With both children away on camp, Rachel & I ventured out on rather a road trip from Wiltshire along the South Downs and up. Marvellous. At the start of the week, we had a chance to visit the original Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney's imagination (see right for poet pic) - Wilton House near Salisbury, home of the Earls of Pembroke.
It speaks for itself...
This post is not motivated simply by beaming paternal pride - I also got to have a cameo role in Joshua's latest triumph... albeit as banana. And I got to be musical director. I have to say that I doubt my acting career will ever get much better than this. (And don't forget, I 'starred' in an oscar-winning movie).
What an extraordinary night. I've never been to an athletics event before in my life (not since defying the odds and coming second in the U13 100m at my prep school - nb there were only 3 other runners and only about 4 others in the qualifying age group in the whole school). But this was one not to miss - a night at the Olympics. Our seats were very high up 'in the gods' - but what a perspective, what a joy, what a privilege to witness. Wouldn't have missed it for the world.
I have a mild obsession with human attempts to create heaven on earth. Of course, their idealism is infectious: who doesn't want heaven on earth? But such visions always come with a cost - in whatever society, in whatever generation. But if modernist visions of utopia have been about projecting the dream of the future through rejection of the past, others have been more concerned with recreating the long-gone, supposedly golden past. The English Arcadian vision is one such: it gripped several generations before the English Civil War and is the subject of Adam Nicolson's fascinating book Arcadia: The Dream of Perfection in Renaissance England.
No man is an island entire of itself said the prophetic priest-poet of old. Modernism and its western offspring, individualism, have done their utmost to prove him wrong. In vain. For whether we like it or not, we are all part of one another. And while Donne was clearly speaking of human society, he could equally have been referring to human history. For one of modernity's most damaging trends has been to legitimise our innate haughtiness about the past. So having discussed how modernist culture shapes our present, and then sensed the crushing power ofmodernism's relentless pursuit of progress, we must close the circle by considering the past.