Sylvia Plath and Boston

I watched Sylvia last night–it’s been in my Netflix queue for a long time, it finally surfaced and arrived, and then I set it aside for a week or so before I carved out the time to watch it. Not the most uplifting movie for a Saturday night; however, it seemed a kind of fitting movie for the evening as I watched my plans shift through several options: a 3-hour yoga workshop, dinner/gathering at a friend’s house, the Crystal Crest Awards, the combined speakers’ meeting, dinner with family in SLC. I declined all of these for various compelling reasons–the reconstruction of which would be like following a trail in the sand. So I landed here, at home, with Sylvia.

As a teenager I fell in love with the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Someone (Mom?) gave or loaned me Ariel:
(price on the cover $1.95)
I remember being especially fascinated with “Cut”
What a thrill–
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge
Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.
I liked the way she focuses on an action so closely, so delicately. How she takes this rather ordinary yet painful event and perseverates on it–exploring its every detail and probing its every analogous situation, its every possible metaphor. And of course I liked her morbid fascination with her body. I imagine today she might be a cutter, an Emo. But the movie reminded me of the psychic pain that led to her writing “Cut” and other poems in this collection. Sylvia’s depression, though diagnosed, was treated with electroshock therapy, and society did not seem to understand her situation.
Now, as we’re assaulted with news of bombings and shootings perpetrated by people who suffer from some sort of mental illness, I wonder why we haven’t come farther in our treatment of these diseases. I’ve watched so many people (myself included) suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder, and on and on. Most of my friends and family receive treatment for these conditions. But so many others don’t. I believe that the stigma–the fear of being labeled “crazy”–continues to inhibit many of us from seeking help. Also, I feel we have such high expectations for yourselves: we want others to think we’re fine, we’re great, we’re happy. Why should we be fine, great, and happy? It’s nice to be those things sometimes, but none of us handle life well all of the time. We can’t. We are human after all.
Maybe this is why Rafia Zakaria’s “The Tragedies of Other Places” resonated with me today. I’m not sure I agree with her entire argument; however, I like what she says about America’s
“more poignant version of reality” and our belief “in an uncomplicated morality.” We like our world in black and white even as we strive for a country where all people are created equal, where everyone has a vote, where all of us are happy. Lofty goals but ultimately unrealistic. A cynic might say that this focus on ideals distracts us from the gritty work of financing better mental health care or regulating assault weapons.

About BJ

living the dream in northern Utah
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