Today Christians all over the world commemorate a man’s ultimate sacrifice: A man sacrified his life for a cause he believed in. And when I watch tens of thousands of children and teens all over the world standing up each Friday to make us grown-ups aware of the dangers linked to climate change, I am wondering how much we grown-ups are willing to sacrifice to give these children the feeling that we are not letting them down, that we think about their life and well-being too? How much of our present way of life are we ready to sacrifice? We are not asked to give our life. We are perhaps asked to fly less, to drive an electric car, to insulate our house more efficiently. We are being asked a sacrifice infinitely smaller than the one that man from Nazareth was ready to give.
Faust – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s most famous work. How I hated it. How I loved. it. As a teenager I had to confront Part I at school. I loved the poetry, I loved the plot, but the work contained so many ideas, allusions, allegories that I would have needed the assistance of Mephistopheles himself to understand it all. But I wasn’t ready to sign the devil’s deal with my own blood and I am not ready for that today, so I guess I will read it once more and hope for the best. If I can’t grasp the forces that hold the universe together – well, there are legions of unafraid scientists to get to the bottom of things.
In Greek mythology, the Titans were members of the second generation of divine beings. In the field of piano music, Franz Liszt was a titan. An exceptionally gifted pianist, an impressive composer, a revolutionary spirit, a paragon for many of the next generation of musicians. But being a titan comes at the price of loneliness. Towards the end of his life, Liszt complained that the world did not understand his language anymore, that his gifts were no longer appreciated.
Have you ever met what the Germans call a “Schöngeist”? The French equivalent is “un bel esprit” – I found no English term, but I had to think of Oscar Wilde. A person attracted by arts, preferring their superficial beauty over their deeper philosophical meaning, be it a poem, a song, a painting, a statue. Someone who cultivates his sense for aesthetics and surrounds himself with beautiful things. I imagine Franz Liszt being such a “Schöngeist”. He had an extremely developed sensitivity, a passion for superficial beauty and a distinctive penchant for gallant and glamorous people. His music mirrors this character trait.