Monday, May 22, 2006

What's Wrong With the World?

By Judith

The answer to that question filled a volume when G. K. Chesterton pondered it. I will only give one example.

A review of this past weekend’s concert by the Minnesota Orchestra appeared in today’s Star Tribune, which included commentary on the performance of Aho's Flute concerto. In part it reads:

Where the Symphony No. 7 takes a generally cheerful tone, the concerto speaks in a voice mostly sad and wistful -- even angry at a few points. At the time of the work's composition, Aho tells us in his notes, he was burdened by the recent death of his father and what seemed to him to be the imminent death of his beloved dog, Emma.

The piece seems to meditate on these matters and doesn't, at the end, come to any kind of grand, uplifting kind of consolation. Aho, one would guess, is too sophisticated for that.

And there we have it. The problem faced by the elite artist, or the elite of any profession, who try to go it alone, to make sense of it all by themselves. Sophistication.

I’m not talking about the suave Fred Astaire or Cary Grant, the movies of the 30s where men wore tuxes and women wore evening gowns and danced the night away. I mean the sophisticated, arrogant attitude that we’re above it all, that science is superior to religion, that if we throw enough money at a problem we can fix it, that if we try hard enough we can transform the world into a heaven on earth.

I have not heard Mr. Aho’s flute concerto, so I can’t make any judgments about the music. I can only guess that if the piece is like other compositions of music, literature or art that lack “any kind of grand, uplifting kind of consolation,” then it will touch the heart about as much as any nihilistic artistic effort, which is to say, not at all. We might die of hypothermia when coming into contact with art that doesn’t tread beyond our own boundries, that doesn’t reach out to the spirit within us, to the Spirit that longs to engulf us.

We can “meditate on [the] matters” that matter most from now until forever and never come to any consolation, grand or not, until we cast off the sophistication that keeps us from humbly approaching the One who can offer us the hope of consolation. He said it thus: “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

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