Blog Entry #7 - The Morality of Revenge

Revenge is a controversial topic. On one hand, one may argue that it is human nature to inflict revenge upon someone who has hurt you or somebody that you care about. On the other hand, it may be viewed as a grave sin. People’s opinion on revenge can vary from culture to culture and religion to religion, but generally, I find it challenging to think of any worldview where revenge can be considered a just response to evil. In most religions, it is not one’s decision to inflict revenge, as that would be playing God. God has a plan for everyone, and it is his choice how he wants to respond to a situation.

St. Thomas Aquinas, arguably one of the Catholic Church’s greatest philosophers and theologians states in his theory of justice that justice is “the highest of all moral values” (UCF.edu). In addition, he explains that, “For by [natural law] God ordains us to final happiness by implanting in us both a general knowledge of and inclination for goodness” (IEP.UTM.edu). Natural law comes from what God tells us which is known as “eternal law”. When we participate an obey eternal law does it become known as natural law. Natural law simply puts forth this principle: “good is to be done and evil is to be avoided”.

In addition, in one of Aquinas’ works, Summa Theologiae, he puts forth the argument “that all vengeance is unlawful”, but “vengeance belongs to God, for it is written (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19): "Revenge to Me, and I will repay”. However, he also writes that “But we are to look to God for vengeance on His enemies: for it is written (Luke 18:7): ‘Will not God revenge His elect who cry to Him day and night?’ as if to say: ‘He will indeed.’ Therefore vengeance is not essentially evil and unlawful.”

On another note, one of my favorite films, The Revenant is a story of revenge. The final lines of the film include a line that so strongly resonates with me and relates to this topic: “Revenge is in God's hands. Not mine”. This line is uttered at the moment the main character can kill the man who killed his son, after chasing him down for hundreds of miles in the middle of winter in the plains of the US. It all ties back strongly to St. Aquinas and how he reminds us that it is all God’s decision.

Blog Entry #6 – Reflecting on Murakami

Murakami’s book, The Strange Library was fascinating and thought-provoking for me. Even more, hearing the presentations and the various interpretations on the book and the different meanings that it has was incredibly powerful.

The book made me think extensively about the potential threats and dangers of isolation and how that can spill over into depression. According to Christianity, we were made to love one another, and being isolated can have very negative consequences. For example, my group talked about the consequences of not having love and how that can in turn, psychologically affect someone and make them spiral into depression.

The philosophical topic and thought of the place of love in one’s life and how it is a fundamental piece of what it means to be human resonated strongly with me. I often ponder the thought of love and its place in society, and how it shapes moral values and ideals.

Most impressing to me was that two simple and “children-oriented” books could contain such strong meaning and even present topics that would be challenging and thought-provoking to adults alike. When beginning this unit, I was pretty upset that we weren’t diving into complicated books. But after reading Murakami, I was left speechless.

Blog Entry #5 - Quarter 1 Reflections

Guiding Question of Choice:

  • How does our home culture shape our worldviews and affect our personal identities?

The Poisonwood Bible gave me a lot to think about in terms of the question above. This was a very challenging question to me because although my home culture is Thai culture. I spent my critical years of adolescence away from it and was exposed to American culture.

However, there has always been that bit of Thai within me, and I feel that that strongly drives my sense of personal identity. I am incredibly reserved and quiet, and am often first to think that speak. However, unlike what is valued in Asian cultures, I am incredibly confrontational. Living in New York for six years has done that to me. I go out of my way to resolve conflict face-to-face and prefer harmony over being fake friendly and just getting along, hoping that the conflict resolves on its own.

Interestingly, I do not think that my time here and in New York has strongly shaped my worldview. I became a Christian on my own – through my own experience, and I think that my home culture hasn’t shaped me that much. Although my whole family is Christian, and I did spend my childhood going to Church with them and receiving First Communion, I didn’t call the faith my own until much later in my life.

On a final note, I feel that my home culture has shaped my identity and values strongly, but it has not significantly affected my worldview. My very own personality has been blended together by the two places I have spent the first ten years of my life in, and I feel that it has made a significant contribution to the person I am today.

