Notebook

Precociousness

The legendary Beethoven interpreter Rudolf Buchbinder declared, ‘From my fifth year, one thing was crystal clear to me: I wanted to be a pianist’. He admits he had a moment of doubt at eight or nine, when he thought of becoming a conductor (‘perhaps I dreamt I’d then have to practise less’), but this faithlessness was of short duration. He stuck to his first inspiration and seems not, 60 years on, to have regretted it. We’re wary, now, of letting children make momentous decisions too early. They must see the world! There is wisdom in this. But I wonder: do we take sufficiently seriously the clarity children often have about what matters in their lives, what doesn’t? Thérèse of Lisieux, a doctor of the Latin Church knew from a very early age that she had to be a nun, and fought to realise that aspiration. What would she have been told today? To get a degree in management consultancy first, to acquire a taste of ‘real life’? Or at least to take a gap year travelling round the Far East? Perhaps the Holy Spirit would not raise up a Thérèse of Lisieux now. But what if he did?