Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Do You Do to Stay Sane?

Research Digest asks: what do you do to stay sane? Tyler Cowen rounds up some plausible suspects: surprise hugs (watch it there, big guy); music. Commentators add good stuff, but I offer an item I haven't seen elsewhere: reading. But not just any kind of reading: I mean the kind of reading you turn to for solace, or as a means of therapy. Some people would interpret this to mean "reading the Bible;" actually, I can understand this choice, if you are choosy about how you read: (stick close to Song of Songs or Ecclesiastes; go easy on Leviticus). But my own choice would run elsewhere--specifically to Shakespeare, and Proust.

I don't want to make elaborate pretensions here: I don't think I've read an entire Shakespeare play, cover to cover since--oh, heavens, I can't remember when. But I do keep a copy of the Penguin Complete at the bedside, and I find it is the kind of thing I can dip into at any of 100 places and find something familiar and consoling and (often enough) still thrilling after all these years. Lately I've found I can do the same with Proust: in English at least; I am stretching for the French but I'm not there yet.

I can also work a bit with stuff that I have memorized: half a dozen Shakespeare sonnets, a scattering of speeches, fragments (mostly fragments) of other things; my only regret is that I haven't memorized more. Meanwhile:
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

1 comment:

Tina said...

I found a wonderful post on some of the great speakers of the included Shakespeare and Charlie Chaplin, ect. Thought you'd enjoy it.