Without ever having met him, I generally become defensive when one "hates on" Kanye West. I maintain that the lyricism in "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is best characterized by Polonius' aside in Hamlet, "How pregnant his replies are" (2.2.198). Kanye's words are incredibly clever in that there are meanings to the layers: "You know the best medicine go to people that's paid. If Magic Johnson got a cure for AIDS and all the broke muthaf*ckers passed away, you're telling me if my grandma was in the N.B.A., right now she'd be OK?" (Roses). But moreover, West makes it clear that the score behind his words is just as integral to his message. Most every track is ochestra-heavy, and his Saturday Night Live Performances highlight his commitment to creating that beat. And get this, "All of the Lights" on "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" features Elton John. "Bennie and the Jets", "Your Song", "Tiny Dancer", "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", Elton John on a Kanye West track. Unlike Soulja Boy who tells us to watch as he cranks it and rolls it, Kanye West invites arguably one of the most well-respected singers and musicians to add to the track, crossing genres and decades. Because West, given all of his appearances in the media that suggest a not-so-humble demeanor, understands to give credit where credit is due. On one of my favorite tracks, "Devil in a New Dress", I unmistakably recognized a hook in the background, and sure enough Mr. West sampled Smokey Robinson's 1973 "Will You Still Love Me". 1973! Just as Jay-Z lifted from The Moment's 1970 "Love on a Two Way Street", there is an incredible cleverness and admiration for the art present in these examples that is missing from, say, Flo-Rida's lift of the Ferris Bueller hook in "54321 (Turn Around)".
Thoreau writes, "Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost" (Walden, Economy). At times I sit and talk with my grandmother, Nana, about my life and what I'm juggling and I have to suppress an eye-roll. I tell myself that times have changed, people are different, my issues are different, and the way I have to deal with my issues amidst Facebook and text messaging are different. My nana has certainly gained and lost, just as Thoreau describes, loved ones, friendships, money, and I often pray that I will never lose my mind as my nana recounts the same story for the third time that day. If laboring through "Leaves of Grass" taught me anything, it was that Whitman was sure comfortable exploring his uniqueness and oddities, and I'm not a cookie cutter. If our issues are complex and circumstantial, what is the value in comparing them?
But every study in the humanities and every significant analysis of a text teaches me that discounting my nana's advice is not only foolish but ignorant. When I read Dante's Inferno I was able to reference one of my favorite short stories, "Young Goodman Brown" and Goethe's play Faust to discuss our embedded affinity for evil and the public repercussions of private acts. These works spanned over five-hundred years and the Atlantic Ocean to come together in a paper that could have no doubt referred to other texts in my library, instead. In writing on the American Civil Rights Movement, Charles Payne in I've Got the Light of Freedom writes that some of the younger student activists scoffed at veteran activists, rejecting philosophical nonviolent direct action and maintaining a mindset focused on the vitality of new ideas and new techniques, almost in the vein of thinking they were hot... you know the word. However, the most effective leaders were those who understood that they were indebted to the veterans for the establishment of networks, of tested philosophies, and of experienced practices. Because while current events continue to stir the dynamic and new personalities emerge, the truth is that many of the issues and common threads in the human experience remain the same. Every night before I go to sleep, I say "The Lord's Prayer" because I feel that I plug into, I am connected to a (give or take) two-thousand year old tradition. We have said this prayer for two millennia because the conditions of the human life have not changed, we still wrestle with love, loss, and lust. Goethe, Hawthorne, and Alighieri examine and speak to timeless issues, and each powerful song or piece of literature evokes things within you that you have read or your past experiences.
Which, I'm sorry, ultimately leads me to my point. I am absolutely intrigued and passionate about the capabilities of the online archive. Every single book I have read critically is a mess, the margins are littered with references to other texts, page numbers, songs, and mini-docs so I can keep track of everything. I visited a kloster in Germany and luckily I had struggled through Faust before going because I visited a tower where the real Dr. Faust conducted his experiments in alchemy for the then abbot of the monastery. If I could keep an online journal where I could read a text, say from Project Gutenberg or any online version, and add a click-over to reference my picture of der Turm des Dr. Faust or a reference to a quote from the dark figure in "Young Goodman Brown" I believe I could grow an invaluable library for personal reference that would rival any collection of past papers. Just as I am skeptical of Katy Perry's consciousness of the similarities in the chorus of "Fireworks" to a line in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road", I believe an easy and accessible way to share this info or thought process with others would be such a creative place.