006: blackbirds

He rode over Connectivut

In a glass coach

Once, a fear piereced him,

In that he mistook

The shadow of his equipage

For blackbirds.

This is one of the thirteen stanzas in Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens.

In this stanza, the man was not simply scared or shaken by the sight of what he thought was a blackbird. He was “pierced”  – struck motionless and frozen – in his fear of these imaginary blackbirds. This man exhibits something that all humans have in common: a fear for the indecipherable.  Ever since our creation, we have built a structure of knowledge that transcends our own world and reality. We try to explain everything we know of – from everyday events, to our emotions, to the galaxies light years away, and everything in between. Man creates knowledge, and therefore society, all based on his imagination. People are praised for answering (or at least helping answer) the questions of humanity; Scientists and authors receive awards for discovering what no one else has.We are so used to knowing everything that the unknown and inexplicable are feared by us.

However, it is ironic that the same minds that create knowledge are what create the boundaries of humanity. The man in this stanza was so afraid “in that he mistook the shadow of its equipage for blackbirds.” He did not see an actual blackbird, but he just thought he had. From his mind, he had created his own fear. According to Alexander Popes “An Essay of Man,” humans are an isthmus connecting God and beast. We share the capacity to think like God but we are limited by our animal nature. The capacity of humans to think has no boundaries and limits, but the fears we create in our minds hold us back. Our fears capture us, tie us down, and keep us as their captives. They enslave us, blind us, and push us to the point of becoming barbaric and primitive.

Just as the man sits in a glass coach with a clear view of his surroundings, we can never hide ourselves from our fears. We cannot run away from the world and choose the things in life that we want to see. Whether we like it or not, we have to go through things that we have no control of, as if we are passengers in a coach. Although our glass coaches protect us as we are tossed around in them, they do not conceal us. The people outside can just as much see you as you can see them. They can see you in your weakest times and strongest; they can see when you are tied down by your fears. Everyone can see you when you are vulnerable.

 

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