My lil sister recently shared with me something interesting she had read from the Golden notebook, an awesome book by last years Nobel prize winner Dorris Lessing. Lessing if I remember somewhere in the prologue, mentions how a lot of people who were english majors or students of literature end up abandoning their love of literature to go and do something else due to the fact that the current school system doesnt allow for creativity. Its seems, paraphrasing of course, that the need to base all opinion on documented criticisms and analysis never allows the student to come up with new valid insight.
I whole heartedly agree and recently had the opportunity to to witness this first hand. My sister is taking a course on British Literature. The teacher has talked ad nauseum about Beowulf and the Canterbury tales but I feel not made the students any richer for it. Actually insight given by students are penalized mostly because:
- Simply the professor has a PhD and the students dont. He cannot or will not accept any insight from a student
- As was very captiously describe in Jose ortega’ y gasset essay/book in the 1930′s misison of the University, modern day academics were referred to by ortega as modern day barbarians in that they are hyperspecialists to the point that they only know and cant working in one small niche. Many a time they are ingorant to everything outside of there small niche. Compare this to the intellectual lights of our history, Shakespeare, Francis Bacon,( i wonder if ther eis significance in putting them in that order) Leonardo da Vinci.
For some reason I feel like with many of the great authors of british literature many teachers teach them like they are an island. Ironically like the british isle themselves, these writers are separated and isolated from the rest of the world ( which is of course for a long time was continental europe). Chaucer is one such person.
I was happy to tell my sister that the sufi attar the chemist ‘s parliament of the birds was actually was the source or an inspiration for Chaucer as well as some of the works of Rumi which were well known during Chaucers day. I refered my sister to this section of The Sufis, written by Idries Shah, please bear with me lol
His [Rumi] work was well enough known within less than a hundred years of his death in 1273 for Chaucer to use references to it in some of his works, together “with material from the teachings of Rumi’s spiritual precursor, Attar the Chemist (1150-1229/30). From the numerous references to Arabian material which can be found in Chaucer, even a cursory examination shows a Sufi impact of the Rumi school of literature. Chaucer’s use of the phrase, “As lions may take warning when a pup is punished . . .” is merely a close adaptation of Udhrib el-kalba wa yatrf addaba el-fahdu (“Beat the dog and the lion will behave”), which is a secret phrase used by the Whirling Dervishes. Its interpretation depends on a play upon the words “dog” and “lion.” Although written as such, in speaking the password, homophones are used. Instead of saying dog (kalb), the Sufi says heart (qalb), and in place of lion (fahd), fahid (the neglectful). The phrase now becomes: “Beat the heart (Sufi exercises) and the neglectful (faculties) behave (correctly).”
This is the slogan which introduces the “beating the heart” movements encouraged by the motions and concentrations of the Mevlevi—Whirling-Dervishes.
The relationship between the Canterbury Tales as an allegory of inner development and the Parliament of the Birds of Attar is another interesting item. Professor Skeat reminds us that, like Attar, Chaucer has thirty participants in his pilgrimage. Thirty pilgrims seeking the mystical bird, Simurgh makes sense in Persian, because si-murgh actually means “thirty birds.” In English, however, such a transposition is not possible. The number of pilgrims, made necessary in the Persian because of the requirements of rhyme, is preserved in Chaucer, deprived of double meaning. “The Pardoner’s Tale” occurs in Attar; the pear-tree story is found in Book IV of the Sufi work, the Mathnawi. of Rumi.
Armed with all this cool information, and some quotes by Jorge Luis Borges’ book: This craft of verse ( seven lectures he gave in Texas I forget for which university) where he gave a lot of valid insight into Beowulf, my sister went back to class only to get told that the the information she had was just merely conjecture, though she was willing to provide valid reference and has no place in the class. The Professor even said that the travelers in Chaucer’s stories weren’t transformed by the pilgrimage, which goes against my understanding of a pilgrimage.
From my own experience, it seems really that nothing kills creativity more than school. My sister now has a growing love for literature and spends most of her time reading books that inspire her, instead of doing her homework. As a student of literature , it kind of hurts to see but its make sense. Here is a cool quote by frank zappa:
Kid’s heads are filled with so many nonfacts that when they get out of
school they’re totally unprepared to do anything. They can’t read, they
can’t write, they can’t think. Talk about child abuse. The U.S. school
system as a whole qualifies.
Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to
our mundane educational system. Forget about the Senior
Prom and go to the library and *educate yourself* if you’ve
got any guts.
And my fav frank zappa quote of all time
If you want to get laid, go to college, but if you want an education,
go to the library.