I’m spending my summer travelling around in Norway
A commencement speech might only appear as different word put together to make people listen for a couple of minutes. And it is. Simultaneously, it can be so much more. J. K. Rowling’s commencement speech for Harvard graduates in 2008 falls into that category. She goes about it the right way by capturing people’s attention and then giving them something to think about. In her speech she takes about the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Two rather alternative subjects as the audience were Harvard graduates. But who are better to learn about the benefits of failure than those who probably fear it the most? And who other than J. K. Rowling could we trust to emphasize the positive aspects of a vivid imagination?
First, when listening to Rowling’s commencement speech, it becomes clear that she uses rhetorical devices. Rhetoric is the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively. For instance, she has several allusions to her own book series, namely Harry Potter. By mentioning and joking with it in the beginning of the speech, she makes people really pay attention and have fun. Humor is, therefore, central in making an interesting commencement speech. Furthermore, she uses herself and her life experience to illustrate how it was to be seen as a failure and how it made her grow as a person. Not only are the stories themselves captivating, they bring the speech together, and the message comes across much more powerful when it can be related to a person.
Relating to a person’s story and using your imagination was, not surprisingly, a central theme in Rowling’s commencement speech. As the author behind the Harry Potter books and a former employee at Amnesty International, she has learned just how important it is to be able to relate to other peoples stories. “Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.”(Full speech here) In her speech for the Harvard graduates she also points out the importance of using the ability to relate. By not empathizing, we indirectly enable real monsters through our apathy. People should, therefore, not be afraid to put themselves in other’s shoes, because it can be an experience that gives knowledge an insight to unknown situations and problems.
The last subject that Rowling talked about was the benefit of failure. And that brings me back to my opening statement, namely that successful people fear failure the most. The Harvard graduates are most likely hardworking students who are used to doing well and, therefore, also afraid of not reaching the expectations they set themselves or those who have been set for them. However, failure is something that makes you grow as a person and it tests the relationships you surround yourself with. Despite it not being fun, it can be seen as a good opportunity to strip away the inessential and focus on what is important for you. Imparting that message to students who were stressed about their future was, therefore, a smart decision. Even if you fail at important tasks in your life, there is a light in the end of the tunnel, because failure itself is not only negative. “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
And by that being said, I wrap up this school year with international English. It has been an experience, allowing me to write and unfold myself in a way that I have not done before. I have also been featured on national radio, in the newspaper and on BBC, something which did not even cross my mind as possible when I started the blog. Also, thank you so much for the comments and the feedback throughout the year. Have a nice summer vacation!
This post is written to cover my last competency aim, namely to analyze the role of some English- language media in the international society.
Media play a big part in influencing people. Whether the goal is to sell a product, impart an important case or set the standards in today’s society, they function as the fourth estate, meaning that their power is immense. Still, media written in certain languages have more power than others. The question is therefore, what role has the English- language media in this maze of languages and cultures we know as the international society?
In the world of media there is especially one language that stands out, and that is English. It is the native language for approximately 360 million people and the second language for about 430 million people, giving newspapers and magazines, let alone articles on the internet, a broad audience. (Wikipedia) It is, therefore, natural that most information will be found in English and that the different media have more penetrating power than, for instance, Norwegian- language media. An example of that are articles written on subjects like medicine. Today, all the most influential medical journals are written in English, and English has become the language of choice at international conferences. Where the medical terms were in former times derived from Latin or Greek, English has now become the joint language. (Medical English). The focus in today’s society has shifted from using different languages, towards having a joint language one can communicate with, namely English. That gives the English- language media a central role transmitting information.
However, there are other examples which are more pressing when showing the role English- language media has in the international society. Even though it can be wrong to pin the responsibility of today’s expectations regarding looks on only one language, the magazines in English are central in developing an international standard. Despite the fashion industry doing what they want, magazines have the choice not to publish pictures of thin models and stop retouch images. As English is an important language in the fashion industry, and the magazines written in English have a big audience, they help communicating images which can hurt their readers’ self-image. Furthermore, TV-shows in English and films from Hollywood often help contributing to the focus on looks and appearance. Films, TV-shows and magazines in English are, therefore, important when it comes to setting an international standard on how people should look and act.
