humanity's discretion

This library is composed of many books that touch on the idea of humanity, what is it, why is it, and in what form does it take place? While those questions are in some cases just proposed and in others answered to the author's discretion, but humanity as a whole idea, has a discretion of its own that we all, as humans, act upon, and that is discussed between the lines within these texts.

Herodotus was probably the most surprising fit into my library. Because it's a literal work about history, I decided to go with a literal cover, depicting a warrior, for what most of the book is about: war. I usually shy away from history, but what kept me engaged while reading this book is its world view. Herodotus treats these wars and big events with care while telling them, making sure to explain how they have positioned themselves in the timeline of the world (albeit, the small one he knows) and how they have set off an even further chain of reactions. When I say "world view," it's that treatment of these events that I'm referring to, which is why I feel it belongs in my library. Because most of what history consists of is war, I chose "I See Fire" by Ed Sheeran for this book's theme song. The song was written for the second Hobbit film, and is all about war, and how a warrior feels when he "sees fire" that is burning his city and fellow soldiers. I think the sentiments of the song fit perfectly with Herodotus' work. Sheeran blends the feelings of fear of the battle, but pride in one's fellow warriors and the cause that he is fighting for. He also incorporates the idea of one wanting their legacy to continue after they're gone, which I believe is a very prominent idea within "Histories."
"The Nature of Things," by Lucretius, was one of my favorite reads this semester for two reasons: 1) because it was written in verse and 2) because it combined philosophy, science, and simple human observation together in a seamless way. For that alone, I felt it deserved a spot in my library. One of the more technical reasons why it has a spot in my library is its dealings in the concept of humanity and what it is driven by. The drive of humanity is something that is a part of a base in all of the books in my library, whether its war in Herodotus' "Histories," or empathy (and how one feels about being empathized with) in Jamison's "The Empathy Exams." Lucretius really aspects all aspects of humanity, from what it means to biologically be a human to what should drive humanity. He interestingly explains his idea of atoms and how everything in the world is made up of the same thing, meaning that everything new in the world is made up of something old. The cover art reminds me of the stars, or small atoms/particles that are coalesced into a bigger picture or item. This goes along with Lucretius' atom theory; there's also something poetic about the notion that we are made up of the same "stuffs" as the stars. Because of these notions, I chose "We Never Change" by Coldplay, as the theme song.
Studs Terkel's "Working" is the work we spent the most time with, so naturally it finds its way into my library, again with different views of humanity and how working in America has affected it. Terkel's oral history was very telling of how American culture, and conflict, was shaping the American work experience, and subsequently, the American Dream, at the time. What makes this work so engaging is how telling it is (of Americans, the American Way, and American thought) and more importantly how raw it is. Although it isn't without bias, it does have much less bias than any other work of straight prose coming from one author you would find. Also, it's completely relatable, because work is something almost everyone does at some point. The theme song I chose is "Hard Day's Work" by Jeffrey James. It's a very literal representation of this oral history, which is also very literal in its nature. A lot of what James sings about is how many men in the book describe their lives. I also chose a very concrete cover picture of a man working in a farm or on land, which goes with the literal, raw vibe that "Working" possesses.
"The Empathy Essays," by Leslie Jamison was also one of my favorites because, like "Working" it was very raw and relatable. It was the piece we read in class that was the most relatable to me, because who hasn't dealt with the complications of empathy? We always feel that we want it, because we desperately want someone to understand how we're grieving or worrying, or even sometimes, we want them to share in our specific elation. But, the reality of the situation is all feelings are felt completely differently by every single person because we all have different brains and thoughts; yes, we may feel similarly, but never the same. Yet, we want others to understand exactly how we're feeling and then lash out when they try because we know they never could, and maybe there's a certain need of humans to own their grief, as if no one else can have it, especially not the way they can, because it makes them tragically special and deserving of attention and entitled to excuses. Naturally, these two needs/wants surrounding empathy are contradictory, leading to an emotionally violent response to those trying to help us. How that reaction causes others to respond to our state usually leads to a feeling of loneliness, because you feel as if no one will ever be able to understand or help you. The cover photo I chose seems to evoke sadness and loneliness to me, which is why I chose it for this book. Jamison explains this odd sensation very well in her scenarios. It's this depiction of such a conflicting part of humanity that lets her belong in my library. The song I chose to represent Jamison's work and general empathy is "How Much A Dollar Cost?" by Kendrick Lamar. Lamar expertly tells the story of a rich man who has no empathy towards the homeless and beggars. The ending of the song provides a surprising twist; you find out how much a dollar (and empathy) really costs.
