Friday, March 12, 2010

stains, bells, blackbirds

After the rain and the wind, leaf stains are left on the brick pavement by damp leaves which have dried and blown away.

Catching up with a podcast on the BBC's History of the World in 100 Objects, I am left with the image of an ancient, Chinese bell in The British Museum. And the Confucian belief that sets of bells are symbols of a harmonious society, where virtuous individuals work together for the common good. As I dwell on this, the thought creeps up on me that the recent collapse of capitalist economics in the West and the moral vacuum it has left behind, has left us with a society remote from harmonious principles. We are ruled by the pragmatic. Vanished from the political horizon is any but the worst sort of idealism. "The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of a passionate intensity". Voters, confronted by politicians who can no longer truly boast a moral compass, find themselves depressed and uninspired. Bells are beautiful things - church bells, Chinese bells. The programme, I think to myself, is a timely reminder to think about a harmonious society, however remote it may be, and to strive for one. If you have a bell, ring one.

There is one side of The Grove where, just recently, there are always blackbirds, male and female, pecking at the grass. I have counted eight at one time and there are seldom fewer that three or four in evidence. I suspect that, come the Spring, they will break away from the group to mate and to take over separate territories. Meanwhile, when I walk that way, as I do this afternoon, there is a little prickle of excitement in counting their number.
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Lucas said...

Bells are indeed beautiful and the carrilons which they produce were once a common part of everyday life.A few years ago our local Church could not afford to keep its bells going, then they replaced them with a very poor quality recording of bells. Now there is just the silence.
Bring back bells, real bells.
The leaves are very delicately printed on the pavement, even nicer when enlarged by clicking.

Roderick Robinson said...

I'm not sure the collapse of capitalist economics in the West has left a moral vacuum; such a vacuum existed during the prelude to that collapse; everything was slightly more comfortable then and we weren't looking inwards.

As to a time when politicians could boast a moral compass, when was this? One or two individuals perhaps (Robin Cook, Roy Jenkins, at a stretch Harold Macmillan) but very rarely en masse. Even the 1945 - 51 Atlee government which shaped our present welfare state was bogged down with all sorts of political compromises mainly as a result of the Americans withdrawing financial credit. I am reading "Austerity Britain" by David Kynaston which provides a contemporary picture of what we now regard as a golden age of advancement and most would have laughed harshly at that description. Came the election and they showed it.

Unknown said...

I think your're right. The vacuum has been there for a number of years and, I think, led to the collapse. Politicians may have lacked a moral compass in the past, but nevertheless operated in a more moral atmosphere than exists nowadays. I am not hopeful that a society operating on harmonious principles is possible. I simply had a fit of nostalgia for the time when there was more evidence of kindness and benign idealism in public life. Politicians spouting morality isn't a good thing, either. All I wanted, in a thoughtless moment, was the sound of Chinese bells and the imagined voice of Confucius pointing a way.