Friday, May 16, 2008

Foundation books

When I was in high school, our philosophy teacher gave us parts of the Bible as a reading assignment. His opinion was that, regardless of one's opinion about the contents, it was a worthwhile read because of its huge influence on occidental thought and writing. At that point, I had largely parted ways with catholicism, but I actually really enjoyed the experience. I had attended catechism as a kid, but there the book was studied as a source of guidance, and I had largely missed (or forgotten) that it was also the origin of numerous popular expressions.
I had a similar experience much later as I attended a class in graduate school in California. The professor made a reference to a road of yellow bricks, which was absolutely unintelligible to me. Looking around in the classroom, I could observe a divide: while most foreign students looked utterly puzzled, it seemed to make sense for Americans. Later on, it was explained to me that it referred to "The Wizard of Oz" - and I discovered that, while maybe less influential on western thought overall, Oz permeates the American language, with its set of references, covering topics from Kansas to what's to be found over the rainbow.
I haven't had the opportunity yet to watch Oz, but this will finally change, as tomorrow, the movie will be played in open air in Dolores Park. I have great hope this will help me figure out some of the missing keys in understanding America!

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