Saturday, December 1, 2012


Driving home this evening from Kingston upon Thames, I was listening to Radio 3 and was reminded what a versatile man Leonard Bernstein was, as here, conducting his own comic opera, Candide.

This struck me as a perfect choice for the man - Voltaire's text is of high moral purpose yet sceptical, satirical and humorous - and ends with one of the most pointed sentences in literature - that we should all cultivate our gardens. We should all take responsibility for what is in our purview, accepting both its limits and its possibilities. We should enterprise after knowing but totality of knowing lies beyond our, or anyone's, grasp.

It may not be the deepest of visions - and Bernstein, multiply gifted as he was, was not the most profound of composers - but it does carry a freight of tolerance and compassion that is realistic and attractive. I think I would like to be trapped in a lift (or indeed a garden) with Voltaire (or indeed Bernstein) in front of many more serious and weighty thinkers!

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