proves that “Life must go on, at any cost, since in comedy life can blossom again even out of impossibility if only the final, unthinkable event does not occur.”

And how does life blossom again? Through love and friendship. The survivors—the Baker, the Baker’s baby, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Jack—become friends and decide to live together, helping each other. So they seek to “reestablish morality and to reanimate the life of moral and spiritual forms.”

As I see it, the second act perfectly represents “the world as organic rather than mechanic – as living, interrelating, aspiring, growing, and healing,” making the world of the comedy as close to real life as possible. I particulary liked the part of the quote when Louise Cowan explained, that in the terrain of comedy “It is a vision of matter […] of the body being lifted up.” It is the characters’ attitude that allows them to truly solve their problems (realising that they are not alone and are there for each other), and I believe that is true for us most of the time in our lives.

Will It Be Unfamiliar?

Kázmér Kaposvári

Let’s think about the fact that we go to school every day, we learn, we do some sports, and most of us are just eager for summer to begin. These are familiar actions, feelings, and thoughts that we have every year.

For those people who were really just waiting to be home at last, I have good news (and bad): all of the students will have to stay home (we know why…), and let’s say that it is really unfamiliar for people to think they finished school already at the end of March. But the most unfamiliar thing for all of us is that we are going to learn till the end of the year without going to school. The lifestyle we are going to have in these rough few months is far from ordinary. Most people wouldn’t have ever thought that a crisis like this would happen, just because we all think these things only happen in history books and films and that we, humans, have developed so far in technology and medicine that we are able to solve anything. This will be the moment when people realise that the life they were planning is changing in ways we don’t know yet.

Personally, I still can’t put this anywhere, but I have some thoughts about what is about to happen: I think that this is going to unite humanity or else destroy it. If we are about to be destroyed, it will be because everyone will steal food and medicine from each other. But there is a really outstanding idea about what I think may be in the future. I believe that the virus is going to evolve and become more deadly and kill more people at a higher rate. This is not a great problem at a global level because this wouldn’t destroy nations, it would only cause big casualties. Most nations are able to withstand this pressure over the long term, and if some of them need aid, then other countries might come into the picture and help out.

Well, this is nice, and this way we are happy that we don’t all die out, but there is an exceptional country called North Korea. I believe everyone is aware of how things usually go there. Sadly they live in a communist dictatorship; furthermore, they keep their borders closed all the time. So they don’t really accept any help or even request any. Still, a few months into the pandemic, we don’t know much about their situation, as their official statements are not reliable. From what we can see, their economy and health system are not ready to fight off a pandemic like this. Of course, they also take precautions against the virus, so when  the first man got infected there, they immediately ordered him to stay in quarantine, but somehow he managed to ignore this and went to a public spa. When the local forces found him, they reportedly executed him. This act sent a message to all people in North Korea not to ignore the situation, as the country has a very strict legal system. But this is just the beginning, as there will be more infections they won’t be able to stop, and the president (Kim Jong-un), as we all know, likes to play the role of king. The minute he sees his empire tremble (the death of many people and also the army), he might use his little secret card that he has played so much with over the last few years: nuclear bombs. I know this sounds unfamiliar and unimaginable, but because there will be a lack of medicine and masks, he might use this threat to gain some help from neighbouring countries. Also, if this day comes and he is about to lose everything, or even worse, about to die, well, in this case he will not care; he will press the red button and destroy everything, only because if he dies, why shouldn’t he die with the rest of the world?

If not this extreme scenario, then the worst case will be wars, which are likely because of the supplies that the world needs. In that case, many countries will fight each other to survive. In such a world, learning at home would already be a luxury. The life that once seemed unordinary would now look distant.

Let’s just face it, as far as imagination goes, these are the worst and most unfamiliar scenes that I can come up with: nuclear aggression from North Korea, or fighting all around. Yet we know that these would not solve the problems. For this reason I personally think and believe that neither of these extremes will happen, and that we as countries and nations will all be able to help each other out.

World Encounters

Szabina Tamara Da Cunha Carvalho

When watching Werner Herzog’s documentary Encounters at the End of the World, I really enjoyed the scenes where scuba divers were swimming under the ice. They recorded life in the sea, something that is rarely seen and that humans don’t have much information about. The scenes were dark—not much light gets under the thick cover of ice—but even so, they were fascinating, and this scene just adds to the mysteriousness of sea life. It was interesting to see how different species easily exist even under conditions that would never allow humans, the most advanced creatures on Earth, to settle on that part of the globe. I found the recordings extremely scary, yet very inviting. It looked as if we had stepped into another dimension, untouched and intact, sealed from us. It is also funny to think about how these stupid-looking shells just chill in the mud as we rush to catch our bus in the morning or struggle over things that don’t make any sense, like the physics chapter exam. Now I understand somewhat better why people commit to the exploration of marine life. However, no matter how much we know about animals and the plant-life of oceans, it will always be a small portion compared to what it still holds in itself, especially in such a cold place, where discoveries are hardly possible due to the harsh conditions. We might know more about the outer world, outer space, than we know about parts of our own globe. This is why I think it is at least as intriguing to see a jellyfish float under the ice, living its best life, as to see a blurry video of Mars: they both give us a little insight, a “sneak-peek,” into a world that we will never fully understand.

We Took Everything for Granted

Eszter Aletta Hevesi

In Hungary we have been in quarantine for more than two weeks. Since it started, everybody has been craving some kind of exercise, even though they had a lot of opportunities beforehand. The enclosedness has a major effect on our physical and mental health. For example, people start to get deep into their thoughts, just like I did.

