This article appears in the April 23, 2021 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
Beethoven in the Garden of Gethsemane
Diane Sare is a LaRouche independent candidate from New York State for U.S. Senate, challenging Democrat Chuck Schumer. Mrs. Sare is also the founding director of the Schiller Institute NYC Community Chorus. She delivered this speech, “Reversing the Cultural Wasteland—The Urgency of a New Renaissance, Creating a Planetary Culture Worthy of the Dignity of Humanity,” to the first panel of the March 20-21 Schiller Institute Conference, “World at a Crossroad—Two Months into the Biden Administration.”
Good morning, or afternoon, or evening, to everyone, depending on your time zone. As you know, although the year is now 2021, but thanks to the COVID pandemic, we are going to continue celebrating the 250th year of Beethoven’s birth, because everything that needed to be done in 2020 wasn’t—and our leader Helga Zepp-LaRouche has proposed that we carry on the Beethoven Year until everyone thinks like Beethoven, so I think we will be studying Beethoven for at least a few years more.
As you will be hearing over today and tomorrow, we have many challenges to overcome right now. I know many Americans, after Biden was sworn in as President, felt very hopeless—and I suspect that many people in Europe, under the EU umbrella, have a similar sense, for perhaps other reasons—that we have lost the ability to control our own future. Since God created Man with free will, it must be the case that there is always a potential to change our destiny, but how?
An Immortal Legacy
In 1990, near the end of his first year in prison, Lyndon LaRouche dictated a brief introduction to Bridge Across Jordan, the autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement heroine Amelia Boynton Robinson. It was titled, “In the Garden of Gethsemane,” and it begins with a quote from the Book of Matthew—13:57, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.”
LaRouche says there that one way to approximate the question of Gethsemane is to imagine the world 50 years after your death, and to look back at your life, not as a series of events, but as a totality. What did you contribute for the good of mankind? He says that every human being has a right to leave an immortal legacy of goodness for humanity, for generations to come.
And, most importantly for us here today, he says:
Yes, we must struggle against injustice. But it is not enough to struggle out of anger. We must struggle out of love. And that we learn best, who have had to walk as leaders of one degree or another, through our own Gethsemane, with the image of the Cross before us.
Since this is an international conference and includes people of many different faiths and cultures—and I’m afraid some Christians might have forgotten—let’s recall what happened at Gethsemane. Christ had just informed his disciples that their dinner would be their “last Supper” and that he was going to be taken away and crucified. Christ then became very sad and then walked to the Garden of Gethsemane with three of his disciples and asked them to stand watch and pray while he went a little ways off to pray alone. There he asked God if it were possible to let the bitter cup pass from his lips, “But not as my will, but as thy will be done.” He returned to his disciples three times, and each time found them sleeping, which provided the answer. Christ accepted the cup.
But accepting death was not the only hardship. Go back to the Matthew quote. Imagine acting for the good of others, at great risk, or even death, to yourself, but also being ridiculed and reviled for it. Amelia often told us how many people told her, “Stay away from Dr. King!” And she observed that people would cross the street to avoid being seen with him. Many of us are familiar with what happened to LaRouche in this regard.
Think about what was done to Christ in the hours leading up to the crucifixion. He was stripped and whipped, and then dressed with a purple robe and a crown of thorns, and people mocked him, “Oh, you’re so great, King of the Jews, Son of God, where’s your God now?” They spat on him and laughed as they taunted him while he walked carrying the cross upon which he was to be crucified.
Beethoven: ‘I Am Prepared for Either’
Now, let’s look at the case of Beethoven, and his own moment of decision which he expressed in his famous Heiligenstadt Testament and Will, written in 1802 when he was 31 years of age. At age 28 this musical genius was nearly completely deaf, and things took a turn for the worse after he tried many remedies. You might imagine what it would be like to be known to be a great musician, and the terror of people discovering that you couldn’t hear. But let’s have Beethoven tell you in his own words in his will:
Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn, or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me. You do not know the secret cause which makes me seem that way to you…. But, think that for six years now I have been hopelessly afflicted, made worse by senseless physicians, from year to year deceived with hopes of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady (whose cure will take years or, perhaps, be impossible)....
[F]or me there can be no relaxation with my fellow men, no refined conversations, no mutual exchange of ideas. I must live almost alone, like one who has been banished; I can mix with society only as much as necessity demands. If I approach near to people, terror seizes upon me, and I fear being exposed to the danger that my condition might be noticed.… But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone standing next to me heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing.
Such incidents drove me almost to despair; a little more of that and I would have ended my life—it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me…. [Beethoven was not composing for fame and glory like some rock star, but to ennoble mankind.]
It is decreed that I must now choose Patience for my guide! This I have done. I hope the resolve will not fail me, steadfastly to persevere till it may please the inexorable Fates to cut the thread of my life. Perhaps I may get better, perhaps not. I am prepared for either….
That final sentence is the key: “I am prepared for either.” Beethoven had resolved that he would continue to pour forth his talent even if he never regained his hearing, because he knew that this was his appointed mission.
The Compelling Power of the Negro Spiritual
We are going to hear how Beethoven addresses exactly this idea in one particular case—he really does it in all of his compositions.
But there’s another important musical case of Gethsemane. And that is the source of the compelling power of the Negro Spiritual, as expressed by composer and arranger William Dawson in an essay he wrote about this music for one of his recordings. He writes about the ruling from the Legislature of South Carolina in 1741: “in case any person shall willfully cut out the tongue, put out the eye, castrate, or cruelly scald, burn, or deprive any slave of any limb or member, or shall inflict any other cruel punishment other than by whipping or beating with a horsewhip, cowskin, switch, or small stick, or by putting irons on, or confining or imprisoning such slave, every such person shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.” And Dawson says about the ruling:
With such a background, we marvel at the lack of a single word of hate in the religious folk-songs of the Negro! In the midst of inhumanity, he sang, “Lord, I want to be a Christian. I want to be like Jesus.” In these songs one can hear the “cry” for deliverance and freedom which lurks behind every measure, because the Negro literally poured his heart into them!
Besides suffering, slavery brought to the Negro the story of Jesus. In that story, the slave found the counterpart of his own tragic experiences and instantly claimed the hero of that epic drama for his own, which gives the meaning to the oft recurring “mah Jesus” in these songs. The slave identified himself with the Savior of all mankind whose travail and triumph became the hope and assurance of his own deliverance.
So now, let’s first hear how Bach and Marian Anderson deal with the question of Gethsemane in Bach’s St John Passion. The aria you will hear occurs after Christ has been hung on the cross but is still alive. He sees his mother and one of his disciples below and tells his mother to take this disciple as her son and tells the disciple to care for his mother. After receiving a sip of vinegar from a sponge raised to his lips on a long pole, Christ says, “Es ist vollbracht”—“It is fulfilled.” Obviously not meaning merely that he has taken care of this mother, but that he has fulfilled his mission.
We’re going to hear the cello and Marian Anderson sing the beginning of this and then the part where the battle is won. Marian Anderson sings the words, “The man of Judah fought the fight.” And remember, the victory is because with Christ’s death, all human beings can be forgiven of their sins. This is a case of the sublime, because by dying, Christ lives and gives mankind the gift of immortality.
So, let us now hear those two sections: the beginning and the end.
I’ll conclude by letting you listen to the ending of Beethoven’s Sonata Opus 110, which he wrote 200 years ago this year, in 1821. Please go and listen to the whole sonata later. You can hear what Beethoven does, and the victory. I’d like to thank Dura Jun for this recorded performance.