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The mood of the first week of January is usually pensive, and so here’s my first strange thought of the year. T.S. Eliot, who died 50 years ago today, saw the early 20th century as “a cooking egg” – an egg which is no longer fresh but can still be used in cooking. The central figure in the poem A Cooking Egg reminisces on the glory of the past and which by doing so reveals the ingloriousness of the present. He lives in an age of reflection and inaction, a “penny world” that used to emulate history’s heroes but which is fast disappearing.

In memory of Eliot, I wondered what might represent my present. The “cooking egg” is no longer a fitting analogy in the age of refrigeration. Might the early 21st century be described as a “condiment sachet”? It never seems to expire, is low-cost or free, accommodates to individuals’ needs, and readily available with no necessary human contact. In comparison, the 21st century is an era of convenience but also impatience, of forward-thinkers and patronisers, of tolerance and blame, and of rapid technological progress at the expense of spiritual progress.

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