Of Literature and Wisdom

Few weeks ago during my Methodology in Teaching Literature class, a friend of mine who was presenting on Rosli Talib article threw a question at me. Oh, I really don't know these classmates of mine this semester. They just love attacking me with loads of questions. It's like I'm a dartboard and they just love spearing darts at me! Dash! Dash! Dash! All I've been doing is just enduring the pain, healing the wound and bandaging the bleeding cuts and bruises.

Okay, that's too much of exaggerating :)

Where was I? Oh, okay. A question thrown at me. Silly me! I cannot recall now what was the chapter she was presenting on, but she asked me this one brilliant question:

"Why did you choose Literature as your minor?"

Truth be told, I didn't see it coming - the question. I mean, maybe I was playing around or poking the person next to me - that could explain why she fiercely darted me - and I was a little taken aback when she asked me that. I took a little time to get the question around my head and I replied:

"I just love it. I love Literature".

I could see that she didn't buy my blunt answer - and to my utmost surprise, neither did I. I knew that wasn't the only reason why I chose Literature as my minor. Because I had known that I would be doing Literature since I first decided to do TESL. I had known this since I was form 4. I had known this all along. I knew the reason why. I always knew.

So I shot my right hand up in the air.

She, the girl who was presenting and was all determined to enlighten a class of Oh-Rosli-Talib-Give-Us-A-Break-For-Heaven's-Sake! students , looked at me in huge puzzlement.

"Yes, Aziz?" - she asked, kind of startled.

"I think I know why I chose Literature as my minor at the very first place", I said.

"Why?", she sounded full of anticipation. Rosli Talib was momentarily forgotten.

"Because I knew literature classes would be the only classes I would happily step into. For once, all the methodology subjects forgotten, no ancient theories and long dead theories proponents I would need to memorize to death. For once, I would go into a class where all I want is to read a good story, thought-provoking novels and just get immersed in them. Of course you would need to hand in papers and everything, but literature offers so much more than that".

Well, these were the words that came flowing out of my mouth before I knew it. More or less like this. I can't really recall the exact words I uttered the other day. But I do remember that I felt happy once I voiced it out. I felt like finally I let go something that I wanted people around me to feel the same. To feel how good it feels to just sit and read literary texts: Poems, short stories, novels - doesn't matter. Just sit back and read them silently. Make sense of them and just feel good.

Because I genuinely feel good. Every single time.

I remember how Michelle and I used to jump on each other's throat about the novels that we read in Contemporary Literature class. We hardly agreed with each other. But, most of the time, we would let each other know how we felt about the novels that we had read. She would tell me how upset and disturbed she felt after reading a novel, and I would get her listen to how a certain novel made me weep, laugh at poems (which ironically meant I was laughing at myself, like the poem Daniel at Breakfast) and many more. We would try to walk in the character's shoes and try to relate it to the shitty things that had been happening in this world.

I recall this one time, Michelle and I just had our Contemporary Literature class with Mr. Kieran and we were walking out of the faculty when she suddenly turned to me and flared up. She asked me:

"Why does Kieran always end the story like there was no hope at all? I feel like if there is no hope at all, why bother learning the story?"

Well, as I can see now, that's one thing Literature teaches you - that real life doesn't always end with the phrase "happily ever after". Reading literature texts doesn't offer you immediate understanding, for it requires us to see things from different angles. But once you know it, you will be surprised at how deeply it will touch you inside, and it will remain there, within you for as long as you alive.

Whether a story ends with happiness or sadness, it doesn't really matter to me. The way I see it, every emotion that you feel when reading a literary text is an insight to make you a better person. And the fact that you are able to draw personal emotions from the literary text that you are reading is a miracle in itself. You love for a reason. You loathe for a reason. You laugh out loud for a reason. You weep for a reason. And you are still wondering what Literature could teach you?

These are pure wisdom.

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