I knew I missed something important when I looked at the New York Times headlines on my iPhone and saw that the first 5 articles all related to one topic: the January 8 shooting in Tucson, Arizona. We do not have a tv and I get almost all of my news online. I usually take a look at the news a couple of times throughout the day, but I facilitated a retreat Saturday morning, had other obligations that afternoon, and didn’t even look at headlines until evening.
Added to all the other stuff happening in our world, our country, our states, our local communities, businesses, and families it’s enough to ask: Is everything a mess? Sometimes it certainly appears that way. And it can be difficult not to get sucked into the vortex of negativity and pessimism.
As I’m writing this, Elgar’s Cello Concerto is playing on KDFC, streaming into my home office. You probably know Elgar best by his Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, a graduation ceremony favorite. This piece is very different from all his other works. Most of his pieces were light and jovial, but there’s something contemplative and elegiac about his cello concerto. It made me wonder what was going on in Elgar’s life when he wrote this cello concerto.
Here’s what I learned: Edward Elgar composed this piece in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I. During the War he could hear the rumblings of artillery across the Channel in France. No doubt he knew many who died in the War. The piece represented the angst, despair, and disillusionment Elgar felt after the end of the War, with an introspective look at death and mortality.
So as I’m pondering if everything is a mess, Elgar’s Cello Concerto is a hauntingly beautiful and nostalgic balm, expressive of deep emotions when there are no words. A gift.
I believe that God gives us little gifts that help us endure through the messiness of life and, put things into perspective…an eternal perspective. Music that speaks to our hearts is a gift. Collective silence honoring those who were killed and wounded is a gift. Trust in the goodness and caring nature still present in humanity is a gift. Knowing we are not alone, but surrounded by the loving essence of a God who does care is a gift. That when everything around us does seem like it’s a mess, knowing we can play some small part in helping it all work out is a gift.
Here is a YouTube video of Yo-Yo Ma playing the First Movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto.