WE ARE NOT NEARLY SO IMPORTANT as we think we are (well… not in the prevailing way that most people imagine). We are all completely expendable — imaginarily here for a very brief time. Then the dream ends as suddenly as it began (though the only thing which really “dies” is illusion).
During this brief span that we call “life”, we play our little roles in a vast and glorious process that we are not even aware of. But we do have a choice in how we play those roles: We can either live primarily to fill our bellies and be ruled by our desires OR we can devote ourselves to serving others. The beautiful irony is that when we choose the service of others we fortuitously become fulfilled anyway! 😊 But the person who is living primarily for himself or herself cannot realise that. To such a one it appears as if “dog eat dog” — strike before you’re struck — is the only way to behave if one wants to find fulfilment. This is one of the primary delusions on the planet, for dogs who eat dogs will themselves be eaten — if only by their own inflated self. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword”.
IF YOU RECALL, a few weeks ago I presented Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony as THE symphony for our times, in its realistic depiction of state evil and its warning that history repeats itself. Well, here is another symphony for our times but in a very different sense altogether — one which reflects beauty, honour, glory and everything noble and virtuous about life which is nostalgically lurking on the hinterland of the universe and in a hidden corner of our hearts. The 5th Symphony of the English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, is, to my mind, the most beautiful piece of pure music ever written. It is certainly one of the most spiritual pieces of music ever composed. Astonishingly, it was written at the height of the Second World War! Vaughan Williams was inspired to write it while composing his opera “Pilgrim’s Progress”, which he viewed as the manifestation of morality and this is what lies at the heart of this symphony. There is an order and cleanness which feels wholesomely noble. The very opposite of the chaos, amorality and disorder which lay at the heart of Europe when the symphony was being written. From start to finish, it is rivetingly beautiful. Just when you think it couldn’t get any more beautiful than the first movement, the third movement (coming after a lilting scherzo) is nothing less than divine, music to bring you into the presence of God. The final movement is the perfect end to the work; the coda in the last few minutes being one of the most beautiful endings of any symphony ever written.
IF EVER THERE WAS A SYMPHONY FOR OUR TIME, it must be the 11th Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich (1957). I’ve been doing a special study of this work for some time and the more I listen to it and analyse how it captivates the listener, the more I am convinced that it speaks right into the world like a TERRIBLE AND OMINOUS WARNING from a parallel universe. Hardly surprising that an audience member yells out “Arrrrgghh” at the end of this video recording. It is music of great beauty and power, casting a spell over the listener from the very first notes. Please do not click away from this, thinking that classical music (so-called) has nothing to tell you. That would be a mistake. For this symphony is like a contemporary epic film score which takes the listeners/viewers on a journey. To listen to it is to participate in the movie, as the music is all-encompassing and sometimes utterly overwhelming, just as music should be.