In Italo Calvino’s essay ‘Why read the classics?’ he quotes Cioran.
While the hemlock was being prepared, Socrates was learning a melody on the flute.’What use will that be to you?,’ he was asked. ‘At least I will learn this melody before I die.’
Following such melodies, I ended up watching Kurosawa’s Ikiru, loosely inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s novella, ‘The death of Ivan Ilyich.’ The purpose in Watanabe’s life- to build a children’s park over an erstwhile cesspool- gave him joy in the end. I remembered Socrate’s flute lesson then.
Post script: The passing reference to Mephistopheles and the quip about not asking for Watanabe’s soul, brought Kurosawa’s brilliance home…Take a salute Goethe and Marlowe!
How many nations connected via classics, I ruminated…
I have found selfless people the most happy in my life.
Like my favourite Sister who is filled with such enthusiasm ( The etymology reveals the meaning: The God within) when she gets to serve the needy and poor. She is an active social worker and is always full of plans for the day: a self help group of poor women, coaching classes for the government school children to supplement their learning, providing creative projects to disabled children, arranging for toilets to cerebral palsy affected families…Her to-do list is endless and so is her positive energy!
I find that joy in those who take pride in their life goals: sincere teachers, sincere doctors, sincere mothers… And I find that spark missing from those who aim at pleasure as the goal of life. Perhaps it is my skewed perspective; but I guess a lot of Harvard Business Review articles tend to substantiate my observation.
Why do we read classics? Why do we work? Why do we learn music? Why, why…happiness and meaning are surely side effects of a deeper pursuit.
May we have the courage to find worthy goals in our lives.
Yes, I have to read ‘The Odysseys Within’ now…:)
Meanwhile listen to this: