Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On Eco, Pacquiao and nothing at all

While thousands of Filipino Catholics wave their "palaspas" and as priests sprinkle Holy Water on the faithful, I browsed Umberto Eco's "On Literature," a collection of essays, articles and speeches.

I was waiting for Manny Pacquiao and Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez to exchange blows early on Palm Sunday when I wrote this to while my time.

Eco is supposed to be a hard read until one plunges into the text and enjoy the stories that support his insights.

Reading Eco is not unlike watching, or preparing to write about boxing, especially if one is not really a fan of the sports pages. One only appreciates the game when blood starts oozing from under the boxers' eyelids.

One has to plunge into the experience (when reading Eco or watching Pacquiao and Marquez). It's like learning how to swim in a river in one's hometown during the first few days of summer after school closes and the grading cards are distributed to excited parents.

Unlike boxing though, there are no fast and hard rules in learning, or in swimming, or politics in the Philippines, for that matter, if one's goal is only to enjoy a great book, the cold water or the wheeling and dealing of politicians.

Eco would even suggest, in his "On some Functions of Literature," to penetrate the "textual a knitting needle going into a ball of wool" with the use of the electronic hypertext.

(Yup, that's computer programs available free on the Internet that allow us to write stories as a group, "joining in narratives whose denouement one can change ad infinitum.")

"Hypertextual narrative has much to teach us about freedom and creativity," Eco writes.

It's not so unlike the feeling one gets after watching a good fight when something within seems to rekindle one's interest to visit a gym or start a serious health regimen, not to be a fighter like Pacquiao, but just to look good in a summer outfit for a walk on the beach one early summer morning.

Dream on.