Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Verdi & God

Christ in Winter: Reflections on faith from a place of winter for those in their years of winter…

I walked this morning to Verdi’s “Aida.” I don’t listen to opera much. I’m more of a folk music or ragtime kind of guy. Indeed, the next thing up after “Aida” was “Piano Honkey Tonk Favorites.” But I have a special fondness for triumphal marches, like “The Grand March” from “Aida.” I like Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” too.

When I imagine my death, I hear one of those triumphant marches playing as the theme.

I have especially enjoyed military marches during my working days. I was a part of “the church militant,” so when I ran or walked, I listened to Sousa or “The Col. Bogey March.” They got me ready for “Onward Christian Soldiers.” But when I transfer from “the church militant to the church triumphant,” I want to hear Elgar or Verdi.

If you had asked me as I walked this morning, “What are you listening to?” I could have told you, because I had chosen the music myself. I don’t always recognize Verdi’s music, though, or any other composer’s, if it comes at me unexpected.

Once I was sipping “Moose Drool” at my favorite coffee house, “Jitters,” in Mason City, IA, chatting with my favorite coffee shop owner, Scott Elsbury. Classical music was coming from the speakers. Scott and I tried to identify it. We couldn’t. The only other customer was a rough and surly looking biker type in the corner. Apparently he got tired of hearing us, because he shouted, in a disgusted voice, as one who must deal with idiots, “It’s Verdi!”

I was somewhat embarrassed. A rough and surly guy recognized Verdi, and I couldn’t.

In the past, if I heard a tune, I felt I should be able to identify the composer. If a line from a poem or a novel, I should be able to name the author. If an historical event, I should be able to state the date. If a person, like “the man who stood on the corner and waved all the time,” I should be able to name him.

A lot of old people are like that. Indeed, we’re sometimes worse, because we’re concerned about losing memory. Old couples will debate for an hour over whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday when the bird pooped on the deck. I knew a woman who had a panic attack because she couldn’t remember Dudley Moore’s name.

But it’s a blessing not to have to remember all that. I’m old. I don’t need the knowledge about a song or a poem, because I don’t have to use it. I can just accept it for what it is, without having knowledge about it.

Now that I am old, I’m satisfied just to hear the song or the line, enjoy the memory of an event, wave back at the man on the corner. I don’t need to have knowledge about something to enjoy it in itself. And I don’t have to be able to explain the Trinity in order to accept and enjoy the presence of God.

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