Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Having just written that, I read the following in W.H.Auden's wonderful commonplace book, A Certain World. This is not, like most of the book, a cherished quotation, it is written by Auden. As with much of what he writes - or, indeed, Mozart composes - the tone is deceptive; he uses lightness to disguise depth. This, to me, is an exalted form form of good manners. The passage is a very profound justification humility and of the religious perspective.
'Just as we are all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday before there was an Easter, a Pentecost, a Christian, or a Church. It seems to me worthwhile asking ourselves who we should have been and what we should have been doing. None of us, I'm certain, will imagine himself as one of the Disciples, cowering in agony of spiritual despair and physical terror. Very few of us are big wheels enough to see ourselves as Pilate, or good churchmen enough to see ourselves as a member of the Sanhedrin. In my most optimistic mood I see myself as a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria visiting an intellectual friend. We are walking along, engaged in philosophical argument. Our path takes us past the base of Golgotha. Looking up, we see an all too familiar sight - three crosses surrounded by a jeering crowd. Frowning with prim distaste, I say, 'It's disgusting the way the mob enjoy such things. Why can't the authorities execute people humanely and in private by giving them hemlock to drink, as they did with Socrates?' Then, averting my eyes from the disagreeable spectacle, I resume our fascinating discussion about the True, the Good and the Beautiful.'
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:57 am