'the saddest urge of human nature'

The most interesting thing to me ... was the anecdote related by [Simon] Leys ... about sitting in an Australian café minding his own business while a radio is blaring musical and spoken pap in the background. By chance, the program switched to a Mozart clarinet quartet, for a moment turning the café "into an antechamber of Paradise." People fell silent, there were looks of bafflement, and then, "the the huge relief of all," one customer "stood up, walked straight to the radio," turned the knob to another station, and "restored at once the more congenial noises, which everyone again could comfortably ignore."
Leys describes this event as kind of an epiphany. He is sure that philistinism does not result from the lack of knowledge. The customer who could not abide hearing Mozart's music recognized its beauty. Indeed, he did precisely what he did for that reason. The desire to destroy beauty, according to Leys, applies not just to aesthetics but as much, if not more, to ethics: "The need to bring down to our level, to deface, to deride and debunk any splendor that is towering above us, is probably the saddest urge of human nature."

Ian Buruma, "The Man Who Got It Right." The New York Review of Books, 8/15/2013.

I'm looking forward to reading the NYRB's collection of Leys' essays, The Hall of Uselessness.