Who would we be?, by Susan Sontag

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A writer, I think,
is someone
who pays attention
to the world.

That means
trying
to understand,
take in, connect with

what wickedness
human beings
are capable of,
and not be corrupted –

made cynical,
superficial –
by this understanding.
Literature can tell us

what the world
is like.
Literature can give standards
and pass on deep knowledge,

incarnated
in language,
in narrative.
Literature can train,

and exercise,
our ability to weep
for those
who are not us or ours.

Who would we be
if we could not sympathise
with those
who are not us or ours?

Who would we be
if we could not forget
ourselves,
at least some of the time?

Who would we be
if we could not learn?
Become something
other than what we are?

Susan Sontag, from At the Same Time

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