I have just come back from the doctor's surgery. Oh, I'm fine - better than I thought in fact, hence the enthusiasm as I sit down to afflict my small audience once again. What it was is not the subject of this debate, but it did bring up in my mind a term heard in many medical conference peregrinations: is it operable?
They tell me epic poetry has a precise function in our brain, and that is to live out an experience without actually having to endure it. Say, understand what war teaches us without the mess. That is good, and I would extend the concept to events we work at. From behind the glass, we are able to experience without joining in, if you see what I mean, and once the tiredness is vanquished, we emerge cleansed, pure and wiser.
Once the tales of heroes leave Greece and reach Rome (I am getting to the point), they seem to acquire another dimension. Romans love heroes too, but they serve better if they are distant, untouchable and, well... dead. If you want to live forever, you'd better get killed first. It is our little way of getting rid of people: it happens with politicians, religious leaders...read today's papers and take your pick.
So what is this post about? Well, I am wondering what latent exposure to all these worlds of words for a day or two at a time does to us. And what will happen next. Sherlock Holmes states that you should "tell a weaver by his tooth", and I'm thinking about the effect I have on my unwitting fellow men and women when we meet in any social context. Okay, hold the irony there. They may meet an eloquent human being, who can probably hold a conversation on most topics for at least three minutes. Cool. Yes, because differently to an airline pilot who can choose to leave his job at the door of any club he is about to spend the evening in safe in the knowledge that he won't encounter a plane there, words are everywhere. And try as we might to lighten the register for the night, the wordsmith will still show - or split personality must ensue.
Then come the reactions. You are seen as the Ferryman of Meaning, the Charon whose surgical precision allows the world to turn and be such a lovely place. Naturally, this will be expressed in more concrete terms than I am able to summon - namely the question "What happens if you don't know one of the words the speaker says?" A more prosaic compliment is "Wow, your brain must have the biggest RAM ever!" Normally, I smile my best Etruscan smile, betraying the melancholy that knows that machines one day will replace me.
No comments, please, they will. The only thing I want to know is what to do about it, given that if machines became just as good, I mean really precisely like a flesh and blood practitioner, the honest thing to do in theory would be to bow out. In addition, far from being what evoked above, more often than not I feel like a wayfarer peddling second hand significance hardly able to re-write history with his lips.
Here's a thought: could exposure to many (or no) truths make us unique? Not in the sense that we will know the Truth, but that we are inclined to pine for it in a loving and transverse way. And people need and love people who in turn to do the same. Think of it: why do you buy hand-made? Or at least, why is it more precious? It is certainly not more perfect, but is endowed with that emotional impact, like the one odd colour in an Arabian weft stating that only God does not need perfecting. Someone has worked for you. Someone at that instant is thinking of you. Of course, it may be a niche church. It's perhaps for fewer than we thought. Some may think of it as a luxury - and I would point out that the current economic climate seems to be sparing this market segment - but this and no other will be the reason the professional linguist may still be alive a few years from now, as far as I can see from here.
You think it's an idealist stance? No, far fetched? Eccentric? Okay, crazy?
Ah, but, yet, however, I mean, you must remember that...
Care to join in?