Thursday, June 10, 2010

Textual Analysis: Gold to Aery Thinness Beat (What it Means to be Plugged In)

This is part three of my textual analysis of John Donne's poem "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning".  Today, I'm focusing just on one stanza (my favorite) to prove that, when used appropriately, new media tools can greatly enrich our relationships with loved ones.  The stanza reads,

 "Our two souls therefore, which are one, 
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion
Like gold to aery thinness beat."

John Donne was really fascinated with alchemy, so it makes sense that he used gold as a metaphor here.  If we keep in mind that he viewed gold as incredibly precious and valuable, this metaphor becomes even more powerful.  Beaten-out gold never breaks or separates, no matter how far it is stretched.  The same, Donne insists, is true of couples that are truly spiritually connected.  Love that is "refined" is able to endure no matter the distance between two people.  

Now, check out this video.

How's that for an "expansion" of "two souls, which are one"?  It is hard to deny the incredible capacity new media has to keep us connected to the people we love.  And, as this video shows, that doesn't necessarily mean that our ability for person-to-person communication is hindered.  In fact, I'd argue that, barring the extremes (thanks, Ben) I talked about in my last post, new media facilitates real human contact in an unprecedented way.  

I talked about this in an earlier post when I addressed the concept of ambient awareness.  The more I've researched, the more confident I've become in my conclusion that "the ability lovers have in today's society to be not just emotionally and metaphorically but literally connected to their partner through text messages and other communication tools is an exemplification of Donne's metaphysical ideal of what a long-distance relationship should be".  Being spiritually and more or less literally "plugged in" to the lives of the people we love, not matter the circumstances, profoundly deepens our capacity to love them.

New media makes it so that our relationships can actually be like "gold to aery thinness beat".  Being plugged in makes it so that we never have to be apart from the people we love, regardless of physical distance.  This is in very much the same way that Donne wrote about never being truly apart from his wife.  And this is one of many ways in which technology has made the metaphysical become physical.        


Ben said...

That video is so perfect for your post and the poem! This perfectly demonstrates a point from an editorial I read today about why studying literature is important: The author says "Studying the humanities will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion. In an information economy, many people have the ability to produce a technical innovation: a new MP3 player. Very few people have the ability to create a great brand: the iPod. Branding involves the location and arousal of affection, and you can’t do it unless you are conversant in the language of romance." The facetime video shows that Apple knows how to turn the metaphysical into the physical.

Becca "The Rock Star" Hay said...

Amanda! This doesn't have anything to do with this post, but I just found an interesting fact you might want to look into.
Here's what made me think of you,

"The "stickiness" of the site (FB) is a key part of 24-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg's original plan to build an online version of the relationships we have in real life."

An interesting fact you might want to explore a bit more

Chris said...

I like how you connect this to making the metaphysical(or the digital) physical. I'm interested in how this can be reconciled with the ideas in your last post about the need for physical presence. And more interestingly, would Donne appreciate the non-physical side of relationship tot the extent that digital media has brought it?