Or, Finding God in Mozart
My new classical music station of choice is WQXR-FM out of New York City. No, this isn’t a paid commercial. I just want to express my appreciation for having this great channel. I even like their style of fundraising and proved it by making a donation! They were playing Mozart at the time, and were offering donors a couple of CDs with the “best of Mozart.” I don’t know how you’d go about selecting M’s best — it’s all so spectacular!
As you may know by now, if you’re a reader of my blogs, sometimes a thought jumps into my head and prompts other ideas to germinate. I consider this a blessing. It keeps my brain from atrophy (I hope) and invites insights and even clarifications that I might not have had if I had just lolled around with only the one thought.
This time, what popped into my head was the 1984 Oscar winner for best film: Amadeus.
Peter Schaffer, author, capitalized on a rumor that had been floated when Mozart died at the young age of 35. The rumor was that the envious court appointed composer, Antonio Salieri, had caused Mozart’s death. The truth is that Salieri was a highly respected composer and teacher. Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt were among the most famous of his pupils, and they had dedicated compositions to Salieri. Pretty good recommendation, I’d say!
On the other hand, Mozart’s wild manners and foul mouth are well documented. Clearly, Schaffer used this situation as a device to explore the true nature of Genius.
There’s a wonderful scene at the beginning of the movie that shows Mozart horsing around (sorry, no other word for it) with his beloved fiancée Costanza, and using very coarse language. Salieri is disgusted to witness this highly improper behavior when suddenly, from the other room, are heard voices of wind instruments breathing out heavenly strains of music: one of Mozart’s Serenades.
Salieri is baffled. How can this uncouth boy create such glorious music when he, Salieri, who has dedicated his life and talent to God, can produce only hackneyed phrases? Has God no respect for his efforts? How can he favor this unworthy brat over me, a sober hardworking craftsman?
Playwright Schaffer named his play well, using only Mozart’s middle name, Amadeus, which means God loves. Indeed, God loves anyone and everyone for his own reasons, whether or not they’re reasonable to us.
Schaffer made good use of this alleged enmity between the two composers and the unfounded hoax surrounding Mozart’s death. He illustrated an important point about Genius which is this: Genius does not require moral Goodness in those whom Genius chooses to visit. Not all poets and artists, sculptors and musicians were models of virtue. But their lack of virtue or even good manners, never kept the spirit of Genius from entering what we earthlings might consider very foul homes.
I see this same paradox in what Jesus tells Nicodemus about the need to be re-born in the Spirit (John 3). To be born “of the flesh” is merely to follow the dry mandates of the law. Someone like Salieri might be well versed in the rules of harmony and composition, but may lack that special spark, the spark we call “divine inspiration.”
To be born of the Spirit means going beyond our hollow, dry, legalistic approach to God. Our model of divine inspiration is none other than Jesus the Christ. Yes, God has now given us Jesus to rely on; Jesus, The One who has come down from heaven and therefore knows first hand what is heavenly. Jesus taught of being born of the Spirit and even gave his life to prove the authenticity of this teaching.
We are, for now, on the outside looking in, and may not yet be able to know whom the Holy Spirit decides to visit, or why. The Spirit does not require our permission to visit those we consider worthy. Nor does the Spirit need to obey us when we want to exclude those we judge unworthy. The Spirit is like the wind that “blows where it wills. . . you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
That’s why Jesus’ teachings, parables, etc., so often feature “losers” coming out on top, over the ones we’d consider “worthy.” For example:
- The Good Samaritan who was a despised foreigner.
- The laborer who was paid for a full day’s work in the vineyard, though he’d only put in a couple of hours.
- The Prodigal Son, versus the “faithful” son who stayed home to work the farm.
- Zacchaeus, who had cheated taxpayers but is now rewarded to have Jesus stay with him, just because he climbed a tree to see him!
Typically, we’re not good judges of character, especially as to who “deserves” to enter the Kingdom of God. On one occasion Jesus bluntly told Peter, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16:23).
We don’t get to barter or bargain with the Almighty; there’s no quid pro quo.
Most of us have no idea what humility is, much less Genius or holiness, even though Jesus modeled these for us so thoroughly.
So tell me, when was the last time you heard a composition by Salieri on your radio?Mozart at 6, in court dress.
Link to a scene from the movie Amadeus: