R. H. Blyth wrote, “Wherever there is a poetical action, a religious aspiration,a heroic thought, or a union of the nature within man and the Nature without, there is Zen.”
Prompt: Respond to one or more elements of Blyth’s perspective.
Leslie Young was the next student chosen to share her assignment regarding “poetical action,” and she brought her phone to the front of the classroom. “I have a video to play,” she said, and after a short delay in which Leslie emailed Ms. Maycomb the video, Leslie turned to the class: “I interviewed two girls I cheer with, and then I filmed one of our cheers.”
Mrs. Maycomb glanced at Emily Thompson, wondering if Emily would speculate aloud on the odds that a cheerleader performance would demonstarte poetical action, but Emily was silent.
“I asked two team members,” Leslie said, as she started the video, “why they became cheerleaders.”
The first girl to speak, Ashley Finn, was familiar to most of the class, for she was secretary of the student council and treasurer of NHS. “There’s a lot of reasons, I think to cheer,” Ashley said, “but you wanted me to skip the ones that are obvious like contributing to school spirit; so I guess I can mention that cheering is one way to stand out because who doesn’t want people to notice them.” Ashley looked off-camera for a moment and smiled in response to what someone out of view had said. Then she continued: “Some of the girls I know at this school can rely just on their appearance to get people’s attention–the girls, I mean, who grow up with people telling them they should be in the movies or be a model, and girls like that don’t have to do anything besides look like themselves to get attention, but most cheerleaders aren’t like that–some people think we are, and maybe some of us are close to that kind of appearance, but most of us just have to work hard to get people to pay attention, and cheering is all about working hard. So that’s one of the reasons I am on the team.” Ashley smiled and flashed a thumbs-up and stepped off camera.”
Then another girl appeared and the camera angled up slightly to avoid cutting off the top of her head. “My name is Emma Phelps, and I’m only doing this because I owe Leslie a huge favor, so this is will be short.” Emma looked down for a moment; then, she said, “I don’t have anything complicated to explain like Ashley because for me cheerleading is just the first place where I feel like I belong. Being taller than most boys in my grade has always been embarrassing for me, and I the teasing about that used to bother me, but the cheering team needs girls of different heights and strengths for the formations we do, and my being tall is something the team needs, and once I joined the team people stopped suggesting I play basketball or volleyball, neither of which I like.” Emma looked off camera and said, “That’s it. That’s all I can think of.”
The screen transitioned again, this time to the entire cheerleading squad. Without introduction, the team began a cheer which entailed precise, syncopated movements during a practice session; and while there were ocassional misdirections and stumbles, the team executed its routine successfully. When the film ended, Leslie said, “That’s it. To me that’s poetry.”
The classroom was quiet. In a class where there was more rapport between students, there might have been applause, but this was not one of those classes–the gap between would-be activists like Emily Thompson and back-row inhabitants like Raymond Iverson was too great for there to be a group feeling of affection. But, after a moment, Raymond Iverson said, “I never paid attention to the cheers before at the games.”
“That’s because you’re such a tool,” Leslie said, as she was sitting down, and if there had been a moment when the class might have felt a sense of harmony, it disappeared.
Normally, Ms. Maycomb would have repeated her warning about respectful language, but instead the teacher kept her attention for a moment on the whiteboard, possibly wondering if she needed to expand her conception of what poetry meant; but instead of opening that discussion, she said, “Mr. Iverson, would you like to be the next to share?”
To be continued …