A guest poem suggested by Linnea:
Gil-galad was an elven king
of him the harpers sadly sing
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the mountains and the sea.
His lance was long his sword was keen
his shining helm afar was seen.
The countless stars of heaven’s field
were mirrored in his silver shield.
Then long ago he rode away
and where he dwelleth none can say.
For into darkness fell his star,
in Mordor where the shadows are.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings
The best metaphor for our DNA is literature. Like all classic literary texts, our genome is defined not by the certainty of its meaning, but by its linguistic instability, its ability to encourage a multiplicity of interpretations. What makes a novel or a poem immortal is its innate complexity, the way every reader discovers in the same words a different story.
~ Jonah Lehrer, Proust Was a Neuroscientist
I’m not sure I totally (or even mostly) agree with this. I think sometimes what makes a novel or poem immortal is the fact that among all of the multiplicity of interpretations that a particular sequence of words could convey, occasionally a piece of literature manages to evoke a common experience in its readers, something they can speak about, write about, and share with one another. But Lehrer sure does sound smooth and winning, and I’m enjoying his book (which is, incidentally, a rather slim paperback).
Their walk had brought them into broad Chambers Street. The group had changed its order, and was now walking three abreast, with Miss Brodie in front between Sandy and Rose. “I am summoned to see the headmistress at morning break on Monday,” said Miss Brodie. “I have no doubt Miss Mackay wishes to question my methods of instruction. It has happened before. It will happen again. Meanwhile, I follow my principles of education and give of my best in my prime. The word ‘education’ comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion, from the Latin root prefix in, meaning in and the stem trudo, I thrust. Miss Mackay’s is to thrust a lot of information into the pupil’s head; mine is a leading out of knowledge, and that is true education as is proved by the root meaning. Now Miss Mackay has accused me of putting ideas into my girls’ heads, but in fact that is her practice and mine is quite the opposite. Never let it be said that I put ideas into your head. What is the meaning of education, Sandy?”
“To lead out,” said Sandy…
From The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
And a clip from Maggie Smith in her Oscar-winning performance as Miss Jean Brodie in her prime (the latest reason I’ve still got library fines…):