Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Wild Free Tune

     This blog started as an AP Literature assignment and evolved into an Optimist International Oration for the deaf and hard of hearing contest entry. This was based on sharing my deafness with my classmates, and one of the poets we were studying. I loved Langston Hughes's poems. One of his poems is "Beggar Boy," and it fit perfectly for the Optimist's prompt which asked how optimism helps me push forward:

Beggar Boy

     My optimism will help me press on to greater future achievements by helping me be persistent and explorative. Optimism has helped me get to where I am today, from my isolated early years in a quiet corner, to my next great achievements in life, where there are so many opportunities. Optimism will help me, even though pessimism is so much easier. I could very easily complain about my lot in life and ask for everyone’s sympathy, but I don’t.
     Many other people have become something beyond anything they could have previously imagined, despite many obstacles in their paths. They achieved their greatness through hard work and an optimistic attitude. Steven Hawking, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and Langston Hughes are but a few. I aspire to be one of these people.
     I would like to share with you a poem named “Beggar Boy” by Langston Hughes. Hughes was a black poet, born in 1902 and died in 1967. He was one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance, celebrating black culture through his poetry and writings. Both Hughes and I share a mutual feeling that the beggar boy in this poem could be something greater than a stereotypical beggar. The poem goes like this:
What is there within this beggar lad
That I can neither hear nor feel nor see,
That I can neither know nor understand,
And still it calls to me?

Is not he but a shadow in the sun
A bit of clay, brown, ugly, given life
And yet he plays upon his flute a wild free tune
As if Fate had not bled him with her knife.
     The beggar lad in this poem is by some unfortunate circumstances at the bottom of the social ladder. He wears raggedy clothes and sits in the sun. I could very easily be at the bottom of the social ladder, so easily that I liken myself to the beggar lad in the poem. My raggedy clothes would be the hearing aids that I wear everyday, and I would sit in a quiet corner of the world, afraid of exploring. But there is something in this beggar boy that “calls to me” – he does not just sit in the sun, he plays a “wild free tune” on his flute, just as I cannot just sit quietly in my little corner but need to engage the world with an active sense of curiosity.
     Both of us also have a sense of optimism that will move us forward in life. His is in his music; mine is in my curiosity. This is crucial for both the beggar lad and me, because the poem is not finished for us. Fate may have bled both of us, but wounds can heal. The cure for wounds of these kinds and magnitudes is optimism. His music will make him a renowned Broad-Way musician, because he practices with passion. My curiosity compels me to move from the corner, because I cannot achieve my full potential such as becoming an expert scientist, a brilliant inventor, an involved community member, if I sit in a quiet corner with a limited view. My optimism will help me press on to all these future achievements and more.
     Does optimism cure my hearing loss? No, it does not; but it does allow me to press on in mutual harmony with it, to accept my hearing loss as part of me and move forward without it hindering me. I am not at the bottom of the ladder because I am optimistic; I have moved away from the corner to present to you today; and I will continue to press on, to become whoever I want to be, because I have optimism at my side.

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