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Elegy of the Word…

Man reads. Whether it is a magazine, a newspaper, a pamphlet, a flyer, a poster, a billboard, a TV commercial, an invoice, yellow pages, maps, memos, comic books, Internet truths and untruths, encyclopaedias, graffiti, stickers, wrappers, letters or books, the man always reads. The Word surrounds us at every step, it contaminates the very essence of human existence, more than that, it harmonizes and defines the weighty, painful grain of sand in the hourglass of life. Man is a microcosm in the macrocosm of literary universe and the unifying principle is determined by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, a ravenous need that disrupted - and continues to do so - the cannibalistic stretch of time since the prehistoric man painted his first cave with accounts on the sacrament of hunting. Humans are just stones in the riverbed of life and time is the crystal clear water that washes over us; we feel its concealed tide, which cuts through us and gives us figure and colour, and yet we cannot suppress it but rather refuse to overcome it. Books represent the only means to escape time; they are the only cure to this venomous, arbitrary concept, man’s most ferocious predator. One does not need to listen to the words of Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations when he writes: “Thirst no more for books, so that you will not die mumbling to yourself, but at peace, truly, and with your heart full of thanksgiving to the gods.” Literature however, is the only way to achieve an alchemic ecstasy, a piece of heaven that guarantees a fulfilled life. In this baseless pleasure, like in Epicurus’s point of departure in philosophy, lies happiness. Only through books can man break the chains than bind him like a Prometheus constrained to unending torture within the iron circle called life. The process of reading a good book is a rapture that carries us on a seraph’s wings to a place of supreme happiness and peace. Dante wrote in his Paradiso the following: “…we cannot satisfy our mind unless it is enlightened by the truth beyond whose boundary no truth lies.” A devoted reader might say that this truth lies only in the written pages, in the interminable manifestations of the Word and it is the reader’s holy choice or duty to decipher it. Someone inquires occasionally of my favourite writer. To select one from the endless ocean of tomes, old and new, good and bad, would mean to strip many literary masterminds for a timeless ingenuity and glory owing to their accomplishments, to their magnum opus, or that would mean to mercilessly slay their immortality, to take away that ambrosia, which has been synthesized and passed on throughout many generation of banality. To answer Tolstoy would shun Dostoyevsky, to accept Proust would reject Hugo, to praise Neruda would condemn Paz. Writers, as many as they are out there, renowned or unknown, immoral or praiseworthy, they are like colours. One cannot measure up white with black unless black is another composite of white, better or worse, superior or inferior, more or less desirable, more or less fitting than white. However, black is black, not white, nor yellow or red. Black is unique in the same way white, yellow and red have a distinctive tint, value and intensity. There was only one Homer, one Aristotle, one Michelangelo, one Shakespeare, one Goethe, one Shelley, one Poe, one Joyce, one Hamsun, one Mishima, one Kawabata - and the list could go on. These writers, much like their masterpieces were, or rather the still are unique, immortal and proliferating. In a developing world - speaking from an artistic, technological, even literary point of view - man is constantly bombarded by improvement in every aspect of his social existence. Art deco, pop art, conceptual art, cubism, social realism, modernism, futurism, surrealism, photo-realism, vorticism are few of the 20th century newest art movements. Among these, literature, as a materialization of the arts in cosmic space, is also constantly improving. We find ourselves in the 21st century and man still reads…

Catalin Rusneac - Cambridge ON    9/18/2005


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