Think how much any individual mind, any brain, is enlarged by what we can know through books and through literature — places, people, ideas that we would never otherwise experience, things much larger than anyone could contain in his or her own person.
One of the ideas that changed my outlook on life actually speaks more to the past: Our vast human history, where we distinguished ourselves from other species by recording information. This, of course, seems very plain but the broader idea is profound. In the act of recording information, we acknowledge that we are mortal and that after our deaths others live who may benefit from the knowledge gained over the course of our lives.
Most of us are not the creators of those things, but we possess ourselves of them — or they possess us of them. And each successive work of literature expands the possibilities of our language, deepening our expressive capacity.
Each new record of human ingenuity is built upon the foundation of the first pieces of recorded information. Each new generation, exposed to the depth and vastness of the product of their fore fathers, grows and expands to ultimately benefit those to come after. It is this continuity through human history that we owe all our successes as a species.
In almost every major literature there are works that make you love being human, and make you love and revere the humanity of other people.
It is how humanity resonates through our writing… or our art… or our music… or our architecture and etc, that we find meaning for ourselves, shaping our lives, compelling us to contribute and thus impacting those who have yet to be born.
Here are some supporting resources to enhance your experience of this lovely article:
- Emily Dickinson and the poem referenced in the article.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh
- Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad
- Jonathan Edwards