“A Still Small Hope for Our Ultimate Survival”

Sarah - Farmington, Connecticut
Entered on September 12, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in the power and endurance of human creativity.

A few weeks after September 11, 2001, when the entire world seemed numb with shock and horror, the man who cares for my piano came to my house for a scheduled tuning. I recall feeling selfish spending money on the luxury of a piano tuning, when so many families were suffering unspeakable horror and loss.

I asked Herb, the piano tuner, if his work had declined since the terrorist attack. I wondered if the weight of grief — or, for some, the need to consider essential survival— had taken priority over music-making.

His answer, which brought tears to my eyes, was this: In the two weeks after September 11th, he had received more calls for piano tuning and restoration services than in the previous six months. His customers wanted to restore old family pianos, or tune newer instruments, so they could make music together at home with family members.

For these families, making music together was a balm for the wound of September 11th. Music was a means for finding stability and closeness in a time of uncertainty and separation. Music of years past transcended the terror of today.

I believe in the power of human creativity to balance the horrors brought about by human weaknesses.

In the days following the attacks, I appreciated the reporting on National Public Radio, of course, but what spoke to me most eloquently was the music NPR played between news segments. Here were long stretches of the most beautiful, most tender, most human music. Here was affirmation that human-ness transcends inhumanity. Here was evidence that goodness exists, even in the presence of evil. Here was proof that though a single day might bring more hurt than we can possibly bear, yet human goodness, in the form of music, can endure for centuries.

I believe in the power of human creativity to connect us, to restore us, and to elevate us, both as individuals and as a people.

In the years since 2001, my own life has been enriched and uplifted in music. A career change in 2003 enabled me to devote more time to music-making, particularly choral singing. I’ve had opportunities to sing glorious music, explore profound texts and ideas, sing under the leadership of a few incredibly gifted musicians, and find my place in the history of musical creativity. For this I am profoundly grateful.

The musicologist H. C. Robbins Landon once said that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was “as good an excuse for mankind’s survival as we shall ever encounter, and perhaps, after all, a still small hope for our ultimate survival.” Certainly we can apply Landon’s assessment to the entire realm of human creative endeavor. Thus, “human creativity is as good an excuse for our survival as we shall ever encounter, and … a still small hope for our ultimate survival.” Our creativity makes us human, in the best sort of way.

I believe in the power and endurance of human creativity.