Early on, we identified some basic preferences, which give shape and content to an ethical system: health, satisfaction of basic needs, pleasure, longevity, happiness and fulfillment. Many people group these under the single category of happiness.
This week, we approach this question again, this time with more informed eyes. How can we get the most out of life? We choose to give a spiritual answer to that question: an answer that considers the well-being of others, and our relationships with them, and an answer that takes into account questions of meaning and purpose, which are at the heart of spirituality and religion. For a person to whom happiness always meant these things, there may be no difference.
- Maurice Pendergast, May Day, Central Park (a/k/a Central Park, or Children in the Park) (c. 1900)
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Rascal Flats, My Wish
Some clichty folks / don't know the facts, / posin' and preenin' / ]and puttin' on acts, / stretchin' their backs.
They move into condos / up over the ranks, / pawn their souls / to the local banks. / Buying big cars / they can't afford, / ridin' around town / actin' bored.
If they want to learn how to live life right / they ought to study me on Saturday night.
My job at the plant / ain't the biggest bet, / but I pay my bills / and stay out of debt. / I get my hair done / for my own self's sake, / so I don't have to pick / and I don't have to rake.
Take the church money out / and head cross town / to my friend girl's house / where we plan our round. / We meet our men and go to a joint / where the music is blue / and to the point.
Folks write about me. / They just can't see / how I work all week / at the factory. / Then get spruced up / and laugh and dance / And turn away from worry / with sassy glance.
They accuse me of livin' / from day to day, / but who are they kiddin'? / So are they.
My life ain't heaven / but it sure ain't hell. / I'm not on top / but I call it swell / if I'm able to work / and get paid right / and have the luck to be Black / on a Saturday night.
[Maya Angelou, “Weekend Glory”]
Film and Stage
- The Sessions: A dramatization of Mark O’Brien’s life. Severely disabled by polio since childhood, he overcame many of his demons, and learned to live more fully, by developing relationships and his sexuality.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
- The first movement (Andante – allegro ma non troppo) is a big, grand affirmation of life and everything in it.
- The second movement (Andante con moto) makes short work of life’s challenges.
- The third movement (Scherzo: Allegro vivace; Trio): the scherzo here is an extended and joyous laugh, in fast waltz tempo, and a dance with life. Midway through the movement, the dance turns into a slower, more tender waltz. The opening mood and themes return, then alternate with the second tempo to close the movement in tandem.
- The fourth movement (Allegro vivace) opens with an announcement that we are off to the races! Soon we are traveling at a more sustainable pace, our optimism and joy unabated. Justifiably pleased with this state of affairs, Schubert continues in it – returning to the initial theme several times – until the end of the symphony, adding just enough spice to make it interesting.
- Beethoven, Symphony No. 4 in B Flat major, Op. 60 (1808): playful, positive and rich, as life should be [performances conducted by Toscanini (1939), Karajan (1962), Karajan (1953), Furtwängler (1943), Vänskä (2003), Toscanini (1951) and Savall (2021)]
- Bizet, Symphony No. 1 in C Major (1855) (performances conducted by Abel, Munch, Martinon and Haitink)
- Joviality and good feeling, in community, characterize Hurlstone’s Piano Trio in G Major (1905).
- Lamond, Symphony in A Major, Op. 3
- Glazunov, Lyrisches Poeme (Lyrical Poem) in D flat major, 12 (1887)
- Schmidt, Symphony No. 1 in E Major (1899)
Allegra Levy is a young female jazz singer whose art evokes a young urban woman, doing well, and thoroughly in touch with herself. Her albums include:
- “Cities Between Us”
- “Looking at the Moon”
- “Lonely City”
- “Lose My Number: Allegra Levy Sings John McNeil”
- Kenny Barron, “Live at Maybeck Hall, Volume Ten”