I, a non-religious, “fallen away” Catholic, have felt for many years that Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto is proof that there is a God.
How could a mere human have created it? Beethoven himself claimed his music came to him from God. And when I listen to this unbelievably glorious piece of music, I think, Yes. Of course. There is no other explanation. It is simply sublime. The ascending and descending, the gentle, tender melody suddenly breaking into a grand, passionate torrent of wild booming amazement. It is perfect. Whenever it comes on the radio in my car, I have to sit and listen until the end. No question.
On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, feeling particularly ebullient as I got into my car, I thought, Ooh, maybe the Emperor Concerto will be playing!–and miraculously, it was, but deep into the third movement. Ach! I turned the volume up, sat in my driveway until the end. (How many times have I done that?) Came into the house and found the video with Leonard Bernstein conducting Krystian Zimerman. Oh my God. Leonard Bernstein unabashedly bouncing around on the podium. Zimerman, eyes closed in ecstasy, in another world. I myself cannot sit still as I listen. I watched it twice through.
Now I’m sharing it with you. Listen and watch. Let it take you. See if you aren’t transported. Forty two minutes and you will feel incredible.
All we need to do to experience awe is open up to it. Towards the end of his life, Beethoven could not even physically hear his own music. But he must have heard it in his soul. Though his ears had failed him, he remained open and, as he said, received the Ninth Symphony, which contains the famous “Ode to Joy.”
We can’t all be Beethoven. But we can find awe in both the grand and the seemingly inconsequential. The sparkle of frost on just about anything, the sun making a surprise breakthrough on a grey morning, a lucky glimpse of a kingfisher sailing over the creek. So many things, there for us to love.
“The Lord and I are on speaking terms, and our bickering most often gets penned onto a piece of parchment.” – Ludwig van Beethoven
“God, Madame, sends me down some of his angels and they whisper sweet melodies in my ear.” – Charles Gounod
“You don’t need faith to believe in God, because there are plenty of signs available of His existence. Mozart wrote a symphony as a child. Heredity cannot account for this. There is only one explanation: the Creator chooses people as His instruments to produce some beauty in a world that is all too ugly. ” – Herbert von Karajan
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Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”