Do you think dogs actually miss their owners when they are not around? I know that dogs greet absent owners when they return with the greatest affection, but do dogs actually feel the process of anxiety while being away from someone close?
I believe that those of us who love dogs will always ascribe the same kind of feelings we have as humans to them, even though we know they are animals that cannot speak. So we would always think that when we are away, our dogs necessarily miss us just as we necessarily miss them. But in my more ruthless movements of exercising logic, I tend to think that dogs do not actually experience the kind of anxiety and pain of separation we humans go through. Meanwhile, we love our dogs and are convinced of their love for us, and this mutual feeling is one of the greatest joys we dog lovers have, and we simply do not understand how those without dogs and indifferent to dogs could possibly survive in this world of so much vileness.
I must protest your description of Erasmus and Holbein as “relative B-listers”. The former was a humanist and theologian of the highest order. The latter’s brilliant portraiture defined how we see great figures such as Henry VIII and Thomas More. Look closely at Holbein’s portrait of Erasmus in the National Gallery, which shows so well the skill of the artist and the character of the scholar, and I defy you to maintain that either fell short of the upper ranks of the “A-list”.
All ranking is inevitably relative, and so if you regard Erasmus as an A-lister, where would you place Socrates, Plato, Aristotle or Descartes? If Holbein were another A-lister, where would you place Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer or Caravaggio? The fact is that there are human intellectual gigantic giants — not just giants — such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, Dante and Shakespeare, Newton and Einstein, and these absolute geniuses deserve to have others ranked below them. I am afraid neither Erasmus nor Holbein have had the kind of monumental influence on human existence that could have placed them on the very summit. They ain’t A-listers, but, inevitably, B-listers. Ergo, we must all think relatively when ranking super-humans and must be ruthless in our calibration. That’s why I have always found it puzzling when the likes of Michael Jackson or George Michael were labelled as geniuses. If they were geniuses, what do we call Brahms or Liszt, let alone Bach or Beethoven? People will no doubt argue that these artists are different, but as musicians they are entirely comparable. So many have simply no comprehension of the sheer complexities of the works of these master composers. Do they not understand that producing a melody alone is a long, long away from writing out in long hand an entire symphony?
You well describe a feeling that I have sometimes experienced, and I hope someone at my funeral will see to it the Adagio from Weber’s Clarinet Quintet is played or, if the organist is up to it, Reger’s Benedictus.
Then make sure you book Cameron Carpenter whose dexterity on the organ is second to none. His performances on the organ, which travels with him, and the extraordinary arrangements he makes could almost resurrect your cadaver and leave your hairs standing on their ends. But why not ask for a couple of organ pieces that are played with a full orchestra? This combination is seldom seen outside concert halls or churches which have perfectly wonderful organs. At my wedding, held in a beautiful church, I arranged for the English Chamber Orchestra to play the slow movement from Saint-Saëns’ organ symphony No 3. I also arranged for the allegro part of Poulenc’s organ concerto to play as my new wife and I sauntered down the aisle. It is marvellous when there is a full orchestra accompanying a blasting organ in a church. I have always wondered why, even at the grandest funerals or memorials for heroes and heroines, this regal combination of orchestra and organ is seldom found.
If my executors can afford Cameron Carpenter, I would definitely engage him to play his version of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at my funeral. Wagner’s triumphant masterpiece strikes just the right chords with which to enter the kingdom of heaven.
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