“Faith” or Logic?

Robert Kendall’s Faith, initially, is so deceptively and delightfully simple.

Call it a poetically cute coincidence that i happen to choose something like this textual literature on an impulsive whim. Browsing through the electronic literature collections we’ve been provided, all the little rectangular/square avatar/picture representations of the collection all look interesting. So i figure, “Hey, why not click something at random and see where we go.”

And it all comes to a visually quiet invitation.

 Is dat sum Helvetica i c thar?

Advice for those who want to experience this for themselves: do yourselves a wonderful favor and choose the option that lets you experience this poem with the music. The sounds are simple, but their effectiveness at rendering a mood is powerful. It really hits home the idea that words from poetry are as much an aural tradition as they are written; a multi-sensory engagement; performance art. The poem also moves through 5 main stages. Me being the ridiculous English major that i am, i kinda had the idea that this one would engage the senses (5 senses anyone?!). This could be a romantic preconceived notion of symbolism and just another coincidence, but it’s a nice thought.

The whole poem revolves around marrying the ideas of the seemingly mutually exclusive ideas of “faith” and “logic.” Right from the get-go, the elaborate cursive “Faith” that starts the poem is bombarded by little “logic”s. All this in orange text; a comfortable, light color (the colors are imporant). Clicking on…

As words form on the screen, they are scattered across all over the place. There’s an idea going on here but it’s vague, formless. So far we’re being told that faith can’t be bent by logic, that they cannot be married in any real fashion. We only have one choice: to click the button at the bottom to go on (linear with no other place to go).

Next we get a darker red text. It’s important to take note that the colors change but progressively become darker and darker; but, so far the poem keeps a steady feel-good mood. The music is gentle harp playing, maybe trying to “consummate” ideas here gently without being so heavy handed. As these new red words inject themselves, they incorporate into the poem by making new words entirely or attaching onto words. The narrator is trying to push logic away but simultaneously retain logic with faith, but realizes there’s this big “or” between the 2 ideas.
Now the form is becoming a little more brought together but is still scattered and vague, but not nearly as much as earlier. The ideas are coming together a bit more. Click on… 

Kick in the mood swing/change/tone shift/it just got real “oh snap!” moment.

The music is dark. There’s this synth playing but rather ominously so, foreboding.
Now the new words are mauve (that color doesn’t do it justice but keep the idea here, haha). They are much darker than the last stage. Even more words become parts of words and even inject themselves into words forming new ideas and shifting letters about.

A lot of wordplay happens at this stage (by that, i mean the text does some…stuff that emphasizes the words and their intent). The narrator is really struggling here trying to bring the 2 ideas of faith and logic together. Their “red winking logic” is inconsistent, and to emphasize the idea, these words are indeed blinking like a neon sign flickering on and off as if for a restaurant or hotel.
There’s this “button” the narrator wants to press to engage logic but can’t. The actual word “button” is pushed downward momentarily as if it were a physical object.
When the word “theory” appears it is upside down and turns itself right side up, the whole concept is flipping and tripping over itself.
The poem is now becoming even more structured as it finally comes to its darkest part…

The music is now at its most tense: sustained strings are played very eerily, very much with a sense of finality. Now the words that fill the remaining gaps are pure black and also move a few words and change a few. We now finally see the poem’s true and final structure of 5 2-lined stanzas. Everything seems to be jumbled for the narrator. They talk of an ultimate edge and mention leaving, and every time there is a mention of leaving, the words are greyed out, losing their color.
The narrator makes a definitive statement of leaving, jumping “ofthe rocker” with these words falling off to a slant.
This poem is their last testament as the final word reveals itself: “Leap.” The word itself jumps up and then toward us and is finally greyed out as well.

A Leap of faith.
A jump to death.

But now, final click…
All the words come crashing down, but with the falling “Faith” as a bookend, some words remain. We are left with the simple 5 word statement to understand:

It’s a neat idea to use such simple text-based ideas to convey a controversial topic. Whether the 2 are “consummated” by the end of it all is up for interpretation, but the way Robert Kendall presents this internal struggle to us is simple and enjoyable. Just before the words all crash down, you can actually read through the poem and see each stage represented by the colors. Some parts are not discernible but for the most part you can absolutely see the progress all the way through from where you started.

Unlike previous hypertext works we’ve looked at, this one has a strict linear path; readers are presented only with one option and one path. There are no true “forking paths” so Robert Kendall very much had an idea in mind for this to work out. The previous 2 works (whose names escape me at the moment) where we had to click links that eventually greyed out, meaning we were finished with that portion, had a sense of freedom. We as readers almost wrote the story so to speak. We chose our paths. Yes, they were part of an overall whole that eventually revealed its entire self, but we were given a sense of choice and where to go and what parts we wanted to get first before seeing it all.

Faith though was more straightforward, and i think that inability to go anywhere else but that strict linear forward direction adds to the whole sense of suspense and dread that mounts as you go through the work. By the end of it, you do feel good. But, again, whether there is full resolve is part of the debate; and that is characteristic of great works: being able to force oneself to step back and analyze the work and, in turn, analyze one’s self.

For a simple and straightforward work, there are a lot of not-so-simple and not-so-straightforward ideas at work here. A great minimalist effort.

Thank you, Robert!

  2 comments for ““Faith” or Logic?

  1. January 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Unlike previous hypertext works we’ve looked at, this one has a strict linear path; readers are presented only with one option and one path. There are no true “forking paths” so Robert Kendall very much had an idea in mind for this to work out.

    In fact, this probably precludes it being hypertext at all. As you see in its page in the ELO collection, its formal classification is just “animation/kinetic” which — as you note in your discussion — means you don’t get to do much while its going on.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your detailed, step-by-step analysis of the poem. Thanks!

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