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2005 wk 2 quote

"My father still reads the dictionary every day. He says that your life depends on your power to master words."
Arthur Scargill, Trade Unionist leader. 1938-

What I particularly like about this quote is the double-meaning in it, a meaning you suspect Scargill Snr was deliberate to include. It seems hyperbolic, the idea that "your life depends on" something - as if without the mastery of words you would literally die - yet your quality of life, your everyday existence, does depend to an alarming extent on your understanding. Without understanding, it is impossible to fight for a better life.

I'm going to ignore the whole 1980s Miners' Strike potential in this quote, partially because I'll only get riled up and start muttering darkly about Thatcher and partially because there is nothing worse than someone reminiscing for a time when she wore her Red Wedge heart on her school bag. Besides, it is an easy enough topic to find online. No, the element of this quote which interests me is Scargill Snr's choise of autodidactic learning: reading the dictionary. Emily Dickenson did it as well. I simply can't imagine reading the dictionary as an illuminating means of learning. That is doubtless because I have a dire memory and require contextualisation in order to retain the meaning(s) of words. "Reading the dictionary" seems to be a pared down process: no time-wasting distractions into fiction or fantasy, just the word, its pronounciation and its meaning(s). The question is, does it work as a way of improving oneself or do you have to have the kind of burning determination to follow a course no matter what else happens?

(Still running behind on these. There were cocktails, and stuff.)

Posted @ 3:48 pm on Saturday, January 15, 2005
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