njoy! 4get wastin tym @ lit class LOL!
I was looking to widen my horizons through reading literature recently and look what I found outside the book!
A stretched world that’s already shrunk so small that I don’t know where to look to expand my mind anymore.
I saw people in Washington Square Park yesterday eating South Indian dosas wrapped like a Mexican burrito from a street vendor and I read in the news that they got 3G on top of mount Everest at last.
And I’m running into people I know at the airport waving at me as I’m entering the tarmac half-way around the globe entering other tarmacs themselves boarding flights departing half-way around the globe holding babies and dogs that have more identification papers with them than a professor with a Ph.D.
I’m really confused now when I say half-way around the globe because I don’t really know what the starting point is from where my half of the globe begins.
I know this is all for the best for me because I read this week on the internet that a scientist has said that when you finally meet the aliens don’t tell them your location because they may not be so benign after all.
I think my location, at least in my head, is uncertain enough so ’em aliens are bound to be thoroughly confused.
I’m thinking when I meet the aliens I’ll hand them a copy of my old Oxford Book of English Verse and see what they think. We don’t need those literary tomes here anymore on earth except for a few short quotes within 140 characters.
Anyway, humans are in a post-literary age now considering no government or people think literature’s worth it to fund or nurture much anymore.
OMG! UR GR8 world
As I sit here at my computer today, with the collective knowledge of the world at my fingertips on Google and potentially the whole world reachable through my phone, Skype, email, blog, smartphone, text, Facebook, Pinterest, and Wikipedia I know the world has shrunk beyond anything we’ve seen before.
It’s brought the world to me and me to the world.
I can do stuff through my blog now which no amount of screaming from my rooftop would have allowed in the past.
In such a world, the age-old wisdom regarding the benefits of reading literature has all but disappeared. At most, one could use a book or two on a long train ride or devote a few seconds to reading a tweet or two on the way to work.
And work means developing the network that gets the world still closer, running between cities, managing workers in different locations, benefiting from disparate groups increasingly wanting the same things, basking in the closeness of the globe, moving things from one place to another, providing services that we didn’t know we ever needed, wondering at ourselves as global citizens at the acme of civilization.
It does not involve Jane Eyre sitting at the window, covered by curtains, in her corner, reading Bewick’s History of British Birds because there was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Our world has little space for us reading Jane Eyre in the activity of reading the old book.
For my part, I would just ask Jane to give up all that reading, books and bird talk and just Google.
UR Jobless Miss Bronte! RUOK? XOXO
If Charlotte Bronte were alive today, she’d probably be unemployed or better still, sending out a million resumes a day with the following qualifications in the following order:
Seeking a challenging position as governess in a household with one or more children of reading age. Opportunity to exercise reading and writing skills desirable but not required.
- Proven ability to tend to snotty-nosed children
- Demonstrated skill in playing nursery rhymes and children’s software on IPad, Galaxy and other tablets
- Advanced knowledge of cooking, cleaning and washing household items
- Proficient in writing grocery lists on Smartphone apps, letters on WORD, and filling out household forms on pdf documents
- Excellent written and communication skills in person and paper formats. Fast learner in e-format.
- Ability to assist in conceptualizing, drafting and revising book-length works on traditional paper or electronic formats [Note to self: delete for most jobs due to perceived over qualification]
6 Lit myths 2gud2BTru
Having pondered the above situation of a current Charlotte Bronte, I decided to do away with my literary pursuits post haste and devoted myself entirely to bursting the following myths about literature and reading:
**Myth 1. Reading literature widens horizons:
Thanks to technology, the world is already shrunk for me. I’m not interested in widening it but I don’t know what to do with the world now that it’s so small.
[I have a niggling doubt that good old William Blake in that book I handed the aliens may have been providing a clue when he churned out the following lines somehow so many years ago:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour ]
Should I go back and ask the aliens for my book of verse back in case this bloke Blake or whatever his name is said something more there?
**Myth 2. Literature gets rid of stereotypes:
I heard the other day that someone got into a place of worship in Wisconsin last month and shot at people just because they were wearing turbans. Or perhaps because they were brown.
Now, I’ve been thinking, science tells me they’re brown just because they have more of a pigment called melanin in their skin cells. And maybe they have a reason for wearing turbans. Just like some wear this long thin piece of cloth tied around their necks quite arbitrarily that they call a tie.
Everything about that whole incident seemed so irrational to me that it still hurts to think about it.
