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.