It’s probably a safe bet that I’m the only person at my gym who is frantically perspiring on the elliptical machine concurrent to weeping my eyes out while perfectly rational and not in the least bit unhappy. I made a discovery a couple weeks back: If I listen to classical music like Mahler or Rachmaninoff—sometimes tuning my iPod to a majestic symphony by Sibelius, I’m simultaneously moved while literally physically moving. The end result is the release not only of extra calories but pent-up toxic frustration and emotional helplessness. Of course I have to tune out the dull “thud, thud, thud, thud” of annoying contemporary dance music blaring across the loudspeakers throughout the entire gym (often overriding a forty piece orchestra turned-up full blast on my headphones). Classical music employs a range of emotions, hushing quietly for melodic passages, and then thundering back to a roaring crescendo during moments of heightened passion or the conclusion of a stirring finale. Most contemporary music doesn’t evoke anywhere near the same emotional response from me.
I used to make the mistake of watching one of the television screens provided in front of the cardio machines. I’d plug in my earphones and search without success to find something to watch that wasn’t too stupefyingly mind numbing so as to help me pass the time. Trundling along on a treadmill isn’t appreciably different from hamsters spinning on a wheel—it’s point blank boring. I workout during the day on or around lunchtime when all that can be found on TV are soap operas, Jerry Springer and other entertainment programs designed to kill brain cells—so I’d try and watch the news. But the news is something I need to be very careful about watching. I’ve got a tendency to be a bit of a news junkie, and world affairs can sneak-up on my psyche and depress the living daylights out of me.
Classical music takes me away from endless trial coverage of whatever moron du jour has slaughtered his or her ex lover—or chained-up women up in the basement—or shot an innocent teenager out of pure undiluted stupidity. None of that trying trial news was ever my idea of “must see TV.” I refuse to be sucked into following those real-life melodramas. But then without warning I saw the raw footage on CNN of the sarin gas massacre in Syria with nearly one third of the dead victims being children. There was very little difference between what I was suddenly witnessing on TV and vintage World War II holocaust footage—except for the contemporary quality of the filming. It brought tears to my eyes, which were in no way similar to the tears I experience when I listen to beautiful music. These were tears of sheer horror, disgust, frustration and disappointment with the human condition. Once confronted with images like that, it’s impossible to imagine that the human race will ever have the collective will or character to become a better steward of our planet or a kinder Samaritan to our fellow man. There is no reasonable explanation as to why we have to share the earth with people of power who aren’t equipped with enough humanity to rationally govern the destiny of others. Sadly that scenario has deep historic roots that have repeated themselves since the beginning of time. Human beings are a deeply flawed animal.
As for the horrors in Syria, our nation and our president are in an untenable position. If we respond to the Syrian genocide we will be internationally damned. If we don’t respond to what has already happened and continues to happen in Syria we will still be internationally damned. In fact we damned ourselves the minute we made any contact at all with the Middle East and their filthy oil. That entire part of the world is mired in the eighth century, barely two and a half generations away from traveling on the backs of camels and sleeping in makeshift tents. There is no logic or middle ground when dealing with primitive thinking peoples thrust into a modern world filled with technological advancements ripe for misuse. And there is no possible way of bringing order to any clash of religious cultures that worship the same god but can’t check their personal mythology at the door. Organized religion (in my opinion) is the most consistently destructive and evil force the world has known, masquerading as righteousness. All religions are cults, and each one thinks it’s the other guy’s faith that’s the problem. It doesn’t matter what religion you examine, every cult makes judgmental claims to a non-provable superiority regarding both their god and their theology. Religious lemmings of every stripe haul around ancient time-honored hatred and prejudice passed along from one generation to the next until no one really knows why they hate—only that hate is an integral part of the culture.
Yet some of the most wise and beautiful words ever spoken have been formed out of the tenets of each and every faith. Our most glorious art and architecture cross-culturally have their foundations in religion. Without question, if there is a God, the deity enters the room on the wings of music. And so I trundle along on my treadmill listening to Handel, sampling Chopin or Liszt and weeping over Beethoven’s 9th and Faure’s Requiem—trying not to think about how close we are to organized religion being the death of us all. I’m helpless to change the attitudes preventing peace in this world—but the personalities who lust for power are perfectly happy with the chaos remaining exactly the way it is and always has been.
The human race is capable of astonishing beauty when people work together in harmony. This has always been embodied by watching an orchestra perform. In a perfect world, everyone, including the people of the Arab nations wouldn’t be using chemical warfare to snuff out anyone they disagree with—they be dumping Prozac into the water supply and replacing the call to prayer with classical music broadcast from every rooftop and tower. Too bad it’s not a perfect world. In fact it’s a crying shame. I think I’ll get my iPod and go to the gym.
– Disassociated Press, 8/30/2013
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