A Dream Of Love: Doing Things You Don’t Want To Do

Before reading this, click play on the video above. Watching it is not important, but the sound will (I hope) do something for you. The song is¬†Liebestraume (translated, “A Dream of Love”)¬†by Hungarian virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt. It is, without question, one of the most beautiful single compositions for piano ever written.

Yesterday, as I got ready for an important meeting,¬†I began to hum the melody of this song. It’s one of those melodies that stays with the listener, uncomplicated, natural, easily carried along in one’s head, showing up when least expected. I first heard this piece as a teenager; it was on a CD (remember those?) that my mother bought me while I was still taking piano lessons. Most of the music on that CD I never learned to play, but Liebestraume stuck with me, its captivating, almost mysterious melody giving me an imagination for what I perhaps could learn to play one day.

As I hummed along yesterday, it occurred to me that to Hungarians, Franz Liszt is more than just some ancient composer — he is a giant on the world’s stage, a source of pride for the Hungarian people, and his legacy is still very apparent today, as the airport and many other things in Budapest bear his name. In feeling a certain nostalgic connection to a great composition like¬†Liebestraume, I am in a¬†small way identifying with an element of Hungarian culture that has been incredibly important to generations of Hungarians, oppressed in modern times, struggling now to regain a place¬†of international admiration and prestige. Liszt for them is like a window into the golden period of their nation.

I Don’t Like Classical Music

I stated clearly (I hope) yesterday that I don’t like classical music. While I play it at times for utilitarian purposes in my home, and while I might have some basic knowledge of great composers and compositions, I cannot impress anyone with my knowledge of classical music. Though I¬†even won a¬†state piano competition as a high schooler, playing Rachmaninov’s¬†Prelude in C Sharp Minor¬†(I did always wish that piece had a more compelling name), even the most average of music students is likely to know more classical pieces than I. I don’t really¬†like¬†classical music. But¬†I appreciate it greatly.

There is something to be said for this word¬†appreciate. In all the literature about leadership and developing one’s strengths, it seems that it has lost its significance in our modern vocabulary. Whereas education once pushed people to have an appreciation for a wide variety of things, today’s professional and popular culture encourages one to concentrate only on those things toward which one is already naturally predisposed.

Now, of course some of this attitude is good. Few of us are true Renaissance men, and it is important to recognize one’s unique contribution to any group or society. However, this is an attitude that has seemed to pervade our thinking in modern times, so much so that we have lost an appreciation for appreciation.¬†

Do It For Love.

Why would I do things I don’t want to do? ¬†Ironically, the answer is in the title of the song at the beginning of this post. Anyone who has been married or spent any time in a meaningful relationship can attest to the idea that true love at times can be an exercise in doing things one has no personal interest in doing. As men, why do we buy flowers or tickets to operas? Why would we clean the house when we don’t want to? Why would we waste time developing an interest for things which we don’t find interesting? It is not for ourselves, but for those we love. As we love them, they become part of us, and their lives become in some peculiar way extensions of the life we live ourselves.¬†

But what then, of the bachelor? Has one who is socially unconnected any reason to expand his proclivities to those things he doesn’t personally find captivating? I would posit that he¬†does.¬†

In opening ourselves up to new things, we are able to show love to those close to us, and at the same time we also make ourselves into people who are more able to be loved. In appreciating the interests of other people, we give people the ability to appreciate us. In this way, the opening of oneself brings rewards and is also in itself its own reward. 

And in strengthening our ability to appreciate things we don’t necessarily like, we share community with all those who have sacrificed their own desires so that we could enjoy the things we do. We see farther only because of the giants on whose shoulders we stand. At some point, every man must bear an undeserved burden for benefits they will not themselves fully enjoy. But bearing that burden makes us stronger, more mature, and helps us become the people we were created to be.

You Should Do Things You Don’t Like To Do

classical music cd

To understand me, you ought to know a little bit about Apple TV.

