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January, 2008


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I Am Not Beethoven
But I know what moves me
By  Jennifer Edelson

I
n my last column, I took three minutes to write a purely emotional article. This month, I've been asked to take those messy three minutes and turn them into a polished piece of work. Presumably so you all can see the process from rough to finish.

I have to admit, normally, I pay attention to structure and sentence, but not content, from the beginning. My writing, at least technically, is usually controlled from the outset, so there generally isn't any cathartic rush to contend with. At the same time, my thoughts tend to build off each other as I go along, and so it almost always ends up that my article goes where it wants to without me. My last article was an exception — it had no intention of ever becoming "finished."

That said; I don't know if I'll be able to re-visit the article one month later, with an eye for making it something it isn't necessarily. Since I wrote about how I felt very shortly after the experience, trying to genuinely re-capture and intellectualize those emotions into a neater package will be challenging. I'm sort of a love-it and leave-it person, and not so good at re-jigging pieces.

With that in mind, and having come back here after taking almost six hours to finish this, I'll leave you with my lesson learned — that is, no matter how hard you try, some things just can't and maybe shouldn't be re-visited.

*                *                *

Some moments are so profoundly emotional they can only ever be fleeting. For an hour or so last night, I had one of those moments at the Symphony. One of those moments where the world got it right, and I inherently understood life, and understood how beautiful people, if they were all as unyielding as Beethoven's Ninth, might be.

Suddenly, from our balcony, I too briefly remembered that living isn't always as complicated as I often believe. And it struck me that though we live mostly unaware of each other, we have very fundamental commonalties. I looked around. Everyone seemed as rapt, and as deeply struck by the wonder of harmony.

Life is stunning, but very often tangled in dissonance. But last night, sharing the Ninth with a room full of strangers, well I realized we haven't completely sunk into what sometimes seems like an oblivion, or oblivious society — one that often circumvents subtleties in search of "the next best thing." Last night reminded me that, everything considered, things are good, and that maybe "good" is all a matter of how one gauges things.

Beethoven was deaf when he wrote the Ninth, but still managed to convey his noiseless ardor. I wonder what drove him. Did he know how acutely his work would affect multi-generations? Did he care? Or did his silence toward the end shield his fear of failure? Beethoven, I know that I am not alone, but sometimes feel so lonely. I forget that I know life is full and good despite my angst, because I'm too busy worrying. I forget — until something comes along like your Ninth. Truly, there are few things so arresting as your seamless unstoppable symphony.

Beethoven is a perfect example of how I wish readers would relate to my writing — in that visceral way that moves a person so fundamentally. Oh to write with the same fluid grace and heart-gripping tension. To move my readers the way Ode to Joy resounds from inner ear to innermost soul, shrouding them in the very same mystery, with the same boa constrictor like strength, constricting each organ like the darkest deepest allegro from the depth of a master tenor's soul.

There are times I wish I were less emotive. But my life would be nothing if I couldn't experience emotionally, Beethoven, Miro, Moore, Camus and Roth to name a handful of many. I'm perfectly happy to wear my heart on my sleeve. I'm perfectly happy to absorb stimuli like my sons, who are too little to understand as much intellectually, and so interpret their surroundings with this brilliant hyperbolic vivacity. To inhabit the same wondrous place I'm convinced all people, given the right provocation, visit.

I am not Beethoven, but I know what moves me. And though I'd surely agree to a lifetime of Velveeta sandwiches and carrot juice to write like Beethoven composed, I'd settle for a few simple lines that move people even half as much as Beethoven's music moves me. Thank goodness for inspiration — for any chance to experience or convey a brief but intensely emotional experience, all tidied up in a few nice little typeset sheets.IN Icon


Jennifer Edelson is a former practicing Minnesota attorney, now regular IN columnst, freelance writer and legal writing professor. Her writing has appeared on all the finest refrigerators in the Twin Cities. Jennifer can be emailed at: raceyipsa@msn.com

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