Bach on the Purpose of Work

The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the spirit.
― Johann Sebastian Bach

Supposedly, that is the reply that Bach gave when asked why he composes music. This hasty weekly passage was sparked by an Arthur Brooks lecture that I watched while ellipticalling (asserting my legitimacy as a writer by creating funny words?) on this fine morning:

This video, which really draws from Bach’s wisdom, presents us with the same question. Many college students like myself are usually under the impression that we’re here to answer questions like what do you do? The funny thing is, the answer to that questions is not only incredibly simple, but it will change day-to-day. I submit to you that the only truly important question we ought to be able to answer is why: 

Why are you on this earth? Why do you do what you do?

A ship may be the best-equipped vessel sailing on the majestic seas, but sans guidance from the radiant North Star, it will inevitably become frustratingly lost. The haunting conclusion from Pathedy of Manners, “alone in brilliant circles to the end,” comes to mind all too easily. It is in our nature to be guided by a purpose. A few old guys in ancient Greece were fond of saying this, but we seem to have forgotten how to build upon the wisdom of the humans who came before us.

As I see it, we have two options in our current situation. We can accumulate skills, wealth and knowledge to best equip ourselves for a comfortable journey through time (and conveniently try to forget that we’re not home yet.) Or, we can seek out the answer to why, fall in love with that why, and allow that Love to lead us Home.


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