In a recent guest article for Free Life, the composer Laurence Hughes lamented, on his seventieth birthday, his relative lack of success in a culture that is waning in appreciation for the kind of art he has dedicated his life to producing:
The disappointment and disillusionment is now complete. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing left to aspire to or strive for. I just can’t be bothered any more. I have had enough. What a massive waste of time and energy!
Such disappointment and disillusionment is, needless to say, compounded by the more perceptible, material degradations of our society Hughes reels off within the article:
[W]e now have a ‘banana monarchy’ in which increasing surveillance and ‘social credit’ measures are dominant, everything is run by an unaccountable liberal-left ‘technocrat’ elite, and where opening your mouth if you have ‘incorrect’ views risks ruining your life.
I have watched my country become a ghettoised, divided society full of half-educated, obese, obedient, brain-dead sheep who merely live to consume, believe everything they hear in the media, and are quite happy – even eager – to have their basic civil and human rights trampled under foot, in return for ‘safety’ and instantaneous Amazon deliveries. It is a country in which I now feel a complete stranger most of the time.
In response to this, one has to agree that it is difficult, within the relative myopia of our own experiences, not to become disheartened by the state of the world – particularly when we are forced to behold a retrogression of a once great civilisation into something far more barbaric.
However, I am here, in this short piece, to suggest to Mr Hughes (and to everyone else dogged by such feelings) that any strides taken towards preserving our civilisation in no way amount to a “futility of human effort”.
Although anyone can leave a legacy, it’s fair to say that the material achievements of most of us – however valuable they may have been at the time – will go with us to the grave. Hughes, however, is among that vanishingly small number of human beings whose work will still be here, decade after decade, century after century, well into the future. As such, his creations stand to be enjoyed not only by his contemporaries, but by countless generations not yet born.
Thus, for one thing, Hughes has a shot at having his achievements assessed and reassessed continually into the future. Posterity has a habit of making that judgment rather differently from how inventors, theorists, artists, authors, poets, composers and so on were appreciated in their own lifetimes. Those who were lucky enough to have enjoyed wealth and fame personally can be forgotten within a generation of their deaths. On the other hand, those who faced a lifelong struggle for income and recognition can be catapulted to the height of popularity and renown long after they have departed this world – even if their work has to be dug out of a thick layer of dust.