This Is It.

I know the title of this reflection sounds like the end of the world (Michael Jackson made a song with the exact same title and the intention was most certainly quite different than the output). I know this post is late and I wish I had typed it sooner. Only now have I been able to climb just a little out of the dumps after the past few weeks of chaos. I just wanted to say that I appreciate you all and I deeply appreciate this class. We’ve learned so many eye-opening things about Milton which inadvertently (or maybe not so inadvertently) contributed to changes in our way of thinking and functioning in our own lives.

As for our professor, some people teach for a living and some people teach for a life. I am proud to have come across a professor as passionate and awesome as Professor Campbell with you all. He is definitely someone who teaches for life and I am grateful to have experienced this class with him.

Lastly for you guys, classmates, I’m not sure if you’ll see this, but I just wanted to say that you guys rock. Even if we weren’t all communicative with every single person in class, just seeing you all type in the chat during our zoom meetings or discussing things amongst yourselves in the discussion forum has made my days brighter.

Thank you all for such a great experience. I hope that you all will have a great summer and an even greater Fall semester!

With love,

AJ.

<3

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Reflecting on the Journey

Somehow, this semester feels like it lasted an eternity and a second at the same time. While I’m ready for it to be over, I’m also a little sad its ending. I learned so much in all of my classes, and for the most part, I enjoyed all of them. It’s weird for me to think that after this I only have one semester left. I’ve been working on my Bachelor’s for a while now and the journey has had more twists and turns than I ever imagined at 18.

This class has opened my brain to a different way of thinking about religion, law, and what it means to be human. I doubt I’ll ever work with Milton this extensively ever again, but I think Paradise Lost will always stay with me. I’m normally not drawn to religious texts, but seeing Milton work through religious questions has really interested me. There’s something reassuring to see humans have been trying to understand religion for as long as religion has been a thing.

I wouldn’t feel right titling this post on the idea of reflections without linking this song. I’m not sorry.

Am I A Miltonaut Now?

I’ll begin by saying that I really enjoyed this class. The readings were interesting, stimulating, and challenging in the best ways and I appreciated the breakdown that we received in class. This class was hard though. Like juggling very breakable glass balls, all carrying the weight of your grade inside. Keeping all those balls in the air takes the skill of someone that I am not. Or at least someone who took less classes. But either way I loved the discussion around the passionate ideas of someone from the 1600’s and it is no wonder that Milton’s work has survived and been lauded as it has for as long as it has. I don’t think I’ll ever get the puzzle of free will out of my mind. Or the idea of what would have happened if only Eve had fallen. I will say that if I had to decide, I would determine that as far as I’m concerned Milton did justify the ways of God to men. Unfortunately from my perspective as a woman in 2021 his justification only served to prove that Milton’s God is man-made and man-like. He has all the tendencies of a man but with the privilege of absolute control. Something that men can’t seems to stop seeking. As a book Paradise Lost and by extension the Bible are a riveting capsule of different time periods, but the ideals within them are soaked in blood now. As a man and author I can, more than anything appreciate Milton’s depth of thought as well as love. He was an impressive person and I’m glad to know more about him than I did before. I’m still looking forward to reading Paradise Regained in my own time as I said before. I will conclude by saying I don’t think I’m a Miltonaut in terms of if I would dedicate more than a semester to his works and life. But I will say that I can certainly feel a kinship with anyone who looked at the world with the intensity and scrutiny and love that Milton did.

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A story of humanity

As we draw to a close of studying Milton’s work, specifically his epic of Paradise Lost over the course of the last few weeks, I am again confronted with the same question that has recurred in my mind my life:

Was there ever truly the possibility of a perfect human — one free of sin, misjudgment, or mistake?

Or is making mistakes what makes us inherently human — what gives us true agency in our short-lived lives?

Growing up in a loosely religious family, I have repeatedly pondered over the question of if there truly is a Heaven and, more dauntingly, one meant for only those who live pure and virtuous lives. As I’ve grown older, I repeatedly wonder what, then, is the final judgement? What is the criteria we must all adhere to throughout our lives in order to remain in the almighty’s good graces up until our very last days?

