Last week after the Paris bombs and the San Bernadino shootings—in response to the senseless sudden, hateful taking of innocent lives—I went to the box office at the Symphony while Henry was in the dress rehearsal for is concert today and bought three tickets for the Symphony's performance of Handel's Messiah. I feel saddened beyond understanding when I learn of the destruction of ancient Buddhist objects and other sacred and historic artifacts.
I wanted to witness with my family, especially my 12 year old son, the performance of a work of art composed almost three hundred years ago that has endured through thousands of performances, and maybe hundreds of thousands of rehearsals, and readings for centuries. For those few hours we are witness to the life of art and the importance of art in dignifying our existence in this world, on this planet.
On several occasions a student I've known has met an unexpected death, from gun violence and on another occasion from either suicide or substance-associated accident. It leaves me with a sudden sense of fragility and impermanence. I am slightly more awake in the moment, as if hte light is turned up, or the camera is sharper focus. This usually fades eventually and I return to the same daily race against time and things.
The violence we live with every day given the recent acts of random violence attributed to ISIS is on another scale. It's no longer out there, in one person's or one famlly's life, it is all of our lives. Even after my experience in Boston during the bombings at the finish line, I was just far enough removed to have a remote, rather than a direct experience. I heard the explosions and saw the rising clouds of smoke. One man holding a child came running past me yelling for folks to "get out of here". The SWAT teams were filling out the lobby of my hotel, and later in the street as we hightailed in out the Copley Square. Most of my what I saw was what everyone else saw, when we made out we back to my hotel room and saw the television coverage.
I used to think I was lucky to have escaped the bombs and to have finished the course. But right now nothing feels finished as the violence spreads and rises unexpectedly, in unexpected places. It doesn't mean I live in fear, but rather I live with a heightened sense of the fragility of life and the importance of art, of performance, of music. The sublime beauty of the performance of sacred classical music is that it is both old and fleeting. A single note is played, a chord vibrates for only so many moments and even then it moves, attenuates, rises, lives for a short moment.
That's why I wanted to be with family at last Friday's performance of Handel's Messiah. It's not only the Halleluja Chorus but each moment, each breath, each gesture of Erin Freeman that makes me grateful to be alive here in the moment, in this place, at this time in the history of the planet. That's why I think Art matters.