Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Saved. What shall I do?

Thought of Anna Spafford's heartbreaking telegram this evening when I was at a concert in a Robert Adams house in Mansfield Street. It was a debut performance by a brilliant young piano trio - made possible by the Nicholas Boas charitable trust.
The colour of a Robert Adams' ceiling is  celestial blue. (Celestial is perhaps the only word. It's not as green as Eau du Nil and nowhere near as bright and enamelled as Cornflower).
Nicholas Boas died tragically young. His parents set up a charity in his memory and now hold concerts at their home in Mansfield Street, where young musicians have the chance to stage concerts at the start of their careers - often prior to performing at the Wigmore Hall.
This seems an extraordinary act of grace.

Earlier, on the train up from Cornwall, sped through Seneca's On the Shortness of Life,
See a link - the notion of a dignified and measured way of living. Life isn't short, Seneca says. It's only short if you let it slip by.

Key thoughts:
- distraction is more damaging than almost anything else. (The damage done by mobile phones and emails! - my thought, not Seneca's)
- the study of philosophy is key to a life lived well.
- regular reflection is essential
- as is sage management of time. (great men in Rome factored in holidays on certain days every month)

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.

…we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. Just as when ample and princely wealth falls to a bad owner, it is squandered in a moment, but wealth however modest , if entrusted to a good custodian, increased with use, so our lifetime extends amply if you manage it properly. 
… it is generally agreed that no activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied – not rhetoric or liberal studies – since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply, but rejects everything which is, so to speak, crammed into it.
…learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived, long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbour, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.
Life is divided into three periods, past, present and future. Of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain…..
It is the mind that is tranquil and free from care which can roam through all the stages of its life: the minds of the preoccupied, as if harnessed in a yoke, cannot turn round and look behind them.
 And so the preoccupied are concerned only with the present, and it is so short that it cannot be grasped, and even this is stolen from them while they are involved in their many distractions.
Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are truly alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs....

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy