Re-re-re-reading Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark about the development of a young girl into an extraordinary artist, one sentence reverberated with me. This was something Thea’s German piano teacher, Wunsch, told her about art. Although I’ve been re-reading this book since I was twenty, this was the first time I understood what Wunsch meant.
“But the secret—what makes the rose to red, the sky to blue, the man to love—in der Brust, in der Brust it is, und ohne dieses gibt es keine Kunst, gibt es keine Kunst!”
With my three years of high school German, I loosely translate this as: “But the secret—what makes the rose to red, the sky to blue, the man to love—in the heart, in the heart it is, and without this there is no art, there is no art!”
Passion. Wunsch was talking about passion, passion for life is the secret of great art. What I feel when the bells ring, what makes the bells ring, is exactly that—passion for life. For me it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.
A few years later, when Thea is a struggling vocal student in Chicago, she attends a performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. She comes out of the concert, her heart ringing with the beauty of the music. But the world—the traffic, the hurrying crowds, the ugly a man who propositions her—all conspire to rip that passionate ringing of her heart away. I understand that, too. Cather writes Thea’s response:
"All these things and people were no longer remote and negligible; they had to be met, they were lined up against her, they were there to take something from her. Very well; they should never have it; They might trample her to death, but they should never have it. As long as she lived that ecstasy was going to be hers. She would live for it, work for it, die for it; but she was going to have it, time after time, height after height. She could hear the crash of the orchestra again, and she rose on the brasses. She would have it, what the trumpets were singing! She would have it, have it--it!"
I agree. Sometimes you have to fight, work, intentionally make room in your life so the bells can ring, so you can hold on to the ringing.
LORE OF THE BELL: Hold on to your passion for life to make the bells ring.