Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blog #62 - Reactions to Henry Poole is Here

Pick one of the following topics and write about it based on your own personal experience 

1. You can’t go to the past to fix the present.” - Esperanza said when Henry visited his parents' house. Agree or disagree? Why?

2. Noam Chomsky said: "As soon as questions of will or decision or reason or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss" 1.

Patience quotes him in the movie, and then follows it up with these lines: "It means that not everything needs an explanation. Sometimes, things happen b/c we choose for them to happen. I chose to believe."

Is she saying that because she believed the miracle on Henry's wall to be true, then that made it true? Or is she saying something else? If you could choose for one thing to come true / exist, what would that be and why?
3. During the dinner date, Dawn said to Henry as he tried backing away from getting closer to her was: "I know you're gonna die. But all that either of us have is right now, and we should pay attention to that." We talked today about how Henry might be feeling selfish and keeping people out w/ the way he's acting. But when he said, "I am paying attention." And that's why he can't do this (meaning fall for Dawn, go where the date will eventually lead ). Did Henry stop being selfish there for a moment? Or did he revert back to himself again? Why?

4. I get the feeling that Henry senses that there are greater forces at work, somehow helping him, coming to heal him, yet he feels unworthy of this sense of grace. Why he feels unworthy, I don't know. Maybe it's not unworthy, maybe it's pride or stubbornness in his own beliefs that life has just dealt him an awful hand. Maybe he has accepted this fate, for lack of a better word, and decided to deal with it in his own way despite a higher power demanding an audience. What do you think of this idea?

5. There's got to be a reason why Patience is named Patience. What about the name Esperanza? It's Spanish for Hope. what made me think about Hope (besides the Obama-themed poster of Henry) was when he was about to destroy the wall and he yelled, "Hope can't save you!" And the last of the virtues would be Love symbolized by Dawn and Faith by Millie (who was the first one to test the validity of the wall).

Henry, on the other hand, would symbolize the seven deadly sins - sloth, gluttony, lust, greed, anger, envy and pride. A stretch? Maybe. How would he symbolize the seven?

6. Do you think Henry symbolizes Descartes' skepticism of one's senses?  Or does Henry go beyond that to a total skepticism of everything: religion, senses, peoples' good intentions, etc. until he finally discovers that he's not going to die?  Why?

7. "Everything happens for a reason."  When Esperanza talks to Henry about her old boyfriend, Leo, and how that she prayed to God to give her a sign that Leo was o.k., how does the sign on Henry's wall signify an answer to her prayers?  

Due Thursday, April 25 by class.  (200 words minimum).


  1. Question 1
    As Henry and Esperanza are leaving Henry’s childhood home, Esperanza says that “You can’t go to the past to fix the present.” I agree with Esperanza here, in the sense that dwelling on the past can prohibit you from moving forward in your life, but I also feel that the past offers valuable information to any individual willing to look for it. Take the old saying “history repeats itself” for example. This essentially says that things that have happened in the past will happen again in the future. Well, if we can learn from our past mistakes, then we can certainly stop ourselves from making the same ones again in the future. In Henry’s case, the only way for him to move forward was to see his old house again, but at the same time, “going back to the past” didn’t necessarily do anything to help his future. A personal example I can think of is me choosing to keep certain items from my childhood. Sometimes I will look, or even play with these toys, but even on my darkest days they won’t be able to help me fix the present. It is not as if there is some magical information hidden in these obsolete items that can somehow change the course of my present and future. For this reason I’ve come to the conclusion that the past can provide information crucial to predicting the future, but that the past can be very dangerous if an individual isn’t willing to let go of it.
    -Alex Lurz

  2. In the context in which Esperanza made her statement, I believe she was correct; the past cannot fix the present. I believe Esperanza was adopting an emotional standpoint when she made the statement because Henry was torn over his happiness. Henry believed that if he returned to the last place he was happy that it would rekindle his lost emotions of hope and joy. Although you are able to recollect memories from the past, in a certain sense recollection may almost make you more depressed because you would realize how much worse your life is compared to how it used to be. If you are trying to fix an emotional problem in the present, such as loneliness, it wouldn't help to remember a time when you spent time with friends and enjoyed yourself. That would solve nothing! Loneliness could only be solved by taking the initiative to go out and meet new people. Emotional problems should be fixed by enjoying the time you spend in the present because your past is always ever changing. If you wanted to go to the past to fix the present, you would have to create good enough memories in the present that are worthy of being reflected upon. The only time the past would be able to help fix the present is if you were presented with a rational problem or you were fighting in a war. In both of these situations, you could use the successes of the past in order to aid your success for the future.