To conclude, English- language media play a very central role in the international society, probably the most central, as it is read on a global scale and reach a bigger audience than most other languages. Consequently, it is important for the media to be aware that power and not misuse it.
Have a nice day!
Her eyelids flutter like the wings of a butterfly, threatening to close. They get heavier and heavier, yet she pushes through. Half awake and half asleep she does her best to prepare for the following day. Still, no matter how hard she tries, she can’t remember what she just read. In one ear and out the other. Day after day, week after week.
In today’s society there is especially one thing that people, in particular the younger generations, struggle with, namely the pressure to be perfect. It is common knowledge that you should be good looking, healthy and successful, both in your private and your public life. Speaking of private life, does that exist anymore, now that people share pictures on Instagram, their life story on Facebook and their thoughts on Twitter? The pictures and stories from magazines and the internet reach us every day, adding to the pressure, not letting us relax. Being the perfect student, the perfect employee and the perfect girlfriend/ boyfriend is more than a fulltime job. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Look your best and do your best.
You can say what you want to yourself, suppressing the signals from your body. In the end, however, you reach a point where you cannot push your limits any further. There is a point when the body shuts down and refuses to be abused. Reaching that limit is a terrible thing, as you no longer feel in control of your body. From being able to always pay attention, you can fall asleep in class as you no longer sleep during the night. The concentration is gone and it feels as though your brain is full, yet so empty. Walking around constantly stressed and in panic mode leaves you with a tunnel vision. There is simply no way to collect yourself in time to access the part of your brain that stores the facts for your test. Just imagine what it feels like to have your heart pounding at every sound, as if you are about to be attacked. Simultaneously, imagine what it feels like to be so tired that you cannot sleep, only focus on a spot on the wall.
Pressure is something that can challenge people and help them to grow as a person. Yet, when the pressure gets so big that it crushes even the stronger ones, it is time to react. We can only take so much, people are not perfect, and it is time to accept that. School is meant to prepare us for what comes later on in life. However, the focus has shifted from achieving new knowledge to testing students so often that they have no way of learning everything they are supposed to. Am I the only one who does not get the point in removing the joy of learning, only to replace it with stress and more pressure? It is not accidental that young people get burnt- out before they even reach the proper work life. Students are expected to do well at school, be social and look their best, alongside having a job. And grownups call us a lazy generation?
She looks at her paper, but the numbers and words do not make any sense. Her eyes get wet and tears come streaming silently down her face. In order to feel like she is doing something productive, she starts to draw on the other side of the test. It is simply too much to handle. She is too tired to think.
When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Today, April 22, is the earth day, which was established to protect our environment. This year the focus is on making the cities greener, thus my subject is chosen amongst the things I think can be done better in my own little city, Sandvika.
Sandvika is a little city approximately 20 kilometers south of the capital, Oslo. Over the next years, it will be almost totally rebuilt, making room for many new buildings with the need of an efficient heating and cooling system. As the winters in Oslo, Norway are quite cold, it is necessary to have a well-functioning system to heat public and private buildings.
A geothermal heat pump, or ground source heat pump, is a central heating- or cooling system that transfers heat from the ground. Since the temperature underground is consistently higher than on the surface, the pump only has to force a transfer of heat in order to work. More precisely, heat pumps can transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, against the natural direction of flow, or they can enhance the natural flow of heat from a warm area to a cool one. (Wikipedia)
By using the geothermal heat to warm up buildings, we can reduce the use of electricity. In Norway, we mostly use energy extracted from falling water to generate the power to warm up buildings. As the water power is high-quality, meaning that the energy is easily usable, it would make more sense to use it in other processes demanding a higher level of energy quality. Low- quality energy, on the other hand, is difficult to extract, thus better to exploit in processes needing a lower energy quality, like heating. Geothermal heat pumps do exactly that, they extract the heat from the ground to use when heating, or cooling, buildings.
To summarize, Sandvika city will undergo a big change in the upcoming years. By using a sustainable way of heating the new buildings, we can make the city a bit greener.
This is a photo showing how a geothermal heat pump can work.
In class last week we learned about the whistleblower Edward Snowden and his effort when it came to making the public aware of the surveillance carried out by, amongst others, the NSA.
