… And never tell them that the only things worth reading are those labeled by the high-brows as profound.
Alex reads a lot of manga online. There was a time when I worried that it might affect her reading pattern. Manga — or Japanese comics for the uninitiated — are read from right to left. She assured me she was okay, I trusted her judgment and look where her manga reading has led her.
Because the stories she reads borrow heavily from Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Norse mythology, she is slowly moving on to all that. She now knows terms and concepts that I haven’t heard since all those philosophy classes in college. She’s devouring all the mythology she can get online and I already promised her we’ll buy books as well — as many as she likes although perhaps not all at the same time.
A good story is like a good piece of art. Whether through words or paint or clay or wood, the creator is able to stimulate the mind and the soul even of people he has never met and never will meet. And a real work of art does not need a specific set of rules to make it beautiful and understandable. It simply evokes.
Consider this painting.
I was in the fourth grade when I first saw this image. I didn’t know what it was called, I didn’t know who painted it. But the image was so strong, and provocative, that I found myself interpreting what it could mean without really intending to.
I was in second year in high school when I saw the painting again. It was an elective class, forgot what it was called, but it was mostly about visual and written art. In that class, the image was presented with a lot of information — it was painted by Salvador Dali, it was called The Persistence of Memory, that it meant a lot of things including life, anxiety and even Einstein’s theory of relativity.
As far as I was concerned, imposing those interpretations was limiting our young minds. Instead of allowing us students to look at the painting with an open mind, we were being forced to appreciate it based on accepted standards. Later on, I realized that the teacher, a Miss Santibañez, was just imposing her limited thinking on us. She did not have the capacity to give it an original interpretation, perhaps, she didn’t even know such a thing was possible, so she could only resort to published, and already accepted, interpretations.
Literature is no different. When academics insist that there are stringent standards on what constitutes literature, they set limitations on all of us. They stifle creativity and growth. They put our minds in cages. I wonder how many of them are just like Miss Santibañez — imposing accepted standards simply because they have neither the guts nor the brains to make their own standards and interpretations. Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan mabukulan sana.
It is something I do not want to happen to my children. If reading manga, rather than C. S. Lewis, stimulates their minds better to encourage them to explore other forms of creative work, then they should be free to do so.