Imagine the score of a late Beethoven piano sonata. Then, being in a concert hall as the pianist attacks the keyboard, the black blizzard of notes swelling over the audience. If, like me, you are less than naturally musical, you are … processing – listening to the flow of sounds with that strange, innate ability we all have of somehow making some sense of music’s abstraction. But just try reconstructing the shape of that music later…

I felt something like this attending the philosopher Raimond Gaita’s lecture on Gaza: Morality, Law & Politics. Prof. Gaita – author of the loved/acclaimed/made-into-a-move-starring-EricBana memoir, Romulus My Father – explained that he had cut down his talk from 20,000 words to 10,000. I guess that made listening to it half as intricate as he carefully peeled back layer by fibrous layer the historical context, and separated fine grains of moral meanings in the events of last December. Even attempting to describe the gist makes me feel guilty of distortion.

Nuance was the key to the lecture but (or, and) this was a highly anticipated performance: the auditorium was chockers – older, punctual people filled the seats; younger dilly-dallyers packed the aisles and floor space. Also spotted were the writers Robert Manne, Alex Miller and Arnold Zable. Silverhairs and dreadlocks alike sat in silent attention as Gaita teased out strand after strand of implication. A web of invisible threads spun from ideas sprouted ever thicker, connecting the mind of the speaker to the assembly of minds before him. The vibration in the gaps between the ten thousand words was the sound of thinking.


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