Saturday, May 31, 2014


Sorry Mr Bailey, but I think you’re wrong. Perhaps you have never looked at the world through your own eyes (how else?) and thought about how strange it is to be you and no one else in the whole world. How everything around you is literally around you. Not around anyone else in exactly the same way.  How you can’t even see yourself properly in it without a mirror. And how very odd it all is.

What Bernard Bailey apparently said was that “when they discover the centre of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.” But you know what? We are it. We are each at the centre of our own special universe. This thought has lurked in the attic of my head all my life. Not up front and waving a flag, but popping in now and then to remind me how amazing it is.

I’ve occasionally introduced the idea to other people – as you do, when for example the conversation flags over the dinner table.  (True, as conversational starters go, it doesn’t come close to one of AJ’s memorable ones when he looked down at his pink leather tie and said “how do you like my tie? It’s been hand-pricked with a pin” but it isn’t too bad.)  Most don’t get it and give me funny looks. 

However, surely writers would get it. Most writers must be aware that their universe is not the same as other people’s. They make up stories. They invent people, and places for them to live, and things for them to do. Sometimes the people are ordinary, coping with real life, and generally can be perceived as regular human beings. Sometimes however they are aliens, weird and out of this world-ish, and might even live on other planets.

But whoever they are and whatever they do, they are not real. Before they appear on paper they have existed only in the writer’s mind. The writer has imagined them and perceived a world which they might inhabit. Even non-fiction writers – especially those who write histories and biographies – try to inhabit the minds of the people they are writing about and see their worlds through their eyes. To do that they must shift perspective from their own view to someone else’s, real or imagined.

I go along with Sir Winston Churchill who wouldn’t have agreed with Bernard Bailey either. Sir Winston thought that we each create our own universe as we go along. Makes more sense to me.


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