The expectation of perpetual joy

I have a lot I want to get done today, and so need to save most of my mental energy for things like a manuscript, and, say, standing in line at the post office for up to an hour. (Or so I’m guessing.) It is the end of the year, and even though calendrical time is a construct, I can feel the weight of the past twelve months accruing on my brain, the work and stress and joy and effort and everything else piling up into a most exquisite exhaustion. Why now, and not, say, in June? Probably because I only let myself put a name to it at the end of the year, this cumulative duress. This is something we do: make a ritual even out of our fatigue, dragging around with a cup of tea and a quilt around our shoulders.

That’s not a criticism. Sometimes it’s nice to be tired. Sometimes it’s essential.

Something I’ve been doing to keep my chin up is listening to classical music, primarily recordings on YouTube. When you read about YouTube in the paper, it’s usually something deeply toxic: people being radicalized towards violence, bizarre videos victimizing children or at least hypnotizing them with the acquisitive, capitalist drama of unwrapping endless piles of presents. But the classical music archives are something different. Here are two recordings I’ve enjoyed lately:

The ‘Montague and Capulet” movement from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (Op. 64)(this played once on Watchmen and I have been stomping around to it ever since)

Brahms’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in E. Minor (Op. 38) (This one I very possibly found by letting YouTube autoplay after the first one)

Of course, nice musical recordings aren’t specifically a quality of YouTube: they are a quality of human creative endeavor. The thing about YouTube that makes these especially delightful is that almost all the comments are deeply positive, even ecstatic. I have not made a deep study of this (and if you have examples to the opposite I do NOT want them), but sometimes I happen to scroll down and take a look, and I feel as if I’ve stumbled into an alternate universe. Here, everything is “energetic and sublime” or “moving to the drumbeat of my very soul” (not exact quotations, but representative nonetheless.) People recall concerts they attended fifty years ago; they describe the shimmering appearance of music moving through the rooms of their house. The comments are generally brief, but they are a respite, a reminder that sometimes you can just like a thing: take pleasure in it, share your pleasure, and celebrate the pleasure of everyone else.

Alright. Off I go. Enjoy your heartbeat, enjoy Prokofiev. Be as tired or un-tired as you need to be.