A friend recently posted something on social media that got me thinking. While that endeavor is not always welcomed by anyone but myself it did accomplish my finding a link to the forgotten purpose of discord.
Glancing through the news recently made me think of whether people complaining about whatever happens to be in fashion really understand what sowing the seeds of discontent is really supposed to be about: accomplishing something long-lasting that will withstand the would-be lumberjack who has set his sites set on the trees you planted.
Time will always tell whether that tree is strong, nay, valuable enough to withstand swings of the ax. But as long as we’re slinging metaphors around, let me give you the one that drove me to the keyboard today. With the magic of cutting and pasting I’ll put together my thoughts here for your convenience or irritation.
When I read the incomprehensible blather that is passing for deep thought today from our friends in various mass media, I have to think of the music I love which includes the symphonies of Beethoven, specifically the 3rd also known as the Eroica. I don’t know how familiar you are with the structure of a classical or romantic era symphony but there’s something very important that makes me disdain today’s combative prose we are given to read every day. In any of the symphonies from those eras there is a section where themes are developed, turned sideways and upside down, extended and reduced. It’s called simply the Development section.
What Beethoven did was remarkable in the development section of the Eroica (he also adopts this as sort of a trademark which he also uses in the 5th, the 7th, the 8th, and the magnificent 9th). He puts chord against chord becoming more dissonant until there is a climactic explosion of half steps against each other leading us (eventually) back to the recap of the beginning. My point is simply this: Beethoven was a genius at taking things that didn’t ‘seem’ to go together and making them work to make the music better. We have lost that ability to discuss and argue a point. It’s ugliness without an attempt to make things better. The discourse is so self-serving that it seems to be running away from a central point of satisfying climax.
I’ll continue further with musical allegory. I recently was able to expose a friend to a favorite jazz album of mine called Soulmates. It features the art of trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge, duking it out measure by measure in a classic set of chases where they trade off like boxers engaging in the Sweet Science.
When you sit down and listen you notice that great jazz musicians that have been charged with playing multiple choruses of changes start easily. They don’t give it up all at once. Instead, they tease out ideas and develop them into a wild climax that leaves the audience breathless. They end together after exchanging ideas. It is that sense of development that draws you in, not a sudden explosion of good material that dies on the floor waiting to be turned into something that will always stay with you. I hadn’t listened to that album in decades and yet, because the solos and the contained development was so strong, I could still sing each and every solo all the way through.
That’s a tree that’s not going to fall simply.
I ache to listen to reasoned discussion again rather than the bellowing that leads to nothing. This nation was built on the constant exchange of ideas. Some were good, others not so good. Some were beautiful, others ugly. Nonetheless, we worked out our troubles gradually and moved on.
In my view, the changes that worked best were the ones that were implemented slowly. That meant more pain, to be sure, but the effects were longer lasting or, at least, certainly had the promise of being so. What social media have done is to speed up the processes of change so quickly as to make us become less aware of what we’re doing. Sometimes, you have to stop and take a long, hard look at what you’re doing and be honest enough to consider whether the result you seek is best created by going down the path you’re currently on. There’s no shame in starting over when you know the slippery slopes you will encounter are not worth the effort and, worse yet, won’t result in lasting change. There’s also no shame in saying you’re sorry, either, when you know you’re wrong.
If you continue to club your opponent over the head with your opinions you’ll likely kill them. If that’s what you want, there’s not much that can be done. You’re just going to very lonely when you’ve clubbed everyone to their death.