A whistleblower is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. (Wikipedia) Edward Snowden exposed an extensive surveillance, making him one of the most famous whistleblowers of our time. In fact, he stands behind the biggest leak of top-secret surveillance documents of all time. The files he leaked showed, for instance, that each day, the NSA gathers approximately 2 billion data connected to personal information from mobile- companies, social medias, mail and other websites. (News-article 31.01.2014, Aftenposten) These files, leaked to newspapers like the Guardian, have resulted in an extensive debate about personal security and the definition of spying.
The NSA has a different definition of spying than what most people would have. According to them, they are not spying when they are gathering information about people. It can only be seen as spying if they are intentionally looking for something. Furthermore, there is a co-operation between several countries, like England, making it possible to share already gathered information. This agreement leads to a further distribution of sensitive information. However, it is not classified as spying, they have managed to find loopholes in the laws.
Because the surveillance is so extensive, I think Snowden did the right thing when leaking the documents. Even though leaking classified information is illegal, I believe that the surveillance done by the NSA is worse. As he only leaked the documents to newspapers, making them in charge of deciding what people should know, he did not do it to benefit himself, and that is important.Furthermore, the leakage of these documents has made it possible to openly discuss the surveillance. Having the knowledge about actions carried out by the governments is central in making a change. I believe that people have the right to know, if not all, a bit of what is happening around us. Edward Snowden made that possible. He gave people the opportunity to protect themselves and voice their opinion on the matter.
On the other hand, I understand that it is important for a government to have some knowledge about their population. In order to have control and prevent dangerous situations it is central to have information available. However, there is a line between having the knowledge and having total control over the population. Gathering sensitive information brakes with the right of privacy, and there is no way to object to it if we do not know what happens.
To conclude, I think Snowden’s decision to leak documents containing information about surveillance was right. Even though it is important for the government to have knowledge about their inhabitants, there is a line that definitely has been crossed. Edward Snowden has given us the opportunity to change the way the surveillance works and regain parts of our privacy by speaking up. The public should have a say in this.
What do you think about this?
I have finally finished my in- depth project in International English, and the subject I chose was Ernest Hemingway and his book “The Old Man and the Sea”. Hope you like it.
Ernest Miller Hemingway is a recognized author, maybe even one of the century’s biggest legends when it comes to writing. In 1952 “The Old Man and the Sea” landed him the Nobel Prize in literature.
Ernest Miller Hemingway
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another”. (Brainy Cotes)
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born the 21.July 1899 in the Chicago suburb, Oak Park. His older sister, Marceline, was already 18 months old, and during the next 16 years, tree more sisters and one brother followed. They grew up in a home where the mother, due to bad sight, had to give up on a promising opera career, and instead compensated with humiliating her husband and terrorizing her family. At home, pietism and active worshipping of God put a mark on the children, leaving them with little knowledge about the hard facts of life. In return, there was barley anything the young Hemingway did not learn about nature, hunting and fishing. This respect and knowledge about the nature later shone through in his authorship, connecting all of his works. For the most, it is as if he wanted to impart, with his elegiac tone, that nature would win over us humans.
Hemingway started his career writing for the school newspaper. Even though he was tired of school, he very much enjoyed writing, and this probably affected his wish to become a war reporter in Europe. Despite his hopes, he ended as a junior reporter in the paper “Kansas City Star” when he finished high school. However, the experience was useful, leaving him with more knowledge about how to write meaningful, short sentences using a good language. In 1918 he volunteered as an ambulance driver for Red Cross and found himself at the northern Italian front. There he was injured and admitted to hospital where he met, and fell in love with, the American nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, who later betrayed him. She was the inspiration for the female character in “A Farewell to Arms”
Back in America, Hemingway began to take small jobs, where he excelled as a versatile and good writer. After meeting his future wife and proposing, he moved to Paris in 1922 to work on his language and writing style. When in Paris, he met Ezra Pound who convinced him to remove superfluous words and show his story, instead of just talking about it. In the following years, he worked as a war correspondent in different countries, made his debut as an author and became father to a son. He continued to write novels and poems about brutality, violence, war and honor, and got recognition for his work. His breakthrough came, however, in 1926 when “And the Sun Also Rises”, where not only himself, but also his circle of acquaintances in Paris were made immortal. Hemingway lived an eventful life, and in 1936, he was back in his element as an anti-war correspondent for America during the Spanish Civil War. However, he became exceedingly anti- fascistic, wanting to involve America in the conflict. He also got criticized for mixing fiction with reality in his articles.
