The String Quartet in C Major, Op.76/3 ‘Emperor Quartet’ 11: Poco Adagio Cantabile ‘God Save Francis The Emperor’ has revealed to me the true nature of the Rose. Why it echoes so strongly in the heart of romance.
As the quartet began, I imagined three aspects of myself. My inner child - a beacon of innocence and virtue - my older self - a font of wisdom, compassion and healing - and my current self, my self at my prime - filled with vigor, energy and will. I could see my wise older self sitting at a bench, cradling my childhood gently as it dosed. I could see my middle self, sitting nearby, appreciating the music intelligently, avidly. Trying to appreciate it with the quiet pleasure of my wiser self.
Soon my childhood rose, and he stepped forward and danced to the music, and both of us older selves smiled and watched, pleased. Then another person entered. A woman, cloaked, her face and features obscured. I thought first it was my mother, for she soon carried my childhood in her arms, but no. My mother would have shown me her face.
I realized this was my love. My middle self stepped over and embraced her as she embraced my childhood. We stood for a few moments before my wisdom approached, watching, tentative, seeming only able to hold out a hand and touch her shoulder from afar.
Then the music changed, and I saw that this wasn’t the complete picture. This was my side of this love but not hers. Suddenly, a young girl clung to my legs, and my childhood was set down to play with her. Soon a stately woman joined with my wisdom and danced with him. And then there were all of us. Every year of our lives - our childhood, our youth, our long prime and our winters - we all danced in one great undulating pinwheel, joining hands and spinning about ourselves. The children took the outer ring, running clockwise and laughing. The youth the next inner ring, dancing gaily counter. Our many years of primacy alternated ring after ring until finally it was our great aged selves that waltzed about serenely.
But out of the center of the ring grew that one moment. That time when the woman and I first grasped hands and drew into one another with the passion and serenity of fate.
And then in my mind’s eye, it all became as a rosebud.
And I understood then why such a specific flower could mean so much for so many.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like? Fighting in the pits? Dispatching men with naught but your strength and your skill?
Have you ever wondered what it would be like? To put your life on the line? To draw your sword and hear it sing as the crowd shouted out your name?
Have you ever wondered what it would be like? To see the man that you broke bread with not minutes before? To know you must kill him, or be killed?
Have you ever wondered at the life of a Gladiator?
I do not wonder.
I know that those few moments when you step through the portal into daylight, when sun shines on speartip and helm, when cloak lifts behind you in the dry, dusty wind, when the crowd’s roars consume you as would a torrent of water…that those moments are all that the bards claim. Glorious. Powerful.
In those moments, a man is filled with effervescence.
But the reality of combat is ice and steel.
The reality of your foe is a clear and present fear and danger.
The reality is - if you are not good enough, you will die.
There is no “fairness” here. Fairness is a lie. There is only truth. Only a thing that has been done and must be done and will be done.
If the gods do not guide your hand, then you had best guide it yourself. Better yet, guide the sword or spear or axe that it wields deep into the flesh of your enemy. Guide it swift and guide it true.
There is no fairness.
There is no second chance. No relief. No reprieve.
There is only your blood, or the blood of your foe.
And if you are truly unfortunate,
If you are truly doomed,
Sometimes there is both.
And all the consolation you will have is pity.
And it is small payment.
Better yet to win.
Better yet to live.
Better yet to kill.
My life has been blessed. Utterly and completely.
I have been without want, without hunger, without great sickness. I have had good friends. Done well in school - was able to attend school. I have never lived without a roof over my head. I have done wonderful things - sung and wrote and danced and played and traveled and spoke and read and dreamed. I have worked, too, and some of that has been hard, but I was never given a great injury, despite the various dangers inherent in labor. My quest for love has a long road before it yet, but though the journey is rough, I feel hope that it will all be more than worth it in the end. My quest for self is longer still, but I know that at the end of all of this life, i will know it.
This is a memory in time. A moment when everything feels like it has gone right. All these events have served a purpose, given my life meaning and drive. After now, any number of things can happen. Towers fall, mountains crumble, and I am but a man. Fate is bound to favor me with a truly ill wind eventually.
I hope that it does not come too soon. I like this life. I want to keep living it, keep building on the solid foundations that I know of here and now. I don’t want my story to change. I don’t want new caveats. The ground need not slip from beneath my feet. I want to keep struggling, putting one step forward at a time, in the direction that I have been traveling. The direction I believe I am meant to go.
Fear hums, whispers quietly at the back of the mind. Mingles with uncertainty and doubt, and causes one to sweat and reach out for something solid.
Let these words be solid. This moment. This memory of who I am and who I want to be. In the face of whatever may come, I need but grab ahold of this, and I can and will continue forward.
There is no-one to share a moment of musical bliss with.
That should be an easy sell, right? A simple moment of spiritual ascension through music. A quiet seat in a warm room and a beautiful tune.
I want to share this feeling of peace. Of warmth. Of simple joy. Of nostalgia and memory and feeling.
But there’s no one here. No one who can share the moment with me with the freshness that I feel. No one who won’t quietly walk away and dismiss it, or get confused and uncomfortable.
It feels…inconceivable. Impossible. That I do not already have someone I can do that with. That something so powerful within myself has not yet been picked up upon by a friend.
But I do not.
There is a glorious truth about ownership. Both a privacy and intimacy with the article that is owned - but also a certain degree of showmanship. You want your interests to be discovered, appreciated. You don’t want just anyone to do so…but if the right person does, it sends a thrill through you.
My car is my individuality.
My room is not truly my own - it is owned by my parents, and is frequented by my brother because I’ve got a “really good computer.” But my car…it is mine. It is bought and paid for by my own coin, made by my words. Within that car I am for once in my life fully in control of all of its contents and safety. This includes my music, my odd little mix cds, filled to the brim with music that I like.
Every time I drive anyone anywhere, I get to experience my music with someone else. Share of myself.
Every comment is precious. I take great pride in my musical tastes, as unusual as they may be. But even better - my interest in every piece of music redoubles whenever it is played to an audience of more than me. I feel those tracks that can and do at times hit me with a passion that my mourning at the head of this post reflects, and I feel them more powerfully still.
So, in truth, I am not so alone. There are moments when I can sit next to my father in the car, driving him to work in the early morning as we listen to Mary Poppins’ “Feed the Birds” and he, in the solemn stillness following the song, can do nothing but say that the music from that movie really was very good - with an incredibly rewarding tone of surprise and awe at the realization.
There are other times when Dr. Horrible comes along and my friends immediately burst into song along with me. Or new guests to my car cannot help but ask me where such and such is from, or recognizes a tune, and cheerfully chuckles at the memories that it affords them.
So I shall take my solitary joy, and simply await the moment when it might, even for a few instants, become a shared one.