Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Classic's kind of weekend

I have been in an odd mood lately. There is something about the changing of the season from summer to fall, the waning warmth of summer, the eternally long darkness of winter. I really enjoy the spring and summer, but I love the fall and winter sans the snow that stays on the ground. Fall smells perpetually of wood fires burning, brings back memories of childhood, brings to mind adulthood and the thoughts of the future. As everything about you in nature begins on its final journey of life, mortality comes to mind, but not the fear of mortality, but the knowledge that life must be lived, and enjoyed, and loved to the fullest.

With that thought in mind I have been in a very classical mood as of late. I have been listening to the classical choral music from the Baroque period. Few people know that my own guilty pleasure is classical music, especially choral pieces. I love classical secular and religious pieces of music. They tend to be the most beautiful works of art I have ever heard, and I suspect I shall never hear anything like them. I listened to a Fugue by Bach earlier, right now I am listening to Lamento Della by Claudio Monteverdi, I was also listening to choral music by Henry Purcell, whom in my opinion is a genius. There is something about the harmonies of the Bass and Tenor voices of the men and the Alto and Soprano voices of the women that goes straight to the soul, stirs something in the heart. One can not help but think that this is the music of greatness. If you listen close enough one can imagine this being background music to the creation of the heavens and earth and mankind. It is certainly the background music to the creation of some of my greatest thoughts. Classical music helps me think, clears me mind, causes neurons to fire the way only Mozart, Bach, Handel, or a great Brahms Violin Concerto can (Violins are my favorite).

I have also downloaded a few classical books (as a side note, I wish I had print copies of some of these, it is hard on the eyes to read some of these on my laptop and makes reading much slower). I have begun to read Ulysses by James Joyce. I am told that I should read it once through and then read it again with notes about the small subtleties, the allusions to other pieces of great literature, the "in-side jokes" of the Irish culture. I am told that I will get much more out of the book if I do it that way, and that I will enjoy it much more that way. I will be sure to do that. Next on the list is Paradise Lost by Milton, and then the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. Right now I am going to only focus on Ulysses however. I do really enjoy a lot of modern literature, mystery/murder novels, sci-fi type novels, almost anything by Dean Koontz (he seems to be murder, mystery, and sci-fi) and I like novels by Tom Clancy, my favorite as of late is Teeth of the Tiger. But I feel that I owe it to myself, and to those of literature past to read the classics. I think that I will enjoy these books and that I will gain something from them, something I could not gain from anywhere else.

The classical music and the classical literature is my homage to the things of past, my ancestors, the greats who have come before me. In 7 short hours I will be waking up to pay homage to others things of the past, but not as distant. Tomorrow I head out to Gettysburg to pay tribute to my fiances' grandmothers' friend who served in World War II. It reminds me that one of my grandfathers served in World War II, and one of them in Vietnam. It reminds me of a time when men served their country and their family, and they were proud to do so, and their peers knew this to be honorable. The men of this era did not complain about duty, did not complain about work, treated women and their elders with respect and knocked those on their ass who decided not to follow suit. I am not going to pretend I come close to being the man that these men were, but I try to instill that as much as possible into my life. A hard work ethic, no ideas of entitlement, respect, honor, integrity and courage.

When I think of the past, the distant and not so distant, I am always reminded of my favorite poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling. My favorite lines are these
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

This entire poem is a blueprint on how to be a man (or woman), and it must have been the blueprint that my grandparents followed, and the parents and grandparents of many others.

Everyone should take that journey at some point in there lifetimes. Do some soul searching, and get back to the classics.


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