S. H. P. Steadman cannot remember when he first heard of the Sibelius Society and made the effort to join it, but it was sometime in the mists of the last century.
He was struck to his core by the elemental power and transcendent beauty of the music, which seemed to have a different relationship to reality from that of the compositions of other people, whose works sounded like compositions, while those of Sibelius were more like emanations from the nature of things, channelled through one who had known human weakness as well as what strength and purity we can attain to.
In a concert interval feature on Radio Three, various people spoke about Sibelius, and a Finnish scholar, it may have been Erik Tawaststjerna, quoted the composer as saying that ‘in England they understand my music because they still remember Thor and Odin.’ Mr Steadman has a distinct recollection of this, but has never come across this statement elsewhere and so almost doubts his own objectivity in remembering what subjectively he should have liked to have heard and what expresses, as well as any other form of words, the inherent divinity he finds in the music.
Mr Steadman was very glad to have been encouraged to come out of retirement as an artist and paint a portait of the President. At the time, the painter was also preparing a lecture on the poetry and religious attitudes of Ezra Pound and the two projects seemed to fertilise one another fruitfully.
A large portion of his time was spent working on a theory of representation in formal logic. He has a vain hope to complete it before he dies.
Another potential project, if he is granted the time, is the translation and annotation of the Poetic Edda from the point of view of liturgical and devotional use. And learning Sanskrit.
Compared to that of the President, the current Chairman’s life has been and remains a mess. Part of that may be due to twenty-five years of illness at an important stage when he had just left art school and needed to establish his career; or it may not be due to that at all, but simply the result of his imperfect attempt to follow what he thought were the duties incumbent upon him, though he may have been mistaken in what they were.
From the Bhagawan Gita 18.47: It is better to do one’s own duties, even though imperfectly than to do the duites of another, even though perfectly. 3.35: Life in another’s duty is death and death in one’s own duty is life.