I actually found the cover photo for "The Most Human Human" by Brian Christian before I even realized how it fit into my library or what song I would choose (which proved to be very difficult). I like the cover photo because it represents humanity in that it's made up of many different things that overall look similar. The different colors can represent different races, beliefs, etc. of humans and how we come together to form one "humanity." But, it also seems very technological in that it looks like a motherboard or something that a series of binary ones and zeroes would produce. "The Most Human Human" is the glue to my library, not because it was my favorite (although it was), but because it gets down to the epitome of what ties my library together: humanity, and more specifically, "what is humanity?" Well humanity is many different things, which explains why it was so hard to find a song on it as well, because humanity would technically be the collection of every song ever produced. But, I chose "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin DeGraw, because it showcases the choice that each human possesses of becoming whoever they want to be and making their own choices without the influence of others. This freedom is what makes humanity a collection of different entities, what makes the squares in the cover photo multi colored instead of it being a solid colored block of glass.
Mina Loy seems to be screaming at the world, specifically the female population, in the "Feminist Manifesto." What's captivating about it, is the strong word choice Loy uses and how she manipulates the words on the page to convey her feelings about the subject she's writing about. She takes it to extremes, which shows her passion for the feminist cause, although it's a bit off-putting. I think this photo perfectly captures what I imagine when I imagine this book. Although it's a bit jarring and seems to be a very loud piece of art, it's also very hard to tear your eyes away from, leading you to examining every inch of it. I believe that this was Mina Loy's intention when writing "Feminist Manifesto." I also enjoy the message the art sends with the exposed brain. I think it not only shows the world that we a) have a brain (probably the most important sentiment to express at the beginning of any expression of feminism) but also that we b) are dying to be given the chance to express our ideas, thoughts, and mind to the world in the myriad of accepted ways that men can and are invited to. It seems as though she's screaming for change, screaming from being held down too long, and that's also what the reader may feel that Loy is feeling when writing the "Feminist Manifesto." I chose "Womanifesto" by Jill Scott as the theme song for this work, simply because it spells out many of the themes that Loy is expressing in her short statement, the main of which is that females are not coy, innocent beings. We are intellectual, powerful, and although we are sexual, we should not be defined by the underlying descriptions in the "Sexual" category.
The extra book from my repertoire that I believed fit into my library, is "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky. I love this book because it describes the humanity of high school, family, and mental illness, but in the innocent way that most unknowing high schoolers would experience it. It has many layers that raise questions from "what is love?" to "what is normality?" And, I believe that those questions, and the essence of the novel really fit into my personal library. Maybe many are so drawn to it because it is relatable; we all can be wallflowers sometimes, invisible but aware and attentive and always listening and learning. I think that the cover photo matches this book and what it represents because it evokes anonymity by blocking out the eyes, but it also makes the audience aware that the subject is present by highlighting the other parts of the subject in bright red light. It's as if the portrait is saying, "you don't know me, you can't see me, but I swear I'm here, I know I'm present," and that's what Chbosky's novel is all about. I also chose "Heroes" by David Bowie as the theme song for the book because it is in fact the staple song of the book, (that and Asleep by The Smiths, which also fits perfectly). "Heroes" is featured in the movie and the book in a most pivotal part, and it describes how we, as humans, no matter our presence in the world, can be heroes, even if it's just for a moment. How humanity can allow one to do anything, to become anyone, even if they can't sustain it.
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