Growing up in a loosely religious family, I have been taught that there is someone who watches over us, guides us through our mistakes, but never abandons us as long as our ultimate intentions remain pure.

From reading Milton’s epic of Paradise Lost, I think of the lessons my mother has echoed throughout my life — even in my darkest and most dismal days of defeat, to simply have faith that there is someone watching over me.

While I am still learning throughout my young life what my true beliefs are, and as I ease into the pessimism that adulthood often provides, I can’t help but feel moved by Milton’s work, offering both a feeling of familiarity and clarity.

Because from my interpretation, Milton transformed a story of loss into a story of humanity.

Even the very first humans on earth, blessed with a world of abundance and bliss, made a mistake.

Even the very first creations, supposedly founding all of humanity, lived a life without true virtue and were forgiven.

Even the very first creations faced a loss that seemed hopeless but moved forward.

But the most powerful message, I believe, from his epic is that this very world-altering mistake that would significantly alter the fate of humanity was made because of freedom. 

A freedom to choose, to make mistakes, to misjudge, to regret, to rebuild, and to grow.

This, I believe, is what makes us human. This is what makes our short-lived lives meaningful.

 

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Last Log

Hello all and welcome to the end of our journey through the Milton ‘Verse, I am sad to see this voyage end but am happy to move forward from this class with what I have learned. I feel that I have learned a lot from this class, my perspective on so many things has been altered by new knowledge and new perspectives that I otherwise would have not been exposed to on my own. I am truly thankful for all that I have learned and so after exploring some things from the last bits of Paradise Lost I will share with you, my fellow travelers, some of my favorite bits of knowledge and what for me has changed, and then I will have to sign off for a final time. Alright let’s dive in!

Metanoia is my new favorite word, I honestly thought of getting it as a tattoo (What a nerd I am) but alas, I am still being careful and will not go out into society (unless it’s vita) until I’ve gotten the second covid vaccine. But maybe in the future… I digress as usual so let’s get back to this fabulous new word. This word is essentially a galaxy word, it translates to ‘after thought’ and has been translated and equated to repentance. Basically, the ability to acknowledge fault, take responsibility, and change your heart/mind/whatever you think compels you to act and to act in a way that changes your life. I mean we talk about changing a person’s mind, but have you ever really tried? It is a harrowing task trying to get someone to budge, especially if they feel at fault, the ego is a powerful negative force that our integrity is always battling for dominance over our moral compass, and ego so often wins out. Do I preserve the self? Will I be able to change? Will the hope that I can change last long enough for me to not revert back to my old ways? Like it’s such a chasm of unknowns to leap over. I see why the fostering of good and genuine faith is prized in many religions, used right, faith can help a lot of people hurdle that chasm I suppose. I mean Adam and Eve lament over their wrongs, they pray for forgiveness, and going off of Milton’s own justification of God, the punishment is just, so he doesn’t have to be merciful, but he is because that is what Milton also believes in his version of God and so the Son gives Adam and Eve furs for their bodies. I know this is not a popular opinion, but I personally don’t see Adam and Eve’s fate as unfair. I do not care about the justification of God (I still appreciate Milton’s attempts at it though and appreciate the open-ended way he explores it) but personally I do not have any real problem with the punishment, Adam and Eve were given the rule/a condition and knowledge of their punishment and so they are simply being held accountable. Do I like the punishment of death itself? No, but that was the condition of paradise, so I don’t see it as unfair. Plus, Milton ends the whole thing on hope, how can I complain? Like I know it is anti-climatic and a run through of the major plot points of the Bible, but I like that Milton was such a hopeful individual and that in his interpretation of the fall of man he wants to end on the future of mankind, and he gives Adam (and we can assume he relays this to Eve) the knowledge that his wrongdoing will lead to some amount of good. That to me is a truly kind act and not a necessary one, Milton didn’t have to do this, but he did.

Alright on to the highlight reel!

First off a shout out to Comus and the Nativity Ode! I loved you two the most out of Milton’s other works. Morality and time just shown most. I take it back, sonnet 23 probably sits at the top of heart, I am hopelessly romantic (might as well admit it) and so this sonnet of mourning for his wife just hit all the heart strings with a very strong strum. You know when you hit the ground and feel the impact force all the air out of your lungs and compress your chest? I felt that after reading the sonnet. I don’t usually have very strong physicals reactions to emotions so for me this was a big reaction, one I still don’t know how to process. So I keep a printed copy of it on my desk for when I need to be vexed.

