My mother received her undergraduate degree in Art History after her three children had graduated. As siblings with the label first generation college students, we like to think we inspired her to get her BA. But in reality she was the inspiration by making sure we were prepared and supported for our post-high school graduation.
One aspect of that support was sharing the courses she was taking at Mt. Holyoke College. One of those was a music course. It was 1990. I was in high school and I heard for, for the first time, Beethoven’s symphonies. It was remarkable. When I got to college, I would play the final minutes of “Ode to Joy” as my papers were printing on the dot matrix device we used. Later, as a teacher, I would play it for my students… just because. Leonard Bernstein’s performance after the fall of the Berlin Wall was the preferred version. More recently, the flash mob versions on YouTube are moving experiences that breathe life into the mundane, inspiring creativity and generating energy.
So, my humanities moment, hearing Beethoven’s ninth for the first time, has become a sustained experience with connections to people, events, emotion, and worldviews. It is both a bond and an inspiring reminder about what makes us human. It’s perfect.