The French novelist Michel Houellebecq has written of the power of literature to separate yourself from your existence. It is something that I experience when reading an absorbing novel or occasionally when reading an outstanding scientific paper on a subject that interests me. However, it happens more often when I am writing and perhaps is a reason why I write regularly and frequently. Houellebecq has also written that ‘only literature can give you the sensation of contact with another human mind’ [in Submission, 2015]. Is it only literature that can produce this sensation? Or, does it occur when you listen to an in-depth interview or even when you read posts regularly from a blogger? Perhaps after 500 posts [see ‘500th post‘ on February 2nd, 2022] you have a sensation of contact with some part of my mind.
I wrote some weeks ago about art challenging the way we think and artists being spokespeople for society [see ‘Spokesperson for society’ on August 28th, 2019] and also about ‘Taking a sketch instead of snapping a photo’ [on September 3rd, 2019]. My photo of the sketch taken by Rennie Mackintosh was snapped at an exhibition in Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool; and, on the wall of the gallery was a quote from Rennie Mackintosh: ‘All artists know that pleasure derivable from their work is their life’s pleasure – the very spirit and soul of their existence’. I feel the same way about my work as an engineer and I think that many of my colleagues would agree with me. In my welcome talk to new engineering undergraduate students last week, I used this quote and tried to convey the extent to which science and engineering is a part of my existence and how I hoped it would become a part of their life. I am not sure that I convinced very many of them.