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In Literary Pursuit...

Tuesday 24 June 2014, by Van Quynh

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It was a discovery I came upon when I was studying English at University, a quiet revelation of sort, or maybe a simple conclusion that at once became an intimate conviction – all the while experienced very naturally at the time.

Thus literary pursuit had set in as self-evident – an elegantly thought-out but forgone truth.

Although it is a truth I keep losing sight since then because when you are not in the middle of everything language, it is not something that really comes to mind. As any intellectual endeavor, it is not a day-to-day preoccupation especially when life can get busy in unpredictable ways. Also the matter is related partly to a world that I realized was, if not a dead end, decidedly not the good path for me... I am talking about the world of Academics which I had abandoned for the most part gladly but that still feels like a semi-failure which no surprise I avoid thinking altogether.

And with hindsight, this all encompassing way about literary pursuit does also provide a very valid argument for distancing myself from other pursuits such as Science or Social Reality (aka the way of the world), let me extend on that.

On the matter of Social interests, I had found myself posthumanist to the root, one who does not believe in the betterment of human society or civilization via materialistic matters and not even as a chimeric universal goal.
It wasn’t exactly like that at first; it was in lot of ways worse since I ended up balancing short bursts of euphoric hope (or longing) and long periods of apathetic desillusion. Growing pains are somehow all about looking at one’s navel, when the mind is turned egotistically within and consequently entirely blindsided by everything else in the world.

A personal information that ultimately fails to describe my situation but without which understanding may never been achieved is that I am an orphan from age 4.
My first age of reason started from the first sparks of consciousness (could not say exactly when, feels like it has always been like that) and in childhood I turned my over analytical mind eye towards what had happened and was happening to me... not much out of selfish reasons but as a simple matter of survival; I as a self, as myself had to prevail... to keep on the illusion of continuity. As a result, I felt old beyond my years, completely color-blinded, dulled from emotions (mine the most) and in a state of distress and anguish and fear which were almost dormant barely conscious at all but insidiously affected everything (imagine being in a perpetual repressed state of danger of losing your whole world and being powerless over it). I thought I had seen everything, that I knew everything that were to come and had no hope except for the will to endure; living was by definition enduring in a world where I was no one to nobody. I lived as a penance, sentenced like everybody around to eventually die alone, not in epic tragedy but merely in mild misery.
That way of thinking, of perceiving the world and the people is still strong within me but it was tamed by a faith that came with my second coming to reason.

And here comes my second coming to reason, everything that were true before continued to be true (I am not one to disavow altogether my youthful perceptions) but if living is about enduring, then enduring, the same way, is living; experiencing pain and sorrow feels more powerful and truer than anything else in life. Pain is good for the soul, it makes the self grow, it makes people matter... it creates meaning out of nothing. Aside from that truth, according to me, the rest of the world is ruled by relativity, one’s betterment is another’s hell... life’s a bitch and utopia does not exist as long as there is another that is not you, that does not think, feel, sense like you... In this earthly world there can only be compromise, never heaven nor hell, no black or white but shades of grey. People are not good, people are not bad, the bottom core of it is simple, you have to expect people acting first for their selfish interests and second because they are really deeply messed up. In the end, if living is enduring, then enduring we must.
After all just imagine a perfect world, perfect people having perfect lives... What a bore, what insignificant lives they would have had, what an insignificant world to live within
The only things that are worth having are the things worth fighting for. We human beings are meant to struggle in order to achieve meaning. That is the faith that I have. Without struggle, there is no truth.

But the gloomy vision of the world has a legacy, I do believe that “the mass of men leads lives of quiet desperation”, I believe that there lies a perverse cycle, human civilization is indeed condemned to rise and fall and rebuild itself on seemingly new grounds to collapse again for the same reasons again and again. Ultimately, the way of the world is not an area which can be effected by human beings not even in the name of the greater good. Whose greater good? What is good for one is likely to be very bad for someone else or something else, notwithstanding that something good at short term can be a disaster for the future and consequently something bad in the immediate present could be a cure for future problems. And contrary to the world that lives in the cave of Plato, the real world is not a pristine machinery, it is to be always rotten at the core and on its way to falling apart. The Past or the Future is no better than the Present which everyone would agree generally sucks. But then it is the process that matters not the destination, not the end, not achievement but simply the striving each of us and as a whole to do better. Since I don’t like to waste my effort, what it means for me is an altogether dismissal of Social Reality.

Looking at Science this time, if Science is not a tool either to achieve fame and money or to save humanity from itself, then Science would embody the pursuit of knowledge as the advancement of the human race. What’s wrong with that for me, you may ask? Science is about understanding the world that surrounds us, and obviously is used to ends that have nothing to do with the pursuit of knowledge and everything to do with commercial, military, religious, social or political issues. But still any discovery, any formulation, any theory are so many pieces of truth, I cannot deny it even when they concerned the small pictures. There’s nothing wrong with scientific truth except that they concerns things, systems and as I’ve learned from my experience, those are not enough to understand people. I do not believe that knowing the in and out of things legitimizes in the least human existence or reflects in any way human experience. My point of view is that advancement of the human race if advancement there is should reside on the advancement of what is solely and uniquely human. I agree to there being an imperative for meaning in human life because we are people and not merely very advanced and complex biological machines.

I came up with literary pursuit, the poetic function of language. That’s it for me, because I believe that language in its poetic function is the real thing.
Language is the bricks of our reality, you cannot fathom how much our thoughts are grounded in language, we tell to ourselves the story of our life all the time, our perceptions and experience are made into language without any conscious effort to do so. The words we use, the way we think tells more about ourselves than the story they signifies. That is why language is so all encompassing and why at some level, everything else seems meaningless to me.

So let’s embrace it, there is one evidence, one path - that of literary pursuits.

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