Sunday, September 26, 2021
Overheard at Table 5: Moonlight Sonata and the Human Soul
Moonlight Sonata, considered one of the greatest pieces of music of all time (and rightly so), touches the human soul almost like no other piece of music.
But what, do we mean, by the soul?
The soul, as we have commonly understood, is that ephemeral aspect of humanity that sets us apart from all other living creatures. We understand that other animals are alive. We understand that plants are alive. Also bacteria, and viruses, and single-celled organisms much too small to see. All these are alive.
But we generally understand that they do not have souls. As much as we wish to anthropomorphize some animals, the soul is that which sets us apart.
In contemporary times, it is quickly becoming fashionable to deny the existence of the soul. Many people now are coming to believe that the soul simply doesn't exist. It cannot be seen, or even adequately described, and therefore, since it cannot be defined or measured, it must be a fantasy, no?
While my personal thoughts on that rapidly increasingly popular ideology is based on my Faith, I will save such deliberation for another time. For this piece, I would like to submit that music is evidence of a soul. The ability for the human mind to hear a piece of music and, upon that hearing, have a deep emotional reaction - to the point of ecstatic elation or a torrent of tears - is evidence that there is, indeed, something about the human being that is different than other creatures.
Yes, it is proven that animals can react to music. Many even make their own music. Even plants grow better under different music (which I proved for a 7th grade science fair, when my bean plants listened to nothing but Muddy Waters or the Who's "Tommy") ... but only the human can hear a piece of music and dream of that which they have not seen, or can be inspired to paint a painting or write a poem, or assign to that music a memory of such depth that their very breath catches in their throats upon hearing.
And Moonlight Sonata, so perfect in its power, its graceful melody, its pounding insistency, this is likely one of the greatest examples.
To provide evidentiary testimony, I simply ask that you listen to the piece. close your eyes, and let the images sweep over your soul.
[concept thought of on 2011-0816. Not written until ten years later]