[But I can think of a book where people got shrunk (or were they just little people?) and they fought all the time. Sometimes simply because groups couldn’t agree on which end of the egg to break first to eat it boiled. Gulliver’s Travels! Someone in that book said: “Honey, I shrunk the kids! And they’re behaving hurtfully. ” Or was it a movie?
Now, had we read up a bit more on Sikh art and literature, if not Jonathan Swift, would we still be inclined to act so strangely in a place of worship?]
**Myth 3. Literature encourages empathy by putting us in the shoes of others unlike ourselves:
I don’t need this aspect of literature anymore. I have my laptops, tablets, smartphones that update me with the news from around the world regularly. I keep myself informed about the plight of people. I have knowledge at my fingertips.
[Just the other day, I heard someone say, what’s the point of increasing compensation for factory workers? They’ll just be more lazy and do drugs with the extra money.
I remembered my old copy of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton and how I had seen the world through the eyes of Mary’s father and lover who were both factory workers. Rather sentimental, true, but human. And that worker Stephen Blackpool of Coketown from Charles Dickens’ Hard Times.
Now the guy who said don’t pay the workers much for their own good was working for a white collar job of course. I don’t think he has ever heard of Mary Barton. But I couldn’t agree with him immediately because Mary’s face came in the way.
What turns knowledge into enlightenment?
Where did I misplace that book now?
I had better search Google Scholar and read Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel again in full-text!
**Myth 4. It’s possible to tap into the collective wisdom of our civilization through literature:
Now this is the most obsolete of reasons why people must have read the classics in the olden days. Fortunately I don’t need to read anymore. If I have a problem, I can tap into hundreds of forums. Or better still, I can get a synopsis of a wise book somewhere by someone else.
In a nicer, cooler way with pictures.
In my global age, I only move sideways around the globe from place to place. I don’t like moving temporally down the ages. I’ve figured out how naive those old guys must have been locally stuck to their own regions writing long letters in longhand sealing them with wax in the candlelight. What did those guys in powdered wigs and cotton loincloths know about civilization?
This point being incontrovertible, I stopped reading and moved on to bursting the next myth.
**Myth 5. You can find yourself through quiet contemplation of literature:
Now that the Himalayas are all 3G covered, the ancient sages must be having a great time with an additional source of wisdom up there in their solitude.
But I’ve been trying some solitude down here myself on the internet. I love that there are so many voices here. The din prevents biased viewpoints about anything. But everyone is talking and I don’t know who to listen to. They’re all alive (mostly), learning as they go, just like me, about life, love, literature, science, people.
Who can I learn from? Are my life’s problems really that new?
Perhaps if I’d lived for a while longer than the rest of us, just a few generations more, I could check out some patterns about people’s lives and match them with my own. (But the immortals I know–Tithonus of Greek mythology and Ashwathama of the Indian epic Mahabharata are both literary figures and I’ve given them up now.)
How come all those people and patterns of emotions and problems in those books I gave away and folklore I refused to hear from my Grandmother and epics I endured with disdain seem coming back to me through troubled voices here on the phone, through Skype, on email, on blogs, by pings, by text messages, on Facebook, on advice columns and on forums?
What did those people do faced with their old problems in new worlds confused in changing times that they recorded in their literature?
I remember a book of verse I had that recorded Tennyson’s wonder and confusion at the changed understanding of the globe of his times through geological discoveries:
There rolls the deep where grew the tree
O earth, what changes hast thou seen,
There, where the long street rolls hath been
The stillness of the central sea.
**Myth 6. I won’t read literature in the global age
I’m thinking, if those aliens turn out benign, it might not be a bad idea to ask them if they’ll be willing to fund a project or two which will explore how literature can benefit society in the age of technology in a shrinking world.
My thoughts are also running in that direction today because of something that happened just now. As I tried Googling for “There rolls the deep” to quote above (to show you how well-read I am), most of my hits turned up Adele’s “Rolling in the deep” pushing In Memoriam so far down that I got thinking that this omniscient being called the internet is not so unbiased after all.
Rather than displacing the pursuit of literature and the humanities, perhaps the aliens will see some benefit in exploring the elusive essence of what makes us human down the ages.
Or perhaps I’ll just ask them to return my book.
whr r u? w8 4 me! i wnt my bk bak! 2 nite? 2 moro? whn?
Originally published Aug 28, 2013 on bottledworder.com