1) The Purpose of Humanity
Why are humans here? If you believe in God, why did he create us? Or why did whatever divine force you believe in make us?
If you said, "To build fast cars and race them," I say "Nah." If you said, "To war against each other and kill each other in vast numbers," I'd say "I hope not." If you said, "To build tall and gigantic buildings that reach the sky, to develop complex monetary systems, to make things out of plastic, to play video games, to have sex, to play football, to engage in feats of strength, or to brew and drink beer," I'd say "God, I hope there's more to it than that."
So what thing that we do is so moving, so pure, so magical, that it could be the motivation for creating this universe and putting us in it?
If you said, "To make music," well...I can believe that.*
2) The Magic Portal
I am sitting in the side gallery at Lorimer Chapel. The pew is very upright. The cushion is not so soft as I would like. I am a mere ten feet from the closest musician. They are young, most probably in their mid to late twenties. They are dressed predominantly in black. Having completed the meandering, humming, seeking of the tuning, they sit quietly, awaiting the conductor’s entrance. Someone coughs in the upper gallery. The door opens and the conductor strides in. The audience applauds steadily until he reaches the podium. After a quick quarter-bow to the spectators, he turns and steps up onto the platform. He opens the sheaf of music and immediately raises his arms to shoulder level, his white baton pointing towards the high ceiling. His eyes scan the orchestra, with eyebrows raised in a non-verbal “ready?” With a nod of his head, his arms suddenly leap into the rhythm and the orchestra is launched into sonic synergy.
No matter how many times I’ve witnessed it before, I am again surprised at the tone and power of the music. The Magic Portal has been opened again. The musicians are not playing the music. They have torn open the fabric of space and time, and they are channeling the essence of another dimension, possibly heaven, bending and shaping it as prescribed by the mystic symbols on the manuscripts before them. The musicians are no longer ordinary persons with the same daily problems as the mortals they were when they entered the building. No bad breath, no aching joints, no divorces, no financial troubles, no breakups, no stomach aches or colds. Suddenly they are angels. Supernatural beings imparting to me a small piece of the mind of God, or a Creator, or the Grand Unified Theory.
My body physically reacts to what should be mere wavelengths in the sound zone of the electromagnetic spectrum. My pulse quickens, the muscles of my ribcage tense slightly, a light sweat arises. How can my emotions and my psychology be affected by variations in the wavelengths of sound? How can my mind find meaning without words? How can an instrument crafted from trees and plants generate sounds that seem not to come from it, but from everywhere at once, or from within my mind?
It is simply a miracle.
Interestingly, shortly after I wrote this, I happened to pull my copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion off the shelf and started skimming the first chapter and was shocked to recall that it basically retells the Creation story cast as a grand choral performance. From the singing of Iluvatar and the Ainur, the universe is born, and then Melkor creates a dissonance and competing theme, introducing discord and evil into the Creation. Tolkien must have felt a bit like I do.