The Way of Beauty Shine, Shine in Use

photo 1446234855715 77caa12fe5ae Photo by Josh Byers

At the end of each year, WQXR, the classical radio station originating in New York, asks its listeners to vote for their favorite pieces of classical music played during the year.  Based on those requests, WQXR closed out 2015 by counting down to the 100 most-requested pieces of the year. 

Countdown to Midnight

On New Year's Eve, the countdown to Midnight intensified. The end came as no surprise.  It wasn't even close.  Beethoven's Seventh Symphony won third place, his Fifth, second place, and his Ninth Symphony, the "Choral," took first.  This, his last, was composed in 1823 when he was completely deaf.  At the turn of the millennium, the Ninth was played across every time zone to usher in the year 2000.

How does Beethoven consistently command so much love?  How does he shine in use? It's not as if the other Greats pale in his company.  But Beethoven is set apart from them all.  Why so? In a word, he was on a collision course with fate but defied it. 

At thirty, at the height of his creativity, at a time when as a lower-class German, he was gaining the respect of the aristocracy, deafness marched into his life overtaking him  with its steady and irrevocable onslaught.  How could this cruel fate rob him of his most prized possession?  There was nothing more to live for.  He withdrew from society, contemplated suicide, and drew up his last will and testament.  

After fighting it, Beethoven made suffering a fundamental part of his life-vision.  It took years but was accompanied by an enormous power of self-assertion and indomitable strength. Toward the end, he was reduced to communicate with few and did so by scribbling on scratch pads. 

Though most readers know few details about Beethoven's life, his music is emphatic-assertive. It speaks for his personality which changed the course of music history. Charlie Brown would declare wholeheartedly: 'Beethoven shines in use,' do you hear?  Beethoven!"

Alfred Lloyd Tennyson's "Ulysses"

In the course of their collegiate years, students may read "Ulysses," the dramatic monologue by Alfred Lloyd Tennyson.  

After having sailed the seas and having drunk deeply of life's experiences, Ulysses returns home to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus. Restlessness prevents him from settling down. He fears it will keep him from living as fully as he did abroad: 

"I cannot rest from travel: I will drink 

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd . . .

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour'd of them all; 

And drunk delight of battle with my peers, 

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy."

More in The Way of Beauty

Ulysses reasons that to avoid boredom, he must not remain in one place:   

"How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use."

This last couplet can be broadened to mean: Wherever you are, shine, shine in use.  Or, "whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, … do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31).

"Let Your Light Shine among Men"

Everyone can shine in use regardless of circumstance. Beethoven did. Jesus, who was the light of the world even on Calvary, exhorted his followers to let their light shine before all men; it was impossible to hide their light under a bushel basket (Mt 5:15 ).  

In his Letter to the Philippians (2:14-15), St. Paul urges: "Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like the stars."  The first aspect of our lives that can be made to shine is our personalities. They're with us all the time.  Developing a first-class temperament to shine in use should be a primary concern.   

(Column continues below)

Speaking through Portia in "The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare writes as though paraphrasing scripture: 

"How far that little candle throws his beams!  

So shines a good deed in a weary world." 

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.