Friday, April 20, 2007

The importance of being earnest

I was just chatting with a student about the importance of doing literature. And it wasn't that I thought it was entirely crucial that he be familiar with the romance between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy although some may say that Mr Darcy is the quintessential male that every girl would want to fall in love with and every girl dreams of as Mr Perfect.

It had more to do with what Literature as an intellectual pursuit could teach a mind. I regret not reading literature in university, I was on to, what I thought were, more practical things like understanding Cold War politics and how the human mind worked at that point and have regretted it ever since. Why? Because what literature could have taught me, no amount of reading Foreign Affairs, Nature or Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology could have. And while I don't regret learning about all these things, it's such a shame that I hadn't had more time picking up the intrinsic and intangible.

The intrinsic and the intangible are so underrated these days. People don't know how to appreciate it anymore. It's become an exercise of understanding the semantic and syntactic representations of words. It's no longer about reading beyond that, reading into why certain words were used or why things were said in a particular manner. It's no longer about seeing through the veneer of the politically correct or simply the practical words to read into the emotion of the writer and what the writer is truly trying to bring across.

And because of this, the written word, in whichever form, is often misinterpreted. Misinterpreted based on one's limited, practically schooled, sometimes myopic schemata rather than listening to the voice that eventually comes through, especially if the writing is well thought out and written with sentiment. The result of this, laughable assumptions, pained amusement, hastily quashed retorts and indignant misunderstanding. To make it all the more shocking, these flagrant misreadings are often the product of what we, in society, consider an educated mind. Why? Because they have degrees in practical areas like computing, the sciences, engineering, accounting and business rather than airy flighty things like literature, philosophy, sociology and cultural studies.

*Having said all this, I know that there are exceptions out there, science-y people who read REAL books, are sensitive readers and appreciate (if not LOVE) the written word and people who have done the so called flighty but more intellectual subjects who inevitably become the ones that are the square blocks that fit so perfectly into the square openings. So no stereotypes here, just massive amounts of exaggeration.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 23:54

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