I was changed by literature, not by cautionary or exhortatory literature, but by the truth as I found it in literature. I recognize the world in a different way because of it, and I continue to be influenced in that way by it. Opened up, made more alert, and called to a greater truthfulness in my own accounting of things, not just in my writing, in my life as well. It did that for me, and does that for me, and no one touched by it in this way should have any doubt of its necessity.
– Tobias Wolff
I have felt the power of literature, as Wolff described above, and I continue to feel it. Books can be mere pass time, they can be a distraction, they can be so many little things….and so much more.
Literature is both a representation and an extension of our reality.
Books that touch us are the ones that resonate with us, and they do so, usually by showing us some kind of truth. It might be a truth about ourselves, about our world, or about our faiths and beliefs. It doesn’t necessarily jump out at us from every book, highlighted and ready for a moral lesson of the day. Sometimes it does, but most of the time, it’s just a quiet recognition that settles down within us. Literature, therefore, is a force of truth as a representation of our reality.
As an extension of our reality, literature enriches our minds, nourishes our souls. From good books, we learn about places we have never seen, and people we have never met. We feel the emotions that we’ve felt many times, and some that we have never felt. We can see the depth and range of humanity – at its best and its worst. We can see, finally, the gossamer strands of complicated layers that make up our world. Layers that are made of societal rules, individuality, people in our lives, internal and external influences, and so many other things that we may not even be aware of. Things that like a pebble thrown into calm waters, could create far-reaching ripples in our lives. Literature shows this. It shows us our lives, more clearly, than we can ever understand when we are caught up in living it.
It expands our horizons. It doesn’t matter where we were born, or what our circumstances are once we have access to the library. Suddenly, many new worlds are open to us, and it is up to us what we make of them. There are no rules binding us, nothing to stop us from exploring as far as we want. Literature gives us an opportunity to feed our mind. It gives us an opportunity to expose ourselves to all sorts of ideas and thoughts which might throw us into utter confusion at first, make us question everything we thought we knew, and then guide us, slowly but surely, to find our own way, to affirm our own beliefs, and our view of the world.
Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.
– Helen Keller
Is literature necessary?
That question should not even need to be asked. It is unfortunate that it does need to be asked because literature is not valued in our modern age as it should be. The concept of “learned men” is lost. We take literacy for granted, but we have forgotten why it’s so valuable.
Literature, particularly great literature, gives us guidance to be great. It challenges our beliefs, and yet reaffirms others. It broadens our horizons, yet can take us home where we truly belong. It can bring untold joys and show us the ugliness that resides in the world, and in the hearts of men. Literature is the mirror of our society and our aspiration.
Literature is not just necessary, it is essential.
The only way to protect it, the only way to ensure that it survives, is to use it.
Enjoy the literature, make the use of it, and the more we use it, the longer it will last – through each one of us.