A story is told of a place where a people lived; a young people. Some were slightly younger than the others, but all grew together and begot their own, from generation to generation, for decades, in a calm and clockwork manner.
One day, a man, the oldest of them, began to tell a story. He told them of a world beyond their own – a rich world, filled with color. It had green on leaves, and red on petals, blue skies and orange sunsets. It had animals spotted and striped by palettes of various pigments, and had crystalline rainbows penned with variations of radiance. The children were awestruck to a standstill as the old man continued, and wondered at the descriptions, contrasting them with those of their own world.
The old man had outlived their parents. He had lived a life in the world he spoke of. In a way, he still did. You see he spoke of the same world they were living in. He explained that it was the same world, only in a time before a nuclear bomb had exploded, subtly altering their parents’ genetics, and ultimately robbing the current citizens the ability to perceive color before they were even conceived. All their lives, as far as they could remember, they had had no concept of hue, save for various tones of grey.
I am not the author of this story. I am not sure who is. But it is the same feeling I get nowadays when I walk into a literature class – amazing bewilderment, bamboozlement of reality and shock at my own ignorance, and at how today’s norms and customs seem to have stemmed from distortion and corruption. I do not mean the type of corruption that keeps blaring in the news. I am talking deeper and more rooted – intricate, malicious, slow paced workings – as if a genius of the devil himself. It makes me wonder, where was I when everyone was being educated on this awareness? It makes me cringe at the thought that there is so much that I do not know, and how truly, there is nothing new under the sun. No kidding! I am amazed at how in everything there is cause and effect, and that basically everything I am confronting today is a consequence of a preliminary undertaking. Façades are our current faces. Apparently, the everyday life is one long soul train in a sanity depriving masquerade. (Ever watched Snow Piercer?)
I am baffled at how much knowledge there is out there. I am struck with admiration for those who are in the know, and at how much they have had to put in their studies. I am humbled.
Literature, as a study, is like nothing I ever thought it was. Being put together with the English language like jam and bread in course outlines, I thought it was an extension of the study of grammar, or at best, classes that improved comprehension aptitudes for stories written in English by famous authors. That’s it. Never had I thought that psychoanalysis would be part of it, nor consciousness. Never ever had I thought that nuances of philosophy, politics and history would be dietary in these lessons.
At first I thought my own voice would be lost and marred by the literati bequeathing us this knowledge. But now I’m not sure if I am maimed with a malignant malady of self-doubt, or laden with a pilgrimatic realization that I know not, and that I will know if I stay the course. The cycle is always the same: shock, skepticism, amazement, acceptance.
My word, I am blown away. I feel a mixture of fear and bewilderment. The feeling is similar to that of deliberately shaking off everything that you know, confessing the innocence of a toddler, and letting out your hand to be guided by someone other than your trusted kin into an astronomical black-hole that would shape your mind and conviction from scratch, without feeling the ground underneath your feet, for the better. What scares me is that some of these views maybe laced with personal biases. Yet, many of them, if not a profound most, are tried, proven and true, and are founded on centuries of study. I just did not know it. We all love to hang on to our doctrines, views and even personal ignorance with fastness. In a world where everyone wants to speak into everyone else’s life (read advertisements, religious dogma and even the incomprehensible number of blogs that exist, many with contradicting precepts) our creeds are our voices and fingerprints, and have been the principles and beliefs we live by, lest we be mislead. They are the shields we protect ourselves by and the spears we strike with. They define us in a world that requires us to be fierce, strong and unshakeable, despite the fact that we do not hold all wisdom. They are the boulders of rock that fortify our stances, yet our mental cauldrons are supposed to be flexible enough to imbibe new perspectives and chastisements, adapt to them and accommodate them. With that paradox, perhaps you can begin to fathom my internal wrangle. By the mud under my shoe, how am I supposed to calmly achieve this?
Despite myself, these new found truths amaze me and carry me to these classes with a wide-eyed, near-childlike curiosity and giddiness, and an enthusiasm that is beyond the autopilot reflexes emanated from varsity routines; and need I say, with a string of questions and interjections that would test the thresholds of an impatient lecturer. Bless their hearts.
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