Many personal growth sites on the Internet offer lots of advice on how to live better, be richer, be more successful. But few suggest habits and attitudes which enhance the personal, subjective quality of living, the sweetness of moment to moment existence.
For that I suggest taking time from a life of achieving great things to enjoying great things. Listen to arias from the best operas to learn how beautiful tragedy, love and death can sound.
I remember Tom Hanks’ character from the movie Philadelphia playing a recording of Maria Callas singing “La Mama Morta” from Andrea Chenier’s “Giordano”.
This is how the aria is described in the movie. “This is my favorite aria. This is Maria Callas. This is “Andrea Chenier”, Umberto Giordano. This is Madeleine. She’s saying how during the French Revolution, a mob set fire to her house, and her mother died… saving her. “Look, the place that cradled me is burning.” Can you hear the heartache in her voice? Can you feel it, Joe? In come the strings, and it changes everything. The music fills with a hope, and that’ll change again. Listen… listen…”I bring sorrow to those who love me.” Oh, that single cello! “It was during this sorrow that love came to me.” A voice filled with harmony. It says, “Live still, I am life. Heaven is in your eyes. Is everything around you just the blood and mud? I am divine. I am oblivion. I am the god… that comes down from the heavens, and makes of the Earth a heaven. I am love!… I am love.”
I cried along with everyone else in the theater when I saw this scene. I had not heard of the aria before. That scene made the movie, which was otherwise just a good movie about the politics of AIDS.
I like crying at movies, operas, plays. I feel cleansed. No self-help advice can do that for me.
Art is not entertainment, as many people mistakenly think. It’s meant to challenge our comfort zone, push us where we don’t normally go. Life is not just a problem to be solved. It is a lesson to be experienced, never completely learned.
Take time to learn from art, music and poetry. Art goes beyond just living well. It shows us how to live richly and fully.