Friday, October 22, 2010

Life is Beautiful, and I'm Analyzing That!

Is it wrong to analyze something beautiful?

I answered a question about grammar during Knowledge Bowl yesterday, and the kid next to me asked "What use is grammar? It's language! Why would you want to analyze that?"

On one hand, I agree with him. I love the freeness and beauty and pliability of language. 'Grammar nazis' annoy me to no end - language evolves because we use bad grammar, and the most correct sentence isn't always the most powerful one. But on the other hand, grammar fascinates me. There's actually rhyme and reason behind something we do without thinking, and to me, that's an interesting concept.

So, is language not meant to be analyzed? Is it wrong of me to want to analyze it?

I was reminded of English class. Everybody hates having to analyze what we read. For many of us, all the enjoyment is taken from the book by being forced to hunt between the lines for hidden meaning that we doubt is there.

Our English teacher this year sympathises with us. The author didn't write the book for us to tear it apart, he says. But I remember that one girl in my class wasn't happy when he told us this. She enjoys looking for the possible significance behind each word, and wanted to know if that meant she was missing the point of reading.

Our English teacher then asked us if you had to know all the parts of a flower to enjoy it. We said no, obviously. Then he asked us if there weren't types of flowers - Venus flytraps, for example - that were more interesting once we had studied them and knew how they worked.

Yesterday afternoon, my sister returned from her music lessons super excited. Her teacher had taught her a little bit of music theory, and my sister had become so fascinated with it that they'd spent the rest of the lesson on that subject.

Does my sister love music any less because she thinks music theory is interesting? Somehow, I doubt it.

My conclusion from all of this was that anything beautiful can be enjoyed on two levels. Most people enjoy it for what they can see from the surface. That's totally fine. That's how the people who created the stuff want you to see it, anyways. But some people want to dig deeper, and when they do, they appreciate the thing even more.

And that's not wrong either. What is wrong - what makes people lose their appreciation for something they should think is lovely - is when people who want to see something from the surface are forced to dig deeper against their will.

And that, my dear sirs and madams, is my two cents for the day.

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