Thursday, April 19, 2007

Discovering Truth in Literature

It is one of the most fulfilling feelings in life to read a passage from a book, hear a lyric, or see a painting which perfectly captures some deep truth about life that you have always felt but have never been able to articulate. Today, in the Antelope Valley where I live, it is dark, gloomy, and overcast. I think I have always felt a deep melancholy when night falls and the world around is flooded with false lights struggling futilely against the darkness. It seems to have inherently held a symbolic meaning for me, suggesting the hubris of man and yet also his desperate desire to live life indifferent to, or in denial of human and natural corruption. I was reading Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native today and was surprised to find that Hardy finds this same symbolism in man's war against the night:
Moreover to light a fire is the instinctive and resistant act of man when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout Nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against the fiat that this recurrent season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death. Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of the earth say, Let there be light. (The Return of the Native)
When I find art perfectly reflecting Truths like this, Truths that I cannot express in direct language, it reaffirms for me the purpose, and value of art.

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