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12th April

To go through life without an image of yourself

The Irish/British author and philosopher Iris Murdoch wrote in her novel The Bell that the chief requirement of a good life is to live without an image of ourselves.


I’ve been thinking for days about what she meant. Does not having an image of yourself mean that you do not visualize yourself in a particular situation?  That might be taking it too literally. Perhaps she simply referred to being focussed on others rather than ourselves.


The lady who took care of us when we were young immediately comes to mind.  Her whole life was about helping others. She anticipated our needs and when she noticed that one of us was a bit down, she’d invent little games, take that person for a walk, or prepare their favorite dish. When she was in a retirement home she ran errands for those who were less mobile and cheered up others with stories and songs. It was as if she both lost and found herself by making a difference.


Like her, there are nurses, teachers, doctors and mothers who are selflessly dedicated to others, sometimes under challenging circumstances.


I admire them and I too would like to be so focused that I lose myself. Although I am always looking to make connections with others, at times I find myself ruminating, particularly about how I could have done things better. Maybe that's why I was so taken by what Iris Murdoch wrote. I would like to live life outwards, so that wonderment takes over from pointless inner criticism.


That sense of wonderment does happen when I see the videos of the artists we work with. And I occasionally have it when I sit at my writing desk surprised by the words that appear on the screen. That is when I live without an image of myself, while I create an image that reflects who I am.

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