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Just A Symphony
The baton lifted, fiddlesticks lying on the strings, slender fingers on the keys slightly shivering, silence pervaded under the glittering ceiling.
One. Two. Three. Four. The magical stick, with cedar body and apple wood grip, descended like Moses parting the Red Sea. The lightening of creation blew across the gigantic hall.
There was nothing. Then, a bright spot appears, breaking through the seemingly impenetrable black mist. Light amid the darkness, the first and only thing I perceive at the threshold of consciousness. Darkness is never a pleasant friend; it creeps all over the place and tries to suffocate me. Light at a distance seems to be calling me into its arms.
I attempt to reach for the light. For the first time, I feel my body. Arms and legs, fingers and toes, skins and lips – the senses from all my body parts flood my newborn mind. I stretch my legs and arms to reach for the light, yet all I feel is emptiness – I am floating in the void, unable to move.
The prelude contained a mixture of bright and gloomy sounds: the ominous, uncertain rhythm of the violas and cellos took over a large proportion; the trumpets, soloing, served as a heartwarming sunlight in the strings’ dark tone. Yet, there’s more inside the music: among darkness lied a stream of piano sound, livelier and more complicated than the rest of the piece. This melody contained more than craftily arranged chords and notes: it had the sound of life. Listen, the melody was struggling in the waves of darkness, trying to harmonize with the horns.
Just as my fear of endless suffering in darkness arises, the shiny dot begins to grow. A new feeling emerges as I watch the expansion of light: time. The circle of light enlarges faster and faster as time passes by.
For a moment, when the blinding light is about to engulf me, I am afraid that it would bring destruction. The happiness from showering in the light wipes out my concerns. As the brightness fade away, I found myself standing on something solid. Around me is no longer a simple battle between light and darkness, but a flatland stretching endlessly in all directions.
This will be my world.
The prelude came to an end as the horns pushed the music to a small climax. As the horns’ metal voice overwhelmed every sound – and every person present – it immediately started to fade away. A new section began; it did not have the significant contrast in the prelude. It resembled a virgin land, containing countless possibilities. The stream of life, now mightier and more joyful, established itself on the steady bass line. It proudly claimed the theme of the symphony.
I look around to study this barren land. Wow, there exist other active objects. Some of the green ones, looking like short strings, break out from the earth and grow to the height of my heel. Grass, I’d name these green, soft, and inactive things grass. Look, from the horizon emerge some small creatures, varied in shape and behaviors. They run around the grassland, unaware of my presence.
What are they? Where are they from? Were they here before my arrival to this world? I cannot tell why, but I render these beings inferior. They are not as mighty and look less sophisticated, taking joy in devouring the grasses. The feeling of pride truly strikes me. It makes me carefully examine myself, and ask questions about my existence.
Notes by notes, the theme grew stronger and more thought provoking. Its active voice dominated the concert hall, interacting with other sections and teasing the audience. Activeness was not enough to describe the music, since it was pondering – torturing itself with existential questions.
The depth in the theme enchanted the audience: the orchestra’s superb performance and the symphony’s delicate form mattered less, comparing with the self-discovering journey in the music. The melody resonated in every corner of their minds.
What is my origin?
Why am I here?
Where to go and what to do?
Questions like these intrigue me. I feel an impulse to find proofs of my existence.
I look over my body, admiring its elegant form. I hold out my arms to embrace the cool breeze. A circle of orange light, softer than the light I’ve seen, rises from the horizon. Indulged in the warmth the ascending sun, the chillness of the air, the refreshing smell of grass, and another thousands of subtle senses, a simple answer to my inquiries forms in my head. I shout it out loud: “I exist because I can feel, I am superior because I can think!”
My declaration frightens those simple creatures around me. Apparently, my philosophy has disturbed their mindless life on the grassland. They tremble and make unpleasant noises, but why should I care? These fools would shatter by fear if they know that they are doomed to be like this forever. I, on the other hand, will achieve true happiness through my reasoning and carefully thought actions!
