December 10, 2012 EWRT 1A A Heart-To-Heart with “Joyas Voladoras ” Brian Doyle wrote a poetic piece called “Joyas Voladoras”, which is laced with hidden messages through the use of his metaphors, similes, and symbolism. The general meaning is left for interpretation uniquely by each reader who comes across it, and the details so heavy, that one who reads it is instantly able to draw a deeper meaning which coincides with whatever life lesson speaks most to them. For the analysis I personally came up with, I was able to infer a life lesson within all of the poetic devices used. Doyle's first, long, inferable metaphor using the hummingbird as a fast paced, short lived, small-hearted creature, then moving on to a summary of the whale, who, in contrast, is a large, proportionally slower moving creature, with a literally gargantuan heart, using the gift as a giant sponge to enjoy a slow paced life, cherishing every moment, but it leaves no significant markers of its presence behind as a representation of its life, is a key what the author is outlining. There comes two choices in how a life will play out based on action, where the life can be spent as a whole unit to produce something great, like a hummingbird, or it can be lived moment to moment, only focusing on the significance of yourself, like the great blue whale [parallel antithesis]. The last paragraph is one of the most beautiful–and heart-wrenching–paragraphs that I’ve read in all of literature. It literally knocks the breath out of you. It is a clear summary for how all of this talk about animals is actually meant for us human beings, us homosapien sapiens, man twice wise, to learn from the lives of one of the smallest creatures, and from the life of the most massive of creatures. As a light source which Doyle uses to inform the reader that this whole essay is not just about the size of the heart, he includes a short section of insight, one which I find to be the revealing text the essay would fail without. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them
Brian Doyle's Joyas Voladoras.
Originally published in The American Scholar and collected in the Best American Essays 2005, it's an unassuming little piece. Barely three pages long, it details the beautifully tragic life of the hummingbird, those stunning, flitter-fluttering creatures that seldom live past two years old.
Very few of my students see the point in the essay right away. There's a lot of scientific, naturalistic talk through the piece. Doyle talks about the size of a hummingbird's heart, and most of the time, that's what my students automatically believe the essay is solely about. He lists the different types of hummingbirds that can be found in the Americas, their names as lush and colorful as the actual birds themselves. From "violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodnymphs" to "rainbow-bearded thornbills and glittering-bellied emeralds," Doyle spares the reader no expense with names that aren't loaded with hyperbole. These are actual creatures.
The essay heartbreakingly explains how these gorgeous little wonders fade quickly, their humming and buzzing silenced in such a short amount of time. That their speed and lust for life cuts their time on Earth short, and the piece leaves you wondering... is this essay really about a bird? Or something more?
"The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature. It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old."
It's expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Clearly Doyle has stopped talking about birds, and is now talking about people.
When I first read this essay, it was after one of my many flea-market-book-shopping sprees. I sat in my living room, surrounded by my various finds, exhausted and sweating from lugging sacks of books from Eastern State Penitentiary to my apartment in Rittenhouse Square. Sure, it's a distance of only 2 miles or so, but with 20 - 30 pounds of books, it gets pretty tiresome, pretty quick. I was burnt out, worn down, another day of sacrificing myself for something, that I believe, is a little greater. Doyle's words blew me away, and spoke to, what I hope, is my character, and the personality traits I believe everyone should have.
Live life fast. Chase after what you want. Make ridiculous and ultimately foolish-spur-of-the-moment decisions. Be spontaneous. Burn the candle at both ends, and to hell with how exhausted you are the next morning. Have that extra shot of whiskey, screw needing a chaser. Fall in love quickly. Never fear the consequences. Don't be, NEVER BE, the tortoise. Enjoy every single one of those two billion heartbeats, friends.
I know I will.
Cause I'm a God damn hummingbird.
As of this posting, you can read the full essay on this student's blog, but who knows how long it'll actually be there. Read it, and take Doyle's lesson to heart.