The Human Ecology, Histories, and Literature Departments have collaborated on a series ongoing personal reflective essays called Eleutheros. Each week students are asked to write a reflective essay that demonstrates their understanding of the themes from their coursework and effectively links these themes to their unique thoughts and experiences.  Enjoy reading these two articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with essential questions, important to their course of study at The Island School… Prompt:

1.  What does it mean to “marry your heart to your right hand?” (Omeros 72). Who lives this way? Do you? Should you?

Abby Anderson:

When I talk to my grandmother, she often tells me about weaving. She has been weaving for most of her life, was the President of the New Hampshire Weavers’ Guild, and goes to weaving conferences around the country where she shows her work and sees others’ work. In her little two-bedroom house, she dedicated an entire room to weaving, filling it with her loom and supplies. When my grandmother talks about weaving, I notice an important quality in her voice that perpetuates her love of weaving: passion. To find one’s passion and to be passionate are two goals that many people strive for throughout their lives. This passion makes up the essence of what it means to “marry your heart to your right hand,” (Omeros, 72).

People who “marry their heart to their right hand” feel passionate about their work or their interests. In Omeros, Achille shows his passion for fishing in comparison to his job on land, “There was no sun, he was sure. No scorching gunwales where the hot oars idled, no sea with its bleached sails,” (Omeros, 48). While working on Plunkett’s farm, Achille remembers all the aspects of fishing he loves. As a result, he returns to a career in fishing. Achille’s longing for the sea overtakes him and makes him realize he should return to life as a fisherman. In this way, Achille reminds me of Nehemiah, who for part of his life worked on land in the tourism industry. He later returned to fishing because he felt passionate about his fishing career, and continues to fish at the age of sixty-four. Both Achille and Nehemiah’s love for the sea compels them to “marry their heart to their right hand” and work at sea instead of on land. People should “marry their hearts to their right hands” in instances such as these because they allow individuals to combine their passions with a way to provide for themselves.

People should also follow their passions when preserving their rights and others’ rights. Last year on student council, the sophomore class decided to organize class participation in The Cots Walk, a walk against homelessness in Vermont. The activity remained optional, yet about ninety percent of our class came out to support the cause. In this way, our class united against something we all thought of as unjust. By supporting an organization that we felt passionate about, our class “married our hearts to our right hands,” together. In the documentary Flow, women inIndia protested outside of a Coca-Cola factory instead of going to work and earning a living. The company shut down or privatized their mechanisms for collecting water. Also, the company advertised toxic waste products as free fertilizer and distributed to the surrounding people. The women in the documentary protested to protect the right to clean water for themselves and others. By supporting a cause they felt passionate about, they “married their hearts to their right hands,” and tried to solve a problem that devastated many people.

Others should encourage people to follow their passions. In Omeros, Walcott’s father encourages him to write, like he did, because he recognizes the value in one working with what they feel passionate about, “Measure the days you have left. Do just that labor which marries your heart to your right hand: simplify your life to an emblem, a sail leaving a harbor and a sail coming in,” (Omeros, 72). Walcott’s father explains the importance of using every moment one can to do what one loves. Also, the sail leaving then coming back to the harbor represents one challenging themselves and moving outside their comfort zone to embrace their passions, but always remembering their home and the value of home as a passion. As a result of his father’s encouragement, Walcott pursues poetry and writes Omeros, which helps him connect with his passions and live out the ideal his father instilled in him.

When thinking about whether people should “marry their hearts to their right hands,” I immediately thought people should always pursue their passions. However, after giving more thought to the matter, I realized this might not always be the case. In Human Ecology class, we watched The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, a movie about how Cuba coped with the Peak Oil crisis in the 1990s. In this situation, the people ofCuba had to learn how to live differently, and make sacrifices to help Cuba become a self-sustaining country. In this situation, people had to create individual farms and bike and take public transportation instead of driving individual cars. In this scenario, people like my great uncle, who feels passionate about collecting and driving cars, would have to sacrifice his desire to “marry his heart to his right hand” for the good of the greater society. Also, people throughout Cuba had to spend less time pursuing their passions to provide food for their families and communities. In this circumstance, people should not “marry their hearts to their right hands,” because one must prioritize their needs, their families’ needs, and their communities’ needs for survival above their passions, a tough realization because I have never had to prioritize survival over passion.

