The Aardvark Blog
When All The Fierce Passions Cease
When All The Fierce Passions Cease
I have been thinking the last week about opinions and about how possible it is to truly hold to the liberal ideal in which everyone is free to express themselves however much their views are in conflict.
Last Monday we had a fantastic first May car boot event which attracted both new and old customers in large numbers. There were a lot of multi-generational family groups, and Byron who was on the front gate with me was also delighted to welcome many new canine customers (and their owners).
Yet sadly we also had an incident in which one customer abused another in a way which was totally unacceptable, and which when we heard about it, also upset all of us who work at Aardvark. For our little brotherhood (or personhood) here in the Aardvark family, like to think that we offer a space in which all are welcome irrespective of age, colour, creed or gender; and for which the only entry requirement is a love of culture (or outstanding homemade cake). Yet we are all fallen, and it is impossible to truly separate oneself from the blaring trumpets and discordant cymbals of our modern conflicts. You may say that it was forever thus. When Crabbe penned the line quoted above we were in conflict with France, and his life spanned numerous revolutions and societal changes.
However I do think that our modern social media-drenched society is particularly prone to discord and a reluctance to listen to the point of view of others. Yesterday we had a really lovely customer who in the course of general conversation revealed a host of opinions that would make most people blanch. We continued to offer our traditional Aardvark welcome and I am glad to say things did not get to the point of conflict. This is not cowardice, rather a continuation of the tradition of hospitality in which one looks for areas that will bind together, rather than seeking out those that will divide. But operating in this way is the exact opposite of modern political theory in which the whole point is to seek out those inflection points which will motivate people to agree with your side against your political foes.
This weekend the country has been celebrating the new King's coronation and opinions amongst Aardvark visitors have spanned the spectrum from extreme monarchist to rampant republicanism. Yet amazingly we have had no passionate disagreements and I think all have gone away with something to think about. So perhaps the Aardvark magic continues to work.
For myself I love the music and spectacle of the coronation, and the fact that 12 new pieces of music have come into the world as a result is enough cause for me to cheer lustily. We take our culture far too much for granted, and our world-beating musical heritage is too often treated as no more than ancient battered furniture. How much will the BBC save if it decimates its orchestras and the BBC Singers? A few pounds gained, but an ocean of loss. Our art, our music and yes! our literature are what we leave those who come after us. I am not sure how much Handel was paid to compose Zadok the Priest, but whatever it was I think we can safely say that we are now hugely into profit.
So, notwithstanding my personal politics I am more on the Huzzah side of things, than the boo bah humbug side. But both sides have their place and I wish that the Metropolitan Police had not gone in for close reading of Philip K Dick and moved to arrest people before they had done anything. Although now that they have this power perhaps they will be able to rid their ranks of their own miscreants before they trouble the wider populace.
But let me end with George Crabbe, doctor, clergyman and poet of ordinary life. Beloved of Byron (in this case the poet rather than the bookshop dog), who said of him in his scandalous anonymous satire of literary life that he was 'nature's sternest painter, but the best'. Friend of Samuel Johnson and such is the way of cultural longevity, now as good an adviser on how to conduct our modern dialogue as we are likely to find. As he writes in his poem 'Experience':
When all the fiercer passions cease
(The glory and disgrace of youth):
When the deluded soul in peace,
Can listen to the voice of truth:
When we are taught in whom to trust,
And how to spare, to spend, to give,
(Our prudence kind, our pity just),
'Tis then we rightly learn to live.
Published by Aardvark Books Ltd on (modified )
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