Of Art and Literature
What is literature?
Literature is commonly defined as “the art of written work” and literally means “things made from letters”. A very general and meaningless definition in which Art does not come into play. Can we consider a flyer or an electricity bill to be Literature? Still, we can consider literature as a global and very ancient phenomenon. Mostly found in its historic form than enhanced battles and virtuous fighters, it gradually became divided into literary genres, claiming a lineage to dead authors, times and places.
If I tried to analyze what literature is, purely and simply, I would say that it all sums up to “telling stories”. Of course those who enjoy it will have different definitions, and would be glad to hear and discuss about it. I like to divide literature into two distinct parts, with their corresponding goal and methods. On the one hand enhancements of historical fights will promote extra ordinary values and leave traces from the past (ancient literature).
On the other hand entirely made up stories that are drawn from pure imagination and brings creativity to its paroxysm: “modern” literature.
The latest seems put all the efforts in the world to create a world that is not, with characters that do not exist simply to point out the similarities that may have existed with reality.
Poetry and Literature: from Art to business
In my point of view, literature and poetry are diametrically opposed in many aspects: Poetry comes from a highly meditative feeling, where the author tries to translate the spiritual into something “of this world”, something that the mind can understand such as words. While the reader is trying to recreate the way the goes from words to feelings, the writer is doing the exact opposite of this process, and I believe it takes a highly sensitive spirit as well as a purely altruistic feeling to be a poet. In this definition, 2pac was a poet. He had understood many things and had felt it from within, and was trying to translate it for those who did not have the education to understand. His approach was the one of “an activist poet”.
Another problem, as it is often the case, is that poetry is turned into ridicule in popular culture. When we think about poetry, many people think of it as a stupid and immature expression of love. I say that poetry is not the expression of the shy. It is the expression of the sensitive. A highly-misunderstood sense of the divine wrongly reduced to the platonic expression of a teenage love.
Gradually, with the book business, many people began to try to look intelligent reading the last success. Modern literature took the sensitive aspect of poetry without delivering its soul. Using beautiful words to depict the lives of useless imaginary characters, to which we are supposed to identify. I would say that modern literature has become the false expression of intelligence and poetry, aimed at those who are not able to experience the here and now. Using art in a mercantile way always results in the loss of its soul. This principle also applies to martial arts.
Literature and the meditative state
I have to agree that I find very little pleasure in reading modern literary texts because I feel as if it took me from my connection with the now rather than enhances it. To me, reading about imaginary things I have never experienced seems to be a waste of time. I’d rather spending time learning about the world that surrounds me, searching for new standpoints and ways to experience it. Also,my low ability to focus on a story has always kept me from entering into the world of literature and to some teacher, felt like a lack of sensitivity. Unmoved by art? Why would I practice martial arts, play several instruments and write then?
Literature and intellectuals
I do not deny that literature belongs to the “mind” sphere. And to a certain extent, it might show a certain level of refinement or analysis. To become an English (second language) teacher, people must be able to draw the meaning from a text, both what was visible and invisible. Reading literature trains your mind to understand what is not said. It may also train you to anticipate, such as in Agatha Christie’s extremely popular novels. What I highly regret though, is that people who want to use literature see themselves as very cultivated and superior to others. I have to say here, that this point is more common in Europe, and I terribly regret that people who pretend to know more about music, cinema or literature are actually the ones that I would qualify as blind. Those “critics” to me they are blind because they are not capable of feeling the spirit of something. All they can do is to accumulate knowledge, compare and criticize. But they cannot feel. They cannot create. They are not artists. Yet you can see these very “cultivated” people on every channel in Europe. They are here to criticize, be as harsh as possible towards an artist who may or may not be sincere. If a book is to be read, then it has to be while putting the ego aside and with a true desire to learn. The more critics seem to know about literature, the less they seem to actually like it.
Literature as a way to freedom
The only kind of Literature that I feel, is respectable, would be the one of criticism. Authors such as Zola or Rousseau were to me, hidden revolutionaries. They used their talent in creation to put pressure on their governments, with an ideal of justice and values. Yet it seems like the writings of the real revolutionaries (those who did not have any political supports) were suppressed and will never be known. “Story is written by the winners”. Another kind of literature appears as highly valuable, such as the work of those who have lived for their struggle and wish to pass it to the next generations. In this sense, Frederick Douglas is probably the best example. A self-taught black man, he became a prolific writer and a political activist after gaining his freedom from slavery. Autobiographies and apprenticeship novels can be a valuable source of knowledge in the building of the self, just as the books which value the here and now.