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J.S. Bach

The surest sign that I am running a frenzied pace of doing too many things at once is that I find myself feeling trapped in my car. I prefer to walk when I can, since the pace is metered out one step at a time, allowing me to digest it no faster than I make it happen. Time and space pass in a sensible way when you are walking, but in a car they zoom by at a rate that requires anyone to ignore the details.

Recently I found myself driving too fast in order to either make a deadline or simply for the carnal thrill of it when something amazing and beautiful took place all around me. Amid the noise of the engine and wind the radio went gently over to a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach, the Sinfonia to Cantata 29. Many of you may know this as the Prelude to the Partita for Solo Violin, BWV 1006, reworked for a full orchestra. It is one of the pieces that I feel Bach arrogantly attempted to portray what God’s view of this world must be like, and he pulled it off admirably.

I was reminded again just how small my little troubles really are, but more importantly the connection to the universe that is missing in a bizzy bizzy life was momentarily restored. My sense of time and space was as big as 300 year old music, much more than I could expect from a walk. Perhaps I could not possibly make out the details of Minneapolis around me, but the greater universe felt close and warm.

I believe it was Yehudi Menuhin who said that everyone needs some Bach in their daily diet (it may have been Heifetz, I can’t find a reference). For me, even at the most desperately out of balance times I have to endure just to work up enough scratch to keep living my life, Bach can lead me like a patron saint. I think of his portrait, part of the stained glass of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, with its wry knowing-but-fatherly smile looking down on me in a warm but paternal admonition. He had his deadlines and busy days, too. He found comfort by contemplating how all of this looks from some distance, some point above or beyond. And he gave this gift to all of us who are lucky enough to appreciate it.

There is a sense of everything around us that passes even the most simple jazzing of our senses. Sometimes, it is delivered in even things we don’t especially like. I find it best to enjoy those moments wherever and whenever they come.

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