|Spiral path at Château de Choisy-le-Roi, France. (Image: Wikimedia Commons.)|
Recently I've had more time to read than usual — a case of enforced immobility due to a sprained hamstring. And it's made me realise just how much I love books (though I suppose I always knew that). Reading wakens me up, proves I'm alive, stimulates and provokes me. It stretches my horizons and reveals other lives, other worlds, other points of view and perspective. Equally it also goes inward, deepening the mind, refreshing the spirit and invigorating the soul. It illuminates things within myself I didn't know were there; it reconfirms things I'd put to one side and forgotten. It's a beacon in what can sometimes seem the darkness and boredom of routine life. It tells me that we are not alone in the world, that we are all in this together, struggling through as best we can.
It's also really come home to me how one book leads on to another, how one writer suggests a further one, how one textual clue has you chasing a second clue which provides a third clue and so on, ad infinitum. Literature is a connective web, an endless maze, a labyrinth in which you can both lose and find yourself.
For example, reading a narrative on DH Lawrence a few weeks ago led me to Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu and Thomas Merton. And from Thomas Merton's journals I see that I've scribbled down in my notebook the names Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian; Shantideva, the eighth-century Indian Buddhist scholar; Julian of Norwich, the English Christian mystic; Eugenio Montale, the Italian poet, prose writer, editor and translator; René Char, the twentieth-century French poet; César Vallejo, the Peruvian poet described variously as 'the greatest universal poet since Dante' and 'the greatest poet in any language'; and DT Suzuki, the Japanese author of books on Buddhism, Zen and Shin, who was instrumental in bringing these philosophies to the West — all referenced in Merton's text. And if I investigate all these fascinating religious and poetic byways, where will all these extra new writings take me? Truly, literature is an infinitely exciting world of discovery and exploration.
(If you interested in my accounts of reading Lawrence, Merton, Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu — and more recently Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Verlaine and Rimbaud — do check out the latest posts on Turnstone.)