On to the poem!

Got to say that I am here for the tragic villain arc that Milton gives to Satan. I could probably happily spend a good portion of time diving into that complex psychological process that Milton captures so well in Satan, they creation of his own Hell by giving up on hope, by giving up on love, the “death” that he experiences and the slow crumble of his person.  I don’t think I will ever get over his argument that he has in his own head on Mount Nephrates. Also, watching him self-sabotage himself is a really more anger inducing than anything else, I never thought I would be yelling for Satan to get his shit together, but I was. I was hoping and I mean hoping that he would see that he was the one behind the mask in a Scooby Doo episode, not God, but he fails. What’s most interesting is that he fails himself more than anyone and I think that that is one of the hardest things to come to terms with when it happens.

The depiction of Adam and Eve was to say the least refreshing and to say more is extraordinary if you think about the original text Milton was working with. It is no small feat to take the Bible (full of patriarchal BS, I mean no disrespect but it’s just true) and to strip a large portion, not all of it, away to depict a relationship made equal through consent and willingness to be together is pretty incredible. The man was from the 1600s, using a text that is ancient, and so for him to depict a non-violent, not domination centric, or toxic relationship shows us a lot about the man. Yes, Eve is the one to fall, yes, she is still “technically” the weaker of the two (though Milton explains this as an error made in ignorance by the angel), but Milton still has to follow a script. A script he improves greatly in my humble opinion. And it is definitely not perfect but to be honest Milton does better than a lot of modern media I’ve seen even recently. Also, Milton can’t exist outside of his time, not to rant, but we gotta remember the context that this story was written in and the time period it was done in. I am surprised and happily so that it meets so much of the modern-day criteria that it is put through. Like, I have been reading a lot of 19th century novels for another class and let me tell you how poorly many of them do in comparison, like offensive to the point that I could barely finish some of them. That’s two hundred years after Milton and they were so much worse.

My favorite part of this poem is Milton’s exploration of time. You all know I am a huge nerd for physics, for relativity, for all that science stuff. I love time so much; I love when people explore the non-linear possibilities in the narrative and through the narrative. I love that Milton starts the poem with Satan on the fiery lake and then we learn about the fall from heaven in the garden. The mixing of past, present, and future is what makes the narrative interesting for me as a person. It’s why I loved Milton’s Nativity Ode the best. It even goes with Typology, history has a shape, time has a shape, what does it look like? The separation and then overlap between Chronos and Karos is something that absolutely love, I mean to make the intersection at the birth of Jesus and then that’s how he connects his timeline that moves in two ways. I love that it all revolves around giving meaning to meaning. That intersection gives the past events meaning and shapes the future events to fit that meaning, it’s so mind-blowing! Also, with that logic/philosophy it is so easy then to see the fall as a past event that is given meaning, that is given the hope of the future that will come to pass thanks to the birth of Jesus. Like, in that context the fall becomes a part of a hope -centric timeline, just as hope often given our lives meaning and is shaped around major events, this fall is no different, it’s the darkness right before a sunrise moment.

But is hope a gift or a curse? I guess that is a question that seems to haunt humanity’s walk-through history and I don’t have an intelligent answer or an arguable point. I think hope is not a curse. In my life I have often thought, “it will get better” which is a lie/truth/guess that a lot of people make, and I do think that whatever gets you through the day is okay. The hope that there is more, more to life, more happiness to feel, more people to meet, more places to go, even more hardships to hurdle, life moves, and it keeps me moving forward. All I can do is speak with my life in mind and for me hope is the thing I hold on to tightest. I am probably what you would call an optimist, but I honestly think I am just someone who acknowledges that infinity lies in possibility and that hope is what keeps my eyes on those possibilities rather than on the dead-end pitfalls of regrets, of failures, and of being unchanging out of stubbornness or more often fear.

