Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan
—John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”
When I am searching, it is words like these that inspire me — words from seemingly random snippets of poetry, literature and music which I attempt to explore daily.
These kinds of words are the hidden philosophical moments, the flickering little epiphanies that scatter themselves confidently throughout literature. They allow me to distract myself from the everyday humdrum of bustling life and mandatory assignments.
I’ve been accused of being lost within such words, but my mind isn’t lost here — it’s found, inspired, fueled, intensified and challenged. There is a purpose to all those centuries of poets and writers, and there are in fact reasons why many people study literature at one time or another.
Writing and literature are ways of organizing human inspiration; they are the tools of progressivism and they have been key components in breaking political and societal boundaries ever since ink first made contact with paper.
For a time, the art of writing was over my head. I didn’t think there was any point in looking for a purpose in either literature or poems, but then again I wasn’t really looking for any true purpose at all.
After a time, however I started to admire the printed words more and more. It took the inspiring thoughts of John Keats, William James, Phillis Wheatley, Orson Scott Card, Joseph Conrad, William Shakespeare and even Cicero to finally give me a glimpse of a broader understanding of the world.
Then I started to look deeper into the words. I loved the patterns — the way nothing made sense but yet everything could be so perfectly clear. I loved the way that voice could be sculpted into ink and how it could re-speak itself for years and years to come by its transmission on paper.
And then a powerful duet of questions began to occur habitually: “How?” and “Why?” — my two greatest adversaries in Lit class, yet my strongest literary components. When they were conquered and turned into allies for my literary navigation, I began to see patterns which transcended nationality, era, society, politics and general assumption. For the first time I saw reasons for making a tree into a generous friend, or for making other worlds which seemed to hold even greater hopes and dreams than our own.
It was all a matter of perspective, and only through this perspective could more understanding be gained again and again. Soon I found myself addicted to questioning, analyzing, solving, researching and finally writing.
But why would there be any need for so many hidden symbols? Why rhyme scheme or personification? What’s the true purpose of alliteration or chiasmus?
They were there to grab my attention, to trick my mind, to give me a new theory to create for myself. My ignorance was all due to my previous perception, or lack thereof.
My mind was too good at avoiding the truth if it was stated plainly, so I guess it likes to play riddles, and I soon found that these riddles were even better when they beat my mind at its own game. Reading became like dreaming in that well-written compositions act much like dreams in the sense that certain things are disguised or concealed so that a reader can accept the profound message being given.
The whole purpose of this is so that a reader will learn something new or have their perception challenged. If this new thought could infiltrate the reader’s initial ego defense, still disguised, it could finally give the reader an opportunity to analyze and translate the information.
I like to admit that there is a need for change in the world — there always has been. I firmly believe that the more we study literature, the more we begin to challenge our bound perception, to shun ignorance and to scorn those who still hold to outdated intellectual fashions.
Our minds and stigmas can be greatly healed by that which is hidden in literature. The sooner we begin to try and understand the truth in literature, the sooner we will understand ourselves, and the world can begin to heal.
—Charles Drury is a freshman from Madison majoring in English education