Today in my English 374 class, my professor told us about an exchange that he had with one of his students from a lower-level class who told him that she was thinking about changing her major from English because she doesn't like that we read about amazing things, experiences and ideas every day, but never get to experience them ourselves. As a result, my professor shared this experience, handed "To Autumn" by John Keats to each of us, and after a little biographical background about this poet, sent us out to "the most beautiful place [we could] find on campus" with instructions to think about what the poem is saying and how it affects our lives.
Turns out that this little assignment had a pretty big impact on me. Maybe it's because I am a bit in love with John Keats, beyond the grave as he might be. Maybe it's because "To Autumn" is simply that great of a poem. Or maybe it's because I obsess a bit over the Romantic period in general. Either way (and I promise I will get to the point of this blog in a second), I really think I was born on the wrong continent during the wrong century. I would have been there every step of the way with my boys Blake, Wordsworth & Coleridge, Shelley & Byron (their poetry, at least...), and Keats (my favorite of all). There was so much emotion during this period that was associated with all of the right things: political and social reform (French and American Revolutions, anyone?), all things Gothic (all you Halloween-lovers out there know what I'm talking about), and the almost existential love of nature. And the fabulous dresses. Let's not forget about those. It's true that there were some rough things going on, but I still connect with all of the emotion flying around at this time. It was the style for people to go around feeling and experiencing and savoring and appreciating and living every aspect of their lives with pure passion for each part, knowing that the ideal is a reality.
Unfortunately, that time period along with its values are gone. Today we insist on productivity, streamlining and outcomes over beauty, experience and creation. Do we appreciate all that is beautiful in the world? I guess the question that needs to be asked is, do I appreciate all that is beautiful in my world? The conclusion that I reached today while reading "To Autumn" in the MOA garden is no. And I want that to change. Because very very soon, this period of my life is going to be over. And I want to look back on it, having felt every moment of it. I want to have chewed up every bit of my life and found all that there was to learn from it.
Emo? Maybe. But I had the revelation that all of my favorite guys from this period were really really (probably annoyingly) emo. So I guess I'm just gonna have to embrace it. I will not under any circumstance listen to Secondhand Serenade, Green Day, or My Chemical Romance though. That is where I draw black kohled line.