Obituary writers must be busy at the moment. I wanted to speak for the man in the middle of a recent obituary 'sandwich', caught between atheist icon and global intellectual Christopher Hitchens and North Korea's great leader, Kim Jong-Il who was immortalised by his puppet caricature in Team America.
The former Czech President and playright Vaclav Havel died at the age of 75. He was President of Czechoslavakia from 1989-1992, and remained as President of the Czech Republic after the sweetly named velvet revolution for another ten years.
I didn't know his life well, but he always felt like some sort of hero to me, somebody I wanted to know better. I became particularly intrigued by him after reading the following quotation:
"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."
You have to have lived a bit to be able to say something like that and sound like you mean it.
More generally, it would be lovely, in principle at least, to have a political leader with a deep sensitivity to the existential and narrative currents of human lives and who spoke about them regularly, eloquently and passionately. It certainly beats talking about interest rates and austerity.
It would be lovely to have a political leader with a deep sensitivity to the existential and narrative currents of human lives and who spoke about them regularly, eloquently and passionately. It certainly beats talking about interest rates and austerity.
Personally I would struggle not to vote for somebody who shared thoughts like the following:
"I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions."
"Isn't it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity."
"Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it."
"Sometimes I wonder if suicides aren't in fact sad guardians of the meaning of life."
"The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both."
"There's always something suspect about an intellectual on the winning side."
"When a truth is not given complete freedom, freedom is not complete."
"Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed."
Vaclav Havel RIP.