“Literature is the best way to overcome death. My father, as I said, is an actor. He’s the happiest man on earth when he’s performing, but when the show is over, he’s sad and troubled. I wish he could live in the eternal present, because in the theater everything remains in memories and photographs. Literature, on the other hand, allows you to live in the present and to remain in the pantheon of the future. Literature is a way to say, I was here, this is what I thought, this is what I perceived. This is my signature, this is my name.”
From epic Greek classics to trivial advertisement flyers, the written word is truly the soul of human society. The act of committing a particular message to stone, paper or a hard drive is, in essence, a monologue with the future. And verily, to be heard across the ages is nothing short of immortality.
Literature holds great power; it can teach lessons and alleviate suffering; it can move a person to tears and nations to revolutions. It enables us to vicariously wander into uncharted realms of thought and cosmos. Whether this literature is based on fact or fiction is irrelevant, its beauty lies in plucking a moment from the ever-flowing stream of time and storing it in the eternal jewel case that is language. In this case, it remains forever, neither diminishing nor changing, providing the same pleasure and thrill to all who care to read.
The ancient Egyptians held an interesting belief: when one remembers and verbalizes the names of the dead, it is tantamount to making them live again. Today, as we read through the ponderings of the likes of Shakespeare and Einstein, not only do we rekindle the same hunger that gave birth to their literary masterpieces but we also resurrect a part of their intellect and knowledge.
It is on the shoulders of these giants that we stand and think the way we do. And because of the precious gift of education, we are able to add to the collective literature of humanity for present and future generations. The select beneficiaries of such an education have a solemn duty in society for the perpetuation of these humane thoughts and findings. If only we imagine the tragic loss of a Shakespeare sonnet or a Beethoven symphony in the turmoil history, we can realize the immense importance of this task.
Through countless epochs out race has accumulated knowledge and passed it on to future generations; this simple paradigm has helped us in evolving from hunter-gatherers to modern citizens. The crucial and indispensible medium of this passage of knowledge, and the root of all prosperity, is literature.
“The world as revealed by science is far more beautiful, and far more interesting, than we had any right to expect. Science is valuable because of the view of the universe that it gives.”
In the last century, science has performed miracles. Men have walked on the moon and we can actually see an individual hydrogen atom under the electron microscope. The logical model of our universe that science envisions dominates our world view today; but is that the true value of science?
Science presents us with a world of impeccable order. The heavenly bodies and subatomic particles, and everything in between, behave according to the laws of physics. The knowledge of these laws affords a certain reassurance against superstition and myths; knowing how to explain a natural phenomenon is being able to predict its ramifications. Although supernovas may explode occasionally and the odd volcano may erupt every hundred years or so, there harmony and balance in nature. Science promotes a childlike wonder about the environment around us, if need is the mother of invention then surely discovery is curiosity’s offspring.
The true value of science, though, lies in provision of technology to solve our basic problems and not in providing a world view. Though science plays an indelible part in giving us a model for the working of the world, it is philosophy that can investigate the truth regarding the nature of our world and the way it is perceived. Paradoxically, science raises an intriguing issue while answering our questions: If all aspects of life are governed by definable laws, then with the knowledge of these laws, achievement of one’s goals is not only possible, but inevitable.
Yet, war is rife throughout the planet and suffering is endemic. Although, science has given us the means to investigate and solve our problems, the rationalization of morality has left a gaping hole in our ethical practices. Capitalism provides freedom but also does not hinder the accumulation of wealth in a few hands. Hence, while some of us indulge in extravagance, others have to struggle for food and water. Is this in line with what science has discovered about nature’s harmony and balance?
Although science has given us a glimpse into the workings of the elegant universe, we struggle to construct the elegant human society. Whether we have yet to discover what laws truly govern the workings of society or whether we have failed to apply nature’s harmonious examples to our lives, science can only serve as a means to an end, but not the end itself.