Musings
Pianist Stephen Hough,
”If I Ruled the World”
“I would require an hour once a fortnight of music (classical, I’m afraid) appreciation. A gentle but systematic journey through music history, unlocking the treasures of the greatest composers and their masterpieces. Every child would have to learn a musical instrument. Why would this be a priority, other than for this world ruler’s self-interested prejudices? Well, in the west, one of the greatest curses in this mostly-blessed age is distraction and boredom amidst plenty. Learning a musical instrument is one of the best ways to discipline the mind to do something for more than a minute’s duration, an activity into which you must plunge rather than surf, requiring skill and involving purpose. It engages the whole person in something physical, mental and (at its best) spiritual, all in one burst of sound. The hope is that this would be artistically enriching (I might limit the number of people choosing to learn the drums), but it’s also more than that. Concentration, or “attention” as the French philosopher Simone Weil put it, is part of living a civilised life, with happiness derived from well-being rather than mere well-feeling. Paying attention, to people, to ideas or to ourselves is oxygen for the soul. A constant flitting from gimmick to fad to video clip is an attempt to grow the tree of life in just an inch of soil. Learning a musical instrument is not the only solution to the problem, but it’s a good one which is easy to implement.”

Attention, as a faculty for well-being

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