Sunday’s Wisdom #319: The Music of Life

“The wheel keeps turning, you can’t stop it. Sometimes things get worse, sometimes things get better… It’s like a song. Now, I can hold a note for a long time – actually, I can hold a note forever – but eventually that’s just noise. It’s the change we’re listening for. And the one after that. That’s what makes it music.”
– Lorne, Angel
Season 2, Episode 13, “Happy Anniversary”

One of my favorite characters in Joss Whedon’s Buffy-verse is Lorne, short for Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan. Where others are grim and brooding, he is cheerful and hopeful, and he loves music. He understands music on a level most people don’t, and his voice ain’t half-bad either! To him, life itself is a song, and so he savors every melody, every note, because he knows that it will change. Indeed, it must change, or it will cease to be a song, and cease to be beautiful, and cease to be something worth savoring.

Very little can, or should, last forever. In a way, change is what makes it worthwhile.

He shares this insight with a man who wanted what most people want: eternal love and unending happiness. Where the man went wrong was to think that if happiness can only be found in a moment, then it can only last as long as that moment. He’s a genius in some ways, such that he found a way to freeze time within a certain space, preserving things exactly how they are. It’s a phenomenal accomplishment, but instead of thinking of, say, using it to help humanity spread out amongst the stars, he thought of, say, someone preserving their dog in perfect condition. Which is pretty morbid if the dog is dead, and pretty horrific if it’s still alive. Which, considering that he thought to keep a girlfriend he knows intends to leave him by “freezing” the both of them together at a moment of… potent, climactic intimacy… it would seem he had no qualms about the dog being alive.

Where the man went wrong, and what Lorne reminds him of, is that, yes, thing get worse, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get better again. Frankly, the man was very like a spoiled child, having something so good that he forgot about reality. He had it good for so long that he thought losing anything, as one inevitably must, was inherently bad, that it automatically made things “worse.” And he thought avoiding that was worth anything.

He forgot to enjoy the moment, enjoy life, not only in spite of but because of how it changes, right up to the very end. Take the good and bad together, because that is life.

In all honesty, there are times I think a lot of us have had it so good for so long that that we don’t really comprehend what “bad” truly is, and we really don’t appreciate what’s “good.”

Entire generations have grown up with no respect for earning one’s own way, because they’ve never had to, and then, when they suddenly have to work and earn, they think it’s a bad thing. They don’t know the rhythm of getting up and putting in the hours, and the pride of collecting an honest paycheck.

A huge swathe of modern civilization has grown up in luxury, with everything they could possibly need and a screen in front of them, where the greatest worries of their life are found on social media and gossip columns. The don’t know the bitter tones of poverty and starvation, and so they don’t grasp the beauty of the high notes, the refrain of their own prosperity.

This year has not been pleasant for many people. But I look around and see people just waiting for it to be over, so all the bad stuff can end and things can be all good again. It breaks my heart to think that it won’t go like that. 2021 AD will not simply be “better” than 2020. For many, they’ll soon be wishing to have 2020 back, I fear. Because while so many of us have lost so much, relatively few people have truly lose everything. Things are going to get worse for a lot of people.

Yet, I find myself finding hope even in that. Because the wheel keeps turning, and the song keeps playing. The fact that things can change for the worse is proof to me that they can change for the better, too. Not that they’ll change “back,” but that, in due time, with a lot of effort and endurance, they’ll change again, for the better.

So, I guess I’ll just savor the good moments I have now and I’ll strive to make more good moments in the future, no matter what happens, instead of trying to make this good moment last too long.

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