Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Living the Poetic Life

A.E. Housman is considered one of the famous poets (and one of my favorites) of the 19th and 20th centuries for his works like the A Shropshire Lad. However, in his lifetime, he considered himself more of a classical scholar than a poet. Therefore, he didn't speak about his poetry publicly until the end of his life in The Name and Nature of Poetry, a lecture he gave in 3 years before he died. Despite Housman's issues, when he speaks, I listen. And when he was given the opportunity to speak of poetry after all he had written, his main argument was that poetry was intended to appeal to the emotions and not to intellect.

When I began to think about this, I started to notice the concept in his poetry, but I also began to notice it in my life. How much of my life do I try to live poetically? Or how much of my life, apart from school, do I live based off my emotions and not on intellect. This brings me back to an age old questions, and that is whether we should act more upon emotions/feelings or on intellect/reason. I can definitely say that my friends and I, in our senior year of college, have chosen the former. We stay up late every night, we have as many 'parties' as possible, we randomly go to the creek/river, we never miss an opportunity to eat together, play Mario Kart 64, have a jam session, talk about something controversial, and procrastinate on homework. Senior year is good, but just like all good things besides our salvation, it will come to an end. Maybe we should start using our heads a little more, but we're dreamers, and I'm not seeing a definitive ending to our poem anytime soon.

XLIX. Think no more, lad; laugh, be jolly

THINK no more, lad; laugh, be jolly:
Why should men make haste to die?
Empty heads and tongues a-talking
Make the rough road easy walking,
And the feather pate of folly
Bears the falling sky.

Oh, ’tis jesting, dancing, drinking
Spins the heavy world around.
If young hearts were not so clever,
Oh, they would be young for ever:
Think no more; ’tis only thinking
Lays lads underground.

-A.E. Housman, from A Shropshire Lad

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Scripture, Frost, and Ecology

Recently, in my studies, I am beginning to recognize the power of Scripture. That sounds kinda crazy, but isn't it unique how some passages from the Bible speak to you over and over, no matter how many times you read them? For me, one of these passages is Isaiah 6, when Isaiah sees the LORD. Chapter 6 in itself is an unbelievable story, from the imagery of God, the description of the seraphim, and Isaiah's confession, healing, and commission. I personally cannot find any other passage in the Bible that, in the same amount of detail, describes the 'almightyness' of God.

In my human life I may never get to see what Isaiah did, but I get to see it in all different kinds of ways, especially in nature. Everyday we see miracles with our own eyes, but we take them for granted. Robert Frost dedicated most of his life and writings to capturing not only the beauty, but the 'almightyness' of God in creation. I love the first stanza of the following poem, but I pray that sometimes I can keep less "promises" than the storyteller.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

In my ecology class I am taking this semester, we have been talking a good deal about how animals carry out normal biological processes under crazy conditions. One of these unbelievable animals is the rainbow trout, who truly proves the 'almightyness' of God to me. Literally the whole time I was in class as we talked about the concept, I was just thinking..."this is crazy/unbelievable/something only God could think of!" If you aren't a science person, please try to hang in there as I attempt to explain this, because I have to try.

Biology is based off of the concept that DNA is converted into protein through two processes known as transcription and translation. Proteins form 3-D structures and then come together to make enzymes. Enzymes are what fuel biological processes...basically, they take what the animal has and converts it to what the animal needs. Temperature plays a huge role in the effectiveness of enzymes, therefore each one has what scientists call an optimal temperature. Well, this poses as a problem for rainbow trout because they live out in the ocean, say near Alaska, and then travel inland and upstream to spawn into much more shallow, warmer waters. Therefore, the enzymes that they used while they were in the ocean become useless once they move into the warmer waters. To survive and reproduce they alter their biological processes to produce an isoform, or a new enzyme the has its optimal temperature that matches the warmer streams. This happens from the same DNA as alternative processes occur between transcription and translation that change the enzyme to what the trout need to survive. The craziness of it all, is that it happens automatically and the trout have done it for years to be able to travel upstream to reproduce. But why would they go through all the biological trouble? I mean, they aren't really "fit" for the warmth of the streams...and how did they learn how to do it? Only God knows...