Has reading a book left you so profoundly changed that you felt definitely like a different person?
I just finished reading Norwegian Wood – a novel written by Haruki Murakami. Norwegian Wood is a love-story by definition, but one that is unlike any other in its genre. In it, Murakami lays threadbare every complication of romantic love through a jumble of characters who are metaphors, metaphors that are allegories and allegories that appeal to our deepest essence. As a result, the book transports its readers into the arcane world of Japan of 1969, and whatever it touches within them ends up rephrasing their very definition of romantic love – the most fundamental, and yet elusive condition of human existence.
If you ask me how Murakami does it, I am at a complete loss of words.
And that is the hallmark of art. It circumvents our neo-cortex – the logical and rational parts of the human brain and accesses our limbic brain – the seat of our beliefs and feelings. Great art draws us in, whispers into our deeper self and rewires it so that we are no longer the same person. And it does this in mystical ways that defy our conscious understanding.
This is true of art in any form. While the vehicle of literature is language, music does this by using an assortment of tones, pitches and silences – all of which have no inherent meaning, but speak directly to our hearts and our souls.
Therefore, art cannot be understood. One can merely surrender to its mysterious forces and emerge from its grasp as better versions of ourselves.