The human body has been exciting my imagination for a long time now. We took for granted that we can walk on the banks of the Zagyva or run in the Tiszaliget. Now that it is taken away from us, it feels like we are injured and we can’t do what we want. We are trapped in some way. Before, you didn’t think about any action that you did everyday in the interval between getting out of bed and falling asleep with your eyes closed. Most of your everyday habits are “coded” in your brain. You don’t need to think about the motions you make before you get out of bed or how you make coffee in the morning. Walking is an even more ordinary motion for you. You just do it in a precise way without thinking about how you will put one foot in front of the other.

You saw many people, cars, plants, trees when you could go out. They are the part of the everyday sights through the window of a car or a bus. A long time ago there wasn’t any of that. It is interesting to think about that four billion years ago the Earth didn’t exist in the form we see it nowadays. There weren’t any people on the surface, nor even any plants or cars. And now here we are in the middle of overpopulation and Covid-19. We know that we brought it on ourselves. We took everything for granted on the Earth, while it is a rare blessing for all of us. We don’t respect any of the species who conquered Earth before us, but we should. We should be grateful for every little bit we have on Earth and in our lives.

At this time we should appreciate that we live in a civilized society and that most of us have a body capable of achieving wonders with its brain, which can create magnificent buildings and understand and react to others.

It Is Still Better in Fiction

Kázmér Kaposvári

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have the ability to reverse time a bit? I know you thought about it many times in your life because of some decisions you made. We all make serious decisions every time we take actions, and I am pretty sure all of us have had some which were, in the end, not so great. Now I am going to tell how serious and ridiculous this idea is, the idea we all thought would come in handy in some cases.

First off, let’s see the positive side of this ability. It is completely understandable that we make mistakes sometimes when speaking. Imagine yourself giving a speech in front of silly students; imagine that you are just so nervous that you make a pronunciation mistake and everybody is just laughing at you. Now you could say that it is not such a big deal, but for the person who made it, it might tear his world apart that a whole school just laughed at him. This is a serious issue nowadays, as there are similar situations around the world; some of them might be worse, like bullying. I think that the ability to reverse these things must be your own right. Because there is no justice system in the world that can determine these situations and make a true refund for the stress and humiliation that you had been put through.

As anywhere else in the world, there are people who would just use this time-reversing opportunity for their own benefit. I am talking about those who would make infinite money by playing the lotto. It is the easiest way to become a billionaire. The only thing you have to do is just see the winning numbers of a round, then go back in time, and you know the rest. Let’s be honest, this is ridiculous, but if you had this opportunity you would use it as well. (Don’t say you wouldn’t, ’cause I just know you would; even I would.)

I think it is funny to think about how we all want this ability, and we want it even more when we see a film about time traveling. On the one hand, it would be really useful to have this for special situations that cannot be solved in any other way. In the end, though (even though I really want it), I say that it’s for the best that it remains in the world of fiction.

If you are still thinking about it, I don’t think you have fully considered what would happen if each and every one of us had this superpower.

Mother Earth

Zsófia Szabina Gávris

Two weeks ago life was really easy. Days went the usual way, people went everywhere. I went to school, gym, shopping; I went out with my friends and boyfriend. I was free and everything seemed normal, I can say I took that situation for granted. Then Mother Earth got angry, really really angry. She had had enough of humanity and the damage we caused.

If I look back in history, every time Mother Earth felt overwhelmed, she did something to reduce her stress. Now she felt it again and stopped the lives of seven billion people at the same time. She stopped air pollution and water contamination, or at least reduced them. For her these are mental issues; that is why she creates pandemics, extreme weather events, and other things to alarm and warn us. During these weeks air has cleared a lot, and now we don’t take life for granted. Mother Earth knew how to fix problems; we are the ones who didn’t. Some may think it’s an accidental situation, but no, it is another alarm. We have to take measures for our Earth, for making her better and cleaner. Later on, the ones who respected this whole event and who followed the rules will come out better than ever. I respect this situation, and I stay home. Others should do the same to pull through healthily.

The ones who didn’t listen will feel it later, maybe in the further future, but they will feel it. And they will know that Mother Nature warned them, but they didn’t listen.

Penguin Depression

Dávid Preller

At first I was a bit surprised when I opened the video and was greeted with a message that said that it is not available anymore. Then I was surprised once again by the video of the lone penguin setting into the distant mountains. Why would a penguin depart from its fellow mates to wander alone and potentially die? Could it be that it was depressed? Or did it just set out to explore unknown lands?

The video starts with a group of penguins wandering on the snowy plains of Antarctica. Then the camera focuses on a lonely penguin a little bit behind the group, just standing in the snow. Suddenly, it start wobbling in the direction of the mountains, which is straight opposite to its group. The narrator also mentions that even if you grab the little guy and bring it back to its peers, it will start walking off again.

This scene makes you think. It is surely not natural or logical for a penguin to leave its mates to wander alone. So what made the penguin do it? I don’t think that most animals have such a huge range of emotions that they can suddenly realise how pointless their existence is and therefore fall into depression. But maybe they are actually more self-conscious than we know. It is also possible that out of the blue it decided that it was going to explore the wild unknown. Since this is how the frontier becomes the known land. One crazy person decides to venture into the unknown. Many of them fail, like this penguin possibly, but eventually there is someone who succeeds. We believe that animals rely solely on their instincts; however, could it be possible that they have a will of their own?  I am not much of a scientist myself, so I can’t really answer this question.

All in all, I really enjoyed this short scene. First it was funny, then it suddenly became quite sad as we realised that the penguin was going to die alone. But maybe for once in its lifetime, the little penguin was finally happy.

This piece responds to a scene from Werner Herzog’s documentary Encounters at the End of the World. The film was briefly available on YouTube. Afterward, select scenes could still be found, including the penguin scene described here.

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