    ~Kenn O'Hanlon

  3. 1. While I don’t believe that the past can fix the present, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Looking back at our pasts can inspire moments of happiness and remembrance that might make us feel better in the now. However, the past is the past, and the present is what’s now. What has happened in the past is in the past, it is unimportant to what is occurring now. The only thing that we can look to the past for is lessons and teachings. Henry looks back on his childhood at certain instances in the movie, and we learn the reason why he wanted the house down the street. Sure, it might make him feel better to think about being happy as a kid, but it won’t change anything. The only thing that we can do is make the right decisions in the present because of the lessons and experiences that we’ve encountered in the past. Going to the past would just be running away from your problems, and every new problem is a different experience that you benefit from. To sum it all up in the words of Kierkegaard, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

    E. Wolf

  4. 7.) When Esperanza talks to Henry about her old boyfriend, Leo, and how that she prayed to God to give her a sign that Leo was okay, the sign of the ‘face of Christ’ on Henry’s wall is an answer to her prayers. She wanted God to show her a sign that Leo was ok, and by having the face on her neighbors wall appear, she can finally know that Leo is ok. Through Esperanza’s eyes, the face symbolizes Christ, proving to her that God has sent Henry and herself a message. The face also symbolizes hope to her (ironically her name translates to hope) and she tries to help Henry because of this. When the face starts to ‘bleed’ she starts to believe God has sent a miracle to Henry and the community. Later, when Patience touches the wall and can see perfectly, Esperanza’s thought of the face as a miracle seems to be proven true. I believe that when Esperanza saw the face originally, and then saw how upset Henry was, she thought that God ad sent her the duty and a sign that Leo was safe and that it was her job to help Henry, and restore his faith.

  5. I think that Henry personifies skepticism in the extreme. I felt like he was a real person who didn’t know he was in a movie where there is an absence of logic. For example, the fact that Patience didn’t talk to her Doctor after her miraculous eyesight recovery is very suspicious. I feel that perhaps Esperanza secretly paid off Patience to get laser eye surgery and pretend that the wall cured her sight. This would fit with Henry’s suspicion that Esperanza needs others to share her faith in order to make it valid. I think another major factor contributing to Henry’s skepticism is his apathy due to depression. He just doesn’t care about any “miracles” because his life sure as hell isn’t feeling magical. He is skeptical of religion for unexplained reasons, but I suspect that it’s just because he isn’t the touchy feely type. He’s skeptical of his senses because he is disillusioned with life and constantly inebriated. He is skeptical of people’s good intentions because he feels that he is incapable of having good luck, so people must have ulterior motives.

    Ben C.

  6. 3. Henry wasn’t being selfish when her told Dawn that he couldn’t continue the date. In fact he was being selfless, despite his attraction to Dawn he couldn’t let them fall for each other more then they already had. Henry doesn’t want Dawn to go through the same loss that she suffered when Dawn’s husband walked out. I think Henry was more concerned about Millie’s well being then Dawn’s well being. When Millie’s father left she was so traumatized that she stopped speaking and interacted with the world very little. Henry didn’t want to see that or anything similar to that happen to Millie again. If Henry and Dawn started dating and Henry became apart of their lives (Millie and Dawn) after his death Millie would have felt pain on a similar scale to that of her father leaving. Rather then do that to Dawn and Millie; Henry decided to selflessly take himself out of the picture even though Dawn wanted to continue with Henry. He knew what was best for her and Millie and decided to put his own feelings and wishes aside in order to do what was best for the people he cared about. Henry simply couldn’t put them through anymore pain so he decided not to. He made the sacrifice to stop seeing Dawn in order to give Dawn and Millie a better more stable life (assuming he would die which in the end he didn’t and that Millie was going to keep talking [this was before she heard the tape recording]).
    -Allison Roche

  7. From a logical view it is impossible to go to the past, and fix thing in the present. Scientist has yet to build a time machine allowing humans to travel back in time. I can’t go back in time, and prevent myself from signing up for Japanese class, or asking a potential girlfriend if she was wearing a wig, and fake nails (sadly). But if you look at it from a point of view you can look to the past to help you solve problems. Thanks to my previous experiences with the opposite sex, I now know not to ask a female if she is wearing a weave, or to pay for my lunch. In star wars the expanded universe Luke Skywalker used old Jedi archives to help him start a new Jedi temple, and solve the galaxy’s problem of a lack of Jedi. I also believe that the past has more of an effect on the future then it does the present. You can use the past to predict the future, but it won’t help you if you’re in the midst of your problem. In the movie Henry Poole Was Here Henry used to past to remind him that there things such as happiness actually exist.
    -Eric J Scott

