Is literature wise? In the sense, does it help us to live? And if not, what exactly is it good for?
A recent article in The Guardian “How to be Human: The Man Who Was Raised by Wolves” tells the story of a boy who was sold into slavery (yes, slavery, unbelievable, it certainly wasn’t common) during Spain’s turbulent post-war period. Abused by his master and forced to work as a shepherd in Spain’s remote Sierra Morena mountain range, Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja eventually escaped by taking refuge with a pack of wolves.
Works of [literary] genius have this intrinsic quality, that even when they capture exactly the nothingness of things, or vividly reveal and make us feel life’s inevitable unhappiness, or express the most acute hopelessness… they are always a source of consolation and renewed enthusiasm.
What is a happy life? It is peacefulness and lasting tranquillity, the sources of which are a great spirit and a steady determination to hold fast to good decisions. How does one arrive at these things?
Only through training do we become able to respond well . . . At the beginning [of our lives] one responds through emotions; at the end, one responds through propriety [learned through ritual]. —Anonymous (Fourth Century BCE) Nature that Emerges from the Decree
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. —Rainer Maria Rilke
To know oneself means, among other things, to know oneself qua non-sage: that is, not as a sophos, but as a philo-sophos, someone on the way toward wisdom.