I was a lifetime PC-user until 2 years ago. Little by little, I got pulled in by the Apple techno-religion. I would¬†not call myself an Apple evangelist or disciple, but I now own several Apple products, including a MacBook Pro that replaced by PC laptop about a year and a half ago. It’s been mostly a good experience, except that I still don’t completely understand the Apple environment. But, there is one thing I am an evangelist for, and it is this little box under my TV, called the Apple TV.

The Apple TV is, without doubt, the single best technology purchase I have ever made. It cost $100, which I thought was a bit expensive at the time, but 2 years later, it is still working like the day I bought it. I brought it home, plugged it in, and in about 5 minutes it was working, fulfilling all the tasks it was meant for my TV. It has been used every day since then, for several hours each day, without any issues, without any problems, and I have hardly thought about it since. It changed the way I use my TV, enabled me to watch Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube every night on my TV instead of flipping through local cable channels. I have no knowledge of DVR, Tivo, or satellite TV, and I don’t want to. Apple TV is all I need. It updates automatically, and the content channels are constantly refreshed with new content. It was a great purchase.

There is also a thing called iTunes Radio, which¬†is not as nice as Pandora but works well enough, which allows me to listen to songs that I don’t own. I recently started using it to play¬†peaceful classical music in an effort to help my newest daughter, Elena, to get to sleep when she’s in the family room. The music plays in the background, and she is not so disturbed by people walking through the room. I think it works. Currently, the radio is playing a string number I’ve never heard, from the album pictured above.

Who’s Tchaikovsky?

I don’t really like Tchaikovsky. I don’t especially like classical music, and without Elena I would not have tried to find a source for listening to it on my own time. Now, I took piano lessons for 10 years while growing up, and I learned to play a couple of¬†the great classical piano pieces that are out there. But I don’t really have a good knowledge of classical music, and until recently, I didn’t mind.

However

However, I turned on classical music to help my daughter sleep three weeks ago, and I realized something. After a few days of hearing it, I realized that I had lost my appreciation for something significant. There was a time, when I was still playing the piano, about 15 years ago, when classical music was a part of my life. I had a knowledge of various great composers and the impact they had on the history of music. It was good to know a little bit about these great composers and see the affect they had on the world through music. It enriched my appreciation for other types of music, including music that I love.

I began to feel a sense of loss — I regretted that I had lost my appreciation and knowledge of the classics, and I regretted that I have not sought to pass on that appreciation to my children. Now, mind you, it’s still early — my children are still young enough that I can easily give them an appreciation of classical music if I want. But I still felt a tinge of regret over the fact that at this moment, while my son and daughter have both memorized some of the lyrics to my Foo Fighters albums, they have absolutely no knowledge or appreciation of something substantial.

They have never heard¬†Air on the G String, or the¬†Moonlight Sonata.¬†If I do nothing, they will probably never know what classical music¬†is, or why it is significant.¬†Maybe I’m overestimating my own influence over them, but I don’t see why they would ever realize why classical music is important, unless I or someone important to them shows them. I see them becoming adults and hearing¬†Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring at a wedding and thinking, “what’s that?”, or “Oh… it’s that weird music they play at weddings again.”

Hold on…¬†Deux Arabesques (Debussy)¬†just came on the radio… This is without doubt one of the most beautiful piano pieces I have ever heard, maybe ever written. If I ever save enough to buy our family a real piano, I am going to learn this song.

All I can say is that they don’t have to like it.¬†They don’t have to like it. I’m not going to feel bad if they don’t like it.¬†I don’t really¬†like classical music — I just said I spent 15 years never even listening to it.¬†But I recognize that it is something significant. I feel it is¬†an important part of the makeup of human history, and it therefore deserves to be known about.

I don’t have time to develop this idea further here, today, but I will soon. The point is that there are many things that are worth doing, not because we like doing them, but because they make us more knowledgeable, well-rounded people. They give us a greater appreciation for the world in which we live, and they make us better citizens.

Do those things that you don’t like. You’ll be better for it.