This is the most ambitious post and is particularly useful for our “analytically loaded”, “measurement fanatic” and distracted world. I am answering in brief paragraphs, rather in expanded bullet points, the question : is there and if it it is, what is the wisdom of literature ?
Multiple Lives : Literature is the only authentic device available to man, created consciously and unconsciously that allow us to live multiple lives. Truly great works of Literature creates windows inside us and we can live multiple lives in the form of being with the characters. This facet of Literature allows us to escape the limitations of our body, space, time and history.
Time Machine: Literature is the cheapest, simplest but most-powerful user-interface that allows us time travel. We can find freedom in the great works of Art – even thousand years apart because it somehow fulfills some aspect of our Being that we find completely outside the current time where we are imprisoned. Using the fuel of imagination and the preliminary navigation from the author, we can command a Time Machine at will. Because of this, some literary works become extremely relevant and moving after hundreds of years after being written.
Non-Linearity and Time warp : Literature has a power which is mysterious and no one able to explain it. This is a kind of clairvoyance. The closest parallel is in the domain of abstract mathematics which suddenly seems to be immensely practical (matrix algebra, set theory, number theory, non-Euclidean geometry). Long before science found out that if we increase power, both signal and noise get amplified, Literature demonstrates that stupidity does not decrease with time, it is proportionately amplified.
Privacy : Literature although a public domain material (a novel, a story) and consumed by many, it does not completely become old or used while being used privately. In a strange manner, it has a privacy protection that multiple uses do not wear it. Hamlet’s soliloquy somehow does not exhaust itself and every person has the opportunity to discover, connect, identify and apply it afresh.
Suspending all known laws of matter and life : Great authors while creating their work do have a God-like power. Great works make us feel what is the willing suspension of disbelief. In that way, all great writers are like magicians – we know that we are being charmed but there is some allure in this voluntarily accepting this deception that great literature, a product of imagination appears to capture Life so completely.
Possibilities and Forgiveness : Great Literature through one of the greatest inventions of mankind – the character allows an entry into the innermost chamber of a person. This permission which we never grant becomes an immense opportunity to connect with this process. We learn to forgive others and ourselves as we find the grand mystery of Being.
Specialism as Omniscience Of all the human creations, literature is by its own nature – supremely anti-specialism. All other subjects are specialists, literature’s specialism is omniscience. This omniscience is beautifully masked in the great works of Literature. It does not teach you anything directly as mathematics, science or engineering does. It transforms – this process is integrated. You do not become more-intelligent or better in calculation or better in design but you can absorb all of them.
Literature : with the tools of poetry and prose and their variants and mix and with the building blocks called characters (or without them) create something which is so airy and nebulous in their construct captivate us to such an extent that we seem to have discovered our essence in them.
This is the primal and the most-sophisticated aspect of Literature : it has the mystical power of being essential and redirecting us to the essentials.