I have greatly, enjoyed this journey into the Milton ‘verse. The galaxy brain has expanded a great deal in ways I could never have guessed. In a way it has given me great hope that it is impossible to fully guess (or let’s be honest even remotely guess) the impact that a single event, in this case a college class, can have on me. I have had an amazing time being challenged as a student and as a person, there were so many surprises and a few bumps and bruises, and I am leaving with a changed mind in many ways.

 

Alight fellow travelers, this is your captain signing off for the last time, I wish all the best to fellow explores and hope that you keep your eyes on the light, like Milton did, even in unending darkness and that you find hope in all your journeys.

Signing off!

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Time Has Got a Mind of Her Own, I’m Just Along for the Ride

So the last RamPage reflection of the semester…it has been quite a journey. I can’t believe the semester is basically over; I can still remember being so nervous about how I was going to keep up and succeed in this class. Fourteen weeks later, and somehow, I managed to surpass my own expectations which wasn’t hard because they were not high, but that’s besides the point. Anyway, I just finished reading Paradise Lost and surprisingly really liked the ending, I liked how it was just Adam and Eve walking out of Paradise. It felt like such a stark contrast from the fast-pace, Satan-falling-into-Hell introduction to the story, but that felt very appropriate. The start and finish could not have been more different from each other, but that really represents Satan’s story vs. Adam & Eve’s story. Sure there were times where they were comparable, but the connotations, the images that those character’s evoke (at least for me) are not at all the same. Satan entering Hell with the demons he manipulated after making such a big mistake he felt no remorse for versus Adam & Eve leaving Paradise into a land of possibilities after making a mistake they apologized for is almost like a summarized story of sin and repentance in itself, just those two stories. One could view them as a story that explains the two possible outcomes and aftermaths of committing a sin, or one could view it as simply a beginning and end. The juxtaposing endings almost makes the story come full circle, people sinned after Adam and Eve left paradise and people repented as well. Earth and Mankind hold and create endless stories of sin and repentance and falls and obedience and forgiveness and temptations. Mini stories of Paradise Lost that complete and restart themselves.

Speaking of mankind and humans and…speaking of myself as a human, I have come to the realization that this class will strictly be referenced as the class where I read Paradise Lost. Like sure we read Milton’s other works, but I mean, come on, Paradise Lost. I do remember some of the other ones though, I promise. I am still a big Areopagitica fan, and the sonnets were nice, can’t forget those. I was so skeptical about this class when it first began, and I can barely remember what about the description made me go “I want that one” (besides the mention of food), but I will be eternally grateful that I took it. I think the best classes are the ones where you can feel how excited the professors are to discuss the content, the classes where you love to willing participate in the discussion, the classes where you know that you have support, some in your corner. This class managed to do all of that for me. (And I liked the reading material, most of it anyway, like imagine that). That being said, I think I’m gonna sign off now. I don’t have a song of the week, but stream my Milton playlist. There are some absolute bangers on that playlist which is another reason I enjoyed this class so much. Anyway…

It has been an absolute delight, yet I feel that this is not quite the end.

 

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A Christian Carol

One thing that I was reminded of this week was a Bible verse that was mentioned Aon the forum a couple weeks ago: Deuteronomy 13: 12-18…

“If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt, and none of the condemned things are to be found in your hands. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors— because you obey the Lord your God by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in his eyes.”

You do not need to read all that. Basically what the verse is saying is that God’s people are ordered to rid Earth of those who worship other gods. They are to kill them and burn down their residence. But, God will be upset and then show them mercy and compassion for following his commands. What I think is interesting about this is that God is ordering his people to do something, but will be upset about them following through with it and will show them mercy. You only need to show mercy and forgiveness when someone has done something wrong, so technically, is the Bible ordering them to do something that is wrong? This reminds me of these lines from the Lord’s Prayer: “lead me not into temptation.” Like God would lead his people in the wrong direction or into temptation (which is not always a bad thing). The reason I was reminded of this was because of all the talk about Noah and the ark/flood during Adam and Michael’s A Christmas Carol – esque sequence. God wiped out all of the “bad” in the Earth with a flood. He sent Noah to warn everyone of the flood, but no one believed him, which resulted in their deaths. This is another example of free will to Adam in Paradise Lost but it also made me think this: since God promises never to flood the Earth again, then it almost seems like he is saying that he won’t ever do it again because it was a bad thing, or a wrong thing. In accordance with Milton’s cosmology, though, God doesn’t sin or do any wrong AND he gave the people a choice to save themselves, and they didn’t, so it wasn’t really on God, it was on the people of Earth. The same can be said for temptation in general.

