Friday, 19 May 2017

"Today I hate Shakespeare"

I wrote on my hand, about a week ago, the words 'today I hate Shakespeare'. It was intended as a reminder for something I could write a blogpost about. I was in a class having some sort of existential crisis about my degree and I wrote that on my hand to probably be profound and make myself feel better about the situation. 

Today I do not hate Shakespeare. I'm a big fan of the guy, in fact, but on the day I decided that we were not on good terms I think I was really having a wobble about all writing ever. The feeling came from sitting in a class about glossing. Glossing Cymbeline to be precise. I haven't actually read Cymbeline yet, and I still have no idea how to gloss. This, I thought, is what I'm paying £9,000 a year for. What, exactly, is the point? 

I spent the entire hour and a half not paying attention to any of the intelligent conversation going on and instead questioning whether I was just spending three years learning how to make things up. What benefits was I receiving from studying Shakespeare? How was this going to enrich my life? 

I decided to go to a bookshop after the class instead of doing the work I was supposed to to reinforce my love of literature. It did the opposite. There are a lot of books. There will continue to be a constant stream of books and stories and ideas probably forever. I am never going to read all of these books, so why should I care about them? I want to write books, but why would anyone care about them? It's all just words put together in different orders, isn't it? Different people trying to be clever, different ideas, different opinions, clashing and mixing and overlapping and repeating. Why should I bother? It's all too much. 

I walked out of the bookshop feeling more disheartened than when I'd entered. Never before had my dad's voice in my head saying "so many books, so little time" been so oppressive. 

But I think I just like the way things make me feel. And by things, I mean books. I managed to remember, having spent the entire day wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my life, all the ways that books had made me feel. And whether that was sad, or happy, or angry I realised that was how they enriched my life. Like music, where the patterns of sounds and notes evoke powerful emotional reactions, literature puts words in different orders to see how we respond. Literature is the ability to explain humanity ad infinitum. The study of literature is an attempt to understand all our aspects and ways of being, all our patterns, all our language can say, all the ways we can feel. 

I think I'm okay with that, you know. Sure, it's an expensive way to read, but I think I can read better than I did before and I will continue to improve at it. And maybe one day I will be able to put words together in a new order, and explain humanity in my own way, and help some teenage girl in her room when she's scared or alone or doesn't know why she's there. I think I'm okay with that, with that being why I'm here.