One Life

Okay, I’m on a mission. The missus is in the kitchen cooking the tea, and I’ve set myself the challenge of writing a blog post by the time it’s ready.

Sometimes you have to break a habit by going completely 180 on it, I reckon, and I waste a load of opportinuties for sharing my thoughts because I don’t strike while the iron’s hot, and then I spend another two weeks editing the damned thing once I start. As Mum used to say, this isn’t a rehearsal, you only get this one life.

Of course, in a sense, that’s what this blog is about, that, very likely, we only get this one life. It’s unlikely in the extreme that it’s a rehearsal or a veil of tears, or one in a vast or infinite series, however much we might love life and want it to happen again in some form, or go on forever, or until we’re bored, or whatever is our greatest fantasy.

Joy is singing along to Bach, and I’m enjoying the sound of baroque genius floating in from the kitchen (eh-hem, Bach’s). Bach has given me moments of the deepest pleasure, and of a strange kind of sensation, almost a pain that is simultaneously sweet, enchanting, excruciating, sending shivers down the spine and bringing tears to the eyes. Bach suffered greatly in his life, and his music is full of an almost tangible sense of unquenchable forebearance and faith. This, of course, also gives me reason to wonder, how to think about my intense emotional response to religious music.

Bach’s music, of course, is intensely religious – so much so that he’s often called the Fifth Evangelist (after Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) – and I am an atheist.

I must write at greater length about this another time – this challenge is proving harder than I thought when I drank my pre-dinner wine (the aroma of cheese sauce tells me) – but for now I’ll just say that you don’t have to be religious to enjoy religious music, because it is largely the emotion inherent in our human reaction to music that is elicited, not any particular meaning: the Bach I love, ignoring musical style and any German or Latin I might know, could equally well be about Greek tragedies or Norse Sagas.

A strange thing has happened in how I think about my own response. Bach expresses a yearning: for God, for deliverance, and not just for himself, but for all, those who do not know of Jesus’ Resurrection. Strangely, I have begun to feel a similar yearning listening to beautiful music, but in almost the opposite direction, for enlightement, and not just for myself, but those lost in myths and superstitions of one kind or another.

And, as another favourite of mine, the band Genesis, said, ‘supper’s ready’. Hopefully not my last.


P.S. (Nearly succeeded!)…It’s hard to listen to this, especially reading a translation, and not feel a tiny inclination to convert. 🙂

About lettersquash

White, male, heterosexual, left-leaning, almost-vegetarian blogger, musician, ex-psychotherapist and ex-mystic, now philosophical naturalist (atheist) ... somewhere near his sixtieth year on the freaking planet, trying to counter some tiiny fraction of the magical thinking and lies of his culture.
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2 Responses to One Life

  1. Woody says:

    What a post! Please thank Mrs Lettersquash for her part in this.
    A few posts ago, when I commented on my view of the subject of magic, I was sure to include the perfectly natural sources of magic that can grip us, stir our emotions and bring tears to our eyes.
    I’ve noticed especially with artistic expression, we can feel a moving power within us just from exposure to them. Such as:
    That beautiful sunset, the red star almost sunk below the horizon, massive bands of deep-red cloud stretching across the sky above it, a reflection on the water that steals our breathe.

    The love we feel with our close friends and loved-ones, the sacrifices we happily give and receive with barely a thought.

    The powerful and epic spirit-lifting effect of our favourite, gorgeous music, be it Bach, or ‘Stand My Ground’, by the wonderful Dutch-metal band called ‘Within Temptation’.

    One Life, what a great post, a great message and reminder of how much time we waste on bullshit instead of following our deepest artistic designs, the things so powerful within us that it helps the whole world to let them out with our best effort to be properly understood, for others to feel the things we did when we first felt that beautiful feeling, whatever it was.

    Thanks Lettersquash!
    Your loyal fan,

  2. lettersquash says:

    Thanks very much, Woody, I’m touched by your comment, and very glad you liked the post. I was quite surprised by the result myself. I did a little bit of editing, but not much, just tidying up and a couple of links. It reminded me that art – writing included – is often better when we let our unconscious do more work and kinda get out of its way. I’ll pass on your thanks to “Mrs Lettersquash”. Stand my Ground was definitely worth a listen. Cheers.

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