One plane crash, several failed marriages later, and with the coverage of two World Wars and one civil war on his sleeve, Hemingway had become a person with an intense fear of death, yet with suicidal thoughts. In the end the loneliness, depression, delusions, alongside drinking problems drove him to commit suicide. “When writing has become your biggest load and you highest pleasure, only death can stop you” The 2.July 1961 he loaded his double-barred shotgun and put an end to his problems. Ernest Miller Hemingway had become a legend.
How did Hemingway’s personal experiences affect his work as an author?
One can say that Hemingway’s childhood and experiences in life highly affected not only his stories, but also his style of writing. Being brought up in a home with a highly valued focus on the nature and its beauty, gave Hemingway a platform for most of his work. For instance, in the book “The Old Man and the Sea” one learns that Mother Nature is in control, yet that her beauty is breathtaking. This message seems to be a recurring matter in his storytelling.
In his early days, Christianity was also a fundamental part of his life. Being brought up with a strong faith might have given him the want to have some allusions in his stories. In the “Old Man and the Sea” there are several hints that Hemingway was a person with a good knowledge of the bible. However, it is not only his childhood that affected his work, Hemingway also met a lot of people who influenced him. In fact, he drew most of his inspiration from his surroundings and experiences. One can easily relate characters to people he have met, and the story itself to happenings that made an impact on him. For instance, many of his novels and short stories are set in a place where war is an important theme. That is easily connected to his interest and experience with war. On the other side, when it comes to the evolution of his writing style, one can say that the people he met were more significant than certain events. In fact, one can assert that his job in the paper “Kansas City Star” and the meeting with Ezra Pound were the most important parts in forming his career, as they helped Hemingway develop a style that would later be his mark.
The “Hemingway man” and other distinctive marks
Ernest Hemingway was an author with a very distinctive writing style. In many ways, the style can be described as minimalism. The core of his authorship, which was both a strength and a weakness, was namely his will to portray the things, everything we perceive with our senses, as they were. With the help of objectivity, without unnecessary reasoning or argumentation, he left it up to the readers to make an up their mind about the situations or places in his stories. Additionally, he worked on telling an interesting story without commonplace adjectives and unnecessary words. His English was powerful, without forgetting to pursue lightness using short, meaningful sentences. This aesthetics is something witch later has been associated with Hemingway and his authorship.
Hemingway also followed a principle called the “iceberg- method”, illustrating that for every part you see, there are seven which are hidden under water. By describing only the superficial in his stories, he leaves the reader with a lot of questions. However, the information can be found if one reads between the lines. An author who uses this principle forces the reader to think, and when he or she does, a whole new meaning appears. The first impression of one of his books can, therefore, be that it is a simple book with, evidently, no deeper meaning than an old man trying to catch a fish. Yet, when one reads more into it, it becomes clear just how duplex the book is.
Concerning characters, the “Hemingway man” developed during his lifetime to become a distinctive feature in his books. This character can be seen as a personal description of himself, focusing on different aspects of his personality. The usual “Hemingway man” is tough, worn out, stoic and laconic with all of his despair hidden behind a sophisticated appearance. (Landro, 1993) In other words, the male characters were very much masculine men, yet they all had problems complicating their lives. In the book “The Old Man and the Sea”, however, there was a significant difference, separating the main person from the normal “Hemingway man”. The fear for the unknown, bothering the main person, was no longer present. This can be seen as a change in Hemingway’s perception of himself, as if he had become more at ease with his problems and his future.
The Old Man and the Sea
The book “The Old Man and the Sea” came out in 1952 and is amongst the most well- known books written by Hemingway. It landed him the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, as well as the Nobel Prize in literature the year after for his “powerful mastership, which has been important in shaping the present art of narration”.
“The Old Man and the Sea” is about Santiago and his apprentice Manolin, who gets separated due to Santiago’s lack of luck on the sea. As the story begins, the old man has gone 84 days without a catch, and the fishing has turned into an ascetic penitential exercise as he barley brings food or water. The following day, the fish bites- the biggest fish Santiago has ever gotten on the hook. He accepts the challenge that turns in to a 4 days long combat in endurance. Whilst on the sea, the fight develops into something more than the question of victory or loss, it becomes a matter of life or death. The battle between the big fish and the old man is amongst the best descriptions of an ordeal. Exhaustion, hunger, thirst, pain in his arms and back, as well as the loss of his apprentice and guilt for the fish, are some of the things that brings Santiago close to insanity and death. However, he wins in the end, only to be confronted with his hubris, he went too far out. On his way back, the sharks eat his catch, and the old man is left with nothing.
