Solitude? In this time of endless noise? Here’s an article on the importance of solitude.
“If [Blaise] Pascal’s observation about our inability to sit quietly in a room by ourselves is true of the human condition in general, then the issue has certainly been augmented by an order of magnitude due to the options available today.”
“Everything that has done so much to connect us has simultaneously isolated us. We are so busy being distracted that we are forgetting to tend to ourselves, which is consequently making us feel more and more alone.”
BBC Culture asked writers around the globe to pick stories that have endured across generations and continents – and changed society.
1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)
Why should reading be difficult, if not confrontational?
Because reading a book like Ulysses by James Joyce is an accomplishment and a unique experience. It’s not easy and isn’t meant to be. Another example might be Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.
That being said, these example books aren’t for everybody, and not everyone has the desire or wants to climb Mount Everest either. What of literature? When we can get a steady stream of watered-down words, why read it at all? I remember sitting in my English class at university and other students looking for shortcuts and explanations, not enjoying the challenge of chewing on words and trying to figure it out by actually reading the assigned books.
Students (and universities) have changed a lot since then.
When the logic of capitalism means universities are run as businesses, much is lost.
Reclaiming literature is crucial to understanding the times we live in.
‘The difficulty is the point’: teaching spoon-fed students how to really read
by Tegan Bennett Daylight
Pessoa was to have an extraordinary afterlife, as he prophesied in his poem “If I Die Young”: “roots may be hidden in the ground / But their flowers flower in the open air for all to see. / It must be so. Nothing can prevent it.” Among his belongings when he died was a large trunk, containing more than twenty-five thousand manuscript pages—the product of a lifetime of nearly graphomaniacal productivity.
Fernando Pessoa’s Disappearing Act
“Bradbury, who never used a computer or drove a car (and believed automobiles more dangerous than war), could be described by a little-known word in English derived from Portuguese, nefelibata: one who walks in the clouds. For better or for worse, we don’t as yet live in the future he imagined, and his predictions and screeds can feel quaint, if not ingenuous or tone-deaf, today. Yet at its best, his work is so imaginative that I feel able to drift off, up, for a bit, and dream.”
On the Dark, Wondrous Optimism of Ray Bradbury, By Gabrielle Bellot
According to The Independent:
Marshall McLuhan might have been one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. But he was one of its most terrible actors.
As well as being famous for his theories, many of which are known by catchy phrases like ‘the medium is the message, Professor McLuhan was also a guest star in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.
Marshall McLuhan: Remembering the philosopher’s bizarre, unplanned Annie Hall appearance
Here are a few quotable gems from the McLuhan archive:
“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”
This is a good one to think about when you’re texting your friend while walking across a crowded crosswalk in an intersection.
“Art is anything you can get away with.”
The latest David Lynch resurrection of Twin Peaks 25 years later, for example. Or most stuff in art galleries.
“The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.”
Yes, he was the one who came up with the idea of the ‘global village.’ Hello Internet.
“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.”
Adrienne Rich, as a poet, essayist and feminist activist, held strong to her convictions. Here is some ‘life advice’ from her, which has resonated even more crucially as counterbalance to the current political climate.
“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work … you don’t fall for shallow and easy solutions…”
Life Advice from Adrienne Rich – LitHub