Reading Out Loud

When asked if I was willing to take on a teaching assignment, I thought that it was the best offer I had been given in a while. I said YES immediately, looking forward to this class, because it was a topic close to my heart (Literature) and with a group of students that I had taught before. They were insightful, curious, but most of all, not readily resistant to new ideas. It was a perfect semester ahead of me– full of ideas and curious questions and great reads.

It was not until the later meetings that a colleague suggested that I should change my approach. Though I was surprised at first by the suggestion, it greatly changed the quality of insights that students would share with the class.

Her advice was to read with the class, and to read passages out loud.

By this, it also meant that it had to be ME who read these passages, rather than what I’d gotten used to, which is to ask students to read the passage.

One thing that I realized was that students will definitely read the text and that it usually wakes them up… but that I can always expect some awkwardness and hesitance with some words. This time around, I had to take on that awkward situation and read the material in the way that I thought it should be read.

At first, while I was hesitant, I eventually grew to appreciate this approach to literature. The quality of insights changed, and became more introspective. I’d like to think that it was not only because other insights would be shared, but perhaps because putting sound and feeling into the words on paper also changed its meaning. It could have also been because there was time to think since there was less nervousness about being asked to read out loud (or maybe that’s just the introvert in me making this excuse).

Teaching Literature this past semester has taught me that there is so much more to teaching in this discipline than I expected. Initially, a good storyline and well-developed characters would be the sure way that I would keep reading a book. In recent years, I realized that another element to literature is terseness, or the exactness of words to convey an idea or experience. That’s where I find the excellent writers set apart– in the amount of editing to find the exact words for extremely complex human thoughts and experiences (or perhaps even for extremely simple ones).

Great literature has a way of creating connections between otherwise unrelated concepts, emphasizing one word or phrase so that the subtext becomes even louder. All together, these communicate a distinctly human trait– that human beings can  and will want more than what the animal self can be complacent with.

Since the second semester, I had also been telling students to read their paper out loud when they’re in the process of editing it. I find myself needing to follow the same advice, even if at times my arrogance can sometimes get ahead of me and say that I have learned to write much better (of course not, no one is exempt from proof-reading).

Reading out loud is such a simple advice to follow, but how it’s changed the way I see and think about things!

 

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Where to…?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering.

Not about MY suffering, but suffering as an experience, in general.

Pain comes in different forms, but suffering means pain that needs to be endured. It implies that suffering is not inflicted upon others, and is more likely to be recognized and endured in solitude.

There are also instances when it is a solitary experience, and other times it is endured with a collective.

Nonetheless, we become aware of our suffering, regardless of the levels of pain that instigated it… and perhaps for that reason, it makes sense why not everyone will acknowledge your suffering as “bad enough”.

There is one thing that I’ve been thinking about suffering, and mostly because of Viktor Frankl’s work explaining Logotherapy in Man’s Search for Meaning

that is, while we keep trying to find reasons why we must suffer, the lack of finding purpose in our suffering easily turns it into a source of anxiety.

I don’t also mean that one must invent positive and feel-good reasons to offer a “purpose” for their suffering. Rather, it might be more purposeful if, in light of the suffering we endure, we think of the good that can still come out of it.

That, regardless of our own decisions or the control that we have over the situation, all we can truly do is to avoid making the same mistakes and to keep moving forward.

In this way, suffering becomes a tool for self-improvement and reflection, rather than a consistent source of existential anxiety and angst.

Through the pursuit of making meaning out of your suffering, soon enough, those wounds will heal too— you’ll see. The world is such a big place, and you have so much to see outside of your own inner world.