Shadows in the sunlight

Walking in the October sunlight, in Richmond Park, the colours hardly changing, still the banks of green woodland as backdrop to sparkling water. A time of peace, which I then seek to analyse. It’s as if I am asking myself – what are the component parts of this peace? There is harmony of colour and form, but whence comes our appreciation of such harmony? At such times we feel good toward others, good without any prior motivation, so whence comes this altruism?  It was as if I must understand what I saw and heard before me, before I could appreciate it fully, and as I did I emptied out not all but some of the beauty. 

I then concluded I was over-analysing. Did Wordsworth do this in the Lake District two centuries ago, or Bach fifty and more years before that, or Yeats in all the turmoil of the Troubles?  No, they knew where they stood in relation to their world, they avoided self-consciousness,  and found a higher form of expression not least because they didn’t analyse.

Best on such autumn days just to enjoy the knowledge beyond words. The words will come in their own time. 


The greatest art comes when societies are shaking off bonds and discovering their identities, Bach born thirty years after the Thirty Years War, Wordsworth reacting intensely against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, and Yeats embodying that remarkable self-discovery that marked the Ireland of a hundred years ago. What have we in our own times? Less than 50% of Americans now believe in the American dream, we have a sense of a broken not a big society in our own land, we find identity in football not in any sense of our own creativity. So it’s not surprising that our art is valueless, and mimics the absence of identity and substance it finds around it. Arguably, in that sense it’s successful, but is success which merely confirms the disjunction we see all around us really worthy of the name?

And yet, taking this same fractured society, if we were only to view it, ourselves, and others, in a different way, see what binds rather than destroys, we might find we were living in a golden age.

2 thoughts on “Shadows in the sunlight

  1. Hi, Chris, just found the blog. With regard to your comments on art, I’d suggest it’s times of stress that produce creativity, at least in writing (for Wordsworth read the French Revolution, for Yeats the Irish Troubles). Similarly, the ’60s produced a cultural ferment in the USA that the following decades haven’t been able to match.
    What was the Chinese sage’s curse? May you live in interesting times?


    1. Times of change, yes, but stress maybe sounds too negative. Maybe the times are stressed (15th century Florence produced Savonarola after all) but great art is borne of a confidence that rises above it, a sense of finding answers. I agree on interesting times, but such times are so short-lived. New sensibilities get worn down, become predictable. What sets me thinking is why in our own time we have so failed to find anything that does other than mimic our condition. Little goes beyond it. Maybe art has changed forever in that way, in a world full of small ideas that’s all artists have to respond to… Hence my comment about binding rather than destroying, if only we could trade in big ideas again.

      Thanks for finding the blog. It needs to come up for air and find a few readers!


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