Talking with a nice lady on the phone. She had a case of the midwinter spiritual rot. And a terminal cold she’s had since September 1.
“Well,” rasps she, ‘you don’t ever get depressed, do you?”
“Listen,” says I, “I get lows it takes extension ladders to get out of.”
“So, what do you do?” asks she. “I mean, what DO YOU DO?”
Nobody ever pinned me down quite like that before. They usually ask what I think they should do.
My solace is not religion or yoga or rum or even deep sleep. It’s Beethoven. As in Ludwig van. He’s my ace in the hole. I put his Ninth Symphony on the stereo, pull the earphones down tight, and lie down on the floor. the music comes on like the first day of Creation.
And I think about old Mr B. He knew a whole lot about depression and unhappiness. He moved around from place to place, trying to find the right place. His was a lousy love life, and he quarreled with his friends all the time. A rotten nephew worried him deeply – a pianist. He wanted to sing well, too. But when still quite young, he began to lose his hearing. Which is usually bad news for pianists and singers. By 1818, when he was forty-eight, he was stone-cold deaf. Which makes it all the more amazing that he finished his great Ninth Symphony five years later. He never really heard it! He just thought it!
So I lie there with my earphones on, wondering if it ever could have felt to Beethoven like it sounds in my head. The crescendo rises, and my sternum starts to vibrate. And by the time the final kettledrum drowns out all those big F’s, I’m on my feet, singing at the top of my lungs in gibberish German with the mighty choir, and jumping up and down as the legendary Fulghumowski directs the final awesome moments of the END OF THE WORLD AND THE COMING OF GOD AND ALL HIS ANGELS, HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! WWHHOOOOOOOOOOM-KABOOMBAM-BAAAAAAAA!
Uplifted, exalted, excited, affirmed, and overwhelmed am I MANALIVE! Out of all that sorrow and trouble, out of all that frustration and disappointment, out of all that deep and permanent silence, came all that majesty-that outpouring of JOY and exaltation! He defied his fate with jubilation!
And I never can resist all that truth and beauty. I just can’t manage to continue to sitting around in my winter ash heap, wringing my hands and feeling sorry for myself, in the face of THAT MUSIC! Not only does it wipe out spiritual rot, it probably cures colds, too.
So what’s all this noise about winter and rain and bills and taxes? says I to me. So who needs all this talk about failure and confusion and frustration? What’s all this noise about life and people being no damned good?
In the midst of oatmeal days, I find within Beethoven’s music an irresistible affirmation. In deep, spiritual winter, I find inside myself the sun of summer. And some day, some incredible December night when I am very rich, I am going to rent me a grand hall and a great choir and a mighty symphony orchestra, and stand on the podium and conduct the Ninth. And I will personally play the kettledrum part all the way through to the glorious end, while simultaneously singing along at the very top of my lungs. And in the awesome silence that follows, I will bless all-the-gods-that-be for Ludwig van Beethoven, for his Ninth, and his light.
Mrs DM came home from a long day of working with disabled kids . She looked tired. , I suggested we retire to our old favorite stuffed chairs and I would read,…
as in out loud, while she sipped on a cup of blueberry tea.
I grabbed one of Fulghum’s books off the shelf.
I periodically post excerpts of Fulghum’s books on my blog. On the right hand side of the blog home page you’ll see Robert Fulghum listed.
click it, it will take you to the archives.
Now if you want to know what I like to listen to on my “oatmeal days,” my sound of choice is U2.
Personal favorite Shake Rattle and Hu.
I’ll watch the whole album.
Here’s a little teaser to wet your appetite: