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)
Nothing sets off my Modern Prometheus alarms as the most recent interest in gene editing, particularly in that little bit of Crispr that seems to find its way into biological gene forms. Just like Victor Frankenstein creating his creature from dead body parts in Mary Shelley’s novel from 1818, we now have scientists in China working to find the way to ‘edit’ genes like the ones that they suspect cause cancer. Sound like fun? It didn’t turn out so well for Victor, and without actually understanding what’s happening with genetic ‘disorders,’ is it such a good idea to shoot in the dark?
“Modern gene editing is quite precise but it is not perfect. The procedure can be a bit hit and miss, reaching some cells but not others. Even when Crispr gets where it is needed, the edits can differ from cell to cell … Another common problem happens when edits are made at the wrong place in the genome. [oops!] There can be hundreds of these “off-target” edits that can be dangerous if they disrupt healthy genes or crucial regulatory DNA.”
But it’s already happening, right?
A bit of micro-cutting to get those genes back into tip-top shape! Victor Frankenstein eat your heart out. Boris may be closer than you think!
Gene editing – and what it really means to rewrite the code of life
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