17 December 2020

And Peace Shall Return

Our capacity for denial is stronger than our capacity for belief. We find it easier to not face the truth. We go on living our ordinary lives while refusing to believe the overwhelming evidence that our way of life is self-destructive. A prisoner of the past, we go on doing things which we know are killing us. Worse, we believe that the inevitable conclusion of all our deeds will not come to pass. We think that somehow, at the last minute, there will be a miracle, a magical solution. We possibly even hope that factors in nature we hadn’t considered will somehow wipe clean the slate of our cultural and environmental crimes.


Ben Okri

I could've done worse than read this story by Ben Okri (link here, go on it's excellent). 

But only barely so. The title is inviting but seriously misleading for all of us who believe we are on top of things and superior to, say, the common fruit fly. Reading it did all sorts of things to me, I cried, I admit that much.

To counteract any feelings of hopelessness, I am listening to/watching a live performance by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra directed by Daniel Barenboim. They are playing Beethoven to celebrate the composer's 250th birthday. Beethoven was born a few miles down the road from where I sit right now and this concert comes live from our city's opera house. 

The musicians sit spaced safely apart, they all wear masks, apart from the woodwind and brass players. Daniel Barenboim plays the piano and does not wear a mask, he shed a few tears during the Largo (second movement of Beethoven's piano concerto no. 3).

I am not particularly attached to classical music (I wrote about why this is so here) but I like the idea of it being a freebie (thank you covid) and that I can do some editing, i.e. paid work, while listening. 

And I also think highly of Daniel Barenboim.

We just had a break in performance and now Mr Barenboim is back with a mask on and we're off with the do do do doo at the start of the fifth symphony.  In another lifetime, when I was just about to become a rebel, I had to write a school essay on the second movement of this symphony and the ongoing motif  with its apparent sunny nature and its source (a Franconian folk song, I kid you not) in contrast to the fateful tone of the first movement. It all comes back to me now. Honestly, school! Now, today, I can finally use this knowledge. After all the trials and tribulations of the past almost 50 years. Here we are, thank you Beethoven, thank you secondary education.

Actually, the second movement is quite lovely to listen to.


  1. I like some classical music but then that's true of most genre's, there are select musical renditions I enjoy -- may be a certain type instrumentation, arrangement, performer, the melody or tune itself. Also, my mood influences what I want to listen to sometimes. Other times music may create my mood. If I'm in a droopy state it's sometimes best that I avoid music that feeds into that mental condition as I'll just sink lower. This second movement is lovely

  2. I read your link and I'm so sorry. I had a good mum, not perfect but good and loving. I don't think I realize how lucky I was.

    My parents didn't listen to much music so I've never gotten in the habit. I like some classical music but don't know much about it but I can't imagine having to write an essay about a musical piece. Horrors.

  3. We listened to music often when I was growing up, but never classical. I wish we had, but it was more lively show tunes and modern songs we could dance to. I plan to read the link you provided. It sounds like something I will find familiar in my own feelings about humans on this earth.

  4. I have very little knowledge behind my appreciation of various music styles. I've avoided Christmas music this season, and enjoyed "calm relaxing music" almost constantly. It's not classical, which I do enjoy often. Thanks for the Ben Okri quote. I'd like to re-quote him when I write my post on "The New Normal" in a few days...also giving your link to this post. Thanks so much. I've already got a good link about confronting racism.

  5. I hear you on all counts. I recommend Naomi Klein's book on environmental catastrophe. I've also been listening to a lot of Yo Yo Ma -- his music and face while playing are both sublime.

  6. I had not read your earlier post before. For a moment I was there with you, in the dark waiting, in the room waiting. Always waiting, always worried.

  7. "... It seems, from their notes, that their gods died a long time ago. Then towards the end, they declared the final death of God and ascended the throne. The results are unedifying. It does perhaps show that it is easier to kill off the gods or dethrone one than it is to be one. They conducted the final catastrophe of the human race as gods of an earth devoid of mystery ..."

    ".. Perhaps a people’s capacity for change is only as great as their true conception of their spiritual patrimony ..."

    For me, that is a story that is meant to be heard rather than read. It was disturbing to read. Something told me to go back and read it again but instead of reading it a second time, I listened. For me, the experience was still disturbing but had an added emotional dimension when I listened rather than read. There was compassion in the voice. It could have been the voice in Robinson Jeffers' poetry on a similar theme. What I'm most moved by is that in this story we on earth are not the only conscious beings in the universe. A conscious being, a wiser being, not of earth, tells the story and sees and feels the vulnerable beauty of our planet.

    Thank you for the link to what you wrote about your mother and classical music some time ago. What you wrote helped me then and helped me today.

    Thank you for the beautiful music.

  8. music was not part of my upbringing. I have no memory of my parents playing music in the home, either albums or radio. oh they had a few albums, movie musicals or comedy albums that were rarely played. christmas music on christmas eve. music didn't enter my life til middle school with R&B and rock and roll. wasn't a big fan of folk music. all this to say that classical music never entered my sphere. oh except for when I was in private school through grade 7. I would always sign up for the optional field trip to the symphony which I always enjoyed but generally fell asleep during at some point. and having to write an essay comparing the first and second movement of a Beethoven composition in American public school? hahahahaha. music and art are the first things cut when budgets get tight. well, art first, then music. gotta have that marching band for the football games.

    but yeah, we humans are oblivious to the destruction we cause. the planet has had such a capacity to absorb our destruction but even the planet cannot cope any longer. I read The Sheep Look Up in my early 20s. it made me cry with despair and informed my life of recycling/reuse/reduce, eschewing poisons, and nurturing the earth.

  9. Let's hope that Wagner wasn't gifted with powers of prediction that equalled the glorious level of his music. That what happens in the last act of Götterdämmerung isn't a foretaste of Covid-19's epilogue. Ah yes, we may say, but that only happened to the gods. But alas there are a number of present-day leaders who fancy themselves in that kind of role.