Ode to Joy

For a variety of reasons I haven’t been walking at the gym lately.  The exercise always has a positive effect on me when I do.  I need to get back to it.

The last couple of times I walked I listened to my classical..

Sorry for the interruption.  I had to check my bird feeder for squirrels.

What was I saying?  Oh yes.  …my classical playlist.  I have Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on there.  I have always loved the beginning.  It sounds like an orchestra warming up.  Very clever of Ludwig to do that.  But I always felt it gets kind of repetitious after that and when it came up on the playlist I would move on to something else pretty quickly.

But the last two times I listened I didn’t move on.  I got a different perspective on the 9th symphony.  A little history on Beethoven, history according to me:

Beethoven was a big fan of Napoleon.  After the horrors of the French revolution Napoleon was a cause for hope.  No more bloodbath of revolution. No more inequality of the monarchy.  Instead republic, democracy.  Beethoven was ecstatic.  There was hope.  There was enlightenment.  Then came empire.  Napoleon made himself emperor and plunged Europe into war.  On top of this Beethoven, celebrated composer, lost his hearing. Beethoven fell into depression.  He became a derelict.  He was heard around town humming the tune to a simple children’s song.  A great talent had been lost.  But then there came word that, deafness and all, he had written one more symphony.


Here is what I see now in Beethoven’s symphony No. 9.  You sit down to pray.  Fearful, doubtful, depressed, you sit down to pray.  And nothing happens.  You wander.  You bumble around.  You are in a fog.  What’s the use?  But you stick with it.  And something happens.

Can you hear it?  Can you hear it in the music?  The bumbling around.  The fog.  Then the rising voice of authority.  The clear pronouncement.  Confidence. Hope.  After the initial rise the music fades back into wandering mode.  Then it rises again to a clear statement of hope.

I realize I get carried away sometimes but I am now seeing Symphony No. 9 as a parallel to an extended time of prayer, of communion with God, of restored peace, restored confidence, restored hope.  And something more.

Restored joy.

And that is where Beethoven ends up, with that children’s tune, with joy set to music.  I have never liked the choral part of the 9th.  The German language is not pretty.  If I was German I know I would be blessed by the words.  Here is the English translation.

But even if you are not German, even if you don’t understand the words, the essence of the music conveys peace, confidence, hope.  And joy.

Here is the full symphony:

Then there is the modern English version.  We call it Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.

Things look pretty bleak these days.  But no matter how bad things get, no matter who is elected, no matter where our society goes, no matter what ISIS or North Korea or Iran does there is a place we can go where we can find peace.  We can find confidence. We can find hope.

And we can find joy.





About Angus Lewis

My wife and I lived our whole lives in Arkansas until ten years ago. We moved to the Kansas City area in 2011 (a job change). That was the reason for the 'From a Far Country' title. Our children and grandchildren were in Arkansas. Six months ago we sold our house and bought one in Sherwood, Arkansas and my wife moved back down here. Two weeks ago I retired and moved back too. (I'm probably going to try to find something part time to keep me out of trouble.) So maybe the 'From a Far Country' title is not so much of a fit anymore. But I think I'll stick with it. I'm still not home. Not yet. The Bible says we are all strangers and pilgrims here. Our real home is with God and some day we'll be there. We'll be home.
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