I’m in China reading about romantic poets trying to connect my ideas to explain why poems like ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ has not only folkloric roots —man, did I fell in love with folklore (it sound like Folk Lore in my head after so many readings) this semester— but how it is part of a series of poems about (hu)man’s incapacity to understand its surroundings, and how Keats knew we are in fact but delusional in our attempts to become something near to Gods. Sure, I do believe we will find the secret to time travel (we are already on the way to that!) if we don’t kill ourselves first because of some stupid war our or lack of interest in ecology--but even if we are able to do that, there will always be many secrets we won’t be able to understand. Ok, now that that digression is over:
I was thinking that without some trouble life would be so boring. My trouble now —and what has been from the past weeks —is finishing that essay. Actually, my trouble the past four years has been getting my degree. Don’t get me wrong, i am a good student and I really like what I study. Every semester I have been fascinated by how men have thought over the centuries, and also how similar we can be to a medieval mind and maybe how distant to a 20th century modern poet (Yes, Eliot, I’m talking about you and your hate for Hamlet)… but of course, some days I question what the hell or why the hell do I do what I do, that is, reading endless lists of books and criticism, then trying to find a pattern or something there and then write about it. It’s tough. Yes, studying literature is not as easy as you might think.
On the other hand, from time to time I take pictures of my books and the coffeeshops I attend--of course I do. I post them on facebook or tumblr, rarely on instagram. I see many people doing the same on my feedback. Very interesting titles: mythology, languages, Camus, Dostoievsky, books about flowers or more obscure subjects. I also wonder how many of those books are actually read or finished reading. Aesthetically, being a literature student is great. One of my friends told me “what a happy life, i wish i could do that: just read and be at nice coffeeshops daily” I tought I was living the dream, somehow. But you know, if you have to spend endless hours at the library without seeing the sun, in a very uncomfortable position —yes, sitting is also exhausting!— and also, reading and reading and reading just aiming to finish your book on time to later read another one who also has a close deadline and later read even more to write about what you just read, well, it is not so romantic then. It is work.
Later, at a nice conversation with someone, those hours of work can come in handy. “Oh you know so much!” some people will tell you impressed (By the way, I was told that by a doctor! yes! some one who saves lives, I mean, common, sure knowing about archetypes is cool but saving someone from dying is much more and forever cooler?, anyway…). and you might be able to be the heart of the party and get attention from people who wants to chat with you —it depends on the circumstance, the people and the type of party, of course — and you will feel like ‘wow, i’m so smart! i impressed them! hey, i think he likes me!” but then, after a weekend of fun and maybe being liked by a cute guy (I’m vain, you know) you will go back to your hours of solitude with an even cuter guy (yeah, john keats). sadly he might be dead, and he is from two centuries ago, lol. But you know, you will spend three or four weeks struggling with some topic your friends couldn’t care less about (fairytales, ehem, ehem). So at the end, it is something that matter, that truly matter, just to you! AND THAT IS FINE.
When I was younger I had the ‘what’s the point’ crisis. What is the point of reading about victorians, what is the point of writing this thing about Plato, what is the point of knowing how to read latin texts about a religion no one likes anymore, what, what, what … I am not curing cancer, I am not saving the environment, I ain’t helping people in Africa to get water. I mean, it can be overwhelming. So many brilliant minds and you, well, you read about fairytales. But then again IT IS PERFECTLY FINE. The final answer to all the prerogatives of an identity crisis is that if it matters to you, if it has meaning to you then it is perfectly ok to focus on those minor details of life. But my favorite part of this answer is not so much the WHAT but they WHY.
Why is it fine? Well, because life is made of so many little things embroidered together. Life is what happened in Roman wars B.C. and it is also those fossils found in the Caribbean that can lead to new answers of how we ended up where we ended up. Life is about the particles and chemics that can make sustainable energy but it is also the story of that man who wrote moving poems about the revolution in the light of a candle, life is understanding the physics of movement to improve people's life by creating prosthetics, but life is also the beauty of a perfect salchow performed by a figure skater, and life is also about what you are doing now: are you writing for a magazine telling your opinion about a movie? “who really cares about what i’ve gotta say” you might think. Well, for sure someone does, but also, criticism is a way to improve what is being criticize: if someone hadn't say “hey! why are women superheros always sexualized or just included as an eye candy for men” we wouldn’t have encouraging heroines who tell girls they are just as a strong as any other man, and to change a girl's life is to change the world entire. you never know the impact of your actions. If you write a poem, or draw a beautiful picture, or create a universe of beauty and fantasy you might not save someone from cancer —maybe not even the doctors will —but have you think that you can bring happiness to that person? that your poem might make her or him feel less alone, or that maybe the characters of your universe can feel close to them, and make them feel life is pretty despite being short? What about their families, people taking care of them and knowing they might be gone soon? Maybe through a song you write their child loved they will be able to remember the good times they have and to an extent, to be close to him or her after they leave this world. So maybe arts and humanities do not ‘save’ people in the sense we think when we talk about doctors or scientists, but they accompany us in the difficult path life is, and arts remind us life is terrible but also beautiful and certainly, fun to discover.
Do you know how happy I am to read about the witches in Russia and compare them to witches in Mexico? Maybe no one cares but I care, and that is more than enough.
So you too, whatever you care about, it is fine. It might make you struggle, but without some struggle life would be so, so boring
Eventually we all will leave this place, so in the short time we are given, better enjoy it, even if we think it does not matter or it is purposeless. Chances are it is not. I personally don’t think there’s a purposeless thing in life. Making candles to decorate a cake and bringing happiness to someone, learning a language to translate something so other people can enjoy it or know or even be saved, teaching about how humanity used to think eight centuries ago so we can better understand our here and now, making make up videos so a girl can feel pretty and more confident in her first date, writing a book so people can feel happy in the middle of the night in a country far away from home instead of alone and lost, owning a store that sell things just because they are pretty, because that too brings a smile to someone… yes, everything matters. Curing cancer or cooking a warm meal, no one is more or less important by what they do.
So the meaning of life is whatever you want it to be. I guess it is also helping others, directly or indirectly. And it is also about finding our own struggle to make it more exciting.
now, I guess I should go back to my ‘fairy tales and romanticism’ research. And hope to finish it on time.