There is much more to “The Old Man and the Sea” than what first meets the eye. This is a tale about the power of the nature and how it conquers everything. Even though the old man catches his beloved fish, nature steps in and brings him back to earth. His strength is simply nothing compared to the strength of the ocean. The defeat, and the old man’s reasoning afterwards, allows Hemingway’s optimism to show through. “A human can be destroyed, but not defeated” is something which Hemingway emphasized during his life. When the old man realized that he had lost, however, he stated the opposite, namely “A human can be defeated, but not destroyed.” The quote focuses on the strength people have, meaning even though the old man had lost the fish and was defeated, it would take more to destroy him. In this book, Hemingway not only honors the entirety of the nature, he honors the love between the hunter and its prey, which is, according to him, one of the basic conditions for allowing humans to take care of our planet.
In fact, connections can be seen as an important theme in the book. First, the bond between the apprentice and his master is evident throughout the whole book. Even though they were separated by force, Manolin remains an important person in Santiago’s life. He does his best to help the old man, as Santiago is his role model. The relation goes both ways, so when the old man is alone on the sea, thinking of the young boy helps him and motivates him to fight. When they were separated, it became clear for the old man that his days on the sea were numbered. Secondly, the old man develops a strong connection with his prey during their battle. He sees the fish as his friend and appreciates its beauty and power. Even after it is killed, he does his best to protect it from the sharks, not only for his own benefit, but for the sake of the fish, as the fish’s pain is his own. The fact that he feels guilty for killing the fish, seeing it being eaten as a punishment, shows just how strongly he is connected to the prey.
Composition and literary means
Even though Hemingway wrote in a minimalistic way, it does not mean that there are few literary means in his books. On the contrary, “The Old Man and the Sea” is filled with metaphors, similes, descriptions and allusions. The first simile comes as soon as on the first page. “But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert”. By comparing the old man’s skin and scars to a fishless desert, he creates an image that is easy to picture for the reader. In fact, all of his descriptions work that way. There are no unnecessary adjectives, but those which are used are very powerful. “The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks”. Another recurring part of his descriptions is the use of smell. When he portrays the ocean, the smell adds another dimension, making the reader feel that he or she is on the sea with the old man.
However, the literary means are not only connected to describing the old man and the ocean. If one looks at the bigger picture, Hemingway has used several allusions to God and Jesus in the book. “He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach”. Lions are often mentioned by the old man, and can be seen as an allusion to God. A lion has become a symbol of God and can be seen in other books, for instance in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis. Furthermore, the name Santiago is a version of Saint Jacob, who left his net to follow Jesus, the human fisherman. Lastly, when the old man returned from having been on the ocean for four days, he shouldered the mast and walked home. This can be seen as a parallel to Jesus walking with the cross before he was killed.
Structure- vise, the book is very similar to Hemingway’s former masterpiece “The Undefeated”. In “The Old Man and the Sea”, the story is non- chronological, as there are several retrospects where he looks back at his life. The perspective is told mostly from the old man’s side, yet his apprentice also present, and one gets to know his thoughts as well. This contributes to painting a more varied picture of the old man.
To conclude, Ernest Hemingway was a person who drew inspiration from his surroundings and experiences. By absorbing different information, he developed as a writer and set his mark in the history of literature. “The Old Man and the Sea” is one of many books that shows his talent and characteristic style of writing. His love and respect for nature shines through as he debates around the relation between hunter and prey, one of the big ecological paradoxes. There is always more than what meets the eye, and “The Old Man and the Sea” is a perfect example of why one should never judge a book by its cover. Remember that you might only see what is above the water.
Brainy Cotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/ernest_hemingway_2.html
Hemingway, E. (2004). The Old Man and the Sea. Arrow Books .
Landro, J. H. (1993). Ernest Hemingway. Århundrets Bibliotek, pp. 3- 24.