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Archive for November, 2008

Mozart had unusual power of detachment. From his pupil Attwood’s account we know it in his creative activity as observed.
‘Mozart was observed at the end of a meal to begin folding and unfolding his napkin; with polite excuses he left the room and returned to the company in good spirits. Often when this happened he had completely scored a lengthy work that would never be altered by so much as an accent, bow mark, or staccato dot’.
From Abbé Stadler’s account (incidentally he was the one who put Mozart’s musical affairs in order after his death)’ Beethoven began before he knew his own mind, and altered passages backwards and forwards as fancy directed; but Mozart never began to write until he had arranged the whole design in his mind just as he had wished it; it then stood without change.
Let me finally quote  Mozart’s way of working from his widow.
‘Mozart seldom went to the instrument when he composed…He walked about the room and knew not what was passing around him. When all was arranged in his mind he took inkstand and paper and said, “Now, dear wife, let us hear what people are talking about”. He could as well have been writing a casual letter! (ack: Arthur Hutchings)-benny
documents_0001

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drawings-benny

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When Churchill was felicitated on his eightieth birthday by a grateful nation, he replied in the House thus, ”I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I inspired the nation. It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”

8.
The young Churchill was a troublesome boy.
“Churchill, I have very grave reason to be displeased with you.” said the head master of Harrow School.
“And I, sir, have very grave reason to be displeased with you.” replied the impudent scholar.

9.
“Mr. Churchill, I care for neither your politics nor your moustache,” remarked a young female dinner companion to the newly bewhiskered Winston.
“Don’t distress yourself,”  he replied, “You are not likely to come in contact with either.”

benny

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How do you interpret history then amid such changes taking place about you? History as I said at the outset is march of events in a perspective. How do we see two railways tracks as we look at them receding from us? These tracks seem to merge into one. Does it not?
Let me cite another example. Two parallel lines can only meet at infinity. Where it meets would not there be both curve and straight line existing side by side? Or is it that parallel lines undergoes deviation or slightly dips so imperceptible to escape notice? In whichever case what we observe and really occurs are not the same. So this inherent flaw of our nature creeps in our interpretation of history.
Benny

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Heraclitus an ancient philosopher said: ‘On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow’. If waters keep flowing even as you cross the river on one direction you are not on return touching the same waters twice. Much water has flowed by since you crossed it. You may have held frame of reference of the landscape and yet it , despite its keeping essential features in tact, still tricks you. That frame of reference you carefully fixed in your memory is connected to the whole. As you crossed one way some woman gave birth to a baby elsewhere and another died and so on. A star somewhere in cosmos collapsed and another on is on the making and so on. This state of changes is called life in flux. A man who makes history on the world stage is lost in a flux that is the law of Nature. Similar difficulty exists in interpreting history.
More on that in my next post.
Benny

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CHARLES LAUGHTON, Actor

Laughton was once asked in an interview if he would ever consider marrying again. The question was hypothetical in as much as he was happily married to Elsa Lanchester, but he answered that he would never contemplate such a step. Pressed for a reason he said that during his courtship a man puts his best foot forward, and takes special care not to reveal his poorer qualities, while after marriage his real self emerges day by day, and his wife has to make the most of it. The he added thoughtfully, “I don’t believe I would ever put a woman through that again.

W. C Handy, father of the Blues enjoyed telling this story: “For one recital I dug up an old piece called,” My Ragtime Baby.”  I knew it wasn’t dignified enough so I put it down in the programme as ‘Greetings to Toussaint L’Ouverture’ and I played it. Under the title even the president and the dean thought it was great music and I never told them the difference.”
compiler:benny

