As someone who loves reading, books and everything to do with them, I have never been particularly fond of studying literature. Some of that has to do with the fact that I am really not much of a poetry fan. The only poetry I have ever understood is Pablo Neruda, some of Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde as well as the poetry written for me (yes, I have had poems written for me). But mostly, it is because I want to form my own impressions of books. I don’t like being told what the author intended when he wrote a particular sentence. I don’t even know whether the author meant it or whether someone just decided that he meant it. For all I know, somewhere down the line, some dude may decide that J.K. Rowling was exploring some political paradigm in the Harry Potter series. Seriously?
In this book I am currently reading- Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, he sums up this conflict perfectly- “All my life I have suffered the conflict between my love of literature and poetry and my profound allergy to most teachers of literature and “critics”.” He goes on to give the example of French thinker and poet Paul Valery who was “surprised to listen to a commentary of his poems that found meanings that had until then escaped him (of course, it was pointed out to him that these were intended by his sub-conscious).”
I read books because I enjoy reading them. While I love satire like The Animal Farm by George Orwell, the primary reason I love it is because it is very evident that the book is a satire. I don’t need to be told that it is a satire, I can figure it out for myself. Another case in point is The Lord of the Flies by William Golding- another fantastic though fairly dark and disturbing book.
Taking this one step forward, I find myself wondering whether, on a daily basis, we read too much into things- do we add sub-text to what people say or do? Does this sub-text reflect our own biases, sense of self-worth and sub-conscious or is it actually intended? Is it really so wise to read too much into things? Sometimes, perhaps, it would be a good idea to take things at face value? Why is it so much easier to view something cynically?
The Bible talks about how God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27); I find myself wondering whether our perception of the world depends on how we perceive ourselves. Perhaps that is why the grass looks greener, the sky looks bluer and everything around me looks gorgeous when I am happy but the world seems like a dark, dismal place when I am not. A disturbing thought: Am I simply ‘creating’ my world in my own image? Gulp!