Just as the entire global financial system teeters on the brink of the abyss, which you can follow on all media outlets, everywhere, twenty four hours a day (so no links necessary), here come two “human interest stories” to offer a little distraction and perhaps food for thought.
The first concerns Hugh Grant, long a staple of the newspapers’ celebrity pages, now a father at the age of 51. As reported in the Daily Telegraph:
Four years ago Grant told Vogue, the magazine, that he was ready to be a father, saying: “As much as I adore myself, I’m quite keen to find someone else to care about more. I remember reading a Warren Beatty quote when he finally had children and said what a relief it was not to be all me, me, me.”
Last night, Grant’s spokesman said: “I can confirm that Hugh Grant is the delighted father of a baby girl.”
Frothy as this story is, it contains a nugget of truth, indeed quite a profound truth. Loved and adored as Hugh Grant has been for decades by so many, including himself, being loved is perhaps not enough: to love another entirely is what really brings a sense of completion to the experience of life.
This reminds me of something that Alice Thomas Ellis once told me, which I may have mentioned before now, but which is worth repeating: ‘You think you know everything about love when you are young, but the moment they put the baby in your arms, that is the moment that you discover what love really is.’
Again, the greatest existentialist who ever wrote novels, William Somerset Maugham, has a similar insight. When young Philip Carey’s mother dies in Of Human Bondage his nursemaid weeps for the boy knowing that he will now be deprived of a love that can never be replaced. This incident, sadly, is based on fact: Maugham lost his mother young, and always kept a photograph of her at his bedside, and supposedly wept over it every day, inconsolable for the loss, even as an old man of 90, of the one perfect love he had known.
So, perhaps now at the age of 51, Hugh Grant will discover the perfection of love. I am sure we all wish him well.
The other celebrity in the news, and perhaps for a similar reason, is Justin Bieber, who is well known to the younger age group. (If you are too old to know who he is, think of Barry Manilow; as Barry was to your generation, Justin is to today’s teenageers.) I do hope the current story about Justin is not true. Until now Mr Bieber has been squeaky clean, as only a North American evangelical teenager can be, and as such a useful antidote to the sad succession of stories about besmirched celebrity that fill so much of the media. This sort of figure is rather alien to us on this side of the Atlantic, which does not reflect well on us. Again, let us wish Justin Bieber well: he is still young, still growing up, and it would be good if he maintains his hitherto spotless reputation. Good for him, but good for all of us as well.