Ode to Joy in 2020? You are well within reason if you wondered how anyone can speak of Joy and 2020 in the same sentence. The year has been torrid at many levels. But even as we count our string of reverses we have had, I find there are gaps in them. Tiny crevices if you will. From those crevices sprouts silver linings for the future.
But first, Ode to joy. It is 1824, Vienna. A composer leads an orchestra with elan. The composition is phenomenal at different levels. It cocks a snook at many unwritten rules of that time. It’s the largest orchestra assembled at that time. For the first time, human voices form part of a composition. The entire composition is 74 minutes long! Way beyond other compositions. The audience is enthralled and in raptures. Some are in tears.
There is just one hitch. The conductor is still leading the orchestra, with this back turned to the audience, when the performance is over. A singer walks up to him and taps him on the shoulder and gets him to turn to the audience and receive the applause. The audience throw their handkerchiefs and give many rounds of standing ovations. Because, Ludwig Beethoven, the composer cannot hear! The audience want Beethoven to see that his composition is much appreciated. That was the premiere of the 9th symphony, with the Ode To Joy in it!
When Beethoven composed the 9th symphony, he had lost his hearing. From the stillness and quiet of his mind came his best work. Beethoven created music without hearing sound and wrote tunes when he had to do without volume. He was desolate and filled with despair when he worked on it. From the depth of despair, came the 9th Symphony.
2020 has pushed the world to despair like never before. An unbelievable disaster for millions who have been left to deal with loss of loves, lives and livelihoods. But amidst all these losses there are giant lessons that we should stay thankful for.
The year got the world to divest work from the firm grip of the workplace. Our established routine of getting to an office has been shredded and world over, new patterns will evolve. Through simple nondescript acts, the world found its humanity in the midst of all the tragedy. In the confined spaces of home, people have seen each other in new light. Sometimes, it has lead to action towards ending and beginning all over again. Most other times, it has been compassionate mending and re-imagining.
In the sheer scale of chaos and loss, 2020 will remain terrible. TERRIBLE. But we must salvage its ruins and use it as a foundation to shape a different horizon. Perhaps, just like Beethoven, we will produce an equivalent of a 9th symphony in the days ahead.
Ode To Joy In 2020
2020 is also the 250th birth anniversary of Beethoven. That’s one more reason to listen to the Ode To Joy in 2020! The #GlobalOdeToJoy project brought thousands of people from 70+ countries to share moments of hope and joy in 2020.
Ode To Joy, has itself become a ‘protest’ song of sorts from Tienanmen Square in China to Chile! It is the anthem for the European Union and has played its part in a number of movies from Dead Poets Society to Die Hard. It has brought alive flash mobs & public performances from Westminster to Leipzig. And as an ultimate testimony of universal acceptance, it got a nod in from Mr.Bean!
My favourite public performance though is from Spain. 2012. A young girl tosses a coin into a hat and a joyous unfolding happens Reinforcing for me. In the most ordinary settings, good music or anything done with passion, gets to you. The world and its trappings of established ways have been stripped bare in 2020. Perhaps it’s a time for all of us, to reinvent ourselves for better. It’s about time.
Here’s wishing you the very best for 2021. May it be the year where we came together stronger and changed for the better. We owe it to ourselves. For that may we sing an ode to joy in 2020.
The OWL Despatch
The OWL Despatch is a labour of love. Every fortnight I share five interesting pieces that I stumbled across on the web. Stuff that made me pause and ponder and helps make sense of what’s blowing in the wind. This is edition number Seventy Three.
1. How I approach the toughest decisions. Here are Barack Obama’s views. Insightful piece!
2. Everyone needs to review 2020. But Bill Gates year in review of 2020 is thorough with COVID providing the context.
3. If there is one trait that would predict how much people will socially distance, what would that be? This would help in making COVID safety more effective.
4. If you predict it perfectly, do you understand it? That is the central question! Take a look.
5. In an age where 40 under 40 lists proliferate, how about a stellar 80 over 80 list? Phenomenal I tell you!
That’s that for this edition and for this year. I am filled with gratitude to have been able to put it together for all of 2020. Special thanks to Deepak for his images.
Here’s to happy times ahead in 2021!