After analyzing how and why other people do or do not “marry their hearts to their right hands,” I started to examine how this concept applies to my life. I feel privileged to have the chance to follow my passions. Dance allows me to follow one of my passions. I have the opportunity to take classes and dance on teams and at recitals. This valuable privilege allows me to perform in front of others and showcase my passion. When people have the time and means to “marry their hearts to their right hands,” they should take advantage of this luxury. Personally, dance has fostered discipline, grace, and teamwork within me. These aspects help make me who I am. I have the opportunity to follow my passions, a privilege I should take advantage of.

Passion has a thrilling connotation, which people want to experience for themselves. I realized passion is a luxury, one that I should take full advantage of whenever I can. I need to try to “marry my heart to my right hand,” more often. I can do this by working harder in dance classes, and increasing my effort in the elements I do not enjoy, such as adagio. I can also live out my passions by spending more time with family and friends, and cherishing every moment I have with them. The fact that I have the opportunity to “marry my heart to my right hand,” means that I should seize these opportunities, because many people would love to have the luxury I feel so privileged to have.

Mattie McAlpin:

It is only human to express the way you really feel but true fidelity to a cause is only found in those who are selfless. The quotation “marry your heart with your hand’ (Omeros 72) essentially means to devote and invest your life in something you have passion and love for. To me it seems difficult to give this complete devotion without living a privileged lifestyle weather that is in wealth or education. But you are truly blessed if you can live your life working for what you are passionate about.

In Human Ecology class we watched a documentary film called Flow, a film on the global water crisis. I feel it is obvious that in order to create a film as persuasive as Flow there must have been a team of incredibly devoted passionate people surrounding the issue.  Every interview and statistic was out to hit a nerve of the viewer. Flow sparked a variety of raging emotions in me ranging from compassion to anger to stupidity. The fact that over 2 million people die a year from water related diseases, made me cringe. The evidence that 1 out of 5 children in Bolivia die before the age of five because of their drinking water, makes me want to cry. And the biggest element of surprise was that  we as a planet spend over 100 billion dollars a year on bottled water when it would only take about 3 million dollars to provide every human being on this earth with fresh, clean, pure water. This made me want to change the world. The credits began to role and I could feel a current of emotions consuming my every thought. I was willing to make a change, and with this change I wanted to make a difference. It is these emotions that allow one to become passionate and with passion comes dedication and commitment to what you love. I am sincerely ready for change, and Flow inspired me to already begin the brainstorming process for our Human Ecology final project. I am blessed enough to study here at The Island School along and have a say in the direction I decide to take my education and occupation in the daunting future. I look forward to working toward a rewarding impacting goal rather than a pay check at the end of each month, although I know realistically that is a difficult path to pursue.

I feel that the author of Omeros Derek Walcott does what he loves because his goal in life is to give the voiceless a voice.  The voiceless brought him where he is today and this is giving them the credit that they truly deserve. He feels purpose in his heart and all the abuse of the past is what has shaped what he has become today. History belongs to the author and Walcott very beautifully channels his compassion and frustration of the past into a poetic representation of his emotions. Too many people live life trying to tip the scale their own way but it is clear that Walcott does his work for others while still gaining self-benefit.

I am a member of my local Unitarian Universalist congregation and through this have become a part of organizing and participating in a youth program for local teens. This is where I feel my purpose. I believe it is incredibly important to be aware that youth will soon be the future and that young students should be given that chance to address, discuss, and expose themselves to a variety of concepts and important issues that we as a community face.  As a group we address racism, sexual orientation, immigration laws and a number of other conflicting concepts.  I find great importance in my own exposure to other thoughtful open-minded students and I hope that one day I can make a difference in minimizing oppression and educating the youth of my community. In participating and organizing this program I have felt closer to the concept of “marrying my heart to my hand” but I am confident that I have room to make an even larger and more effective impact on my surroundings and generations to come. I feel that everyone in life should be standing on the side of love and working to better there community in any area that seems to spark their passionate nature.

Ideally everyone should be able to get out of bed every morning to do something that they love, something’s that keeps them driven, and something that allows them to feel belonging. But I feel there are very few people who are fortunate enough to live so successfully. Great success often comes with serious sacrifices. I hope I can make a difference in this big hectic world. Its not about my name being left behind, its about what I left behind, who I impacted, and what lives I changed for the better.