From the very beginning of this semester, the course epigraph was “you just can’t fly on off and leave a body”. When this was first introduced it made no sense it was just a jumble of words to make it sound significant or meaningful. But after we read Song of Solomon and did the collaborative essay, it started to make sense. We started to analyze the quote, what it meant, the weight behind those words, and how they can relate to our own lives. In Song of Solomon, the quote reads in a more literal sense with Pilate having the bag of bones in her house from her father’s body and Milkman with the shoebox of Hagar’s hair after she passed. How I understood the quote was you can not move on with life and ignore your past actions or where you came from. But now I see it as you are working towards improving and bettering yourself. And to do that you need to accept your past and build upon it towards a better self.
In the book, Song of Solomon, Milkman went to Virginia to try and track down the gold that Pilate left in the cave when she was a young kid after they killed the older man. When Milkman first arrived, it was a struggle but also refreshing as he had no idea where to start to try and find where Pilate could have left the gold bags. But after asking around a bit, he met Reverend Cooper; this man knew his grandfather Macon Dead as well as the woman that looked over them after their dad died, Circe. Circe was still alive, so with the help of the Reverend, he drove over to the old estate and saw her there, talking about the past and where Pilate might have gone. He followed the trail that Circe told him about and fell in the creek, “Snorting water, he cursed the creek, that was too shallow to swim and too rocky to walk” (249 Morrison). This is only the beginning of the misfortunes to come while Milkman was in Virginia following Pilate’s trail. When he finally got to the cave he saw nothing but Macon Dead’s dead body. He wondered where the gold went so he figured Pilate must have taken the gold farther south on her travels. As he was following her trail, he stopped at a convenience store to fix his car and get a drink. Someone said the wrong thing and he ended up getting into a brawl with one of the locals, “Milkman did the best he could with a broken bottle, but his face got slit, so did his left hand, and so did his pretty beige suit, and he probably would have had his throat cut if two women hadn’t come running in screaming” (268 Morrison). He clearly was losing but was saved. He went back to his car and rested after the brawl. Later that day he was invited to go hunting with some other locals that saw him fight and because it was so dark out he got separated. While he was hunting, during the dark night Guitar found Milkman and tried to take his life. Milkman fought back, “The blast startled Gutiar, and the wire slipped again. Guitar pulled it back, but Milkman knew his friend would need both hands to keep it that way” (279 Morrison). He survived the night but now he knows his old friend was out for his life. Someone he previously thought he could trust turned his back on him and now he must fear for his life in an unknown environment. After this event, he stayed in the area for a while and didn’t find the gold but did find out the history of his family and who his grandfather and grandmother were. At this point, he didn’t care about the gold but was more excited to find out the truth.
The transition from high school to college has been a difficult and long path. The effort required and work needed don’t compare. In high school, all I had to do was pass my classes and then I could forget whatever I learned that year. For all 4 years that was the process, I had used. The classes weren’t hard so I didn’t feel the need to study and fully understand the material. There wasn’t any incentive to achieve anything greater than what I could get with the bare minimum effort. And the worse part is I didn’t feel like I was truly prepared for what college had to offer. All the teachers would say “this is getting you ready for college” but once you experience it you realize that they didn’t do much to get you ready. When the first week of classes started at college I could tell that this would be nothing like high school. The classes were challenging and went through material faster than I could keep up. At first, it didn’t seem like a lot but ignore it for one day then it instantly starts to pile up. And instead of due dates being the day after they would sometimes be a week later and the feeling of procrastination would set in, then the stress would build up making it hard to push yourself to do anything. It was one exam after the other and most review you had to do by yourself instead of doing it in class and review sessions would be held later in the day. One of the biggest differences in college is, the grade you want depends on how much effort you put in. In high school, the teachers helped you every step of the way to make sure you passed. Now they just give you advice, and it’s on the student to put in the extra effort and study or go to the review sessions provided by S.I.’s or by the professor. This was the hardest part for me was learning to push myself to achieve a better grade than the bare minimum. I didn’t want to study or go out of my way to go to review sessions, but I knew that if I didn’t then my grades would suffer.
When Milkman in Song of Solomon went to Virginia to follow the trail of gold he went through similar events that I did going into college. The change of environment and the unfamiliar faces forced both of us to grow. When he first arrived, it was an unknown place without a familiar face to help him, similar to when I first arrived. I was dropped off in my room with a stranger that I had never met before and in a new environment where I didn’t know anything. Eventually, he found the Reverend Cooper that knew his family, and I found a group of people that I considered friends. Along with knowing no one, we both didn’t know our environment. He might have wandered the wilderness trying to find the cave his father and Pilate slept in. But I was wandering around campus and the halls of buildings trying to find my classes. It took both of us a while to understand what the epigraph meant, but once we did we were able to grow as a person and take meaning from it. The difference is in the book the quote “you just can’t fly on off and leave a body” (147 Morrison) is taken literally whereas I interpreted it as you can’t move on in life and ignore your past, instead embrace your past and grow from it. For me, I reflected on my old efforts and study habits and am trying harder for a better grade than what I could get and actually learning the material rather than just knowing it for the test. Milkman reflected on his mistakes and acknowledged them instead of leaving them in the past. This can be seen when he takes the box of Hagar’s hair after she died and puts it on himself to acknowledge her existence in his life, instead of leaving her in his past and forgetting about her. Although the lesson learned and the interpretation are different, both Milkman and I acknowledged our past and flaws and used them to improve ourselves instead of sticking to our bad habits.
“You just can’t fly on off and leave a body”, this quote has driven our course throughout the semester. As our course epigraph, we always went back to it and referenced it to find what it meant for each of us. I thought it meant you must embrace your past and use it to grow as a scholar, take your past habits or previous knowledge, and use that to grow on what could be improved or what works. Others might have a different way of thinking but I believe that this is how it’s supposed to be interpreted based on the book and Milkman’s experiences going to Virginia and the lessons he learned.