State Rank 1 Mod C :: Tom Brennan

Intensely provocative experiences of transitions are often challenging and difficult, they offer individuals opportunities to change, but also can become stifling and hostile. However, overcoming the adversity hindered in these transitions, growth and a state of enlightenment can be reached. Growth and development of individuals are result of engaging with the new world in transition process. By perceiving the broader world and society individuals come to terms with their own positon in it. Both The Story of Tom Brennan by J.C Burke and Bhutan’s Enlightenment Experiment (2008) by Brook Larmer explores the crisis of circumstances which forces individuals and groups to leave their familiar zones. To enter the broad world. They must confront the inevitable changes to their worlds head on, to overcoming the obstacles and barriers, or be paralysed by the indecision and transformation. They must rediscover beliefs, belongings and realise their egoistic actions and change perspectives. By facing changes head on, whether through confrontation, acknowledgement, or transformations; individuals can come to better understand themselves and empower themselves to deal with the new world. And altering attitudes and beliefs in life individuals grow develop and become responsible for their lives.

Most significant and challenging enriching to any successful transitions is the way in which the new experiences confront individuals’ attitudes and beliefs. The individual experiences growth in new world and come to terms with their values. In The Story of Tom Brennan, Tom’s challenges growth lies in his gradual recovery from the traumatic catastrophe of his brother’s drink driving incident which left Tom’s beliefs of his family shattered. His reaction to such chaotic and radical change in their social position is one of self-loathing, characterised through the extended metaphor of darkness, “In the dark I could see the grime… I could feel it pasted crawling on my skin,” emphasising the despair and melancholy which fills Tom’s heart, and the sense of paralysis. Burke explores Tom’s progress of transition maturity through the physical motif of running, initiated by Uncle Brendan, “Start running tomorrow, I’ve never seen you so… stationary.” Being ‘stationary’ is a symbol of Tom’s inability to transform due to lack of courage, egoistic selfish state of avoiding the truth which is juxtaposed strongly with the arduous journey of changes where, “the weight of my thoughts shedding with each kilometre,” in which physical exercise is both a tool utilised by Tom to attain emotional catharsis and a way to develop him to metaphysically ‘move forward’. Finally, Tom’s transition is evident, discovers his responsibility within the family and becomes capable of agency and self-empowerment. This is vividly communicated in the repetition, “faster, faster, faster… like trying to find the gap to break through.” Tom overcomes his past finds his position in the new world and embraces it rapidly which empowers him to grow as a character and reach a state of enlightenment. Therefore, maturity is the process by which an individual face challenges entering the new world and discovers his own values.

Likewise, Bhutan’s Enlightenment Experiment is a National Geographic feature article on the emerging nation of Bhutan, caught between India and China The nation of Bhutan which is undergoing an incredible transition, attempting, “to leap from the Middle Ages to the 21st century without losing its balance.” The article explores the challenges of making such transition for an entire society and the need to balance between tradition and modernity  Bhutan’s engagement with the world and the realisation that development requires balance between its own culture and the global one. Loss of cultural identity and moral compass are consequences of not striving to balance. These are perfectly captured in the anecdotal expression, “Some kids have become so westernized … a girl even changed her name to Britney” and in the juxtaposition, “theft—once absent in a country with few locked doors is becoming more common…” Such actions emphasise the woes of rapid changes placing its own nation as the center of the word leaving a country deeply vulnerable. Moreover, elder generation finds obstructions to commit to modernity which is effectively highlighted in the humorous and convicting tone, “Every time the wind blows, it takes our prayers straight to the heavens. No machines required.” However, more importantly the article depicts the benefits from successfully opening up into the world, without abandoning the old. Larmar examines factual and anecdotal statistics of Bhutan’s undeniable benefit of change that “literacy rate from 10% to 60%,” and that “life expectancy nationwide from 43 years to 66…” following the King’s reformation of the feudal system via “The gift of democracy.” As such, Bhutan’s transition across the nation demonstrates that transitions are able to shift fundamental make ups of how individuals engage with the world, and brings with it both boons and benisons. Bhutan’s nation matures during the embracement with the rest of the world and readjusts its position on a global scale which brings with is boons and benisons.

However not all transitions are made successful can achieve maturitybecause some individuals are blinded by their problems egoistic perceptions and are made short-sighted by their immediate concerns. An exemplar is Kath who is traumatised by the incident which leads to her refusal to accept the truth of Daniel’s criminal accountability. This is saliently captured in the synaesthesia, “She smells… Her anger turning to despair…” A feeling of decay is conveyed through the sensory of smell; without the will to transit, she is tortured and confined by the forced circumstances. Unlike Kath, Kylie does not internalise her pain or experience physical paralysis, but externalises it such as her “sever hair cut”. The synecdoche of self-destructive hair cutting is symbolic of breaking ties with past, family and bond. In contrast, perfectly encapsulating Bhutan’s transition is the anecdote of “seven-year-old Kinzang Norbu” whose hobby of Break Dancing to hip hop becomes an extended metaphor of Bhutan’s renaissance. Larmer portrays the incredulity of monks watching Nurbu as the “whirling reincarnation of a Buddhist saint,” Larmer expresses that transition is not to be feared but to be embraced, for there is always balance to be found in change. This is again captured through Norbu, whom seamlessly transitions from, “his combed hair, buckled shoe… into Nike high-tops … homages to global youth culture,” and sees no need to decide between the Benevolent King of Bhutan, and the King of Rock, Elivis Presley – as Larmer states, “Norbu sees no need to give up one or the other.” Consequently, these two juxtaposing examples demonstrate that individuals react differently to challenges and confrontations; but a successful transition is only achieved through overcoming these difficulties. These two juxtaposing examples demonstrate that engagement with the outside world is crucial which allows individual and society to perceive their predisposition and achieve maturity.

Therefore, both composers have used different experiences to demonstrate transitions are capable of informing, challenging and transforming individual’s beliefs, attitudes and their perceptions of the world. Maturity requires individual to admit their egoistic belief and open up to new worlds and values which ultimately enables beneficial changes and development. Whether through physical journey or balance of values, they all reveal the power of transitions to enhance personal qualities change misleading beliefs and attitudes and inspire growth.


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