A cultured person is not someone who accumulates more knowledge
I write wanting to speak and express myself in a language that is sentipensante (feeling-thinking), a very precise word taught to me by fishermen of the Colombian coast of the Caribbean sea. And for that reason, precisely for that reason, I don’t like at all to be called an intellectual. I feel like I am thereby turned into a bodiless head, which is also an uncomfortable situation, and that my reason and emotion are being divorced from one another. One supposes that an intellectual is someone capable of knowing, but I prefer someone capable of comprehending. A cultured person is not someone who accumulates more knowledge, because then there will be nobody more cultured than a computer. A cultured person is someone who knows how to listen, to listen to others and listen to the thousand and one voices of the natural world of which we are a part. In order to speak, I listen. I write on a round-trip journey, I pick up words that I return, stated in my method and manner, to the world from which they come.
We live in an age which conflates knowledge with wisdom. Instant access to information leaves us increasingly jaded in the face of such questions as the very purpose of knowing itself, of the philosophical project which underlies man's quest for understanding. Intellectualism in such a world becomes a pursuit of increasingly esoteric learning, hollow and vapid; doing little to improve our ability to live well with ourselves and thus with others. Take the typical high school classroom - the bored adolescent is a quintessential symbol of education from the US to my own country, Pakistan. What fuels this disassociation? Where does knowledge inhibit the acquisition of culture, of values, and instead emerge as an enterprise geared at the production of clone-like minds devoid of the wonder of living, of life itself?
[...] the act of reading is a secret, and sometimes fertile, ceremony of communion. Anyone who reads something that is really worth the trouble does not read with impunity. Reading one of those books that breathe when you put them to your ear does not leave you untouched: it changes you, even if only a little bit, it integrates something into you, something that you did not know or had not imagined, and it invites you to seek, to ask questions. And more still: sometimes it can even help you to discover the true meaning of words betrayed by the dictionary of our times. What more could a critical consciousness want?
One piece of information followed by a denial, that's two pieces of information.
The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning. It’s not something that committees can do. It’s not a task achieved by groups or by movements. It’s done by individuals, each person mediating in some way between a sense of history and an experience of the world.
Dear Mr. —
It comes down to the meaning of ‘needless.’ Often a word can be removed without destroying the structure of a sentence, but that does not necessarily mean that the word is needless or that the sentence has gained by its removal.
If you were to put a narrow construction on the word ‘needless,’ you would have to remove tens of thousands of words from Shakespeare, who seldom said anything in six words that could be said in twenty. Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound. How about [Macbeth’s] ‘tomorrow and ...