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Disraeli’s attitude towards  women was of a semi-platonic semi-amorous, half courtly and half familiar nature. At the end of his life he told Mathew Arnold:You have heard of me ,accused of being a flatterer. It is true.I am a flatterer.I have found it useful. Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty, you should lay it on with a trowel.”
In flattery also he equally showed his felicity. The queen was fond of him and let him treat her as equal. Once she presented him with her book ‘Leaves From The Journal Of Our Life In The Highlands.’ As Prime Minister one day talking of literature with her he referred thus, ’we, authors ma’m’
2.
The septuagenarian statesman fell in love with Lady Bedford with the same rashness that we associate among the youth, Lady Bedford was fifteen years his junior. Her name was Seline (Gk- moon) and he told her on one occasion, ”It is not the slice of the moon I want-I want all.”
He wrote her over a thousand letters at all sorts of times and places, sometimes twice or thrice a day that he admitted that his life was passed in trying to govern the country and thinking her.
3.
In the 30s Disraeli wrote, ”All my friends who married for love and beauty either beat their wives or live apart from them… I may commit many follies in life but I never intend to marry for love” In 1839 he married a widow Mrs Wyndham Lewis, a heiress and 12 years senior to him. By all counts the marriage proved to be a happy one. Later his wife remarked that ‘Dizzy married me for money, but if he had the chance again he would marry me for love.”
compiler:benny

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Continuing from the previous post in order to make history one must have a correct sense of timing. Man follows certain trends  and would know how to exploit them. Man makes history by his understanding of his world and to his time and place in particular. The latter is crucial. Mao Tse Tung in China fashioned a strategy ‘as fishes in the sea’ which adapted IRA commander Michael Collin’s idea of ‘safe houses.’ Mao  took urban guerrilla warfare  to fit the Chinese context. Thus man hitches his fortunes to events already unfolding by adapting strategies already tried before. Man is thus only a bridge for changes of very short duration. Beyond which how his vision and mission undergoes changes no one can foretell. Mao’s polices were replaced by Deng Xioping. Having survived the Cultural Revolution and other mass political movements of the Mao era he was instrumental in introducing a new brand of socialist thinking, socialist market economy and partially opened China to the global market.
3.
Man’s control over history is partial.
A man who makes history is relevant only for a narrow period of time for the simple reason his active period is too short. His span of life may be four score or more. But by the time he comes to take the center stage about half of it is over. Thus a world leader struts and throws his weight around for a certain period while  events that have had their origin long before would have entered into several other areas in order to change the social and cultural landscape. Like the mythical Hydra, upon cutting off each of its heads Herakles found that two grew back. No man quite control each development before it moves into other areas as well. The Cluster principle gives no man a complete hold over all the events that cannon into any one of the chain of events. These collision will create new issues that need to be addressed.
In the case of Tien Wang who led the Taiping rebellion, he succeeded partly because of  the Ming regime that had entrenched itself into the national life. He could convert those who had benefited under their rule but the Ming dynasty itself came to power by supplanting another dynasty. How these  cross currents work out no one can tell. For example we need to rely once again turn to Taiping Revolt.  Tien Wang began the revolt in concert with the Triads who were for bringing back the Ming regime. Tien Wang’s aim was more of a theocratic rule himself as a brother of Jesus Christ. (In his concept of Trinity god, the Father, Christ the son, and himself was the other brother.) The man who would ultimately bring him down Tseng Kuo-fan had no Tartar blood as the Manchu masters. He was not a supporter of the Manchu regime. But he was believer in Confucianism and had no use for Christian Taipings. In a welter of cause and effect man who makes history has a walk on part in terms of posterity.
benny

