Where are we going?

Yehudi Menuhin “Where are we going?” – 1993

One salient fact emerging from the daily diet of barbarism and wantom cruelty which we are offered from screen or newspaper is that mankind has lost its way; there would seem no longer to be a structure upon which behaviour or judgment can build.

The European Community exists not only to create a happy hunting-ground for a prosperous free market, an aim which can hardly claim outstanding success, but, even more importantly, we exist to protect European men, women and children, whether Muslim or Christian, black or brown, nomadic or settled and to recognize and protect not the spoils of genocide but the myriad of enriching cultures of Europe. There is at present the greatest need for timely prevention rather than for belated cure after a most appalling carnage has already happened and threatens to continue. We are, I believe, already well aware of the dangers for ourselves, beyond the horror and shame. The following are the likely effects of our incapacity to dampen the fires of rage in our Europe: the tragedy of refugees on a scale beyond previous experience contributing to growing callousness and endless suffering; a backlash of religious and racial origin for never has the ‘west’ been more hated and feared than today; the dangers of our too evident physical, moral, economic, educational and health weaknesses offering encouragement to our enemies; the shattering of our dreams of order through internationally upheld law, or of such ideals as we might still entertain for the European Community, and the dangers of reversion to European civil war.

Now, what makes us different? Only art, craft and though and science and sport can prevent us from being barbarians. Those are the only expressions which save us from our own barbarous, evil side—we have to say that because we see so much evil in the world—I hate to use the word, but evil is apparented to good, it is simply the wrong choice. It satisfied—it appears to satisfy—a narrow vision of the world. As soon as we exclude other people, we become poorer; as soon as we include other strangers, even the enemy, we can learn and we become richer. So that is a form of thought; exclusion is a form of thought which makes us poor, but now we have a yearning for infinity and perfection because we have this yearning. I feel that God is not somebody with a beard, or not with a beard, or looking like an Aztec idle or whatever, outside of us, we are inhabited by the divine. That I think is probably an old “Vermuden”, an old Jewish feeling that we each have this yearning to infinity. I mean it is very obvious we cannot have enough of what we love, or if we are ambitious, our powers can never be big enough, we want to read the stars, we want to achieve perfection. Well, in life that is impossible. There is no perfection and I am glad there isn’t because if there were nothing would happen. Perfection is of crystal which cannot combine with other living, moving substances. But perfection exists in our home and our minds, and sometimes we achieve it in art. The great works of art are perfect. The great paintings, the great pieces of music and they do not need to be great, they can even be very light and entertaining like the Strauss waltz, that is perfect. And everything about it, the construction the proportions, the lilts, it has to be interpreted too.


There are specialists in culture—here is a violinist, here is a composer, here is an opera-house and so on. When I speak of culture it is not of gala concerts or operas, they must be kept going too, naturally, but I am as interested in the opera company that is operating on a shoe-string with a travelling upright piano and a few poor, very good often, but literally singers with no resource, living on a pittance, such as there are in England, in Australia and no doubt in many other countries bringing it to the people. When I speak of culture it is more the expression of the person who is living in this sad, high-rise building, who has no contact with himself actually and how do we reach those people? Well, if it is a matter of medicine let us say. If a man has a medical problem, there will be a doctor whom they may know who looks after them. There may be a person who understands them. There may be one who is not a fanatic and who is ready to speak with the enemy. You see, there are I don’t say solutions, but there are stands we can take. The point is that we must have a Europe that works together on the basis of our yearnings for perfection in art; we can see it but we cannot translate it into living life. But we can get closer to it by thinking in terms of our harmony today for instance. We have a certain harmony and a certain concern which is a forum of art, if you wish. It is a forum of an orchestra which consists of many different instruments playing together and when I say that we are inhabited it means that we have another voice to which we must listen in our heart of hearts. I am sure that it can be made more noticeable, more audible.