Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Writing and Literature

True imfluence over another comes not from a moment's eloquence
nor from any happily chosen word,
but from the accumulation of a life time's thoughts
stored up in the eyes.
- Thornton Wilder
Of all the books I've read in my life the most memorable have been the classics I've read. I realize they are classics for a reason and I always understood the reason for the difference had a lot to do with the idea brought out in this poem. Literature in its greatest form requires serious contemplation over lengthy periods of time. It also requires experience. Witty repartee may make for fast, entertaining reading and it may even convince you to vote for a particular candidate in an election but it won't bring out a meditative reflection of your thoughts as true literature can- if you give it a chance!
In 2005, I spent the better part of the year, in my spare time, poring over and slowly reading J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It is absolutely the most beautiful and descriptive English prose I have ever taken the time to read. I say that without reservation. It doesn't make me think of other literature save for a few other well-known classics such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or perhaps Madeleine L'Engle's novels. There are others and they have definitely affected the way I look at the world. These worlds such masters write about are so very separate from our experience as humans. It is as if they visualize a world as it ought to be or should have been.
These reconstructions may befuddle some realists but for people who make a difference they are essential respites from a world which has no patience, pushing imagination aside for cruelties and so-called essentials. They make light fare of the rare moments in life such as searching for meaning, purpose and hope. If we don't have meaning attached to our lives or a specific purpose to our procession of days life is almost useless.
True literature exists to elevate us out of the humdrum existence we live and it also brings solutions to our deepest social dilemmas as well. Watership Down comes to mind as literature specifically written for that purpose. Today, classics are as rare as antique books and just as rarely read. This is a social crisis and my concern is that as a people our souls are becoming impoverished on pop media. Every source we have is to blame.
Television is everywhere. People watch videos and movies on Blackberries now instead of bringing a good book to read. There's quite a bit of literature on the web but you'd never know it. People would rather watch asinine videos on YouTube or play videogames Over the past two years I bought a small library of classics from Steinbeck, Poe, Henry James, Jack London, Hawthorne, H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, C.B. Brown, Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis and several more. It's the best investment for my soul I've ever made. What have I found out that the rest of world has not? That my mind is more important than the latest non-event they're all clamoring to ogle, DL or text to each other. I treat my mind like my body and generally try to give it the best nutrition I can find. All the rest is just dross I can live without.
The Castle Lady imbuing you with true ardor!
Literature is language charged with meaning. - Ezra Pound

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