Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tissues: Icons of Sacrificial Purity

Now that we are well into this year’s cold and flu season, I’m sure most of us have already caught some kind of sinus-burning, sneeze-preventing bug that renders us bedridden and weak. Sure, most of us have NyQuil, warm soup, and possibly loving mothers to nurse us back to health, but I believe that most people overlook what is perhaps the humblest yet most helpful healing tool at our disposal: tissues. That’s right, these thin sheets of soft, fluffy paper not only make our sinuses feel better, but they are also a symbol of sacrificial purity. From their color to their structure and texture, tissues are a convincing modern icon of selfless sacrifice.

First, let’s begin by examining a tissue’s color: pure white like freshly fallen snow and bubbles in a bubble bath. All of the good children who paid attention in English class should be saying to themselves, “Oh! I get it! White means purity!” And indeed it does in our Western, Christian-influenced society. So many pure things are white: paper, wedding dresses, marshmallows, white chocolate, sugar, salt, old people’s hair, and of course tissues. The question is, why make tissues white? The answer, I believe, is very simple. We, as human beings, love making pure things dirty with our own mess. We’ve been taught that only something pure can make all things clean. Tissues are white simply so that we can sully them with our never-ending streams of sinus juices and our noses can be made clean once again. Yes, there’s nothing quite as beautiful as something clean becoming dirty to make something else clean, especially when you consider how we also use tissues for bloody noses.

Not only do tissues have a pure white color, but they also have a soft, weak structure. They tear apart easily and there’s no solidity to them whatsoever. They are weak, humble, and nearly weightless. Any burdens they have are trivial to what they take away from us. Tissues—brave, feathery tissues put up no resistance when we pluck them from their boxes and sneeze our sickness all over them. Tissues allow us to defile them with never-ending jets from the nasal equivalent of Niagra Falls. They do not fight back, but instead they accept our burden of sickness, and for what reward? They put themselves on the line for us only to be thrown away, but it is their will that they perish so we may one day be made well again, free from burning sinuses. This is sacrificial purity at its finest, an icon of an age old and most profound concept of something weak and pure dying for something defiled. The same argument could made for toilet paper. Come to think of it, we put a lot of disgusting things on pure, white things.

In any case, the next time you blow through a box of tissues, thank each little piece for what it has done for you. They fight bravely and silently without a single complaint. Salute each one like a soldier, taking your germs upon its gentle frame and residing itself to life in a landfill. A humble beginning leads to a humble end.

If Jesus Christ came to earth as a tissue, he would’ve died for our sinuses.


image from here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yellow Rubber Ducks: A Display of Happiness and Innocence

Most of us, when we look back upon our blissful childhoods, recall a most dreadful time of the day: bath time. We would fight and squirm, kick and scream as our strong-willed mothers stripped us naked and plopped us in the bathtub for a thorough wash. In order to appease us and make us more willing to be scrubbed head to foot with soap, we were given a multitude of bath toys. Perhaps the most significant and iconic toy is none other than the yellow rubber duck. With its aesthetically pleasing color scheme and child-like appearance, this toy has marked itself as the top selection for a warm bath time companion, but there are some who would abuse this gift for their own malevolent purposes.

Let us begin with the physical appearance of a yellow rubber duck. I specify yellow because in our post-modern society, we have been given many shapes, colors and forms of rubber ducks. If I did not state which kind of rubber duck to which I am referring, I would surely come under fire by those who, upon reading my analysis completely, would say, “Who are you to define all rubber ducks in this manner? My rubber duck represents none of these things you’ve claimed!” Therefore, I must make it absolutely clear that I mean the classic yellow rubber duck and not any of its variations.

The classic rubber duck consists of a yellow body, an orange beak, and large eyes. Usually, the beak is slightly open, giving the impression of a smile. This is a friendly duck, not an aggressive, territorial creature. The yellow color indicates two things: happiness and infancy. Yellow is a warm color. It is the color of the sun, certain types of flowers, potato chips, and a variety of other items that generally make people happy. Most importantly, yellow is the color of newly hatched ducklings. They are babies who need the love and nurturing of their mothers just as human children do. Thus, the yellow duck makes an immediate connection with a child, for both are simply babies in a bathtub. The rubber duck makes bath time an enjoyable experience because it reminds the child that water is safe and fun.

Unfortunately, there is a dark twist to the usage of the yellow rubber duck. I am sure the vast majority of people today are familiar with the Sesame Street character Ernie and his song in which he proclaims his love for his yellow rubber duck. Throughout the video, Ernie forcibly squeezes the duck multiple times in order to make it squeak. At first glance, this may seem like it is all in good fun, but pay close attention to the nature of the duck’s sounds. Are they jovial and excited? No. They are desperate, loud, and tortured. Each high-pitched squeal is an ignored cry for help. The duck clearly wishes for Ernie to stop forcing it to speak and then create his own meaning from its sounds. This is misrepresentation and oppression at its finest, but why would Ernie assert himself over a rubber duck like this? The answer is the simple, yet unfortunate matter of color. Consider for a moment the visible spectrum. In its most basic form, there is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Orange precedes yellow—it is on top of and above yellow. Ernie is orange and he is asserting his own interests above the yellow rubber duck’s, squeezing it rapidly, scrubbing it with a large, bristly brush, and touching its most sensitive underside. This is when bath time goes horribly, horribly wrong, but at least Ernie serves as an example of how not to treat our rubber ducks.

Essentially, the yellow rubber duck has given us a great gift of bath time companionship and a connection of life experiences as young children. Like everything, these gifts can be misused, but if we hold fast to moral values, generations upon generations will continue to enjoy and be comforted by rubber ducks.

Image from here.