A vast similitude interlocks all.
What could an early 20th Century British composer and a 19th century American poet possibly have to say about the context of police brutality in early 21st Century America?
On the Beach at Night, Alone
A Sea Symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams
First of all, I am growing weary of venerating the personalities of the past and the cultures within which they existed. I always want to give credit where credit is due but when it comes to the creative arts, almost all great artists claim “the Muse” or God should receive the credit, and I agree.
Early 20th century British or 19th century American are not the primary value of anything. The value of any work of art is based on the extent to which it can be applied to the human condition and the chaos within which we exist.
I have a very practical approach to art and music. I base that approach on a quote from the author known as Novalis. “The highest purpose of intellectual cultivation is to give us perfect knowledge and mastery of our inner selves.”
The atrocities of the past several days have been committed by individuals who do not have mastery of their inner selves in any way, shape, or fashion, and chaos has erupted from that lack. The innocent have been killed and random vengeance has been confused with justice.
We live in an anti-intellectual culture, yet we are surprised when it throws up elements of chaos and violence. That strikes me as more than naive. The system which must be changed is the system that stunts intellectual cultivation.
That system has reduced Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech to three words, “Black Lives Matter,” and those three words have been replaced by three letters and a hashtag, #BLM. The problem is bigger and more menacing than we can imagine.
Is a hashtag sufficient for the task at hand?
Taking a few seconds to post a blackout photo on social media is something but it is something less than cultivating one’s intellect in order to gain perfect knowledge and mastery of the inner self. We can’t “virtue signal” self-knowledge. All we can do is use it to take action in the interest of liberty and justice for all.
The piece of music referred to at the top of this article is called A Sea Symphony. The text of the second movement is from a poem entitled "On the Beach at Night Alone."
- On the beach at night alone,
- As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
- As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future.
- A vast similitude interlocks all,
- All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
- All distances of place however wide,
- All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
- All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
- All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
- All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
- All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
- All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
- This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
- And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
We are all George Floyd and we are all Derek Chauvin. We are all innocent and we are all guilty.