Monday, January 31, 2011

The Power of Literature

This is actually a speech I should be presenting in rhetoric class tomorrow, if this so-called 'massive winter storm' holds off. So, here it goes... (and remember your British accents!!)

Storytelling has been a major part of culture since the beginning of humanity. Mankind was created to thrive on stories. As the world progressed, storytelling gradually shifted from oral to written. From Homer in the 9th century BC to Shakespeare in the late 1500s, the written word has flourished.

Today, mankind thrives on progress. Today, mankind takes pleasure in knowledge. How are we supposed to gain knowledge if we no longer value the written word?

Reading opens up the chance to take in knowledge. Books hold the potential to broaden our minds and learn about life.

One of my favorite quotes by author Janette Oke says “When you read you can have every adventure. In the pages of a book you can be anyone you ever dreamed of being… They can never tell you you’re too young to slay the dragon -- because it all happens right here, where it’s safe.”

When you open a book, the pages hold the possibility of escaping into an entirely different world. Reading allows you to momentarily escape the realities of life. Another one of my favorite quotes, by author Cornelia Funke, says "The world was a terrible place, cruel, pitiless, dark as a bad dream. Not a good place to live. Only in books could you find pity, comfort, happiness - and love. Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn't ask anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly."

Reading, in general, makes you smart. It improves analytical thinking, increases vocabulary, and improves memory and writing skills. If reading provides us with all of these things, then why are 44 million adults in the U.S. unable to read even a simple story to a child?

Fifty-six percent of young people say they read more than ten books a year, with middle school students reading the most. Ten books a year? Personally, I could read ten books a month!

Now, I know most of you cringe at reading any book over two hundred pages. I cannot personally say that I have ever felt that way, but trust me, I know plenty of people who have. I have a challenge for you- go to the library or book store and pick one piece of classical literature off the shelf to read in your spare time. I’m talking about Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Henry James, the Bronte sisters, C. S. Lewis or Jane Austen. Each and every one of those authors has left their mark in history through their works of literature. Now, wouldn’t you want to be able to brag about understanding the quality language of Jane Eyre, Macbeth, Wuthering Heights or A Tale of Two Cities instead of complaining about how boring and long it is? Nobody wants to hear you rant on about how Portrait of a Lady was a terribly long and drawn out book. That doesn’t make you sound smart. If anything, it makes you sound unappreciative of the great literature that you were privileged to read and inconsiderate of the person to whom you are ranting.

Reading good, classical literature in your middle and high school years can benefit you greatly in your future. It can improve your SAT scores, thus increasing your chance of getting accepted into a good college and, further in life, getting a good job.

Reading allows the imagination to wander. Reading keeps our imagination alive in a way that media cannot. When you read, the language and descriptions in the book give you enough information about the scene that you can let your imagination run free and fill in the tiny, minute details. Media such as television and movies give you little to no room to let your imagination take control. It is rapidly taking over the minds of America. Many people would rather watch a movie than read a few chapters of a book. Where will that leave us in a few years? Classic literature will become ancient literature; books will be a thing of the past. The way we’re headed, our best hope for literature in the future lies in the success of Nooks and Kindles.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people refer to teen novels and chick flicks as ‘literature’. Let’s take the Twilight Saga as an example. Basically, the series copies the same cliché idea of forbidden love but puts a ‘fantasy’ twist on it. I won’t go into details, but the four very long and drawn out books are about a boring, average girl trying to decide whether to fall in love with a sparkly vampire or a wolf-human hybrid with anger management problems. The books hold some kind of obsessive appeal and give girls a false view on men. They hold no truth, no good morals, unless you can pull good v. evil from ‘good vampires’ and/or ‘good werewolves’ versus ‘bad vampires’. If that is what people are calling literature these days, then I’d hate to see what they call literature in our children’s generation.

