The Endless Cycle of Change

Individuals are like vases forever spinning on a potter’s wheel, constantly shaped and reshaped as time goes on. The unique shape and size of these creative artefacts can be compared to the way individuality is formed.  Both experience and imagination, in a range of creative ways, bring about our personal views of life, our own unique insight.  We see these occurrences particularly with writers of literary works, who often allude to significance of the way experiences and imagination combine, similar to a set of potter’s hands to trace out the way they come to see and view the world.  The way their clay has been shaped is often reflected in their works and serves as an interpretation of their views and values. The messages in their works additionally serve as a way of guiding and building other people’s vases, displaying individual’s ability to extend some creative assistance to help mould the vases of people around us. Yet, with each spin of the wheel, we run into the chance that our smooth symmetrical face may be cracked.

In spite of life’s difficulties, fragments of the past continuously provide a framework for the way individuals perceive the world, laying the foundations to the current shape of our vase. It is through our experiences and our fallible recollections of these occurrences that we are provided with a sense of who we are and what is important to us. The works of many writers illustrate the way they have been influenced by memories of their experiences. Arthur Miller, arguably one of the world’s most famous playwright delves into his own lifetime experiences, especially as child, to serve as inspiration and creative energy to imaginatively redefine his interpretation of society and the “American Dream”, explored through his play “Death of a Salesman.” His resentment of the materialistic and mythical American Dream and social pressures it puts on people’s lives is profoundly explicit in the play. Miller himself is quite open about his childhood experiences of having a father whose business failed as a result of the 1929 stock market crash and having a “salesman” uncle who persistently tried to invigorate competition between him and his cousin.  It would seem that these childhood memories created Miller’s reality in the 1950s, paralleled through the play that people cannot simply  as Willy Loman persistently refrains walk  “into the jungle and… walk out” expecting it to be “full of diamonds”. Miller disparages and characterises Willy Loman’s insistence that success is just right around the corner and can be attained by being “well-liked” instead of being diligent or showing initiative, echoing Millers view at the time. Miller tragically draws readers into the destructive blinding effect of the mythical “American Dream” through Willy, who is perilously lost is world of pursuing better cars, better refrigerators-a form of consumerism that eventually consumes him. When we consider our own lives, we might similarly see that with each spin and each turn, the events and circumstances that we encounter in life distinctively crafts us to come to a comprehension of our outlook of the world around us.

The world is complex and mysterious and we cannot hope to comprehend everything in it. Equally important and in addition to the way our past experiences shape who we are, is the need for our using imagination and creativity to also play their role. As such, just like children, adults continue to imagine and visualise to help them make sense of their surroundings to define who they uniquely are. To illustrate, writers often use imaginary works as a means to provide themselves with an interpretation of current social and political circumstances. Russian science fiction writer, Yevgeny Zamyatin, who penned the 1921 dystopian novel “We”, depicting a world in the distant future where an oppressive government has creates a society where all the buildings are made out of glass and people are known only as numbers, serves as an essential catalyst for Zamyatin to come to terms with the sweeping political changes taking place in Russia during the early 20th century. His imaginative prowess provided him with a means to draw certain parallels and conclusions between the fictional world and the real world. The novel expresses how the 1917 Russian revolution suppressed human thought is similarly compared to Zamyatin’s fictional government that is designed for ‘ridding man of crime’ that as a result also perpetrated the ridding of  “freedom”. The way the characters, such as D-503 and R-013 in the novel is referred to only by their letter and numbers, forebodes Zamyatin’s view that the establishment of a communist ideology will result in the annihilation of one’s identity. The reality presented to the author disturbed him, similar to the way our realities often deeply perplexes and confound us.

The hands in which we are constructed by do not have to be our own as other people’s imagination and past experience also influence our views, allowing us to expand the amount of clay we have access to, creating vases that are more complex in nature. Through past experiences of other’s around us, we learn and expand our knowledge shaping the part of our perception that is shared. Even when many of us weren’t there when the Germany committed genocide against Jewish people, the information that we get through memoirs and autobiographies left behind by survivors and the various heartbreaking footages become a part of us. Thus we learn of the harsh reality of history, and respect the consequence of our actions if history is to be repeated, through the constant reminders of those who have experienced atrocities.  Elie Wiesel’s famous novel Night which recounts his experience with his father in a Nazi Germany concentration camp, brings personal stories that would otherwise be lost. How else could we know the suffering experienced by the Jewish people in the concentration camps, if we aren’t reminded of the past as Wiesel puts it “everyone lives and dies for himself along” in those camps.  Similarly, other people’s imagination spurs on change, which inevitably alters our own perception as these imaginations become acknowledged and become a part of our shared reality. Advancements in society begin as nothing more than a thought or an idea, a seed planted in the minds of some brilliant people. In his publication “On the Origin of Species”, what Charles Darwin proposed was merely a thought. However, his imagination would eventually capture the attention and focus of many generations to come.   We establish a reality that is based not only on our own experiences and imaginations, but that of those around us.

If we apply too much pressure and allow our dreams and hopes or our past reality to become intertwined and dominant so that we no longer have control over them, then we risk of creating a vase that is disfigured. We can easily lose our control of our imagination and our past so that it manifests into an illusion that rampantly impedes and distorts our perception   Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, epitomises this notion through the character of Willy Lowman, as he becomes both terribly lost in a past in which he fictitiously creates. Willy Loman reinvents the past to help him cope with the harshness of the way his life has ended up, trying to convince himself that the situation was better before when he supposable “averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in commissions”. In tough times, he constantly reverts to created image of his sons admiring him, constantly there to carry his bags, wash his cars and seek his guidance, telling him that they will “retire [him] for life”. In order to create the reality that we desire, one must take ownership of the hands that shape us and ensure that they do not control the vase that we create.

As we age, the soft and malleable clay of our childhood eventually starts to become hard as the final shape starts to take form. The form that eventuates cannot be anticipated until the very end as our experiences combined imagination provide the two crafting hands that takes individuals on a variety of possibilities. Alone the way, we are helped by those around us, with their memories and mental creations shaping our own.  However it is quintessential that to some extent that we remain in control as without guidance, the vases will turn out to be nothing more than a pile of unrecognisable messy dirt.


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