Then and Now

In the past men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an aging world. The young no longer want to study anything, learning is in decline, the whole world walks on its lead, blind men lead others equally blind and cause them to plunge in the abyss, birds leave the nest before they can fly, the jackass plays the lyre, oxen dance. Mary no longer loves the contemplative life and Martha no longer lover the active life, Leah is sterile, Rachel has a carnal eye, Cato visits brothels, Lucretius becomes a woman. Everything is on the wrong path.

– Umberto Eco. The Name Of The Rose.

Back to Literature

03052009(002)I kept trying to settle down in linguistics, but it certainly was not my cup of tea. All of us, who took admission to do our second Masters after completing our Masters in Literature, kept asking ourselves as to what we were doing there. Well, I dropped out. Why?! Well… I sorted out my priorities…

Now, back at home, relaxing for the next few months, I have all the time now to drool over all those books which I have been planning to read for the past couple of years but didn’t get time to indulge in. I’ve taken out all those books and I’m actually planning to read them inshAllah. ( Well I even bought some right after the last exam.)

Anyway, there’s something that literature has taught us: How to Read! I mean I don’t mean I’m a very good reader, but surely our reading speed has decreased because there’s something about these books which is beyond the storyline. Even if I’m reading a children’s story book, I try to connect so many things at once that it’s not just the book or story I’m involved in, it’s even the white space between words which is fully laden with meaning. And how can we actually draw a line between literature and life, or experience or emotion. Even when reading non-fiction or philosophy or anything, you can never deny the impact of those words that you read. (I might write a separate post on that.) But seriously, how can one ever deny the strong impact of words even when you’re not paying any attention to it!

Anyways, it’s been a long time… And I can’t wait to read everything which is worth reading other than the rules of phonology or Teaching English as a second language. Finally I’ll try to read something which is other than how to retreive data from my memory. ūüôā

Grammar

I have been trying really hard to actually learn all the grammatical things; sentence structures, adverbial phrase, adjuncts and progressive something for the past few days. I have Grammar exam tomorrow and I hardly know anything regarding it!

“What did you do the whole semester?” ( yep… mum actually yelled at me)

“Well the teacher was soft and we used to talk and discuss things and share jokes in her classes” (lol)

Well, mum shook her head and didn’t know what to say. So I just kept mumbling about how I still don’t know what exactly these things are. Anyway, while all this was going on, something clicked in my mind. I remembered reading something about Grammar which was quoted by Jonathan Culler ( the guy I read like anything last semester to actually understand Structuralism), in his book “Structuralist Poetics”.Let me put it her;

” I fear we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar”

– Nietzsche

I don’t reallly want to interpret it. Anyway, Apart from this my mentor once said, k when we reach university, we should forget about the grammatical rules. The language should be engraved in our minds in such a way that we know it and do not need to learn grammar anymore.

I miss literature… literature… where you don’t actually focus on the grammatical rules yet you should know the grammar to be able to interpret it. It’s like internalization of rules of grammar and… OH! what am I saying… Gotto go! Have to do something about those grammatical rules!

Love

“Near the brick grave there was a tomb erected very soon after the flood for two bodies that were found in close embrace, and it was visited at different moments by two men who both felt that their keenest joy and keenest sorrow were forever buried there.
One of them visited the tomb again with a sweet face beside him – but that was years after.
The other was always solitary. His great companionship was among the trees of the Red Deeps, where the buried joy seemed still to hover like a revisiting spirit.”

Religion, Culture and Literature…

I smsed my brother asking if he has “The Prince” and he replied in affirmation. I texted back saying,”I’ll be highly obliged if¬†you can bring it”. He later commented that my “highly obliged” reflected the mentality of a slave. And I replied, “As if taking a degree in English is not a reflection enough !”

A few weeks back, a cousin of mine was asking about some symbol on orkut and her brother tried to show that he doesn’t know. And as I was standing nearby I shouted out that word loud and clear. And her brother looked at me, shocked, and then told her sister, ” that’s why I didn’t say it!” The word is commonly used but has vulgar connotations. And with this the realisation dawned upon me that I’m getting accustomed to all those words which are not a part of my culture. In the book Doing English, the author has clearly stated that with every word of a foreign language comes the whole cultural package. And with this the fear took over me. Am I falling¬†through the bottomless pit of¬†a foreign¬†culture?! From then onwards I became conscious of every word that I use and am trying still to shun every word that does not reflect decency.

But how many of us actually realise that?! Last year while attending one of the presentations of the research group in our department, the professor said that not every word can be translated. In Arabic we use words which have no direct one word in English or any other language. It’s true for Urdu and other languages. And this is true for English as well. The words become terminologies! Once attending the lecture of philosophy, a professor said that we should avoid using words like “enlightenment” and “modern” because these are not words with simple meanings, for Occidentals these are terminologies that have derived from their history and culture. These words date back from the 16th and 17th Centuries, the age that Europe called The Age of Enlightenment. The shift from homo-centric to the ego-centric culture, when man became more important. And these all are not part of our culture.

In Notes Towards the definition of Culture, T.S. Eliot says that Europe’s culture is deeply seated in the religious history of Europe. The literature of Europe has it’s roots so deep in Christianity that even now when some of them reject every religion, their every action is Christian. And Muhammad Asad in his book The Road to Makkah says that he has come to the theory that the European prejudice and hatred towards Islam and Muslims is dated as back as the first Crusades! So it’s deep rooted in their hearts, and is instilled in their genes and they cannot¬†detach¬†it from themselves. It has become part of their culture. And it was¬†T.S.Eliot who said that Culture is derived from religion and faith (with it or the lack of it). And as writers cannot write in a vacuum, and they incorporate their genes into the whole experience of writing, we see the reflection of their beliefs, culture and thoughts. So, when I am reading Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte or James, I am actually exposing myself to their culture and beliefs. I remember a friend saying that it seems as if we know more than the average European about their sects and religion and history. It’s incorporated in their literature.

Now the effect of literature upon our lives: The first ever department of English was established in the colony of Subcontinent. The English believed that literature would incorporate certain values in the Indians without them realising it. And this would help them make better slaves. And they would not realise the religious moulding through literature. So, literature became a tool of making us more “civilized” in the eyes of West to serve their own purposes. Literature, if read passively, works subtely yet moves your insides violently. Your mind may accept things subconsciously or unconciously and may effect your whole way of thinking. And I realised that you need to be active when reading literature, alert all the time, in order to keep their beliefs and metaphysics at bay.

The recent writers of Pakistan, who chose English to be their medium of communicating their ideas, do not reflect the embedded culture of the East. And when I’m talking about Muslim writers, I’m talking about the culture of Islam. The writers have not only chosen English but they have incorporated the ideas of Europe, their culture in those writings reflecting their own “slave-ish mentality”.¬† The embedded idea in our minds that doing English, eating with forks and spoons and sitting on a dining table reflects the marks of civilization, without realising that in our culture, eating with your hands and sitting on the floor¬†are the marks of being “civilized”.

It’s high time for us to realise that our culture, literature and everything else have a center, and that center is Islam. And the unification in things come from that one center. We may be able to intitutionalise every “branch” of knowledge, but the cente would allow¬†a Muslim to see things in totality and¬†not in fractions. And we see all that in the works of Muslim poets from Rumi to Iqbal. So, even if we are to read the Western authors, we need to counter that effect by reading our own literature in the languages of the East, mainly Urdu, Arabic or Persian. It’s high time to stand facing the current and yet not loose our grounds. And we can only do that by standing in our own cultural grounds and not borrowed ones. We have far more better examples than those of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates.