Dangerous Times

Remarks given on 29 March 1994 at Michigan State University before a performance of Symphony No. 4

It goes without saying that we live in dangerous times, and that the human family is threatened by forces within itself that it does not understand. Community is shattered, individuals are alienated, hunger, slaughter, and oppression continue and seem to be gathering momentum. Yet I want to speak of hope. I offer a quote from the book Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung. This was written in the first decade of the twentieth century, but has come to apply dramatically to our time. The first idea in this quote seems like a slap in the face, yet it is clear and true:

“Everyone who has his eyes and wits about him can see that the world is dead, cold, and unending. Never yet has he beheld a god, or been compelled to require the existence of such a god from the evidence of his senses. On the contrary, it needs the strongest inner compulsion, which can only be explained by the irrational force of instinct, for man to invent religious beliefs. In the same way one can withhold the stories of primitive myths from a child but not take from him the need for mythology, and still less his ability to manufacture it for himself.” Here is the crux of the quote: “One could almost say that if the world’s traditions were cut off at a single blow, the whole mythology and the whole religious tradition would start all over again with the next generation…. Enlightenment avails nothing; it merely destroys a transitory manifestation, but not the creative impulse.”

And so – what does it mean that a composer and a symphony drop on you out of the blue? It means in part, I think, that in spite of all the fracturing of culture and obscuring of soul, in spite of depersonalization, loss of community, despair of individuals and classes, in spite of the reduction of the arts to entertainment and the reduction of entertainment to a shrieking din – in spite of all, the living tradition of the creative impulse goes on, the tradition that has nothing to do with money, or entertainment, or technology, but has everything to do with personhood, community, wellness, balance, and hope. It is in this tradition that this ensemble sits here tonight, and out of which I believe and hope my music has grown. It is this creative impulse with all its manifestations which is the central and undeniable driving force of the human race, and which will carry it through the darkest times.

By |2016-12-09T23:08:47+00:0029 March 1994|Philosophy, Symphony No. 4|