Blog Entry #4 – Final Character Judgements

LEAH

Throughout most of The Poisonwood Bible, I felt that I strongly resonated and enjoyed hearing Leah’s story. I particularly think that I like her the most for who she is. She is a very dynamic character, who, as the novel progresses, becomes very mature, respectful and dutiful. Because she has clearly been wounded by her unhealthy family and the traumatic experiences that she encounters in the Congo, she has a lasting wound that she hopes to repay and sort-of makeup by living her life. I have strong sympathy for Leah, because I feel like I identify with her the most. She has been through a lot of major setbacks and challenges in her life – just like me, and her response is a very mature and respectable one.

It is very challenging to think of which character Kingsolver identifies with the most. I personally think that she identifies with Orleanna the most, because she is the foundation and the spine of the story. Beyond that, I find it hard to really infer which character strongly resonates with her.

On another note, another character I ENJOYED reading was Nathan. You could just feel the tension and trouble he would bring each time he spoke, and it drove the story forward and gave it immense suspense.

Blog Entry #2 – Cross-Cultural Misconceptions

Having moved around between three different countries (Thailand, Malaysia, and the United States), I can totally sympathize with the Price's shock as they arrive in the Congo. 

The cross-cultural experience that I want to talk extensively about is my time in Malaysia. Having grown up in New York, I was very familiar and conditioned to American culture. My family moved to Malaysia in December 2010 and I was completely ignorant as to what "Malaysia" was. Upon moving there, I was shocked by two things.

Firstly, I was bemused by the accent and the grammar the locals used when they spoke. I assumed that they were very bad at English and were speaking like that because they didn't know any better. This was my first mistake. It was because of my assumptions and pre-existing conceptions. However, upon living there for sometime, I learned that it was just a local way of speaking, and I soon found myself speaking in that way – adapting to the culture very seamlessly. 

Secondly, having grown up in New York were most people mind their own business and are fairly to-the-point, I found it eye-opening as to how nice Malaysians were. I found it very weird when someone asked how your day was going or when they greeted you in public. When you were in someone's way, they would politely say "excuse me". In New York, that would never happen, and most people would be brutally honest with how they felt.

One of the most important things I learned was to always approach a country with an open mind, and not carry stereotypes or expectations with you, otherwise you will have a fairly challenging time to adapt.

Blog Entry #1 - Life of Pi's Psychological Allegory

Richard Parker is a psychological allegorical figure that serves as a physical manifestation of Pi's shadow or id. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychodynamic psychologist, described the shadow as the hidden, dark side of our personality. It can be considered a fundamental part of the psyche, more specifically, the id, which according to Sigmund Freud, is the entirely unconscious, irrational, instinctual part of our psyche. It operates on the pleasure principle and relies of instincts and innate drives. The shadow is entirely hidden and also shows itself as we try to defend ourself through defensive mechanisms such as projection. 

  Life of Pi (2012) - Directed by Ang Lee

Life of Pi (2012) - Directed by Ang Lee

Based on this, I believe that Richard Parker is nothing more than a figment of Pi's imagination. In the retelling of the story none of the animals are present, which lead me to believe that Richard Parker is largely symbolic. Richard Parker is essential to Pi's survival on the lifeboat, because without him, he lacks the basic drives and instincts of human nature which is required for his survival on the lifeboat. Richard Parker frequently tests Pi's resilience and activeness throughout the journey and prompts him to maintain his human qualities. 

The shadow can be both Pi's "best friend and worst enemy", as it constantly provides Pi with the basic human instincts which are needed for him to survive. However, he likes rationality which may also increase Pi's chances of survival. It provides Pi with instant gratification, but may harm him in the long run in ways that are not yet seen. 

Whether or not Richard Parker is a figment of Pi's imagination or not, I strongly believe him to be an allegorical figure that represents Pi's heavily conflicted psyche, mainly the irrational, impulsive shadow which heavily and regularly prompts him to keep in touch with reality and positively encourages him to survive.