Come for the Politics, Stay for the Pathologies

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Life, and Music, Recycled

recycled life jacketLife, recycled

I’ve never been a really big fan of recycling for the sake of recycling: only if things serve a real purpose in the do-over bin of life. Cottage cheese containers: definitely. Tin foil, aluminum cans? Not so much. That’s what God created landfills for.  But a piece by Vanderleun on how to recycle a stopped heart has given me pause to reconsider my whole attitude towards the subject.

Gerard has recently been run through the recycle plant himself, so to speak, and has thankfully lived to tell about it. He’s written several posts on the experience and the latest, Staying Alive, offers a Vanderleunian ramble down some seldom traveled byways. And as an added bonus, it provides a complete diversion from the day-to-day body politic. It includes an inspired recycling of a Beethoven classic, Moonlight Sonata. Accompanying the music is the narrative of a  short stint through terrains most of us have not yet ventured and are probably none to anxious to do so. But Gerard would almost have you believe that being snatched back from the abyss is an enlightening experience of the soul that we might want to try. Almost.

He reflects on Milton, and Milton’s observation that “God doth not need.” Neediness is our purview. Although I’m not that fond of Milton, this is from one of the few poems I was required to memorize in high school, which I dutiful did, but in the memorizing completely missed the point of the sonnet. The only line that I can now reliably recall is the last:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

…and that only because  I’ve muttered it to myself and anyone within earshot hundreds if not thousands of times - again, always missing the point. My prattling was most often a reflection of the cynicism common to those of us raised impatiently in an era requiring terminal patience. But occasionally, in  moments of doubt and tortuous waiting for the arrival of  inevitably bad news, I’ve whispered it to myself in earnest, hoping I might finally comprehend the full import of its truth. I still don’t. But it’s meaning crystalizes a bit more each year as I’m repeatedly called to assembly and notice a dwindling number of dear old friends and loved ones left to stand and wait with me. Thus we grow wise.

After enjoying the post and music video, and as is often the case when standing around and waiting on one thing, another thing caught my eye and diverted me on a new path.  And so it is I wandered beyond my intended destination of Beethoven's  Moonlight Sonata to multiple renditions of Bach’s Cello Song, the Prelude.  Which get’s me back to my original thought, in case you’re still following along, on recycling.

I think I’ve lit upon something that recycling is perfect for: music. I have no quarrel with (some) new music, in fact I quite like some of it, but do we really need any new music?  When musicians can do this with some of the old music? Behold,  J. S. Bach’s Cello Song, two ways:

…for one cello, with Yo Yo Ma:

and one  for 8 cellos, from Stephen Sharp Nelson:

This is music good enough to last the ages. But I completely understand if you still  feel the need for something a little newer, more modern. Feel free now to return to your Christmas impulse buying on Amazon. I understand they have specials on Cee Lo Green and Lady Gaga CDs this week.