Thursday, 9 December 2010
Towards the end of his life, Aldous Huxley said: 'it is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than Try to be a little kinder.' And it does look a little banal, doesn't it? The modest dimensions of 'little', the watery semantic field of 'kinder'. It's not banal, of course; it's enormously and startlingly profound. Its apparent banality is a kind of optical illusion generated, in part, by the distorting mirror of 'tragic dignity' and 'elevation' with which we are in the habit of melodramatising, and thereby rendering more piquant, our lives. But 'try to be a little kinder' takes its prodigious force in part from its implied dismantling of that prior habit of being.