Letters To My Students: “Salt”

Dear English 269 members:

If there was no such thing as salt, what would we lose?

What if there were no songs to be sung, no poems to be read, no stories to be told,

No lions on the plains, no fish in the sea, no flowers in the fields?

Is sex only for making babies?

Why read literature?  Why poetry?

What does art do?

– – –

All these questions and more, we’ll discuss as we read The Giver.  But here’s a starter:

Salt makes things taste good.

Salt takes flavorless, dull, bland, heavy, mundane clumps of meat and fills them with flavor, lightness, salience—makes them savory and mouthwatering again.  Salt makes things taste more like themselves.

Have you ever tried an unseasoned steak?

What if life was as bland as an unseasoned steak?

In the coming weeks, we’ll examine the worth of Beauty, Flavor, and Taste.  We’ll talk about Pain and Pleasure, for they are brothers, two sides of the same coin.  Also, Functionality vs. Hedonism.  And Salt—because literature is not about grammar.  It’s about color, story, delight— all the things that fill our lives with the brightest joys and deepest heartaches.  To quote Mario Vargas Llosa:

“Literature is the food of the rebellious spirit, the promulgator of non-conformities, the refuge for those who have too much or too little in life.”

May the words on these pages, and all the dreams therein, be food and refuge for a heart that yearns for better things than this world affords.

As we move into our fifth week, I hope you are well—or, if going through a season of pain, that you are grieving well, knowing that it is never for naught.

Best,
Michael

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