Saturday, 6 February 2016

What if?

Reading this morning about Claude Monet it struck me just how many things in life are governed by that phrase.   In fact everything.
Throughout his life Monet would go now and then to visit his brother, who lived in Rouen.    Once when he went in February 1892, he stayed in a hotel which overlooked Rouen Cathedral and he sat at the window watching the daylight fade on the South West front and noticed how the light shifted from one place to another as it faded.  And that was enough to inspire his thirty amazing paintings of the cathedral showing the light at every hour, showing what atmosphere hourly does to stonework.

What if Monet had been given another room, one which didn't overlook the cathedral front?   Then his inspiration for the series would never had happened and we wouldn't be left with this wonderful set of impressionist paintings - perhaps amongst the most famous that he ever did.

Claude Debussy came to England and stayed in a hotel at Eastbourne.   Listening to the sound of the sea inspired him to write La Mer.   That most French of composers writing a piece which most people think of as quintessentially  French, inspired by the English seashore.

What if he had not come to Eastbourne?   Would he still have written a piece about the sea, a piece which is amongst his most loved?

And of course we can come down to the more mundane.

'What ifs' really govern every aspect of our lives - from the moment of our conception onwards.    Of course with the famous and the gifted we can speculate and marvel at the coincidences that put the artist or composer in the right place at the right time - but maybe it is no less worthy of thought when it applies to our own lives and the paths they have taken.


  

16 comments:

Heather said...

Life is full of 'what ifs' and I didn't know that 'La Mer' was inspired by a visit to Eastbourne. The south coast beaches are very pebbly and the sea makes a wonderful sound as the waves recede over them.

Joanne Noragon said...

Down here in the trenches, I find "what if's" painful. If I overindulge I am not a good person for it, so I give them a wide berth, on the whole.

Rachel said...

What if comes to a big meaning for me today. Perspective of things is more important with the help of others to remind us though.

Librarian said...

If you haven't yet read it, I recommend "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson - the whole story is set around the "What ifs", and explores them in a great way.
In case you're interested, here is my review:
http://librarianwithsecrets.blogspot.de/2015/03/read-in-2015-12-life-after-life.html

Wilma said...

"What if" goes both ways. Who knows what masterpieces were not painted or written because the artists were engaged creating the works we know now? As a human flying along the one-way arrow of time, my aim (get it?) is to make the most of the opportunities I have. Thinking about "what if" can be motivating for me as long as I don't turn it into "if only". Food for thought, Weaver. Thanks.

Sol said...

Weave, what if is a massive question.

And to your bit about the government, all very Hand Maidens tale, but it could be worse, The Matrix could be true.

I love the paintings of venice.

Mary said...

Oh Pat, thank you so much for reminding me I still haven't posted on my Oct. visit to Rouen - and yes, I even have pix of the windows of the hotel where Monet painted the beautiful cathedral facade! I will definitely be working on a post soon - life's just moving too fast these days and I can't catch up!

Happy weekend - Mary

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

If Monet's father had had his way his son would have followed him into the grocery trade!

Canadian Chickadee said...

What a wonderful essay! And very thought provoking. Just about the perfect length too. Love it! xoxox

Tom Stephenson said...

I didn't know that about Debussy, Weave. A big 'what if' is what if Hitler had not been rejected for Art School I suppose....

Mac n' Janet said...

What if my husband and I had never met. We went to the same school but ran with different crowds. It was outside of school one evening we met, but what if we hadn't, that one scares me.

jinxxxygirl said...

Oh i so agree Pat. My husband had to hit a brick wall on a motorcycle in Egypt to meet me... What if ? he had missed that wall? How different both our lives would have been.... and thats only one example of the what ifs i can think of in my life...Always wonderful questions here Pat... Hugs! deb

Cro Magnon said...

I suspect that most of our 'what if's' concern our laziness.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What an interesting lot of "what ifs" - and so many thought-provoking comments. Thanks so much, I have really enjoyed reading them and thinking about them.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Love the descriptions of the artists - such fabulous "what ifs". We often talk about the tiny decisions and moments that have shaped our lives. Don had a chance to go to Europe for the summer after his freshman year in college. From an off handed conversation with a classmate he made instead, the choice on a whim to go to Alaska to work for the summer. What if he had gone to Europe? We might never have met, or had these 53 wonderful years together.

Unknown said...

What if I had decided that, yes, 58 was ridiculously late to try to learn to play the violin? Two years later, I would not have had that one glorious season playing with our local symphonic orchestra before an auto-immune illness struck me suddenly, and I could no longer play. Now I know what I always wanted to know: what is it like to sit in the midst of a group of other people who play various instruments and work together for months and then, happiest of all, perform for your community? What does the conductor say to people? What are practices like? When I watch performances now, I know the least little bit about it, and that makes me happy and enriches my knowledge and enjoyment of what I'm hearing.