Dr. Maria Ponce de Leon‘s Intellectual Heritage course, entitled “the Good Life”, through selected readings of literary, religious and philosophical texts, explored the many ways that humans have made sense of their lives, the world, and their relations with others. The students final projects were to be a reflection on the major themes of the texts, and could take the form of a performance, video, painting, song, or traditional research paper. Here are just a few:
“My project is based of a symbol from a novel we read in class, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” One of the main characters gives a knitted doll to her to a baby she treats as her own daughter. For my project, I wanted to represent that moment by making a doll myself. I used yarn that I had in my house and used filling from an old stuffed animal to create the doll. This doll represents the unconditional love the characters in the novel had for each other.”
“This project represents the female protagonista from four of the texts from the course. Each one fills a different role in the pursuit of her version of the good life: a priestess in the “Epic of Gilgamesh”; a queen in the “Odyssey”; a free spirit in “Persepolis”, and an abused wife in “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.
“For this project, I decided to sketch a collection of symbolic pictures that relate to our Intellectual Heritage readings. The entire paper is outlined like one is six feet under, evoking a POV of being in the grave. One looks up at the sky and flashback of the person’s life begins.
Some of the most prevalent themes that we discussed are death, mortality, and the quandaries about the meaning of life. These themes bleed into images. For instance, the skull leaking out of the hourglass are traditional images of the passage of and the end of time. However, before death occurs, we have a life to live. The cyclical nature of life (change, growth, and entering a new part of life) is represented by a mother raising her child to the world, yet death looms on for both.
The connections that are forged in trying times, blood or not, are life changing. Friendship can be symbolized as a ram- a strong protector of his flock. Accompanying friendship is love. A typical pair of lovebirds rest upon branches of sorrow. Love can be your salvation, but it can also lead you to your downfall.
Throughout one’s life, the question of one’s destiny and freewill come into play. Are you destined to live out the life someone wrote for you, or can you alter your course in life? Either way, people will undoubtedly be punished for some of their actions. They may not manifest in their lifetime, but it is certain. After punishment is dealt, there will be those that think they do not deserve it. This is where the theme of a two-sided story and duality come in- just and moral versus illogical and corrupt.
As life begins to fade, one will look past on all they have learned. No good story is complete if a character or the reader did not learn something. Whether you educate yourself for the sake of education or learn a new subject to apply it to your life, education matters.
Now we near the end of the flashback of one’s life story and the themes that were present. I cannot overlook the roles of women throughout time. On top of the hourglass stands a woman with a child also representing that motherhood begins time for a new life.
Now we have reached the end. While this end will meet everyone, we cannot forget to look for the “Good Life” and that “the decisions of our past are the architects of our present.”
The quotes that I used for this essay were ones that I thought exemplified the meaning that I
was trying to depict as one that generally underlined our class. I wanted to convey the struggle
for “the good life” in each of the quotes to show how characters experienced this differently and
what their end goal or their struggle was.
Two novels read during the course of the semester inspired my project: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. These two books depicted the lives of the female protagonists in the Middle East throughout its transition during the past forty years. I decided my project was going to be the creation of a fictional foundation. The foundation’s dual purpose would be to bring awareness to the female oppression that is prevalent within Iran and Afghanistan, while maintaining an open mindset towards those same women.