Short post today.
Today I’ll be leading a day of Shared Reading at the Ashoka Headquarters on Old Ford Road, Bethnall Green, London. We’ll be reading parts of Jeanette Winterson’s powerful memoir and meditation on inner life, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, and some poems by a favourite poet of hers, and mine, George Herbert. I’m interested in seeing how ancient and modern languages for what we call ‘mental health’ or George Herbert called his ‘soul’, can fit together, and I’ve been reading, thinking and writing about that all week. Travelling to London yesterday I finished re-reading Winterson’s memoir, one of the most serious and truthful and straightforward books I’ve ever read.
Here’s a tiny taste:
…the energy of art is not time-bound. If it were we should have no interest in the art of the past, except as history or documentary. But our interest in art is our interest in ourselves both now and always. Here and forever…
I feel I could meditate on the first fragment of sentence here for an hour! ‘The energy of art’ made me think about what energy is and made me think also about the liberation of energy from writing by readers. The energy I’ve been getting all week from reading the poems of George Herbert. I have an immense sense that I simply don’t understand what literature, writing, reading is. It exists, and we know how to use it (in a rough, caveman way?) but we don’t really understand it nor what it can do for us.
I’ll be thinking about this as I read with the people I’m going to meet in Bethnall Green today.