Vicious on the Mic and the Turntables

So I am preparing to go away for July. Lucky lucky me, I am back to Ukrainia to talk about God and existentialism with non-Christian students in the bread-basket of Europe. We will be there for the World Cup final when Shevi lifts the Jules Rimet trophy (a man needs his dreams). The national (verbal) poet of Ukraine has the same name as their national (football) poet. Taras Shevchenko is kind of like Seamus Heaney, W.B. Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh wrapped up in one for the citizens of Ukraine. I am not quite sure whether this is a real coincidence or the equivalent of Ireland’s greatest poet and greatest footballer both having the name Kavanagh. I’ll check up for you though.

So I am preparing some interesting talks for Ukraine. The most peculiar is a philosophical consideration of beauty in an attempt to get people to consider Christianity. Let me rip off N.T. Wright (since I’m going to be doing that most of the time I’m in Ukraine). Imagine you, like me at the moment, are packing up your belongings to move house when you happen upon a dusty old file that must have been left by the previous owners. Its a faded manuscipt consisting of many pages of music and it appears to be written for the piano. Maybe if you sell this on Ebay you’ll have enough cash to buy a carpet for the stairs in your new house, you think to yourself. Thankfully, your spouse points out that selling unidentified music on Ebay probably won’t make a lot of money and she instead suggests that you take it to a dealer.

The dealer has one look at it and picks up the phone and calls another dealer. He is excited, he is puzzled, he is telling you that it looks like Mozart’s handwriting but it is not a well known piece. In fact, it is a piece he has never even seen before! More phone calls, more consultations, experts and dealers and performers are now crowding the little shop all addressing the faded notes on the parchments. It really does seem to be Mozart, but unlike any Mozart we’ve ever heard before. The shop suddenly becomes silent as someone with initative sits at the piano and starts to play. It is wonderful. It is breath-taking. It is hallmark Mozart but Mozart at the top of his game. It ends with a delightful flourish and the room lets out a collective sigh. But, but something seems incomplete. Even you can tell that. There are portions in the piece where the piano appears to just be marking time. There is one place where the writing has faded and it seems that the composer intended for a longer pause but the hand-writing is too faded.

The consensus is spoken by the pianist, “It is Mozart!” But it is a Mozart piece for a number of instruments and we just have the piano’s part. It is beautiful but tantalising. It is a classical work but it is marked by what it is missing. A bunch of you race back to the attic but the search finds nothing more than your Leaving Cert notes and some tacky wedding gifts. The piano music is all there is, a signpost to something that was there and that might be here someday in the future. One thing is certain, we can’t fill in the blanks ourselves. We can’t guess what is missing and throw in a violin solo in the pause and an oboe at the end in the hope of getting it right. If only those lost sheets could be found, then we could make complete sense of the incomplete masterpiece before us in the ink sitting on those pages.

This is where we are when we consider beauty. The world is full of aching beauty. Paul Simon is right on his new album Surprise when he sings that “everything in it [the world] is a love song”. But the beauty that we experience, on a mountain peak in Mayo, or in the closing lines of a poem, or in the virtuoso, improvised solo in a live performance, the beauty is incomplete. We always need to go back for more. We are never full by it. What is it? What does it mean? What is it for? These are the questions we ask as we search for the missing pieces of the symphony of our life.

It is by the questions it provokes that we must define beauty- the transcendant that it offers. This is the way of things with echoes. Beauty tantalises but never satisfies, absorbs us but is never absorbed by us because it is an echo. An echo of the voice we all hear. If we were to hear it fully, with all the pages of the symphony together, with all our questions answered, surely everything, all we presently see and hear and love and everything else would become beautiful.

Your Correspondent, You heard stories and you heard fables

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