In all three of Morrison’s works that we read for this class, there was an element of both/and that taught me something about collaboration. The first work that we read and collaborated on was a both/and of doing the right thing. The second work we collaborated on taught me about the both/and of love and finding yourself. The final work we collaborated on taught me about the both/and of justice and seeing what others see.
Morrison’s first work that we discussed in class was Beloved, which was centered around an act that the right thing to do was not the character’s right. The collaboration around this work helped me to understand the both/and that Morrison had set up, as well as teaching me that both/and. The right thing to do in the book was for the children to die, even if it was not the main character’s right to kill the children. The right thing to do in this collaboration was to let others tell me how they view the book, even if it is not the same way I see it.
Throughout this collaboration, my mind was changed on how I see Paul D, a main character in the first book. I saw him at first as a cold and violent figure that had no business in 124. To me, he was a man with excuses for how he treats others and how he sees the world. Once this collaboration started and I began talking to peers about Paul D more in depth, I began to understand Paul D a little more. “These dehumanizing acts led to the version of Paul D seen in 124 that is often violent and cold, and depicts the world around him as Hell” (Beloved collaboration). As the collaboration progressed and we really had to settle into how we as a group were going to talk about Paul D, I began to understand that he was both a victim and a human. Paul D is cold and violent because that was the way his world was for a very long time, he is a victim of his environment. He is also only human, even if he is a fictional character created by Morrison. She was able to show his humanity through the cold acts, because he thought he was doing the right thing by keeping people away from himself. The both/and of this collaboration helped me to understand that people will always see the world differently from me, but I should hear all sides before deciding.
The second work that we collaborated on was Jazz and to me this work focused on love and what love is not. Both Morrison and Dante focused on the types of love and feelings that come with being human. Love cannot be mapped out and planned like traveling to and from work, even though we were able to map the stories on to each other. Love and feelings are a both/and of being human, you have to love both the people you want to love and you have to love yourself. Just as Joe moves through the story to find his forgiveness and love for himself, I moved through the story to find my own feelings and to understand the feelings of others.
Through the story, I often could relate to Joe as he found himself working through the stages of changing. I have changed many times throughout my life, each time taught me something both new and old about myself. “A lack of a father figure was a significant source of envy for Joe as a child and young man, and having someone in that role purges Joe of his envy, directly mapping to the progression of the terraces of Mount Purgatory.” (Jazz Collaboration page 3). In my life I have had to separate from my family to better myself, similarly to how Joe had to find a family. The change in my life from being surrounded by a toxic family to having the family I chose was significant to my understanding that Joe found his own family and therefore found himself.
Throughout the collaborative process, I found out that many of my group members also felt that Joe was depicting how it feels to be human and be in love. Joe was holding on to the love that was lost with Violet, just as he was letting go of the lust he felt with Dorcas. We have all felt the pain of losing a love you thought you could keep, it is about growing into yourself and finding who you are. Being human is about accepting who you are along with the faults you have.
The third and final work that we collaborated on was Paradise which taught me to be who I am and stand my ground against others. The both/and of this work was to both stand up for what is right and to understand that not everyone will see eye to eye on everything. The parts that stood out to me from the actual work were the parts around belief and what scripture means. The citizens of this town are divided on the meaning of a line of scripture from long ago days, oh so similarly to the real life divide of religion. I grew up in a religiously divided family, I can relate to that societal pressure of how words are written versus how they are translated. “Oven shifts its purpose after the rebuilding, a symbolic gesture of the origins of the Convent, yet the rebuilding of the Oven signifies something much larger than a simple plaque with the motto of the community” (Paradise Collaboration page 2). As I grew up and grew into my own beliefs, I started to understand the divide, every side wanting to be correct and the older generations wanting to preserve what they understand. I grew into myself and my religious views; as I read the book, I felt myself remembering the times when I was unsure and following what I felt was right.
The collaboration for this work taught me how to see what others see without taking it to heart. I understand that collaboration is about working together and blending multiple ideas and views; but at times it is important to believe what you do and not let others influence you. I can hear out the many different explanations for what happens and why, but I am allowed to understand it and interpret it in the way I want to. That is why collaboration is important, it can change you, solidify your thoughts or any combination of things.
All of these collaborations taught me that both being present and listening to my peers is the best way to learn and to teach. In becoming a teacher throughout my time as a college student, I have learned that communication is one of the most important tools you will ever need. Discussing the works in this class changed my perspective on being right, giving and receiving love and seeing what others see. When I am a teacher in the fall, I will remember that collaboration changes people’s perspective on even the smallest things. You do not always have the right to do the right thing, sometimes you have to leave it up to others to do it right. Showing how you love comes in many ways, as well as learning about who you are through that love. Finally, you do not always have to see the same things the same way as everyone else, but do respect how they see things and listen to them. I can not wait to take these lessons with me through my teaching career and see what unfolds before me through these lessons I can now teach my students.