  8. #3
    During the dinner date Henry definitely did stop feeling selfish. He knew that because he was going to die soon anyway he shouldn’t get too involved with Dawn, especially because of Millie. He knew that losing one father figure in her life had caused serious damage to Millie and losing another would be devastating, so he decided that the best thing to do would be to never get close enough to Dawn or Millie to let them be hurt too much by his death. While he may have been somewhat selfish earlier on in the movie, meeting Dawn and Millie changed him in a way so that he could start thinking about other things in life again. He was never really that selfish, and all along he was trying to save people from doing unnecessary work, but he had a very apathetic view of life that got entirely flipped around when he had to choose not to get involved with Dawn. He made the decision for her and Millie’s sake despite knowing that she would want him to choose differently. He would have been much happier with her himself so the motive was definitely a non selfish one. At this point he even feels guilty that he is going to die and gets angry about the wall when Millie stops talking again.

    Denny Walsh

  9. 7.) Out of all of the people in the story, it seems as though Esperanza may be the most troubled. Henry is seen as having the worst problems, however, nothing bad really happens to him. He was given six months to live, but either a miracle occurred or the doctor gave him a misdiagnosis because he was fine by the end of the movie. On the other hand, Esperanza walked in on the lifeless corpse of her lover. I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty traumatic to me. Whether Esperanza was a dedicated Christian her whole life or if she picked religion up once her lover died, it is clear that she relies heavily on prayer throughout the movie. Esperanza, lost in life, called out to God to give her a sign to show her that Leo was all right. As she believes that everything happens for a reason, it is pretty easy to see why the stain of Christ’s face on Henry’s wall stood out to her. The stain reassures Esperanza that Leo is okay because of the blood that kept reappearing, and the fact that it performed miracles, such as curing Patience’s poor vision. These unexplainable events thoroughly strengthen Esperanza’s belief that the face was a sign because it did wonderful, marvelous things.

    Brendan Dwyer

  10. 2. By utilizing the Noam Chomsky quote, Patience is indicating that believing in something deeply enough can make it seem true and real to you, even if it may not be to others. Of course, such a profound and sought-after understanding doesn’t come easily, and you have to wonder if Patience and others like her unconsciously guide events to favor their intense beliefs. It’s magical and comforting to consider the existence of miracles, but true miracles – not the result of lucky coincidence – are few and far between. There’s often a vitally concrete explanation for miracles that people tend to overlook, but occasionally, a fervent desire to believe can overrule reason. I think that Noam Chomsky was trying to say that human emotions can’t comprehend their subsequent consequences – this unpredictable element lends the characteristic of irrationality to mankind. Such surprisingly disabling emotions as love, hope, and faith can’t employ traditionally logical reasoning, and the same goes for a belief that’s so pure, it’s an inextricable part of you; it bows not to logic, but to the volatile human condition.

    If I could choose for one thing to be true, I’d create a natural law stating the existence of a perfect soul mate for everyone on Earth. It sounds clichéd – and also slightly impossible – but it would definitely make humans more content beings. If everyone could just go home to their perfect match at the end of the day, the one person who can completely understand them, we’d probably be gentler as a whole population. Even knowing for certain that your specific soul mate is somewhere out there would give you hope and fuel your search toward contentment, if not necessarily enlightenment.

    - Erin L.

  11. I don’t think Henry was being selfish at all when he told Dawn they shouldn’t see each other as they were. He was putting them before him in a way, because he still wanted to be with Dawn. If anything he was being selfless doing what he thought was best for the two girls. I think he didn’t want to her and Millie to loose a male figure from their lives again. Dawn was for their relationship, but obviously would be in pain when he died, and Millie so young would go through rough suffering similar to when her dad left. It would have been really hard on her to loose a dad-like figure for a second time. She might stop talking again, and go into her emotionless state of silence. When he said, “I am paying attention,” he wasn’t reverting from or to anything. He’s been depressed and sad, living along with no cares, so finally paying attention to emotions was different, and to him maybe wrong considering his situation.
    Maddie A

  12. When Esperanza said to Henry, "you can't go to the past to fix the present" I disagreed. When Henry visited the home where he grew up, looking back on the memories may not have "fixed" him all at once or improved his attitude, but it could've made him happier in that moment which could've led to him fixing his life. When I look back at old pictures from my childhood, it makes me smile and appreciate everything I have. When I was younger, I used to go to the park across my street and play with my good friend in this one clubhouse.
    We'd use our imaginations and pretend we were princesses in an enchanted castle. Not too long ago I visited that same clubhouse with my friend and we just sat there, discussing how much our lives have changed to this day and how simple things used to be. Looking back on my memories from that clubhouse made me happy for that moment. It made me realize how fast the years have flown by and that I'm not getting any younger. It made me want to start living my life more. This proves that going back to the past may remind someone of good memories and influence them to start living their lives more, which could potentially "fix" them.

