OK, to be more accurate, it should read, “the ground is quaking.” The dependability of the ground under us is what we count on in our everyday lives; but when so much of what we count on is shaken so abruptly, the head spins and the heart pounds. Forget our noisy bravado in the stands when warriors clash on the fields of play, because during the rest of the week we want safety and stability.
Which may be one of the reasons we have so many felicitously furry friends in our lives. As birth rates drop, pet purchases grow. The news is frenzied, the economy is iffy, and you’re not always that sure about your neighbor or that rider sitting next to you on the CTA. But when you finally make it home at night after another hard-scrabble day, you know at least your dog or cat will be glad to see you. Well, your cat will, but has no intention of letting you know it.
What else do we count on to stabilize our shaky existence? Let us count the ways….
* Religion is the leading contender, originating from those moonless nights when humanity first sensed there was some kind of otherness in their otherwise brutish existence. Gods helped give meaning to the otherwise meaningless cycles of birth & death
* Alcohol is another contender. Its comforts have been with us since the first Mesopotamian changed barley into beer and grapes into wine. We assume it was a man, but there’s a case to be made for some distressed wife looking for ways to keep her husband distracted
* Drugs either natural or man made have been in contention at least since the first peasant chewed coca leaves and the first king slipped an aphrodisiac in the queen’s nighttime drink
* Psychiatry later replaced oracles and horoscopes, as science sought to fathom the mysteries of the mind, the memory, the panic, the grudge
But when all is said and done and written, what can we really report as humanity’s true north in its chaotic journey through the seas of time? It can be found in those primitive scratchings on cave walls…those first crude flutes and harps found buried with their owners… surely in the remarkable plays of Ancient Greece, Shakespearean London and New York’s Broadway. It is quite impossible to conceive our species having survived these many harsh millenniums without the ultimate splendor — the arts and their capacity to lift our eyes and ears and souls up from the gritty quaking earth.
To our quaking age of discontent, Beethoven’s 18 minutes 53 seconds ode to joy are possibly the most splendid response. He called it his 9th Symphony, which to many has become humanity’s international anthem…
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