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What use are writers anyway?

Currently on holiday in Southern Australia, chauffeuring around Ms. Cigut on one of her wine tours. It was in a wine cellar, maybe the fifteenth or twentieth we’ve visited since we arrived, and tasting possible the hundredth wine of our tour that I suddenly realized something.

Without words, it is impossible to keep track of everything we’ve tasted. The experience of tasting can be intense or subdued, lengthy or short, nice or appalling — but as soon as it’s finished, it’s over. You may be lucky to have a memory that stores feelings, tastes and flavors, but I don’t and I doubt many have. For many things, I need to commit my experiences to words, otherwise they disappear, and I am left in the instant. I can say whether I enjoy what I’m doing at the moment, but I don’t have any basis for comparison with the past, or with other people’s experience.

Without the word, we are left alone in the now and the self.

I think that’s what writers are useful for: giving us a sense of time and the other. We can still read Plato, Pepys or Proust and get a sense of what it was like to live in their time, what they felt and what they thought. Their aims and styles may be wildly different, but that’s the range of human experience.

Without books, we would be stuck in the here and now. We would be like animals. We wouldn’t be human…

Happy new year to all.

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