Ismail Serageldin


Reflections on Nature and Being

 25/06/2008 | Tallberg, Sweden


Friends and Fellow Tallbergians!


How dare I speak, when I should let the magic of Beethoven call to the better angels of our nature?  I speak because in the rapture of the moment, in the bliss of the immortal harmonies of the “pastorale” we must be reminded that the nature that inspired Beethoven, the nature that his music celebrates, the nature that we enjoy, the nature that we take for granted…  is fragile, is at risk… and that we, her children, are the ones who devour her bounty and tear her delicate gossamer webs apart..


So let us look at nature with a new eye, with a renewed gratitude and appreciation… Yes let us celebrate her bounty, and be seduced by her beauty.. and in that beauty recognize truth, the fundamental truth that there is no truth without beauty and no beauty without truth..


Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all.

---  Keats


And what is this truthful beauty?  Heisenberg said, as in antiquity, that “beauty is the proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole.”  On reflection, it does appear that this definition touches the essence of what we may describe as “beautiful.”: it applies equally to Nature, to Shakespeare’s plays, to Beethoven’s music, and to Einstein’s E=mc2   


My friends,


Regretfully, the truth about so much of what we do is that there is no beauty…


·         It is ugly to see the destruction that we wreak

·         It is ugly to see the pollution that we cause

·         It is ugly to see the injustice that we inflict on our fellow human beings

·         It is ugly to see the poverty and destitution and misery .. conditions beneath any definition of human dignity!


And ugliest of all is to see the persistence of strife, the destructiveness of war, the fragility of peace and the elusiveness of harmony… Harmony…


And so I come back to Beethoven and his Pastorale, and what it means to us to commune with nature…


·         Savor every note you will hear

·         Reflect on every sound you will listen to..


For as much as it calls to the better angels of our nature, the music also calls for us to start a new exploration of our bonds with nature…  to embark on a journey of thought and action where we hold up mirrors to ourselves and open windows unto the world…  A journey of exploration…


"We shall not cease from exploring

And at the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time."


--- T. S. Eliot


Let us flow with the harmonies of music, let us explore the mysteries of nature…Let us “Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong”. For as Robert H. Goddard reminds us: “Sometime in our lives we will have been all of these.”


Indeed we are all formed of frailty and error; let us overcome these, and with dedication and perseverance, renew our bond with nature, renew our bond with each other.. create a new world, a world where we will be in harmony with nature,  a world where freedom would prevail:


Freedom from fear

Freedom from want

Freedom of thought and expression

Freedom to dream

Freedom to do

Freedom to soar


And, as this concert continues, soar we will on the wings of eternal music  …From which we will draw strength to recreate the world as it should be… And to go where, in Tagore’s immortal words..


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action---

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.


Thank you

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