    Christina L

  13. When Henry visited his parents' house, Esperanza said, “You can’t go to the past to fix the present.” I mostly disagree with Esperanza’ statement, however I believe there is some truth to her statement it just depends on how you interpret what she said actually means. If you were to interpret her statement as you cannot go back to the past and change things to fix the present, then yes I would agree with that because we are not able to travel back in time. I also believe that one should not dwell on the past because the present and future is much more important, but I do think you can use the past to fix or better the present. The way I interpreted Esperanza’s statement was that the past cannot be used to fix the present, which I disagree with. You can always look back on previous mistakes so you don’t make that same mistake in the future and oppositely you can always look at what worked previously to help make a decision. Experiences we have had shape us into who we are by the way we react to them and the past is a great tool to use to help us shape our own presents and futures to the way want them.


  14. #3 I think that Henry was not being selfish when he started to back away from Dawn on their date; I actually think it was quite the opposite! I believe that Henry was being selfless by trying to distance himself from Millie and Dawn because he knew he was going to die and even though he really liked Dawn and Millie, he could just choose to be happy for 6 months and then leave their family with more pain. Dawn has already had a man leave her and that pain stays with you forever. And Millie had already lost a father which has caused quite the amount of psychological issues for her, so Henry was just thinking about their family and taking his feelings out of the equation. Henry could have easily fallen victim to his own emotions and allowed for his and Dawns relationship to grow stronger but I think that he loved her so much that he didn’t want her to feel any pain. Especially because he was feeling so much pain at the time he knew what it felt to be unhappy and I don’t think he would wish that onto Dawn or Millie. Even though he seems very harsh at first he truly does have goods mores a good conscious.

    Carly Yashinsky

  15. I have mixed feelings about Esperanza’s quote saying that “you can’t go to the past to fix the present”, and while there are definitely some cases where the quote can be applied, I don’t believe that it applies to everything.
    One of the fundamental principles of any educated person should be to learn from your mistake; that is, recognizing the mistake and exactly what caused it, then making sure that the mistake is never repeated. This is where the quote “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” comes from. The process of learning from your mistakes is in a sense “going to the past” to fix the present. Esperanza probably meant the quote in another context, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an inaccuracy.
    Lastly, the process of turning to the past to fix the present can be seen profusely in everyday life, such as when a student turns to previous knowledge in order to solve a math problem. In the world of politics, the Supreme Court always (or at least it should always) rules on cases based on the constitution of the United States, in effect turning to the past to solve problems in the present. Esperanza’s quote is, in my opinion, flawed and inaccurate. Without the past to turn to, we’d be doomed to repeat the same mistakes that our ancestors previously made.

    -John D.


  16. Mr. Wickersham- I missed the part of the prompt where it said to pick one and I briefly reflected on all seven responses… I hope this is ok. Sorry!!
    Kelly Greer
    1. I disagree. At times we can use our knowledge from the past to help us through present situations.
    2. I think she is saying it can be true if you believe it is, your mind has to be engaged in it. If I could choose for one thing to be true I would choose to have a successful future be true for myself because that is my main long-term goal right now.
    3. I think Henry reverted back to himself because it seemed as if he was putting up a guard against Dawn when he said that as if he wanted to remove himself form the intimacy.
    4. I agree with this idea, I thought Henry was resenting the wall because it was interrupting with his fate the whole time. I don’t think it was a lack of faith, but stubbornness because he already committed to his plans for himself.
    5. Henry was obviously a sloth because he sat in his house eating and drinking all the time. He showed gluttony by over-indulging in alcohol and food. He lusted Dawn? He was greedy over his wall to the neighborhood. He appeared to be angry at the faithful people. He obviously envied the health of everyone else. I don’t know what he took pride in.
    6. I think Henry was skeptical at everything because he was constantly questioning and nit-picking everything he possibly could.
    7. It symbolized that god was watching over her and her son.

