Thursday, April 23, 2015

Oski from UC Berkeley is a fan of Shakespeare!

Shakespeare, who would be 450 years old today, is considered the single most influential writer in English. He coined over 1700 words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, and devising words wholly original.

Do you realize how often you quote Shakespeare? Here are some of the expressions you might use in your everyday speech.

The world is your oyster, being in a position to take advantage of life’s opportunities
Catch a cold, meaning,to get sick

It’s all Greek to me,meaning something is indistinguishable or incomprehensible
Love is blind,inability to see shortcomings in a lover
Wild goose chase,meaning a hopeless and never-ending pursuit
A heart of gold,meaning a very kind or honorable person
Break the ice,meaning to start conversation
Laughing stock,meaning, a person subjected to ridicule
Wear your heart on your sleeve,meaning to express you emotions openly
Method to his madness, meaning someone’s strange behavior has a purpose
Green-eyed monster, when speaking of jealousy
In a pickle, when you are in a difficult or uncomfortable situation

It is a sad sate of affairs that just 4 of the top 52 top-ranked universities require English majors to take a course on Shakespeare. I am proud to say UC Berkeley is one of the four.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Our humanity needs the humanities.

A recent NYT article, Starving for Wisdom beautifully highlights what we have known since
 Homer— of the importance of a close marriage between the sciences and humanism— “science depends upon the humanities to shape judgments about ethics, limits and values.”

The study of humanities, and here I focus on literature, enrich a person’s soul. As the poet, William Carlos Williams said

It is difficult to get the news from poems

yet men die miserable every day for lack

of what is found there.

If the enrichment of our soul is not enough reason to read literature, let us be aware that much of our happiness depends upon our interactions with those around us, and evidence increasingly tells us that literature nurtures a richer emotional intelligence. Literature builds bridges of understanding of others and helps readers better know themselves.

An important read that furthers our thinking about the importance of the humanities is Fareed Zakaria’s book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. He brings to life what E. O. Wilson said,

We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Don't burden poetry

A poem is a magical arrangement of words
that delivers feelings. It is not a test.

Poetry and music speak directly to your heart.
When listening to a piece of music,
the melody and the lyrics wash over you,
You find yourself in a particular mood.
You would not think to analyze how that happened
So why burden a poem with such a thought?

The only question to ask of a poem
is not "What did the poem mean?" but
rather, "What mood does the poem deposit
into your heart?"

To You   By Karla Kuskin

I think I could walk
Through the simmering sand
If I held your hand.
I think I could swim
The skin shivering sea
If you would accompany me.
And run on ragged, windy heights,
Climb ragged rocks
And walk on air.

I think I could do anything al all
If you were there.

No need to ask the meaning of this poem—
Your heart knows how to respond.
I believe more people will enjoy
poetry when they get out from under
the burden to explain it.