Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Unorthodox wisdom - Part 4

It's season finale time for the television networks. One of the shows I watch regularly is "House," whose main character is about as hostile to Christianity (and any organized religion) as any character in television history. Hugh Laurie's character is acerbic and sarcastic - a deeply flawed genius. For all his flaws, I can identify at least two traits that we'd all be better off for emulating.

First, Dr. House is on a perpetual quest for understanding and knowledge. He is the ultimate skeptic philosopher. Along with Plato and Montaigne, he believes strongly in examining our lives and motives, thinking about history and science, and discovering truth. Sometimes the greatest doubters and nonbelievers eventually find their way to fervent belief through ongoing exposure to the questions in their lives. We should tackle scripture and belief ourselves with such energy and passion. We may even learn to convince others when they see our rigor.

Second, Dr. House solves cases because he has so much experience and wisdom, garnered from years of questioning and learning. In the season finale, he can diagnose pancreatic cancer from basically a bad case of the hiccups. What this exemplifies for me is the way that a broad education can bring meaning to the most mundane items. From a musical perspective, if you understand what the term "fugue" means, you hear a piece of music in an entirely different way.

Thinking about this point drove me to my bookshelf for Aaron Copland's What to Listen for in Music. His preface states that his goal is to allow you to answer two questions about music: 1. Are you missing anything as far as the notes...? 2. Is your reaction...quite clarified? It takes him nearly 300 pages to answer those two questions. We need a lifetime of knowledge and experience to understand great things - like music, like church, like God's love.

So House represents one more reminder that music does require some work, some knowledge, some discussion. But like House's moments of realization in so many episodes, we also need to be open to the possibilities and the magic that is beyond knowledge. Seeking plus knowledge plus listening equals epiphany.

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