Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pondering quietude

As someone prone, as you know, to talking and writing too much, I'm struck somewhat dumb in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. There's a flood of commentary already and I don't particularly want to add to it, other than registering horror at some of the responses - whether it's world leaders rushing in where angels fear to tread and doing exactly what the terrorists want them to do, or the Republican state governors in the US who are refusing to let any refugees in, or the Daily Fail printing a cartoon that appears to liken refugees to rats, echoing anti-Semitic cartoons of the 1930s (NB, they have the freedom to print these things and we also have the freedom to be openly disgusted by them without advocating murder), or...the list could go on. I'm not wholly convinced we have leaders in possession of the necessary wisdom to handle this.

Personally I always remember my parents telling me, when I was a scared child (in 1970s London, where there were frequent IRA bomb threats) not to be afraid, and not to stop doing the things I do, because that is what terrorists want. Even so, yesterday I felt so wobbly about my husband going off on tour today that I stayed home for an evening instead of going to a concert I very much wished to attend (Andras Schiff's recital at the Wimbledon Festival).

We could ponder, instead, the necessity of quietude. Quiet time for reflection. The ability to stop and think and let the dust settle. The ability to take time to consider every aspect of something before rushing to action and possibly getting it wrong. Call it mindfulness if you must, but it's very valuable and, in these noisy days, underrated.

If in doubt, and if music helps quietude - if that's not a contradiction in terms - listen to Bach.

Here is my favourite Bach cantata. It was one of Brahms's favourites too, as it turns out.