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Living Language

I’ve been reading this book called Poetry of Asia: Five Millenniums of Verse from Thirty-three Languages. Title’s pretty self-explanatory.

the book in question, chillin' in my room

A lot of change in my own life right now — in work, in friends, in lifestyle, in responsibilities, in artistic goals, in future plans. It’s trippy yet comforting to be reminded of how much human effort has already been made, and how there are some things we’ll always need to say.

Old and new, international and domestic, colliding beautifully in my life right now. Kind of sounds like this:

It’s strange to read the histories of ancient peoples written in the verse of dead languages. It feels a little voyeuristic, but not wrong. You learn from it, for sure — especially from seeing the universal themes.

A lot of talk about the Heart [where it was said our thoughts and feelings came from, before we decided it was the brain].

In my heart I am a human being, but in my eyes I am not yet a man.

–Sumerian proverb

A lot of talk about coming to know God by admitting you don’t really know that much.

Today when you are in possession of yourself, you know nothing;

Tomorrow when you leave yourself behind, what will you know?

–from a quatrain by Omar Khayyam [Persian, 11th Century]

A lot of talk about epic battles.

“I had stumbled upon a leopard’s lair,
the time was the middle of the night.
The leopard flew out in my path,
he filled my god-given eyes with rage.”

–from “The Youth and the Leopard,” a Georgian epic poem

A lot of comparing things to nature [women’s breasts are compared to pieces of fruit by randy poets of almost every ancient culture, it seems; no examples needed].

But most importantly to a writer, this anthology is sprinkled with amazing verses on poetry and learning itself, things we apparently learned as humans centuries ago but remain novel and modern ideas:

Poetry is above all else a branch of wisdom […] Verse is good at saying long things shortly.

–Georgian, 12th Century

Knowledge is to understand
To understand who you are.
If you know not who you are
What’s the use of learning?

–from 13th-Century Turkish poem




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