A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I think about death most days. In fact I've done so probably since my early teens, from the time I became joltingly aware of my own mortality. (Lately I was pleased to find some solidarity in this habit on reading Julian Barnes' recent book Nothing To Be Frightened Of.) However I suspect I'm not unique. Indeed I'm willing to bet I'm in the great majority. The spectre of death haunts pretty well every serious work of art ever composed. Its feared arrival is the conscious or unconscious spur to most of what we do.

But there's nothing to be too despondent about. I'm no morbid character. In fact I like to think I'm joyful and optimistic on the whole (with a big streak of melancholy, which is why I like all those soulful June Tabor songs). I'm generally positive about life. I can get very excited and enthusiastic about things (conversely, very dejected too when things go wrong - a hint of manic depression there?) You see, it's the acute consciousness of the impermanence of things that makes things so poignantly wonderful, so achingly bittersweet. It's the awful knowledge of certain, impending death and destruction that makes things so unbearably beautiful. Death is the very mainspring of human striving and artistic endeavour; and the indisputable fact of life's transience is the very fact which gives life its value.

They say that all stories and myths and novels are based on just a handful of eternal plots and themes. Likewise I'm sure that all true poems, paintings, photographs, plays - all works of art - are in essence only about two things.


And death.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

1 comment:

forest wisdom said...

I believe you are correct.