What's Wrong With Mozart? — Jewish Journal

What’s Wrong With Mozart? — Jewish Journal

What's Wrong With Mozart? — Jewish Journal


In 1971, Shai Reshef wrote a beautiful book called The Purity Of Dreams. It was set against the backdrop of the second Israeli war. The book warned of the dangers of seeking revenge after a crime, and the exact opposite of vengeance was to make peace and see that the other side understands one’s own desires.

In 1993, Mira Nair wrote an even better book called Monsoon in Kashmir. It focused on two young lovers, one Sikh, one Hindu, who fall in love. During an incident of violence that takes the life of the Indian boy, the Pakistani boy in an act of reconciliation attempts to free his lover from prison through the use of prayer and logic. But she dies before they get to this goal. Mira’s message? We can try to find what we are truly about, rather than shifting positions around them, and we can achieve peace more easily by helping our fellow man realize who he is.

In 2016, Michel Foucault published a philosophical essay called The Absolute. It focused on the worst aspects of humans: violence, the vindictive, the perverse, the megalomaniac. But in the end, what interests Foucault the most is the drive for ever greater good, for shared purpose and achievement. And because of this, the only reason for war, for state, for religion is not to benefit the individual but to promote the collective.

From the Bible, the directive “love your neighbor as yourself,” is followed by a strategy to assure that everyone of such a mentality is in real need, so no one disputes that everyone belongs to the same world. What does this guidance have to do with caring for human babies?

My biggest concern about our society today is the rapidly escalating sadism that seems to be all around us in our own midst. Trauma is taking the place of trauma. My fear is that today’s culture is becoming a culture of pleasure and pleasure is only a problem if it represents the destruction of all the love we have ever known.

In our baby classes in school, every day we teach our students to go into the world with love. Our mantra is no matter what happens, love wins. One of the recent DVDs in our classroom was The Best Of What We Can Be, a powerful educational film produced by Global Citizen. The film takes us through the symphonies of Bach, the lyric poetry of Robert Frost, the lyrical grace of Charles Simic, and the journey of Mozart and Brahms. When I told the kids I was going to be watching it, one girl asked if this would make me cry.

She was incredulous that anyone could get goosebumps from Mozart. All I could think was why did I know it would get me the tears? What was wrong with Mozart? As it turns out, the song that made the young girl feel like that was “Nessun Dorma,” which really does make me cry now. It is that extraordinarily soothing melody that expresses the fear, sadness, wonder, and pride that comes from what’s beautiful in our world. You hear the refrain that it is only what’s beautiful that matters and the tune speaks of the love that is at the heart of our relationship with creation.

I’m just glad that we have a classroom of kids who have a genuine love of music, and am grateful that we teach our kids how to listen without listening to the words of the song. I’m glad we teach our kids to appreciate and express what makes life beautiful, to find the inspiration, the melody, the lush music in our shared experience.

I hope that our babies’ parents will take lessons from our own attempts to break down barriers of ignorance, even if it means abandoning the world of patriotic political rhetoric. I hope they will realize how easy it is to become like their own worse selves, how easy it is to turn toward a world where killing is the norm.

Photo Credit: The Tribune, S. Ward

Anya Kamenetz is a professor at the Fordham University School of Law. She is the author of books on Jewish social ethics, young Jewish adults, and Holocaust writing. Her work has appeared in Time, Slate, The New York Times, Esquire, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Hill, Engadget, and The Broad Side.

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