This I Believe

Ryan - Eugene, Oregon
Entered on January 14, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Literature to me has been a liberating force. In reading, many of my favorite novelists and poets have come to inform my own efforts. Writers like Ginsberg and Kerouac, carrying respectively the torches of free-verse visionaries (Whitman) and stream-of consciousness luminaries (Joyce, et al,) have amassed bodies of work that have served as impetus for my own endeavors, but also led me sniffing like a blood-hound back and back still. I, then, can delightedly unravel the lineage of the written and spoken word, the pen and pad philosophers who have altered consciousness, at least my own, immutably. In short, I believe in discourse.

Upon reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, I for the first time not only understood a literary classic, but also ably related my own experiences to said book. I figured myself part of my very own “lost generation,” these young men and women lost in figures, smothered by quantities, and blind to quality (in any sense.) The novel’s Lady Brett Ashley finds herself stuck in outbound and ultimately empty expression, too much so to love the literally emasculated Jake. The whole lot is overly aware, to a crippling extent. So is my generation overly aware of its humanity, of its consciousness, to the extent that my peers lose sight of that very humanity, that they essentially ignore that consciousness or find petty means to occupy it.

This mere seed was just a base assumption, but disheartening English classes fain confirmed. What a gross majority showed their ignorance to anything but the literal! Granted, I had only begun to explore my own perception, but suddenly listening to a classroom-full gripe about a poem grew exceedingly painful. The mumbles and groans were especially irking as they drifted from the effortless (“I don’t understand”) to the ignorant (“why should we have to read poetry, anyways?”) I, by this time, had graduated from the terse prose of Hemingway to the floridity of Kerouac, to the absurdity of Vonnegut. Was conceit, was articulation, was literature itself dying? True to their purveyors, I found these indications easily inferred. I then knew that I would read and write, on a heightened level, and out of a personal necessity.

The spark was personal, the kindling was internal, the flame grew within me, but however inadvertently, this society fanned the flame, and this cultural void piled wood on faster than I could even burn it. As an aspiring writer now, I feel that my primary obligation is to further the cohesive lineage which has inspired me. Humanity for too long has stuck to the conception of an ordered, a strictly defined, a literal world. I do not reject the Enlightenment ideal of a knowable world, but rather transcend it. I perceive a ceaseless well of immaterial wealth, knowledge in short. The greatest honor would be to play even the minutest role in unshackling human consciousness. A bland, concrete-grey worldview could and should give way to boundless reflection on the sensory, those senses beyond materiality.