A State of Wonder

22 Aug

Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827

In Sten Nadolny’s fine novel The Discovery of Slowness, the polar explorer John Franklin attends a recital of Beethoven sonatas on 9th May 1845. During the performance of the opus 111 sonata, “John felt he was actually meeting the fine skeleton of all thought, the elements, and the ephemeral nature of all structures, the duration and slippage of all ideas. He was imbued with insight and optimism. A few moments after the final note sounded he suddenly knew, There is no victory and no defeat. These are arbitrary notions that float about in concepts of time invented by man.”

While it might not be a realistic objective for most of us to achieve this state of immaculate insight very often – supermarket shopping, tax statements, the MOT, and for some of us the basic dignity of finding work, all this stuff gets in the way – we are all gifted these moments of clarity, we all catch the occasional glimpse, and if we are lucky we build up a store of such experiences, an archive of rare encounters with the transcendent. Normally such moments are not instructive to others, nor in fact are they easy to elucidate or express. But cumulatively they create a cluster, form a chain reaction, each epiphany linked mysteriously to all those that have come before, in a steady act of making. I am reminded of the words of the pianist Glenn Gould that I quoted in The Vagabond’s Breakfast: “The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”

Sometimes it swings this way, and sometimes the world has other plans.

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3 Responses to “A State of Wonder”

  1. janfortune August 22, 2011 at 14:23 #

    A bit of synchronisity – been thinking about just this theme in a poem I’m working on

  2. Vivian Darkbloom September 24, 2011 at 11:29 #

    Have just typed “Sten Narodny” into Google, and you appeared to be the only man, woman or child on the Internet who’d ever heard of him. Eventually tracked him down under “Sten Nadolny”. Do you know something we don’t?

    Hoping you’re well,

    Vivian Darkbloom

    • richardgwyn September 24, 2011 at 11:51 #

      Ah, Ms Darkbloom, this is a typo. Blanco will correct it immediately. Thank you for drawing it to his attention.

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