The theme flowed like a youthful river; its waves moved constantly, its depth unfathomable. As the river became more turbulent as it flows. The music went more philosophical. Just as both audiences and the musicians were drowned in this influx of thoughts, a dissonance disrupted the atmosphere: several bars were falsely emphasized, breaking the audience away from their dreams.
The conductor gazed reproachfully at his artists. He received dozens of innocent looks in return. The audience, shocked by this silly mistake occurring in a world-famous orchestra, murmured about the performance. The performers were professionals after all: they continued playing and tried to pacify the dissatisfied listeners.
Without any omen, my mind descends into chaos for an instant. A weird feeling blows my heart. Just as I am recovering from the first strike, another came, blurring my vision and confused my senses. This unpleasant incident introduces me to a new notion: Pain. No one could imagine my agony when all the sudden the sun dims and the world ceases looking pretty. It seemed like darkness was going to seize me, locking me up in the eternal void again. The fear of such fate subdued all me.
I desperately search for the source of that discomfort. If my own deficiencies caused the problem, doesn’t this mean that I’m not a perfect being? No, this cannot be true. I’m definitely owner of this earth and a born superman. If other unknown forces committed it, doesn’t it indicate that there are things incomprehensible by my brain? Am I not a conscious being, but a puppet controlled by an omniscient master? Nay, there exists no proof of otherworldly power. Evidently here is the only reality.
Perhaps, I should get rid of these unnecessary ideas. Sickness could be just an illusion. It might be an integral part of me, just as eyes are natural to be on my face. Alas, get up, stop useless ponders, and follow thy heart. There’s a whole universe for me to explore!
After the accident, the music seemed to be back on track, with everyone doing their proper job. Nevertheless, some redundant notes and offbeat rhythms occurred, especially in the piano section. Some “expertise” among the audience complained about how awful the band is doing. The conductor’s hands, in snow-white gloves, shivered with anger and disappointment. He peered furiously towards the pianist, whose forehead covered with anxious sweat. It was the first time for the pianist to play in such a grand concert, and it was also his first time playing a piano in a symphony – in most cases, he should be on a harpsichord instead. Probably his tightened nerve caused the discords in the music. Moving his stare from the pianist, the conductor decided to skip the second repeat of the previous section and jump to the dulcet part, played by mostly horns and had minimal piano in it.
After the music progressed into a pleasant chapter, the whisper and complaint of audience died out. The orchestra’s extraordinary ability to express emotions cleans up the doubts of its ability. Listeners, fully intoxicated in happiness, forgave the performers.
I walk across the meadow. I dance following my instinct, releasing the full potential of my body. I run towards the bright sun, trying to get closer to it, but the sun remains the same no matter how fast I sprint. After realizing my failure, I turn to explore the world, discovering it bit by bit: I see the first river, named forty-two species of small creatures, and encounter five hundred kinds of flowers.
When I am obtaining some red apples from a tree, I spot a grandiose shape by the skyline. I drop the fruits and jog towards the vision. As I get close, it turns out to be a structure unknown to me. It is taller than any tree, wider than any river, and whiter than sunlight. When I reach there, my body freezes in awe. I cannot fetch a word to describe its majesty.
The symphony climbed to the climax. The conductor was glad that his orchestra went out of a nearly catastrophe. Climax of a song, just like the summit of a mountain, always attracted most appreciation. The gigantic river of life, flowing with the song, pushed up a splendor wave, unleashing all its power and wisdom. Some musicians felt that the music is going beyond their control – it is no longer a combination of regular sound waves, but a spirit as profound as humanity. The concert transforms from listening to music in formal clothes to appreciating the life, beauty, and struggle of a creature as complex as a Shakespearean character.
