This is an essay by Brandon Monk.
We’re gradually spiraling in the direction of understanding. We’re trying, daily, to understand our selves and our surroundings. Literature is one way we remember, as a society, what understanding came before our experience here on earth began.
The best literature, though, helps us remember we likely won’t make it to a complete understanding. Why is that important? Because part of the frustration of existence comes from not appreciating our limitations.
If a hawk dives into a field and misses a rabbit it does not feel frustration at its existence, but we do. We take a small failure and use it as an excuse to question everything we thought we knew.
Literature reminds us that we’re not expected to advance the human race in one fell swoop because even the brightest authors have been unable to do that. It also reminds us, though, that we are expected to participate in the incremental advancement of the species in each day we’ve been given.
The human story has not been without setbacks, but our history—as whole—has been one of gradual daily advancement. Literature reminds us that this kind of gradual daily advancement is the mark of our species.
Literature is the collection of stories that reminds us how far we’ve come, but also how impossible perfection is. The greatest blessing it can bestow is the blessing of understanding our place in the world.
This post originally appeared on Medium where I’ve been playing around with that new format.
Photo: Some rights reserved by Murtaza Mahmud.