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History is the march of events in a perspective.
1.
History is made in context of something else.
History is made by man on whom other life forms as well as  inanimate objects  can also work. Socrates ended his life drinking hemlock and Cleopatra by a bite of asp are but a few examples. A man like Caesar afflicted with falling sickness might in time lose his judgment and that might hasten his end in an unexpected manner. In short man who makes history can never be seen isolated from his world.
2.
History is made in time and space.
Since history is made by man certain primary impulses in man would always take the steering wheel. Championing the cause of the weak for example. In ancient Rome around 113 BC the Grachii brothers stood for land reforms that would have given land to the veterans who served the republic in wars. Then as now. The vested interests of those who had plenty of land saw to that the brothers were done away with. (ref:note below)
These two brothers were concerned with the underlying injustice of the political system but in a space of decade had to appeal to two different sets of people viz., plebians and publicans. Our basic impulses have to lock in with time and place in order to be relevant.
History is correct timing.
( to be continued)
benny
Note: Historical background
The Gracchi brothers were a pair of tribunes in 2nd century BC who attempted to pass land reform legislation in Ancient Rome that would redistribute the major patrician landholdings among the plebeians.
In 133 BC, two brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, became agents of reform. They were both well connected with the ruling elite and descendants of Scipio Africanus. The political issue was land reform. The small peasant farmer was being pushed off the land by rich landowners.
When Tiberius Gracchus’s proposal came to a vote, masses of rural people, seeing opportunity for economic advancement, entered Rome to support the proposal. In addition, as head of this movement, Tiberius found himself necessarily replacing an opposing tribune already in office. The proposal passed and the situation returned to almost normal, except that Tiberius was going to need re-election to stay in office.

When the day of election arrived Tiberius’s supporters were lacking and, worse, his opponents caused a fight in the assembly and killed Tiberius Gracchus.

Ten years later, Tiberius’s brother, Gaius, took the same office as his brother, as a tribune for the plebeians. Gaius however, appealed to a different set of supporters, the publicans. They were in charge of tax-collecting in Asia and of contracting for construction projects. The equestrian class would get to control a court that tried senators for misconduct in provincial administration. In effect, the equestrians replaced senators already serving at the court. Thus, Gaius became an opponent of senatorial influence.(ack:wikipedia)
b.

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Hung Hsui-Chuan January 1, 1814 – June 1, 1864)
He was the son of a village headman of the Hung clan of the Hakka tribe. As a child he was precocious( he was able to recite the Four Classics after five or six years) but with no means to advance himself. He became a tutor to other children in his village and continued to study privately. He took the local preliminary examinations and came first, but at the age of 22 in 1836, he realized his further progress to enter the government service was blocked. Success in examinations required a bribe to the examiners. Thwarted in his ambition he fell ill. In a delirious state he saw visions that he was taken to the ‘Thirty-Third Heaven and the Venerable-in-Years gave him a mission to destroy the demon worshippers on the earth. When Hung had recovered from his fever he was altogether a new man. A chance encounter in Canton with Christian missionaries from London Missionary Society,  gave him new direction.  While reading the book of Genesis his earlier vision took on new significance. The Venerable –in Years of his dream had become the Creator of heaven and the earth. His curious theology was a mixture calculated to win over most supporters. (Do we not see similar mix and match of doctrines in many of the cults around us?
As luck would have it the Opium War (1839-1842) broke out around this time and it showed the hated Manchu regime was almost on its last legs. Manchus were Manchurian Tartars, foreigners while south of the Yangtse there were many who yearned for bringing back the defunct Ming rule.
The Taiping Rebellion was spearheaded by a school teacher who saw visions and who knew his time and place. By any standard this episode was as extraordinary as it was disastrous for the land where Hung intended to usher in Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace or ‘Taiping Tien-Kuo’ .
As a consequence of acting on his vision, more people are said to have perished than in the WWI, either by death in action or massacre or by starvation resulting from the foraging armies of one who called himself Tien Wang or Heavenly King. Heavenly visions unfortunately can only be attempted on the earth by wading knee deep in violence as his life amply demonstrates.

Where there is no vision people perish; so would they if they conceal theirs in someone else’s vision. I have a vision myself to live my life reasonably well, neither too rich nor poor. Well my vision is still keeping me. I trust not another to take care of my vision as I would. Another may turn out to be a crook or downright cuckoo.
benny

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