When I did my first degree I also worked in a factory for a couple of days of the week. This meant that I could guarantee spending 2 hours at a stretch sitting at a machine with nothing to occupy me but my thoughts.
I wondered how to spend this time. I could not talk to my co-workers (the machines were VERY loud), so I was left with my thoughts. The obvious solution was to read and remember enough on the bus each morning to take me through the day – to find a wee bit of writing that would keep me going till the next break.
I’ve always had a fairly good memory, but this really helped me to embed certain bits of writing in my mind. The main book I read at the time was Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, and bits of that still float into my head and DEMAND to be understood. Others tap me on the shoulder as I am thinking about something else and help me to put things together and make more sense of them.
I was reticent, for many years, of using these in public lest anyone challenge my credentials. (Who am I to say what Wittgenstein really meant about a given topic?) But I think this reticence was unfounded. If the point of an aphorism is to provoke thought in the reader, then the intention of the writer is of no relevance, surely?
So I will make no apology for my use of Wittgenstein to inspire my writings. As Wittgenstein says:
“Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination”. (Philosophical Investigations Section 6)
I’m not arguing that there is no place for a careful examination of what an author meant, or intended, of course I’m not. I am saying that this is not the only way to use a writer.