Monday, December 20, 2010

A little Pablo Neruda to remind us that our worth is immeasurable

This semester, I've been struggling with the fact that I'm not a genius. No, not that I ever thought I was, but perhaps because I used to think that my worth was based on how much knowledge my cerebro could hold and how well I could apply it. I know, I know, that's dumb (irĂ³nico, ¿no?), but let's just say high school one semester (1,600 students), Lipscomb the next (< 3,000 students), Harding after that (< 4,000 students), and finally BYU (30,000 students) was a difficult series of transitions. I was one of the few girls in my foreign languages classes and everyone else had 2 years language experience in another country (a complete turn around from life outside of Provo). Before classes even started, for the first time, I was intimidated by my classmates (also, ALL the boys were on average 2-4 years older than me). I didn't meet a single male my age (20) my entire first year at BYU. 4 of my roommates were from Utah, and the 5th one had almost her entire family in the state. I made really cool friends, eventually, and I began adjusting to the idea that I wouldn't be moving after 3 months, but I also began this ridiculously self-destructive practice of believing that it mattered that my GPA (after a couple BYU semesters) wasn't as high as it used to be. I used to pride myself on grades, which isn't bad, but it's not good if you can't recognize other things that you are good at. And so, you can imagine how it felt when my computer crashed during finals week last week.

So, I'm not a genius. But I'm still smart. I've changed religions. But I still have faith. I'm not fluent in Spanish, but people can understand me and I can understand them. I can't dance very well, but I still have fun trying. And, I'm not the best. At anything, actually. But I'm good at a lot of things. And, so when I took a break from writing my 41 pages of final papers the last 2 weeks of this semester, this Pablo Neruda poem was just what I needed. I would like to invite anyone to read it any time they feel that their worth is dependent upon some kind of measurable success, because really, our worth is immeasurable. Book (or whatever it is you have become a slave to), when I close you, I open life.*

Ode to the Book by Pablo Neruda

When I close a book
I open life.
I hear
faltering cries
among harbours.
Copper ignots
slide down sand-pits
to Tocopilla.
Night time.
Among the islands
our ocean
throbs with fish,
touches the feet, the thighs,
the chalk ribs
of my country.
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar.

The ocean's surge is calling.
The wind
calls me
and Rodriguez calls,
and Jose Antonio--
I got a telegram
from the "Mine" Union
and the one I love
(whose name I won't let out)
expects me in Bucalemu.

No book has been able
to wrap me in paper,
to fill me up
with typography,
with heavenly imprints
or was ever able
to bind my eyes,
I come out of books to people orchards
with the hoarse family of my song,
to work the burning metals
or to eat smoked beef
by mountain firesides.
I love adventurous
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.
Book, let me go.
I won't go clothed
in volumes,
I don't come out
of collected works,
my poems
have not eaten poems--
they devour
exciting happenings,
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I'm on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology:
send books back to their shelves,
I'm going down into the streets.
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song.

*I would strongly recommend the original Spanish version to those capable of reading it. It's in the second person, which I think makes it more powerful.

No comments:

Post a Comment