On Lost Potential
Once upon a time I began work on a novel about the greatest minds never to have come to our attention. I was reminded of it this week with the release of a report by the LSE under the headline:
This is hardly news, of course. Investigate pretty much anyone in the British Establishment – politics, the arts, the media, academia - and you’ll discover a background of family privilege that opened up the realms of possibility foreclosed to so many others.
But, as I said, it reminded me of the scientist greater than Darwin who died of pneumonia as a child, the painter greater than Rembrandt who was forced into slavery, the philosopher greater than Wittgenstein who worked as a cleaner and bore eleven children in penury. (Such thoughts she had!)
And so on.
I blame my ancestry. My forebears were tinkers, petty criminals, poachers, unskilled labourers. I am the son of an immigrant. Among my cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents there are no musicians or sculptors, no journalists or barristers, no tenured professors or regally-endorsed fellows. Who knows what potential has been forever lost because of life’s iniquities?
Needless to say, form and function must reinforce one another – and thus tragically but necessarily the novel about such matters remains unfinished and invisible, never to see the light of day.