Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Year of Morning Thanks


I've long ago lost my ability to get lost in a book because I read like an engineer might, as greatly interested in how a writer pulls off what he or she does as in what has been pulled off. That may be overstated. I still love books and where they bring us. But, curling up with a good book and simply getting lost is a pleasure I've lost, if I ever could.

But when it comes to music, I'm a rank amateur, and that's just fine because music still carries me away to places I can't reach or discover in any other way. "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent," or so wrote Victor Hugo.

Last night, amid life's overwrought busyness, my wife and I went to a choir concert and experienced a joy that I know would have been unattainable in any other way. If I were some astute critic, I could explain why, using all the phrases. But I don't own the right language--and that's okay. This rank amateur came away believing the choir was magnificent and the music sublime. If I'm wrong, I don't care to know how or why.

Some business runs a TV commercial in which two tennis players are about to begin a match. Something strange happens: people start running onto the court, and soon enough the entire splace is a madhouse of hapless people, all of them believing that they too are part of the game. The ad is spot-on with respect to this medium--the internet--because virtual life makes us all believe we can perform before an audience any time we want. Me too, of course. These words somehow hitch themselves onto a medium called "blogspot," and I hit return and thereby come to believe myself a writer, even though I may well look as hapless as some overweight exec slapping a tennis ball with his attache case.

Music is a mess today, millions of groups and singer/songwriters vying for the attention of an audience via the web. What's gone--people fear--is the gatekeepers, those who help all of us separate wheat from chaff. Today, there may well be more music created per square inch of creation than there has been in the history of mankind, but choice gone mad may not serve the cause of excellence.

Last night, we were blessed by sheer excellence--or so saith this rank amateur. Okay, some of the students were my own, and there's a blessing in seeing kids you know performing with the kind of zealous joy that's not always witnessable in the classroom. But that's not it. What created such beauty was a body of remarkable music opened up into time and place by nothing more than well-tuned human vocal chords and a meticulous maestro, who not only chose the literature and put it in an order, but coached those talented voices into what became, unmistakably, art.

This morning's thanks is simple. This morning I'm thankful for music, because music--at its best--not only finds its way into the secret places of the soul, as Plato once said, but fills them.

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