Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Textual Analysis: Twin Compasses (Conclusions)

Throughout the course of this blog, I've been trying to prove that technology has made the metaphysical become physical, using the example of John Donne's poem, "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" and comparing it to modern relationships.  So, it is very timely that today, as this blog is reaching its end and I'm finishing up my textual analysis of the poem, I'm analyzing the last few stanzas, in which Donne compares a long-distance relationship to a draftsman's compass. They read as follows:

"If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.
And though it in the centre sit, 
Yet, when the other far doth roam, 
It leans, and hearkens after it, 
And grows erect, as that comes home. 
Such wilt thou be to me, who must, 
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just, 
And makes me end where I begun."

Donne is asserting that even though he and his wife are separated, their metaphysical and spiritual connection allows them to still be a constant presence in the other's life.  Not only will they be present, though, but he writes that they also will "lean" and "hearken" after each other, and have an actual effect on each other.  This is because, like the feet of a compass, they are linked together.  

Fast forward four hundred years, and we have technology like text messaging, email, Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook to link people together in ways that were formerly only conceptual.  People still lean and hearken after each other, just like Donne did, but now they can effectively and conveniently communicate while they do it.  I've been analyzing whether or not this makes our relationships more or less meaningful, and I've concluded that, if they have a physical and realistic basis, our relationships are greatly enriched by technology.

Ultimately, though, there is an element of romantic connection that can never be replicated by technology, no matter how advanced it gets.  This is where transcendence comes into play.   I'm certain John Donne would agree that regardless of circumstance or physical location, love can thrive if both people are unselfish, genuine, and honest.  Despite how far we've come in making the metaphysical become physical, our spiritual natures as human beings will continue to yearn for a connection that transcends distance, obstacles, and even technology.  Social media, although beneficial, won't make our "circles just", or encourage us to "come home".  Only the "refined" love John Donne writes about can do this.  Only love will be able to do this, no matter how well technology succeeds in reducing the distances we "roam".                  

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