Bees were buzzing in the borage, a greenfinch was calling somewhere, scents of mint and fennel mingled. And with them came the almost inevitable melancholy of late summer.
A sense of how wonderful life is – in the senses both of something very, very good and something to be wondered at. And at the same time, how unlikely, and how fragile.
The random coherence of this little planet’s precise conditions. Its particular, narrow temperature range – not too hot and not too cold. Its wateriness – and the remarkable fact that water gets lighter, not heavier, when it freezes, so that ice floats. Its relationship with the moon, which causes tides. The odd angle of the Earth’s axis, which gives us seasons. The annihilation of the dinosaurs, which allowed mammals to thrive and develop. A breathable atmosphere. Rain. The atomic structure of carbon, and other elements.
All these and a great many other favourable chances were essential to the emergence and evolution of life – at least as we know it. And now, for the first time (as far as we know) one species has developed to the point where it’s capable of putting the whole thing at risk.
Whatever insanity humankind gets up to, it won’t be the end of the world. It probably won’t even be the end of life on Earth. But it could be the end of us, and with us most of the other life we know or care about.
So we’d better enjoy and cherish those birds, bees, herbs and trees while we still can.
And that unwanted earworm – the quotation I’ve used as a headline on this piece? It’s unwelcome largely because I don’t want to think about the foul human being who wrote and sang it.
A man whose writing and singing I once enjoyed and now can’t listen to. Whose CDs have disappeared from my collection, and whose videos have disappeared from every music TV channel. Ian Watkins, late of the rock band Lostprophets, now resident of Rye Hill jail, four years into a 35-year sentence for various depraved acts against young children.
The case has been raised again because of police failings that allowed him to go on harming infants long after he should have been banged up. And it raises again the old question of whether it’s possible – or even moral – to enjoy artworks created by immoral people.
How, for example, can I go on listening to Metallica even though their lead singer, James Hetfield, is a supporter of America’s insane gun laws? A man who gets his kicks from killing wild creatures. A man, in short, whose actions and worldview I find abhorrent.
It’s a good question, and one I sometimes struggle with.
How is it I can enjoy the music of Carl Orff – said to be Hitler’s favourite composer – but can’t abide Wagner?
I think the answer in each case lies in the works themselves.
There is nothing inherently Hitlerian, or offensive in any way, in Orff’s masterpiece Carmina Burana. Unless you object to its use in selling aftershave.
Wagner, on the other hand, was not merely an anti-Semite but wove a romantic, bombastic mythology of Germanic superiority right through his work. You could argue that without Wagner there’d have been no Hitler, that his work was Nazi before the term was coined.
And, sadly, there’s no escaping the fact that what I once thought were Lostprophets’ best songs are imbued with Watkins’s twisted sense of fun. His perverted glee in what he saw as “getting away with it”.
Knowing what one knows now, many of his lyrics take on deeply unpleasant meanings. My once favourite, Town Called Hypocrisy, reeks of – yes, hypocrisy.
By the time he came up with that song I began with, his last almost-hit, he probably could see the end of his personal world coming. And none too soon.