The discussion topic today in my writing seminar was “What is Art?” We’d read an essay by Tolstoy and one by Valery, and we sat around the conference table for an interminable hour debating the metaphysics and semantics.
By we, I mean not-me. Because all I could think of was “What does this matter, when people are dying across the street?” I couldn’t say that, obviously, not to a group of artists. And I do think art — or Art — is important. But it felt so inutterably self-indulgent a debate I wanted to get out of there and go somewhere I felt comfortable, even if that somewhere is a labyrinth reeking of C difficile. It was small comfort to remember a quote (by Primo Levi?): To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. Which is not to say that what I’ve seen in the hospital even begins to approach those horrors. But it puts a certain perspective on things.
This is who I am now, after three years and change of medical education. What happened to the old me?