“Looking Back While Pushing Forward…” A Reflection

As many of my classmates have stated: it seems only appropriate to end this blog posting assignment with a reflection on what I have already done. Specifically, I’d like to look back on my first blog post of the semester.

“Doubt is the big machine. It grinds up the delusions of women and men.”  — Victor Lavalle, Big Machine

This was the course epigraph I wanted to tackle in the beginning of the semester. I’m glad I did. Long before we had even started reading Big Machine, long before I could imagine the impact this quote would have, I knew this Lavalle’s words would be especially meaningful to me.

Strangely enough, I had correctly predicted to an extent what Lavalle meant here, way back in February. Lavalle wants us to know that doubt is a good thing. But not too much of it.  Approaching people and situations with a bit of uncertainty rather than unbending beliefs may actually lead us to make better decisions, and may allow for greater clarity. We approached this quote in its context of Big Machine when Ricky and Daphne are “testing” the Washerwomen on their faith and why they believe in what they do. In her anecdote of Reverend Cook, Karen concludes with a gospel on doubt. “Most Christians speak of doubt like it’s blasphemy.” She continues, “Doubt is an essential human trait…” “… Maybe we rethink doubt. Not as our enemy but our ally.” (204)

While Lavalle wants us to approach the world around us with questions and a bit of doubt, he also wants us to start with, well, us. It is beneficial to look within us and question why we do the things we do, or “question our motives,” as Karen tells Ricky. While Ricky is told this three quarters of the way through the novel, it seems like he did not necessarily need this lesson. I mean, Ricky’s little bit of doubt about the note he encountered in the very beginning is what initially allowed his journey, and the book to progress.

I think I have followed the sage words of the Washerwomen in the class. As opposed to dwelling in doubt about my own capabilities, I’ve expressed a ‘healthy’ amount of it. I’ve questioned my decisions often this semester, not just in this class, but in my life. Usually I question why I make the decision I make, and wonder if my decision will inhibit me or allow me to grow. Ultimately, this process of being more careful and critical (but not overly critical) in itself has allowed me to grow as a person, I think. I don’t think I’ve ever been stubborn or unwilling to question myself and the situations I am in, but Lavalle’s novel has certainly made me want to be more consciously aware of what I can do to be a better person and make better decisions.

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