I really enjoyed this collection of 5 essays, which were part of a CBC Radio Massey Lecture series in 1985 They were not only fascinating but they also really challenged my thinking. Lessing’s main premise is that although this generation knows more about themselves than any other, they are not utilizing that information to better their lives:
“I believe that people coming after us will marvel that on the one hand we accumulated more and more info about our behaviour, while on the other, we made no attempt at all to use it to improve our lives.”
I enjoyed Lessing. She’s a profound and insightful writer, witty and sarcastic too. She’s an advocate of literature, the social sciences and history and sees the great importance, the need of these, in this world. I was really impressed by her analysis of these disciplines (and was at the same time glad because that’s my academic focus). I never would have thought of saying that a writer is “almost like an organism, which has been evolved by society as a means of examining itself” but that’s what Lessing said and it makes sense; I love this thought.
Another point that Lessing made that spoke to me was the prevalence of group minds and the lack of, but the need for, individuality:
“Does everything always have to be so predictable? Do people really have to be such sheep?”
Lessing really drove home the point that we, as thinking humans, should question everything.
I can already tell that Lessing is going to be one of my favourite writers and I’m looking forward to reading more of her writing. I only wish I had discovered her before she passed away.
A link to Lessing’s Massey Lectures is found below: