Losing speed, waste of space, feeling lonely: change my face

In the course epigraph, “You just can’t fly on off and leave a body” Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon offers an important message to be understood in order to continue thinkING over the course of the semester. The idea of emphasizing the end of thinkING is a concept that Beth McCoy stresses to encourage students to analyze information as a continuous process, rather than having one definitive thought about a subject. Combining discussions held in class, readings, and personal experiences and opinions, and keeping the course epigraph in mind, I hope to frame this piece of writing as an outline to achieve the two contradictory goals I have for this course: to be a memorable student while also being easily forgotten.

Before I begin unpacking what “You just can’t fly on off and leave a body” from Song of Solomon means, I have to first understand its definition is fluid, and subject to change when the basis of my knowledge shifts. At this point in the novel, I have only read four chapters, and I am only three weeks into this course. Therefore, the meaning of the quote, and where it will lead in the future is an important distinction to make. My understanding of the quote is that all the choices you make in life lead you to becoming the person you are presently, and who you will become in the future. I equate this quote to not forgetting where you came from in hopes that it will make you a better person. Remembering your past experiences, and the people in your past is an invaluable part of becoming a better version of yourself.

Borrowing from some information I wrote in class on relating the term palimpsest to Song of Solomon, I can relate Macon Jr. and Pilate back to the meaning in our course epigraph. Based on the definition of palimpsest from Oxford Languages, it is defined as something or someone reused or altered but still bearing traces from its original form. This is represented in Song of Solomon with Macon Jr. and Pilate. Macon Jr. hides beneath her window because he wants to be close to his sister, but he is embarrassed and ashamed of her, even though they came from the same place. No matter how hard you try, starting over with absolutely no ties to your past is nearly impossible to do. Referring back to the information from that earlier assignment, I came to realize that the characters cannot escape their histories because everything that has happened in or around their lives is the reasoning behind why they are who they are presently. Changing through time, but still giving credit to where they have been, is why understanding the term palimpsest is crucial to the understanding of the individual calamities the characters of Song of Solomon face, and how each event makes them grow closer together.

When I first began thinkING about what the course epigraph meant, I immediately looked for ways to explain it in Song Of Solomon, and then related the information I gathered there to current events and news to thoroughly understand the point of the epigraph. This was made possible once I had read chapter two of From Here to Equality, which poses the question, “If blacks are not drowning, they ask, why throw them a special lifeline?” At first, I struggled with what that meant, and why Darity and Mullen chose to ask this question to the reader. Then, I remembered the recent controversy regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, and how some people thought it would be more appropriate to say All Lives Matter. At the height of this argument, I had a difficult time understanding why people were getting upset with others who wanted to say All Lives Matter. The Parable of the Lost Sheep from Matthew 18 in the Bible, made me come to terms with what the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement is. In this parable, Matthew described a shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety nine sheep, to try and find one sheep that was led astray. This explains how one person is not more important than another and within this message there is a cry for people to understand their value and worth. This is important to mention in my goal setting essay, because I know that I am destined for greatness, like all of my peers, but I just have to put in the time and effort, along with valuable thinkING to get me there.

Discussing the epigraph and what it means has made me set two contradicting goals for myself, the first one being: to leave a memorable impression on those around me. This goal came to fruition when Beth told the class that one of her personal goals for the semester was to be forgotten by the time she was done teaching us the lessons she thought were necessary and important for our growth as students and individuals. When she said this I was confused, I wondered why a professor would want her students to forget her when she was only starting to make her mark on us. I decided I wanted the opposite of her goal, and I want to be remembered. One of my goals for this course is to have new and exciting ways of thinkING about certain topics, and have those ideas be remembered. I think it would fulfill my hopes if I was able to shed light onto a topic that someone might not know exists, or they were choosing to ignore.

The other half of my goal for this course is to be forgotten, much like Beth’s thought that inspired my goal to be remembered. This contradictory goal is deceiving, because as I started thinkING about why Beth would want her students to forget her, it made me realize that I could make the assumption that she hopes we find what she has taught us to be much more important than the vessel it was delivered by. This assumption is what led me to reflect Beth’s idea in my second goal: to be forgotten. Similarly to why I want to be remembered, I want to be forgotten because I don’t think my name has any impact on my thoughts. I don’t need people to remember my name, but I hope people will remember my ideas.

These contradictory goals I have set for myself are mirrored in Song of Solomon, as Toni Morrison creates a novel that defines memory and forgetting as terms that are so different, that they begin to warp until the reader sees the similarities between them. In the second chapter of Song of Solomon the narrator describes Macon Jr., “His voice sounded different to Milkman. Less hard, and his speech was different. More southern and comfortable and soft” (Morrison, page 52). Memory is capable of softening and changing Macon Jr. into something that he is not currently, because money has made him hard. Similarly, Ruth’s memory was triggered by a different sense, described by the narrator, “The house smelled fruity and she remembered how the peach had nauseated her the last time she was there…” (Morrison, page 135). Morrison shows how memories can be shifted and warped to fit what one wants to remember, which is often heightened by the senses.

The meaning behind the course epigraph, stated by Toni Morrison, “You just can’t fly on off and leave a body” is forever changing as my thinkING process develops. In the future, the meaning I originally thought these words held could seem like a faraway notion, some thought I cannot grasp anymore. Although I can prepare myself for the changes that lie ahead in the course with new information stemming from Song of Solomon, From Here to Equality, and Beth, there is no way to know what the future holds. This is exciting, and unnerving to think about because there are so many possibilities, but I know that I will never lose sight of where I came from, even if I feel myself slowing down, going unnoticed or feeling alone, I will remain true to myself, and not Change My Face.

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