Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ Those are some lines from T. S. Eliot’s great poem ‘Little Gidding.’ Eliot lived through the trauma of the First World War, through personal trauma, the nervous breakdown of his wife, his own depression through bereavement, the loss of one of his closest friend, and was very conscious of himself growing old. So many of the issues that we faced in the course come together. And Eliot gathered together his thoughts, and at the conclusion of his great meditation, said, well, we’ve come to the end. But in a way, we’re back at the beginning.
Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds But somehow, we know where we are for the first time. And that’s a little bit how I feel at the end of this extraordinary experience we’ve had over the last few weeks. Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground, haven’t we, from heartbreak, which I think we think about as something we experience as a young person– having your heart broken for the first time. And yet in the course, we looked at people who were dying of heartbreak in their eighties, right the way to ageing, dementia. So in a sense, we have come full circle. We have– It’s like Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man.’ We’ve come full circle. But we’ve covered so much ground in this course.
Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds And I think for me, the extraordinary thing about the course has been the generosity of all the people that we’ve spoken to who have participated, who have often opened their hearts to us about really, really difficult times. And in a way, the experience we’ve had in the course of people sharing how literature has helped them to get through difficult times– the argument of the course, if you like, has been exemplified by the very process of doing the interviews and people and opening up.
Skip to 2 minutes and 7 seconds We can only hope that our Learners have had that same experience. So for us, this has been a very humbling but incredibly enriching and rewarding experience. So what I’d like to say is just keep reading.
As we reach the end of the course, we’d like to take a moment to look back on the past six weeks, and to reflect on the journey we have taken together.
The following words from T. S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’ seemed especially pertinent:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot (1888–1965)
We feel that we have, in many ways, come full circle in this course, beginning and ending with poems by Wordsworth, and addressing various emotional challenges that we encounter at different stages in our lives.
At the outset of the course we said that all sorts of forms of professional help and counselling are available if you are suffering from any of the conditions we have been discussing. Please seek professional help from your medical practitioner or the charities and care organisations, like Samaritans. We have not, in any sense, tried to substitute for the work of professional health care. But we hope you agree with us that there is something extra that serious reading can offer.
We would like to thank all of you for joining the conversation. We have been incredibly moved by the honesty and thoughtfulness of your comments, and we are also thrilled to see learners interacting with and supporting one another.
We encourage you to continue the conversation with us through the Reading for Wellbeing charity, ReLit website, on Twitter and on the ReLit charity Facebook page. Watch out for announcements regarding other initiatives.
We would also like to thank our amazing production team at the University of Warwick led by David Hopkins, to Rachael Hodge for the huge task of overseeing your remarkable comments, and to all our interviewees who gave their time completely for free because they believe in the work of ReLit. If you feel that you have benefited from our free course and would like to assist us in helping others, please consider supporting ReLit by donating, or by purchasing a copy of our poetry anthology Stressed Unstressed, proceeds from which are donated to the charity.
And keep reading!
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Jonathan and Paula
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