Listen to part of a lecture in a literature class.
Professor: Now, what I’d like to do, class, is compare two popular modem poems by two authors, Stevie Smith and Robert Frost. Both address the theme of perception and how our perceptions are not always what they seem to be. I’d like to begin with Stevie Smith’s poem entitled Not Waving, But Drowning, which is actually one of my personal favorites. Everyone has already read the poetry like I asked for homework, correct?
Student A: I did, Professor. Um, was Mr. Smith also an American poet?
Professor. Well, it seems as if you failed to read the bio, Mr. Aldrich, doesn’t it? Remember, class, always read the short biography in the back of your text before you read the poem. What this does is give you a more specific context in which to read the poem, and it will help you understand where the poem comes from and the poet’s intentions and motives.
Now, back to Mr. Aldrich’s question. The answer is no. Stevie Smith was actually British. Also, Stevie Smith is a penname, which might fool many of you when it comes to the gender of the author. Now, we might perceive the poem on one level as a tragic occurrence. An individual is swimming in the ocean. He swims too far out, gets in trouble, drowns, and his body washes up on the shore. At this point, people gather around the person and discuss between themselves what went wrong. Physically, the person is dead. Then why is the drowned individual speaking, moaning in the first and last stanzas, with the words only heard by us, the reader? Well, this is the magic of the poem and of Stevie Smith’s technique. Though dead, the individual continues to plea for help and to explain how he was, “much too far out all my life.” His death, then, is simply a culmination of years and years of trouble, pain, and suffering. He tried to mask it by seeming happy, which is symbolized by waving in the title, yet internally, he was in great distress, symbolized by “drowning” in the title. Only after death is the person able to vocalize himself and ask for help, but only when it is too late. How we perceive someone or a situation can be deceiving. This, I think, is a main message of the poem, class. Personally, I don’t believe the person drowned at all, which would be an accident. I don’t want to be too morbid, but, if the person was as troubled as he seems in the poem, the drowning was probably more on purpose than simply a freak accident.
Student A: Professor, you get all of that out of a little twelve-line poem? Amazing.
Professor: Sure, I do. But that’s just scratching the surface. All of you can do it too if you take your time and think about what you’re reading as you read it. It really isn’t brain surgery, class. It’s right there in front of you all the time. You just have to look in the right places. That’s all.
Now, let’s switch gears and take a look again at Mr. Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, one of my all-time favorites. Like Smith’s poem, it is short, though it exceeds it by about eight lines, and it deals with our perception of the world, more specifically a specific scene or image from life. The narrator of the poem is presented with a common image and dilemma: a fork in the path in the forest. One path has clearly been well-traveled, meaning that many people have used it. Many have followed the well-trodden path because it is, for the most part, safe. It presents no obstacles. It is easy and clearly marked. Ttiis is their perception, and their decision results from it. On the other hand, there is the second path, which is overgrown and unused. It is raw and in its original form. It represents mystery and possibility as well as uncertainty and danger. And which path does the traveler take?
Student B: Well, the last line of the poem reads… “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Professor: Well done. Our traveler chooses the more obscure path by looking past initial perceptions and impressions of uncertainty and solitude towards ones of opportunity and perhaps even adventure. Clearly, class, the ending is optimistic, very different from the dark, pessimistic outcome of Smith’s poem. The narrator in Frost’s poem looks back on a fulfilling life because he was able to see beyond initial impressions, which is in direct contrast to the drowned person in Not Waving, But Drowning. Frost’s character seems to be a successful opportunist while Smith’s is a failed one. Clearly, class, both poems scream the theme of how the surface of things, whether it is of a person’s inner nature or nature itself, is just the beginning.
Listen to part of a lecture in a physiology class.
Professor: Obviously, muscles are crucial to the human body. Muscles allow us to walk and talk, of course, with the help of signals from the brain, and. without muscles, we’d basically be a big blob of bones and skin. Now there’s a strange image. But let’s dig a little deeper into the science of these connective tissues called muscles. Essentially, there are three basic types, which we will attempt to limit our discussion to today and then get into how they function in our next lecture. Okay. Who can name one of them for us?
Student A: How about skeletal muscles?
Professor: Sure, that’s one type… actually the biggest group in the human body. What I mean is that skeletal muscles populate the human body more than any other kind. They are responsible for the actual, physical movement of our limbs and appendages. They are also the muscles that connect to tendons and ligaments, which connect them to our bones. Another important point about skeletal muscles is that they are voluntary muscles. What do I mean by voluntary? Well, it means that we have, for the most part, conscious control over them. The human body has an entire system devoted exclusively to voluntary muscle control. It’s called the somatic nervous system, or SNS, which is actually a branch of the peripheral nervous system, that is, the nervous system in our body outside the brain and spinal cord. We are able to tell them when we want them to start and stop.
And what about their makeup? What do they look like? Well, skeletal muscles are what we call striated muscles. The muscles’ fibers are grouped together in crisscrossing band-like fibers and are quite distinct when compared to other muscle tissues. Skeletal muscles comprise the large muscle groups of our bodies. Examples include the latissimus dorsi, biceps, and rectus femoris. Another trait of skeletal muscles is their massive blood networks, which are required to feed them with energy. In a way. skeletal muscles are the workhorses of the human body. Now, who can name another type of muscle for us?
Student B: Another is smooth muscle, Professor.
Professor: You’re exactly right, Kevin. You’ve been doing your reading, I take it. I’m just joshing with you. Yes, class, Kevin is correct. Another major muscle type is called smooth muscle. Examples of smooth muscle can be found in the respiratory tissues, which help us breath, the intestines, which, well. I think everyone knows what those do. and other major digestive organs. There are more examples, of course. Let’s take the stomach, for example. Have you ever been sitting in class, perhaps this very one, and all of a sudden your stomach begins to rumble and groan? Well, sure, this is a sign that you’re hungry, but it’s also a good example of your smooth muscles at work. Your stomach is anticipating food, even attempting to jump-start the digestion process, but there isn’t much inside the stomach, which is making the embarrassing grumbling sound. Yes. class, smooth muscles at work. But what does this mean? What does this imply? Did you tell your stomach to start churning? Of course not, which brings us to what differentiates smooth muscle from skeletal musde. It is involuntary and is principally controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which regulates the continuous function of vital systems in the body such as blood flow, breathing, and the like. Further, smooth muscle comes in thin layers of tissue and doesn’t contain a heavy mapping of blood vessels, unlike skeletal muscles. Is everyone following okay? Do you need me to backtrack on anything…? No? Good, then who can tell me what the final type of muscle is?
Student B: Well, I know it’s heart muscle, Professor, but I don’t think that’s the appropriate term. Professor: Never fear, never fear. You’re exactly right, and if we wanted to get really technical, we would call it cardiac muscle. Well done. As the name implies, and. as Mr. Seymour has already explained, cardiac muscle is the tissue that surrounds the heart and allows it to pump blood throughout our bodies, a most critical responsibility. While cardiac muscle is mainly smooth muscle, it also contains a bit of skeletal muscle as well. Of course, like smooth muscle, it is involuntary as well and is controlled by the ANS. Some experts have found that cardiac muscle will continue to pump blood without any impulses from the brain or ANS. This is something we’ll get more into next class, but I just thought I’d point that out quickly. Of course, like skeletal muscles, cardiac muscle is abundant in blood vessels, as you all can imagine. Yes, a question?
Student A: Um, Professor, I don’t want to interrupt your explanation about cardiac muscle, but what about eyelids? I mean, what controls them? They seem to be both voluntary and involuntary, right?