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Obligatory Autumnal Poetry

The Earth is closing her eyes
Like a beautiful lover lying
Next to me in bed.

Her deep, regular sighs are leafwinds
Stripping the coloredbranches
Of her mind.

Sleep, Earth: the carved, wretched
Faces of pumpkins keep watch
Over our bedroom.

Sleep, Earth: this blanket of leaves
Will shield your skin from
The frosty air.

Sleep, Earth, sleep with me:
For the night is as lovely
As the day;

But the twilight is still more beautiful!

Freude, schöner Götterfunken!

Today, I performed Beethoven’s 9th symphony with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. The performance was spectacular. Each movement was introduced with an inspirational speech read by Avery Brooks (famous for portraying Capt. Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), with the last movement preceded by “I Have a Dream,” by Martin Luther King Jr.

So, with that in mind, we began the last movement, which opens and closes with text by Friedrich Schiller: “Freude, schöner Götterfunken,” which means “Joy, beautiful God-spark.” Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the full text of the “Ode to Joy,” give it a read, albeit in translation:

Joy, beautiful God-spark
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Into your sanctuary, heavenly daughter!
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divided.
All men become brothers,
Where your gentle wing rests.

Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul,
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!

Joy all creatures drink
At the breasts of nature;
All good, all bad
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and wine,
A friend, proved in death;
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.

Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven's glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.

Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Singing it in the context of civil rights and unification of mankind, it’s easy to see it as simply a proclamation of the brotherhood of mankind, which is how I’ve always thought of it until today. During the last moments of the symphony, the choir repeats the phrase “Freude, schöner Götterfunken” several times.

Suddenly, as the orchestra broke into a furious frenzy of jubilation in the final coda, it hit me like a ton of bricks: the Götterfunken—the divine spark of God in every person… that thing that makes us human! As a Christian, I believe that God is divinely singular and divinely plural… three in one. And I believe that as a creative being, God desires companionship of many beings like Himself, which is why humans (created in His image) likewise desire companionship and communion with one another. “Do you bow down, millions? Do you sense the Creator, world?”—surely, this drive for connection to each other is a self-evident proclamation of the existence of the creator!

Surely the day when all people will know both their fellow people and their creator will be the most joyous day of all… and Jesus taught exactly that when he named the two greatest commandments… love of God, love of neighbor.

To say that I experienced pure Joy upon realizing this truth today is no overstatement.