Sitting indoors with the makings of a cold on a wet winter Sunday, catching up on yesterday's newspaper, my eye lights on the word "amusia".
For a moment, I thought of a mythical country where the national sport might be giggling, the national anthem Will You Stop Your Tickling, Jock, and the most solemn day of the year would feature the laying of a wreath of water-squirting flowers to commemorate those who died laughing. But like all utopias, it would have its dystopian side: can you imagine what Kafka would have made of The Laughing Policeman?
As it happens, the reality of amusia would be even worse for me: the inability to recognise music as music. It's discussed in Oliver Sacks's book Musicophilia (another one to add to the pile of fascinating things to find out about), but I remember now there was a flurry of interest about a year ago, about the Delosis online test. (I've just done it again, and from what I recall, my score's gone up since I did it a year ago - I seem to be more aware of rhythmic variations).
We might occasionally debate whether it would be worse to lose one's sight or one's hearing. Heaven knows, I hope never to find out. But if there's one thing worse than losing the hearing of music, it would be having hearing but experiencing music as a meaningless clatter indistinguishable from all the other extraneous noise of the world. Imagine, none of the inspiration or consolations of great music (or of the cheaply potent).