Under irresistible curiosity and admiration, I enter the palace. Inside lies a new world. Scarlet carpet with golden embroidery, instead of soft soil, covered the ground; silver chandeliers, instead of the sun, provide the light source. At first sight, I am convinced that I belong here. Compared with other components of nature, this building is much more sophisticated and organized. Its beauty unravels every tree, every steam, and every hill on the earth. I resemble it in every aspect: I possess much deeper thoughts than the rest of the world; I understand the art of reasoning; physically, without a doubt I’m the strongest and fairest among living beings. No one deserves this house more than I do.
Wondering through the labyrinth of corridors, I come into a small room with burning fireplace and delicate furniture. Tired from a day’s activity, I throw myself on the large bed and douse in the soft mattress. Staring at the golden ceiling, I start to review my extraordinary experience and ponder on problems, big problems about my existence and about the world.
Sometimes, I cannot believe my life is real. It is too wonderful to be authentic. Yet, the touch of silk bed sheet, the warmth from the flame, and the aroma from the flower vase are all solid proofs of existence. All of these can never be a dream. If I cannot trust my own feelings and my own consciousness, there’s no way for anyone to determine what’s real.
The tender surroundings make me drowsy. Various imageries flash in my mind. A little waterfall at the foot of a mountain, a wooden cabin sitting on a golden field, a leaf flying slowly from an apple tree… I could not feel more content. I…
The symphony became mild and melodic after the elaborated climax. It brought back some segments from the previous chapters and ended with a beautiful diminuendo, as if the music was put to sleep. Silence lingered in the chamber for a long time, as everyone was still roaming in the musical wonderland. When the audience finally returned to reality, they stood up and clapped. The century – old concert hall had never witnessed such passionate applause.
At the backstage, everyone, from the conductor to the janitors, was talking about the peculiar performance. The orchestra had been rehearsing this symphony for weeks. There had always been a strange feeling in the music throughout the rehearsals. Its composition was so lively and resonant so profoundly with human emotions that a few musicians randomly burst into tears or laughter while playing it. Despite the strange incident around the piece, no one could, and would bother to understand the mechanism behind it.
Teased by his band mates, the pianist tried to defend his mistake, “Friends, I’m sure that some supernatural force haunting the hall, didn’t the music sound odd to you? Normally I would never push the wrong keys and fall behind in tempo.”
“Buddy, you are becoming as insane as the guy who composed this,” the first violin said, sipping from a glass of vodka martini, “Friedrich Zoros, a superstar composer a century ago, shot himself through the heart seven days after finishing this piece.”
“Our conductor, recently, found this forgotten piece in a collection of Mr. Zoros’s manuscripts. Frankly, the form does seem a bit strange, not like anything I’ve played before.” A cello remarked while taking off his blazer.
“Stop with your nonsense gentlemen,” a drummer with red face and grey hair, the most senior on the band, remarked, “there is no room for superstition on the earth. The symphony we played is nothing but another song good at emotion building. Zoros had been mentally unstable for ten years, killing himself was not surprising at all.”
“And for you, our young fellow,” the drummer turned to the pianist, “you have the same problem as our dear composer. You cannot calm down and simply press the keys, without thinking about anything else. Learn a lesson from your failures instead of finding excuses.” He then turned bitter about the orchestra hiring too many young artists without enough public performing experiences, and how their inability nearly destroyed the show.
“Maybe you are right,” The pianist said hesitatingly, “that possibly was an illusion, none of us have seen a phantom or received a divine suggestion, right?”
“Young man, you finally get your s*** together. Nothing is real before we could truly feel them. It’s like how we exist since we could feel ourselves, and we have this,” the drummer pointed at his narrow head, “Ergo cogito, ergo sum, such is the rule of nature.”
“Don’t overthink, tangible happiness is most crucial.”
“We pulled off a successful performance and got flowers and the audience’s applause. We should feel content and celebrate.”
“Where shall we go? There’s a new French restaurant down the street…”
Conversations like the ones above dominated the backstage, until everyone was gone, partying, sleeping, or simply enjoying their conscious life.
Everyone would be well ready to perform the exact same symphony the next day. The world would be ready to play its own symphony as well.