By F. Jordan Carnice
The Weekly Sillimanian
November 17, 2010
(In light of a university’s approval of allowing a particular college to remove literature classes from its curriculum this semester).
Let’s get this straight and allow me to ask this question: where does literature stand today? That’s easy. It is on the library shelves, on the teacher’s desk, in the bottom of a stack of textbooks, at the end of our priorities. Literature, or the arts in general, has always been shrugged off by Filipinos it is expected that no matter how hard it makes its presence felt the more it becomes obscure. There is a wealth of material but sadly this is countered with a dearth of interest.
Someone I know says that literature loses its magic when it is imposed. True, force feeding is even bad for cows, but pushing it at the sides as if the littlest bit of relevance is stripped off it is another story. I guess this is the very reason why literature is always deemed elitist, alien, a mad professor’s tool for torturing students.
We make it look like hell.
I respect the fact that everyone knows what suits for him or her, freedom of choice for the goodness of mankind, like not eating too much candy to prevent our teeth from having cavities. But literature is not candy. It is food (as history is to pochero and physical education is to sinigang). And we just cannot turn our backs and deny food. Why? Because of a lot of things, and in my humble ways of advocating its significance for days on end, I could sum them up in four reasons:
1) Knowledge. This does not only cover the kind of knowledge gained from surprise quizzes and field trips but also that distinct awakening or realization that transcends the borders of the academe when reading a novel or a poem. It is called insight. Through this we pick up life lessons that could be far more important than what we have learned in a classroom. We know it too well, knowledge is power, but what use is power if we don’t know what to do with it. Literature sheds light on “how”.
2) Communication. Whether it is in writing or in speech, literature grants anyone of any race of any age to communicate efficiently. That is why it is obvious to say that, aside from being a universal recorder, literature brings eloquence, and eloquence brings permanence. To stress its necessity in this age of tweeting and defriending, it is curious only a handful knows what eloquence is. For a third world country whose people behave like Uncle Sam’s spoiled nephews and nieces, that is one awful portrait.
3) Imagination. There is nothing more interesting, more powerful, richer, and even sexier than a fertile mind. With the right materials, literature makes for well-rounded individuals. Literature may not get us the perfect boyfriend or the biggest paycheck, but an uninspired ice-breaker or boring project proposal won’t do either. Confidence is not enough. Imagination is a precursor to creation and possibilities, and without it life would be as dull as a blank sheet of paper.
4) Lastly, there’s Balance. That is what literature and the rest of the humanities are for. The very essence of literature does not only lie on the archiving of humanity’s development (or all of the above) but also in the making of its needed equilibrium to attain life that is both reasonable and bearable.
Try getting into the mind of a potter. He has the tools, knows the kind of clay, the exact amount of water, and just the right heat of his oven, but there’s one important thing he must never forget: his guts or feeling in order to craft the perfect shape of a jar. That feeling is literature, springs from literature.
We need concrete judgment and liquid insight to internalize what is holistic. If one is removed from this mutual relationship, a day will signal the coming of disaster. Harmony would all be gone.
We are not feeling the coming of disaster yet, not even a tremble in the air, but if nothing virtuous is done about this, it won’t be surprising that we find ourselves in the pages of history soon.
Unless, of course, a book is still existent at that time.