My Journey with Mozart and the Taj Mahal

Lately, I’ve been listening to Mozart’s Symphony #41–the “Jupiter” Symphony.  I enjoy classical music, but Mozart has always eluded me.  Certain musicians, one a jazz musician, have praised Mozart exuberantly.  The jazz cat said of Mozart, “He’s a real entertainer!”  Ever since the ’80’s movie, “Amadeus,” the whole world thinks Mozart is The Man.

The thing, I think, that makes Mozart hard for me is that his music is subtle.  I am finding that Mozart is capable of startling tonal breaks, and also of breathtaking beauty.  His music is like a crystal, not a flame.  So, which is probably my failure, I find my mind wandering only to be recaptured when Mozart does one of those startling things.  I would say I’m at about 1/2 able to stay with Mozart’s 41st Symphony.

I think my efforts to get Mozart are of value.  I have been following a life-long course of appropriating Euro-American civilization.  My formal education was only a start.  I have broadened and deepened my learning of Euro-American civilization.

You can learn only so much in one lifetime.  When I taught Humanities, the department made me use a book that had Euro-American civilization parallel with Chinese civilization and Middle-Eastern civilization.  So you would get one paragraph on Julian of Norwich then a paragraph on the Chen Dynasty, then one page on the Golden Age of Islam, another page on Napoleon and another page about the Great Wall of China then a picture of the Taj Mahal.  I don’t think in that order, but you see how jumbled all this is in my mind, now.

I think the only way to get a handle on, say, Chinese civilization is to study it as a whole–not pieces of it parallel with Euro-American civilization.  I have studied Chinese religions as part of my theological education, and I understand them to some degree.  I have also participated in Chinese culture through the pockets of Chinese immigrants in some of the cities I’ve lived in.

But I am an Euro-American.  I don’t know if I’ll ever really grasp Chinese culture.  I didn’t grow up there, don’t live there now, don’t live in Chinatown.  There are limits to what a person can grasp honestly and really.

Then there is the fact of conflicting ideologies.  I have also touched base with Chinese music.  I would listen to it during the period when I was undergoing acupuncture treatments.  What I found, though, for me, is that the kind of psychic balance that Chinese doctors strive to manifest in their patients is antithetical to some Euro-American ideologies.  This may sound strange, but I found I had to make a choice.  I couldn’t be both Western and Eastern at the same time.

So I’m back home.  Trying to understand one of Euro-America’s geniuses.  I feel that I have an understanding of a little of Chinese civilization.  But I’m not Chinese, never will be.  I’m not denouncing Chinese civilization.  I am not a xenophobe.  I have great respect for the achievements of that culture.  But it seems more valuable for me to broaden and deepen my foundation in Euro-American civilization.  Then I have a shot at becoming masterful in my knowledge.