Tom Stoppard

I saw Tom Stoppard at the Chalke Valley History Festival. He is, and has been for many years, my hero. He spoke about the role of truth in art and history - a word that has a different meaning in each case, both equally valid. His voice still contains the traces of his Czech antecedents and his thoughtful delivery of a gently unfolding thesis, replete with his customary erudition, was a delight. He puts humanity into humanism and is a glittering ornament of our civilisation.

I went back to his plays that evening and this is from Utopia.

HERZEN No, not at all! Kolya's life was what it was. Because children grow up, we think a child's purpose is to grow up. But a child's purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn't disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment. We don't value the lily less for not being flint and built to last. Life's bounty is in its flow, later is too late. Where is the song when it's been sung? The dance when it's been danced? It's only we humans who want to own the future, too. We persuade outselves that the universe is modestly employed in unfolding out destination. We note the haphazard chaos of history by the day, by the hour, but we think there is something wrong with this picture. Where is the unity, the meaning, of nature's highest creation? Surely those millions of little streams of accident and willfulness have their correction in the vast underground river which, without a doubt, is carrying us to the place where we're expected! But there is no such place, that's why it's called utopia. The death of a child has no more meaning than the death of armies, of nations. Was the child happy while he lived? that is a proper question. If we can't arrange our own happiness, it's a conceit beyond vulgarity to arrange the happiness of those who come after us.


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