My Ode to Joy – The Sinking of the Beast
8 1/2-minute read
“Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
And more joyful ones! Joy! Joy!” ~Ludwig Van Beethoven
When I was a teenager, like most teenagers, I was obsessed with being cool. Perhaps my definition was a bit different than that of some of the other teenagers, but it was, nevertheless, a preoccupation. It wasn’t until years later that I would discover that needing to be cool will ultimately prevent you not only from being yourself but also from doing the funnest things there are to do. Cool prevents you from having the time of your life. Just ask any geek like me.
Around that time that cool becomes a necessity in a person’s life, my definition of cool became a divergent one...and that has made a measurable difference. I’m not sure that I would have discovered some of the most amazing music, film, literature, and other art that has ever been made had it not been that my definition of cool at that critical time in my life found its home in alternative culture. Counterculture.
Even though I had early exposure to what is generally called “classical” music, and even studied certain delightful works on the piano, I didn’t necessarily think it was cool. It was the music my mom listened to, and, like most teenagers, I knew that stuff your parents like is generally not cool. So when I discovered one of the most important counterculture films of all time, A Clockwork Orange, I couldn’t reconcile my idea of cool with the fact that the protagonist in the story, Alex, worshiped, as he called him, “lovely lovely Ludwig Van.” Beethoven, that is, and his 9th Symphony, 4th movement in particular. The Ode to Joy.
I didn’t realize until after having finally seen “A Clockwork Orange” that my piano teacher – a bit of an oddball himself – had years earlier described a scene to me in the movie and even mimed some of the action. In retrospect, this was probably wildly inappropriate for him to do, but then, us oddball musical types don’t really get what we want from life without being wildly inappropriate. It kind of comes with the territory.
As a teenager, my cool was listening to New Wave and Industrial music almost exclusively. When I was introduced to A Clockwork Orange, I remember having a discussion with one of my droogs at the time about the usage of Beethoven as Alex’s power music. I couldn’t understand why it was that this uncool music was his and not some version of rock or punk or some other such teenage stereotype. Said droog tried to make a point about the inherent violence in Beethoven's 9th, but I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t feel it.
The origin of the text for Beethoven’s lyrics for the 4th movement comes from German poet, playwright, and historian Friedrich Schiller. According to Wiki, his verse translates into English as such:
Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity, Daughter of Elysium, We enter, drunk with fire, Heavenly one, thy sanctuary! Thy magic binds again What custom strictly divided; All people become brothers, Where thy gentle wing abides. Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt, To be a friend's friend, Whoever has won a lovely wife, Add his to the jubilation! Yes, and also whoever has just one soul To call his own in this world! And he who never managed it should slink Weeping from this union! All creatures drink of joy At nature's breasts. All the Just, all the Evil Follow her trail of roses. Kisses she gave us and grapevines, A friend, proven in death. Ecstasy was given to the worm And the cherub stands before God. Gladly, as His suns fly through the heavens' grand plan Journey, brothers, on your way, Joyful, like a hero to victory. Be embraced, Millions! This kiss to all the world! Brothers, above the starry canopy There must dwell a loving Father. Are you collapsing, millions? Do you sense the creator, world? Seek him above the starry canopy! Above stars must He dwell.
It is a message of universal connection, not only with other people but with Nature herself! All creatures drink of joy / At nature’s breasts! Yes. Yes, we do. When we’re doing it right, anyway.
Beethoven’s 9th is one of the most performed and well-regarded pieces of music of all time. To this day, it’s played everywhere. It’s used in movies (and not just ones about Beethoven, although its usage in Immortal Beloved is spectacular). Young children who know nothing of its history plunk it out on toy Casio keyboards. It was performed on Christmas in Berlin, 1989 to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall just weeks earlier:
And it was played at full volume through my hi-fi in my teenage bedroom on several occasions. Inspired by Alex’s arguably psychotic reverence of this music, I wanted to see for myself what this fascination was all about.
And on one such occasion something very interesting happened.
Waves of electricity washed over me like goose bumps on a goose whose feathers have been ripped from its living flesh for feather down pillows now spontaneously being replaced by angel wings. Frankenstein’s monster coming to life from bolts of lightning. A seizure of pure ecstasy. Up and down my entire body, inside and out.
Something was happening to me that was most certainly not impulses of violence. I didn’t have the language for it then, but I see now it was undeniably a spiritual experience. No wonder there is a Church of Beethoven in my hometown.
Flash forward to last night. My wife is making frequent trips to the loo dealing with an issue that’s been going on for some time now. When things finally start to calm down long enough for her to stop making the trips, we find ourselves in our warm, quiet, dark bedroom whispering about how disconnected we have all become from our own bodies and from nature (and how these are really one and the same phenomenon). How the awakening that is veganism is indicative of a global awakening – what some are referring to as a dimensional shift. That we are all connected. That the lines that are drawn that divide the worthy and the unworthy – those that are friends and those that are food, those that deserve life-love-liberty and those that do not – are illusory. Manifestations of an obsolete mode of being that serve absolutely no one – ultimately, that don’t even serve those who manufacture those illusions.
And as our conversation trailed off and I felt my Immortal Beloved drifting away into much needed rest, I suddenly had a familiar sensation that was coupled with a crystal clear revelation: Everything, absolutely everything that we are going through right now is about the death of obsolete modes of being. The George Floyd protests, the “Raid on Washington,” and the thousands of people in the streets right now protesting Faucivirus mandates, they are all different faces of the same thing: The veil of the “reality” that has been forced upon us is coming down and people have bloody well had it with the poisonous status quo. The Grand Awakening is nigh.
And then something very old but very familiar happened.
My breath deepened. Tears streamed down from my eyes to my temples. Waves of electricity washed over me like goose bumps on a goose whose feathers have been ripped from its living flesh for feather down pillows now spontaneously being replaced by angel wings. Frankenstein’s monster coming to life from bolts of lightning. A seizure of pure ecstasy. Up and down my entire body, inside and out.
In my head I saw an incarnation of The Cult of Progress as a dark beast, sliding down into a hole of its own creation, scraping at the sides in desperation, reaching out for the hypnotised masses...anyone that the beast could pull down with it, for it knows. It knows its end is near. It knows that there is nothing it can do to escape the inevitable loneliness of its web of illusion: Wetiko, the loneliness it has been desperately forcing on each and everyone of us, the loneliness it has been desperately trying to convince us is for our own good and now, in its final hours, more desperately than ever.
Thanks be to whomever-you-wish-to-direct-your-gratitude that there are those among us who know and feel the crucial importance of real face-to-naked-face connection, who drink of Nature’s joy, who can feel the revelation of Truth expressed by geniuses like Beethoven and Schiller, and who know that true health, true love, true life-giving joyous power exists ONLY in that which cannot – nay, can never ever – be patented. And how beautiful, how absolutely beautiful that this power is available to anyone, no matter how long they’ve spent in the darkness, no matter how close they come to being forever consumed by the sinking of the beast.