Nothing to be frightened of – Julian Barnes

Our lack of originality is something we usually forget as we hunch over our – to us – ever fascinating lives. My friend M., leaving his wife for a younger woman used to complain, ‘People tell me it is a cliché. But it doesn’t feel like a cliché to me.’ Yet it was, and is. As all our lives would prove, if we could see them from a greater distance – from the viewpoint, say, of that higher creature imagined by Einstein.

… there is something infinitely touching when an artist, in old age, takes on simplicity. The artist is saying: display and bravura are tricks for the young, and yes, showing off is part of ambition: but now that we are old, let us have the confidence to speak simply. For the religious, this might mean becoming as a chid again in order to enter heaven; for the artist, it means becoming wise enough and calm enough, not to hide. Do you need all those extravagances in the score, all those marks on the canvas, all those exuberant adjectives? This is not just humility in the face of eternity; it is also that it takes a lifetime to see, and say, simple things.

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