Appreciating the power of literature

By Maral Margossian

Every now and then I’ll be reading something and I’ll find myself pausing to reread the line. Not out of confusion or clarification, but out of sheer pleasure. These “double takes” don’t always occur when I’m reading a novel. In fact, more often than not, they come from newspaper articles – news, opinion, feature, it doesn’t really matter. These snippets of writing make me smile and remind me of why I love language.

Without fail, these little gifts arrive at the most needed times. At some moment during every semester, all my heavy duty assignments, be it projects, research papers, or presentations, pile up with back to back due dates, sparing no moment to breathe. I feel overwhelmed, stressed and just about ready to hibernate until the next semester. But then, in the stupor of late night readings, I begin to notice the words, phrases and sentences. When I come across these eloquent sentences, I try to etch them into my memory. I pick apart the words then dissect their sounds as if these words and their meanings were physically tangible. At some point, I look up from the page, eager to share this beautiful language with somebody. But as a night owl, I am the only one awake and have to tuck the sentence away to share it later.

Despite my efforts to carve the quotes into my memory, it always slips away. That doesn’t matter. These excerpts served their purpose. They remind me why I love to read and why literature is such an important part of my life. I love hearing or reading about why writers write because they all tell a slightly altered version of the same reason – to share some aspect of the human condition. Through literature, the notions and ideas about the interconnectedness of the human experience morph from abstractions into palpable realities. The stories I read become part of my own experiences and shape my character.

When we read, we become the characters and their stories play out in our minds as if they are our own. The more we read, the more our capacity for empathy increases. We begin to see ourselves in others and the essence of the meaning “shared human experience” becomes clearer.

But in these spontaneous moments of appreciation for literature, I end up thinking about all those who choose not to read. I want my friends who don’t read to experience the overwhelming power of simple letters arranged in certain ways. I have nothing against those who choose not to read – I get it. It’s a long process, easy to fall out of habit of, and it’s daunting. But those moments that resonate with you on a fundamental human level and make you want to stop and read the passage out loud are enough of a reason to read.

We still read Shakespeare hundreds of years later because we continue to find meaning relevant to our lives in his plays. Translated literature reaches the hearts of people outside those who speak the language it was originally published in because there are certain experiences that transcend cultural lines and language barriers.

The English alphabet consists of 26 letters. Yet through various combinations and permutations of these finite letters, we have amassed libraries teeming with great works of literature. These works depict countless narratives, each wonderfully unique, yet universal in their reflection on humanity.

Maral Margossian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]