Section of the original score of the 9th symphony, Beethoven’s hand.
— by Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D. —
This summer I listened to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at the superb Grand Teton Music Festival, under the direction of Maestro Runnicles. There were close to two hundred people on stage with the orchestra and choir, plus a rapt, sold out audience. All humans present were focusing on beauty; either creating it or receiving it. One unit; one consciousness, recognizing and responding to something magnificent in unison. The best of what we can be. The standing ovation went on and on and on in exuberant appreciation. No one wanted it to end. We yearn for moments like these.
What astonishing beauty we can create!
It is a good thing to remember – who we can be, what astonishing exquisite beauty we can create. We so often see, and focus on, our destructive capacities. How can it be that we can create such astounding works of art; be so receptive to it, yet be so destructive? Who are we? How do we awaken and strengthen that affirmative part of our brain?
How can we encourage this?
What came to mind for me was harmony. Two hundred humans creating something in perfect harmony and we responded from a deep, essential part of ourselves. In this case it was the vibrations of music, heard in the mind of the composer, then expressed by each member of the orchestra calling out the most beautiful tone they could out of their instruments. Expressed by the choir, fine tuning their voices through years of practice, to bring forth lovely powerful voices in unison. All tuning to a higher order we somehow sense and reach towards and in rare exquisite moments, touch. Individual voices and instruments each adding their own sound to the whole. That is how life could be. Is, I think, except for the unnecessary dissonances we humans bring to it. Each of us our own unique vibration, be it human, animal, plant, rock, with its own unique beauty to add to the full orchestra of life. If we saw this, heard it, felt it, what beauty we would dwell in! How differently we would act towards other living beings! And then how different would be our current “environmental” crisis. The crisis is actually a consequence of disharmony; of living in dissonance with our origins rather than staying connected to; vibrating with, the earth and other living beings. As a species, and as individuals, we can evolve our unique humanness while staying connected. We will lose nothing.
Spending time in nature
So to ask again, how do we harmonize our brain so it is not at war with itself, seduced by anger and other destructive emotions, rather than expressing our capacity for love, beauty and creativity? One answer is spending time with nature. There is the exquisite harmony of a vastly larger orchestra, tuned through the ages, to which we naturally resonate. Our brains synchronize to the vibrations around us, and we feel peace and joy. Find new more creative, positive answers. Make better decisions.
Spending time with animals
Another answer is spending time with animals. They, too, stabilize us. Research by the HeartMath Institute show that the heart rhythms between us and our beloved pets naturally synchronize and smooth out when we are in each other’s presence.
And another is music. I think that‘s what happened at the concert. Our brains and hearts were synchronized in the presence of great music. In the presence of profound human creativity. And for that I feel a deep thankfulness. To the existence of a Beethoven. To the orchestra musicians who were true to their art, seeking, ever seeking, to play true. To those who understand the importance of great art and are committed to bringing it to the rest of us. We need more music; more sharing of beauty to bring out the best in us; to harmonize with each other and the natural world. Nature is already there, given to us, waiting for us. But music – music we created. We took what was given us, inborn, and generated something healing and enriching and inspiring. Perhaps it is the universe expressing itself through the best part of ourselves, expressing its creativity and beauty with us as the instruments. What more might we create if we as a culture support tuning in to the best part of ourselves, individually and together?