I have just come back from spending a happy half-hour in one of my favourite coffee shops reading a book, and, luckily, a good book, too. As I walked back home I pondered on what it is about the writing of a book which turns its words into something so meaningful that they can make me forget where I am, and can feel myself transported to some hidden place within me which nourishes my deepest feelings.
In my university days, I did a lot of thinking and writing
about just this – what makes one book an accumulation of clichés which teach me
nothing new about life, and another, as this book today did, helps me to a
greater understanding of the mysteries of life?
Perhaps the nearest we can get to an answer is by saying that in some way
what is written expresses something which we regard as universally true about
the human condition. Each new thought
then adds something to our understanding of human beings.
So my brief half-hour in the company of a German writer,
Martin Suter, who I have just been introduced to, has made me see the world with
slightly different eyes, subtly shifting my perspective. And the same is also, of course, true of
creative painters, sculptors, playwrights or poets. Or even, as happened yesterday, of film
directors, as I watched a film I had seen before, Strictly Ballroom, but for the first time on a large cinema screen
with a roomful of people all as entranced as I was, entranced enough to burst
into applause as the lights went up at the end.
How many new insights into life those with creative eyes
continue to reveal to us! And the more I
understand about human life, the more this feeds into my work as acupuncturist
with my patients. So although some
people may think that my half-hour this morning reading over my cup of coffee
might seem to be just wasting time, I see it as something quite different – as
helping to satisfy my curiosity about the nature of things.