A Mortal Week

Went up to the university a couple of nights ago to see Martin Amis talk about violence in literature with Blake Morrison and John Gray (well, you can’t have everything). Amis started the evening by saying that ‘I think I know you well enough by now, after three or four years, to tell you that this has been a mortal week for me.’ His mother died last week, and as you’ve probably heard, Christopher Hitchens has just started treatment for cancer of the esophagus.

John McAuliffe, who hosts many of the Centre for New Writing events, made a interesting point: that our ultimate cultural signifer is a victim of violence, Christ tortured half to death on the cross.

It reminded me of a point made by P Z Myers:

We live in a culture where the contorted body of a tortured criminal is an important signifier of the human condition… It has short-circuited natural human thoughts and feelings into a dead-end chase after the transcendant rather than the immanent. 

If we want a signifier for the human condition, imagine the culture we would live in now if, instead of a dead corpse on an instrument of torture, our signifier was a child staring in wonder at the stars.

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