In the Words of E.O. Wilson

In a recent post by Rachelle Gardner, she quoted and wrote about a video featuring E.O. Wilson, “often referred to as one of today’s greatest living scientists.”

She presented three quotes by Wilson and left them for the readers to contemplate. The first one hit me the most.

“Ideas emerge when a part of the real or imagined world is studied for its own sake.”

Not only does this remind me of how I was told true literary dissection and analysis should be done, it is also the most fun way to approach a book or movie or life. Sometimes, I don’t want to connect the plot or event or emotion in a story to anything other than the story. I want to explain why something is amazing and beautiful without needing to reference four theorists or directors or similar works. This theme, this idea, this character is poignant because it is, not because of something someone else said or did. Only when we realize that will we truly get anything out of the original work. Otherwise we forget its importance under all the other junk.

The greatest paper I ever wrote was dissecting the William Shakespeare play “Twelfth Night”, and I chose that topic myself. I chose to use that play because I had read it previously but had been unable to justify the duke’s sudden interest in Viola at the end when he had never shown interest in her previously. It felt like a cop-out I wasn’t used to seeing in Shakespeare. So for my paper, I decided to go back and prove that Duke Orsino was in love with Viola even when she was Cesario, in turn proving that the duke was bisexual or just didn’t care about gender. He loved who he loved.

I used no outside sources. I quoted no scholars. I used the text to analyze the text. Not only did I receive a 100% and standing ovation from my professor, but I fell in love with that play more than I can say. I not only proved to my self that Duke Orsino truly was in love with Viola before the play was even half over, I found character traits about him that I had previously overlooked that made him endearing and not just horny. Had I been forcing myself to find quotes from scholars to support myself, I wouldn’t have gone half as deep. I would have found the pieces that connected to what everyone else was saying, and my own opinion would be lost under the opinions of others.

As E.O. Wilson says, we should study the world, whether in real life or in a story, for the purpose of studying the world – not to link it to outside theories. That’s when our own ideas form, when our own journeys and understanding truly begin. That’s when you fully enjoy what you’re learning.


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