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.
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.