  17. “If you are depressed you are living in the past.
    If you are anxious you are living in the future.
    If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
    -Lao Tzu

    when it comes down to Esperanza's quote, she couldn't be more right. throughout the beginning portion of the movie, we see Henry as a man in the throws of depression and utter hopelessness; something seemingly brought about by his illness. this statement, accepted as it may be, couldn't be more wrong. if you noticed, Henry spent the first half of the movie (the one were he is depressed) clinging onto what was; his previous health and previous life. his addiction to what was, prevented his enjoyment of what is, and blinded him from seeing the good in life; but, when he started seriously dating the neighbor, and started letting go of the past in order to rejoice in the present, his depression was all but defeated.
    while learning from your past is something that is a basic necessity for survival, attachment and engrossment in what was is not only painful, but harmful as well. we have all had such instances of 'living in the past', such as when a loved one passes away. we get angry, and sad at their passing, and even feel bad for them:why? we know that we will all die someday, and that individual was not exempt; most of s believe in a heaven, where this person will most likely go to live eternity in perfect happiness (and yet we are sad at their departing for such a place?). worst of all, though, is the fact that at it's core these feelings are nothing more than our selfish lashing out; we are distressed not only that we are being left by this person, but that this person reminded us of our own (denied) mortality, and are merely shifting these thoughts into more acceptable, albeit no less damaging ones.

  18. #1
    “You can’t go to the past to fix the present” is an absolutely true statement. I agree with Esperanza in this sense because there are many things that people do in the heat or the spur of the moment that will result in a consequence, on that you most likely will not like. The statement itself tries to convince individuals that it is not okay to do what you want because the future depends on the present. The actions we take now, will determine how our lives turn out later; if we don’t want a terrible future we will work towards strengthening the actions we take in the present to meet our criteria. This quote could also be interpreted in the sense of not wallowing in self pity. UI believe this specific interpretation on will apply more to Henry in the sense that he was feeling sorry for himself and not wanting to enjoy his last few months of life my eating unhealthy and staying indoors. The situation is here and there is nothing you can do about it, so why would you waist time right now just feeling bad and trying to talk about what could have been? There is no need to speak in hypothetical terms when the world you are living in is as concrete as ever enjoy life while you can because going back and redoing anything is impossible. Time moves on and so should you.

    D.J. Terry

  19. 4.

    I think that Henry's refusal to believe in higher powers extends beyond stubbornness. He seemed like a practical man who viewed the world in a black and white manner. Then, when dealt the crushing blow of his terminal illness, Henry resorted to his comfortable world of black and white, which could corroborate his feeling unworthy. In his black and white world, people who do good things get rewarded and people who do bad things get punished. By this argument, he was punished for something with this illness leading him to feel unworthy of salvation, like he must suffer this punishment.

    To me, however, there seems to be a deeper explanation for Henry's continued refusal to believe in his salvation. Although Henry saw the world in a black and white manner, he seemed to strugle with his own personality and desired to view the world in a more open-minded manner. When confronted with this chance for salvation, especially in light of the supposed "miracles" that continued to happen, Henry wanted to believe very badly. However, it seemed like Henry was afraid of the truth, more than anything else. If he believed, and it turned out to be false, he was deeply terrified of the disappointment and crushing blow to his spirit and hopefulness. If, on the other hand, he believed in the existence of a higher power, it would imply that his illness was fated for him and he was then a bad person who deserved this terrible punishment. This idea terrified him as well making it easier to stay in denial and suppress any hope or beliefs.

    Katia Lev

  20. 3. When Dawn returns from tucking in Millie and Henry begins to back track on everything the date meant, I don't think he is reverting back to his old ways, on the contrary, I think he is doing the least selfish thing he has done. Before, he was shutting people out for himself, just wallowing in his depressed state. However, when he begins to actually feel something for Dawn, he realizes he would rather be hurt and lonely than have her hurt when he dies. Perhaps, he thinks it would be easier to end things earlier, before anyone gets in too deep and it hurts her even more. I think it is also due to his fear. He thinks he is dying, and that he doesn't really deserve to be happy for these few months if it means months of pain afterwards for Dawn and Millie. Millie also plays a big part in this. When she comes into the backyard for her mother, he realizes it isn't just a grown womand heart at stake, its a small, fragile girl as well, who has already been through soo much. I think Henry has come to love her and cannot imagine doing anything to bring her pain, and he realizes that if he gets too close it will be more painful for both Dawn and Millie when he has to go.



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