The Inward Morning
Narrative sections : Swamping …42 — Building a dam …44f. - -Rowing . 45-51– Rogue Rver boatman…82 — Fishing the Gualala.86 –Canadian Rockies: 139 –The North Fork … 171 –At Sea…176-193 // –Awakening to things, others, ourselves: Rain on Mt. Lu… 92 –Driving to Mexico…102 –Rain and sunlight.. 108 –The Boston Museum…226 –Sounding of bells…229 –Drift of my thinking 74 –Writing authentically 79 –Informed by the sea..121 - -Wilderness vocation.. 128 // –Awakening 154f. –Utter simplicity…170 –Night at sea … 177 –Song of a bird193 –Prowling in books .. 197 –Manner of man 210 –True stillness …2 21 // –Fellow creatures 224 –Suicide planes . 225 –Flock of Geese . 227 ///
Format. The regular reflection papers – all but the final reflection paper — should have a bold two or three line single spaced quote at the top of each page. [so a 2 page paper has 2 quotes, one at the top of each; a 4 pg has 4 quotes, one at the top of each, etc] Beneath that quote (a different one for each page) is your reflection or meditation or ‘riff’ on it. The quotes don’t have to produce a related stream of thought, nor do your reflections. The final paper can work for integration of themes, but the earlier ones can be one-page thoughts independent from thoughts on the other pages.
How to get reflection started. In your reading be alert for moments that strike you in some fashion, and make marginal notes of these moments. Why do they ring a bell or jump out at you (for good or ill)? What triggers your imagination — heart and mind? You want to read with an eye to collecting those passages or sentences that “make you jump” – in joy or revulsion or surprise or curiosity.
Then figure out what made you take note. A ‘marginal commentary’ [comments entered on the margins of a page] should be part of your reading, and when paper-time comes you can then lay out before you the half dozen most memorable “jumps” and begin to reflect on them. Ask yourself which ones you can elaborate on, go somewhere with. Begin to narrow down the number until you find the 3 or 4 quotes (1-3 sentences each) that you can do best with – discarding the rest.
The idea of a journey appears in all the books. Consider that your writing might be like one-page journal entries that keeping track of that journey. Use the first person. And avoid any hint of a book report or “summary of ideas”. The paper shows you — your response. I should learn something about how your mind and imagination work as I read it. Let your voice and personality come out.
Reflection papers are definitely not standard expository essays. The idea is for you to be alert to sentences or phrases or moods in the writing that strike you. Your response is the key to what to write about. I can’t tell what will strike you, and each student may find something different that makes them reread, gasp with disbelief, get happy, get reminded of what a friend said or what happened to an uncle. Following up that initial “zing” from the text assures that you are responding to IT — not to someone else’s interpretation of what existentialism is, or what Camus means by the absurd, or what your professor expects you to ‘get’ from the text. Your professor wants you to start with YOUR reactions, and to nurture those reactions, build up an associative field around them of your own making.
There’s no given ‘angle’ on things I want you to accept or investigate. What is ‘given’ is the fact that you will react, and mull or ponder or ‘riff’ on your reaction, positioning your reaction amidst other things in the particular text (if that works for you) or amidst other things in your experience (including your experience of books and films and theater and camping trips or brawls, or whatever.
The sentences selected don’t have to be connected (but they might). Try to fill the page (it’s your chance to show me how you think).
Art, religion, philosophy, and literature offer resources for celebration of life — offer ways to stave off at least part of the suffering that afflicts us. They bring us meaning and knowledge and shore up our often frail capacities for confidence and conviction.
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