Tuesday, March 08, 2005

reading and writing

I've been invited to speak at several high schools in Davao in Mindanao (the cool thing is the trip will be all expenses paid - flight, hotel, etc.) about reading and writing. Though I sadly have no time at the moment to raise the banner for what are obviously two of the most important things in my life, I am gratified to know that there are people who feel the same way.

Reading opens doors into the thoughts of other people, into the worlds they have created. It exposes us to experiences that we ourselves may not be able to articulate and allows us to share in repeated experiences of the banal or wonder or horror. Words can illuminate or anger us, provoke hunger or satisfy. When we read the works of other people, it becomes obvious that we are not alone.

Writing forces us to deal with our own ideas, to learn precision and the complexities (or simplicities) of articulating agenda. In the void of existence (even in the midst of a crowd of other people), we can make noise, bang our drums and say the equivalent of "Listen to me!". We can teach or entertain, express what we believe to be art or weave beautiful lies to fashion worlds that at last make sense (or no sense at all). It allows us the exquisite small power of creation.

The Philippines was never truly a nation of readers. We believe in education, yes, but only as a means to rise higher in society in terms of better jobs and economic standing. Only a small number truly read because they love to read. We are nation for whom the term "literacy" is purely one-dimesional.

There are even fewer writers. And the advent of SMS (or texting via mobile phones) has already taken horrible steps towards obliterating the beauty of eloquence. Majority of the people in the Philippines (the so-called "texting capital" of the world) favor convenience over syntax, grammar or the expansion of vocabulary. It can be argued that this all part of the evolution of language, of communication, true. But when it spills over into the arena of artistic expression, it is a different story (think of it in the context of food: certainly we could just boil everything or just drink water, if the argument is reduction, simplicity or "sticking to the core experience of eating").

Part of writing, beyond great ideas and epiphanic dew, is love and respect for language itself.


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