"A human being is part of a whole called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself,  his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." Albert Einstein

How other people’s stories teach us who we are

It was DH Lawrence who said that “the only history is a mere question of one’s struggle inside oneself”. His point being that the collective story of humanity, whether in fact or fiction, as chronicled in the billions of words scratched onto paper and battered into computers by individuals across the world and throughout the ages, are testament to the enduring struggle that we all face to make sense of our place in the world.

The deceitfully simple idea that “to know thyself” is the reason for living, the ceaseless echo through the centuries of Socrates’ call that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, is the most maddening challenge there is.

As the philosopher Alan Watts once said: “Consciousness seems to be nature’s ingenious mode of self-torture.”

Why so? Because this interminable process of becoming who we are, of knowing what we should even aim to become, is exhausting. Writer or reader, the challenge is the same. We think therefore we suffer. That’s the unavoidable truth. The point is how you respond, which is where autobiographical accounts or indeed any story, fact or fiction, come in.

Read the rest of the article in the London Literary Review here.

The nauseating weight of words, via Harold Pinter

The art of not reading. Or, selective attention as a means for intellectual survival