These lines in Book 11, lines 691-4 and 704-5, also reminded me of Deuteronomy 13:

“To overcome in battle, and subdue

Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite

Manslaughter, shall be held the highest pitch

Of human glory…

And utter odious truth, that God would come

To judge them…”

In Deuteronomy 13 and in those lines above there is an idea of people feeling compelled to kill, whether it is because they are commanded to or because it will give them glory, and then God comes down to judge them.

Last week on the forum I raised the question of whether we would be living in a split world had Adam not eaten the apple. After reading Book 11 I don’t think that would have ever happened. I feel like Adam being around Eve would have indefinitely resulted in his fall as the human race in Michael’s stories sound very fallible. There were also these lines: “[Wars] are the product / Of those ill-mated marriages thou saw’st: / Where good with bad were matched, who of themselves / Abhor to join; and by imprudence mixed” (Book 11, lines 683-686). It sounds like “ill-mated” marriages are not personally desired by the two parties of said marriage, but are created because of carelessness (?). At least I think that’s what it is saying. This brought me back to the idea that God had created humans “sufficient to have stood but free to fall” meaning that the people of said marriage did not have to “fall” for each other, nor were they prone to, they just had their guard down. Adam had his guard down when he ate the fruit.

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Finale

While I am happy to finish Paradise Lost for the second time, I am sad to see the class go as I feel like I personally know Milton after two semesters. We have our arguments of him not communicating to me and myself misinterpreting. We have troubles trusting each other as I can not trust he won’t surprise me with something and he can’t trust that I will read his work on time. I have troubles understanding who he really is from time to time as he isn’t who I originally thought he was. Yet, I have a cat screaming as my profile pick… so who is the real catfish? Anyways,  although there are tough times between Milton and I, we respect each other. He respects me for the reader I am and I accept him for the writer that he is. You have to love Johnny boy! Every time I read his works I can’t help but feel nostalgic, curious, angry, sad, happy, hopeful, and every other emotion in the universe. He presents a myriad of feelings for the reader to digest and let me tell you that it is one hearty meal. I will miss the talks with Satan, walks with Adam and Eve in the Garden, and even the judgmental sermon-like speech given to us by Jesus himself. The beauty of it all though is that it is okay. At the end of the day, we are okay. We are loved. We have fallen. We are forgiven. And we will live on. Milton and I are happy together and I can not wait for a lifetime of re-reading his works while walking in gardens. What will I not miss? Eve. Too harsh? Fine, I ask for forgiveness! ????

So long & and goodnight

Dr. C said to make this a good one…

However, I’m not sure I have anything to say.

I’m surprised and relieved that this semester is over so fast. It’s been one long series of not sleeping and stressing over assignments. I feel as if I should have grasped this class better than I did, but oh well. A friend of mine said it will make me feel better to see my GPA drop past the point of getting anxious over.

Turns out, I am not a Miltonaut. What Milton wrote is interesting, don’t get me wrong. He just happens to be one of those classics I don’t care for like….West Side Story and Guns N’ Roses.

It’s funny, whenever I went to post to the forum, I sat there wishing I was in that film class, instead. I could have easily contributed to those conversations for credit, and there were questions they didn’t ask that I would have.

Anyway, I’m going to give credit where it is due here. There are a few poems that I liked more than others, the companion poems “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso” were cool considering I didn’t know “companion” poems were a thing. I also enjoyed Comus simply because that argument was so strong on both sides that I didn’t know where I stood in it.

In the end…one semester down, a couple more to go.

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Sappy Sunday

It feels like just another Sunday, but that is far from the case. After this Sunday in particular, will be an entire week of “lasts” as this semester comes to an end. I’m trying to ward of feelings of finality so as to not lose motivation for the mountain of work ahead of me for finals but it’s difficult.

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