So, you see, reading truly is beneficial. Books are like portals into dream worlds- giving you the opportunity to escape from life and its hardships. Reading good, classical literature can improve your SAT scores and overall intelligence. It puts your imagination to work- and trust me, your imagination is one thing you don’t want to lose. But please, steer clear of the so called ‘literature’ the world is spitting out today. Pick up a copy of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories or one of the Narnia books and let your mind escape into the beautiful language of classic literature. Because, in the words of Mark Twain, “the man who will not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”

I think there are enough good quotes in the above speech, but here's one just for kicks:
Isn't is odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times? As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells... and then, when you look at the book many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower... both strange and familiar.
~Cornelia Funke

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nyctophobia, Pteronophobia, etc.

Now, I know that since I haven't posted in weeks that this post should be something meaningful or thought provoking. Well, that's not really the case. I just got home from my school's Renewing the Vision thing (basically, some people talked about stuff about our school. I wouldn't know the specifics because I was locked in a room with four year olds- but more on that later.) The Girls Ensemble sang The Precious Blood, and actually, I don't think my mother managed to video that one! That was at the beginning of the night. For the remaining hour and a half, while various people - including Katie - talked about their experience at New Covenant, I was assigned babysitting duty.

Imagine yourself in a small classroom along with around 15 children under the age of 5 and about 10 high-schoolers. Now, let your imagination run wild for a moment. I'm sure you can think up some pretty gruesome scenarios. What really happened was as follows:
- The tiny room quickly turned into a sauna. I'm fairly sure it was at least ninety degrees in there when we were finally released. We would have opened the windows, but opening them could have potentially set off the alarm, which would have been bad, considering there was a sanctuary full of people upstairs.
- Someone *cough Hannie* got the brilliant idea to play Simon Says, which is normally a decent game to play with scores of toddlers. You know, "Simon says jump up and down. Simon says stop." Now, this said someone also got the brilliant idea to say "Simon says jump on Josh!" This quickly turned into jumping on Dalvin and I as well, which quickly led to tickling me.

-- Fun Fact About Lila #46: Lila absolutely hates having her feet touched in any way. --

Yep, you guessed it. They tickled my feet. And I screamed. Many times.
- When faced with the challenge of putting a Clifford puzzle together, do not be alarmed when a two year old child who doesn't even know his own name totally destroys you and your puzzle skills. I find it amusing that six high-schoolers couldn't manage to put a floor-size puzzle together, but a two-year-old could.
- Creepy men who come in the the room about halfway through the night and take two children out with him are probably bad. It is also not good if said creepy men cannot be found after returning the children to the room three minutes later.
- Once we were finally released, we made a break for the fresh air. And the cookies.

After that torturous hour and a half of screaming, sweaty and adorable children, feel free to socialize. Just don't forget that all of your bags are in the nursery.

Here's what happened: Once realising that my bags, coat and shoes were still downstairs, I ran down the back staircase, only to find that there was no light switch on that end of the hallway. After hesitating briefly and contemplating what sort of vicious monster could be hiding in the dark hallway and dark classrooms (did I mention there is also a crawlspace in the church basement?), I bolt. I literally booked it down that hallway, eyes closed, until my outstretched hands hit a wall. I tried the nursery door. It was locked. SO, naturally, I would choose the closest stairway- the front stairs. And it figures there's no light switch at the bottom of those stairs as well. Now, if you know me well enough, you should know that Lila + dark stairs = disaster. Fortunately, I made it up the stairs in one piece. I ran to find our pastor for the keys. After taking a considerable amount of time fishing them out of his pocket, I run back down the front stairs- with the lights on, mind you- turn on the hallway light, and unlock the nursery door. I grab my bags, coat and put on my shoes. I know I have to go back up the back staircase because I left the light on. Then it hits me- since there is no hall light switch on the opposite side of the hallway, I was going to have to run back through the hall with all of my things in the dark. Oh, joy. (did I also mention at the end of the hall there was a door that led out to the back of the church?) I flicked off the light and sprinted down the dark hallway yet again, with only the ominous green EXIT sign as my guide. Only now do I realise that I could have used my cell phone as a flashlight.

All in all, I had a fairly eventful night. Thankfully, I have no homework to complete.

To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don't worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.
~Author Unknown