Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Happy Birthday, Beethoven!

Then let us all do what is right, strive with all our might toward the unattainable, develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us, and never stop learning!
— Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most respected and influential composers of all time. Year after year, his symphonies are the top-rated listeners’ choice on classical stations like WCPE (an outstanding, 100% independent, listener-supported, commercial-free, 24/7 classical music station, by the way!).

Beethoven first gained public attention when he was only eight years old as a virtuoso pianist, but of course, it was his glorious skill as a composer that made him a giant for the ages.

But it wasn’t easy. In his mid-twenties, Beethoven began to lose his hearing. He suffered a severe form of tinnitus, a “ringing” in his ears that made it hard for him to hear or enjoy music. He avoided conversation and became increasingly reclusive and despondent in his later life. While he lived in the small Austrian town of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna, he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, revealing his agony over the loss of the most important facility a musician can have. He even contemplated suicide.

Over time, his hearing loss became profound and in the final decade of his life, he was completely deaf. By the first performance of his Ninth Symphony in 1824, he was unable, of course, to conduct. But he did stand next to the conductor during the performance to indicate the proper tempi. The performance was tremendous, and was received with a great deal of emotion, not only by the audience but, more unusually, by the orchestra (some of the players reportedly wept).

Well. Really. How could they have not:

One of Beethoven’s most respected biographers, Sir George Grove (1820-1900), described the scene:

The master, though placed in the midst of this confluence of
music, heard nothing of it all and was not even sensible of the
applause of the audience at the end of his great work, but
continued standing with his back to the audience, [and beating
that time,] till Fraulien Ungher, who had sung the contralto part,
turned him, or induced him to turn around and face the people,
who were still clapping their hands, and giving way to the
greatest demonstrations of pleasure.

His turning around, and
the sudden conviction thereby forced on everybody that he had
not done so before [because he could not hear what was going
on,] acted like an electric shock on all present, and a volcanic
explosion of sympathy and admiration followed, which was
repeated again and again, and seemed as if it would never end.

Today, as a random act of kindness, celebrate the great gift of hearing. Sometimes the greatest kindness you can give is to simply listen.

Water crystal that has been exposed to the music of Beethoven

Lend an ear to someone going through a tough time. Listen without judging, and without feeling compelled to fix anything or advise. Today, if you ask someone, “How are you?” listen fully and carefully to the response. Call or visit someone who doesn’t get a lot of company (like an elderly neighbor or a nursing home senior), and encourage them to tell their stories to you.

Share a favorite CD with someone. Learn how to use American Sign Language. Sing with your kids. Fill your home with beautiful music.

And then spend some time in silence, listening to the music of your own spirit.

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  • December 16, 2008, 9:37 am ARIE

    To Listen!
    That’s why we where born with TWO ears and only ONE mouth. :-))

    Great post. Your site is really an island of sanity.

    Love and Peace.


  • December 16, 2008, 1:47 pm Greg Fletcher-Marzullo

    Oh, everytime the big moment comes in this symphony I just burst into tears (even now while writing about it and remembering it!).

    The ebullience, the hope, the depth of power is so overwhelming, and inspiringly beautiful. If had written nothing else in his life, he would have been hailed as a master and genius for as long as memory held him – yet this wasn’t all!

    Thanks for this – I’ve loved Beethoven since I was a wee binky.

  • December 16, 2008, 1:55 pm ARIE

    Something else came up when reading again your post.

    From “Today, if you ask someone, “How are you?” listen fully and carefully to the response.”

    What I observe is usually a mechanical response, and most of the time does not fit with what the person is really feeling.
    If I’m working on myself, if someone asks me “How are you?” I would reply as follows:
    Intellectually I’m feeling very focused today and thinking of many projects. This is the mental side.
    Emotionally I’m very happy because this and this is going on. Physically I have a lower back pain as I’ve pushed myself too hard with exercises.
    I’m just trying to imagine what would happen if people would communicate like that.
    Instead of “How are you?” Fine! And you? Fine! And then everybody would go about their own businesses.

    Sometimes when both sides are centered and aware, then nothing needs to be said. Eye contact and a smile say it all.

    If I write too much please let me know and I’ll take larger intervals and reduce my output.
    Maybe because I feel so much at home here. And maybe it arises in me associations, that make me express myself in this plattform, that would otherwise not manifest itself.

    Warm Hearth

  • December 16, 2008, 3:23 pm Mouse

    Yet another beautifully eloquent post Beth, thank you 🙂

    x Mouse

  • December 16, 2008, 3:31 pm Beth Owl's Daughter

    Oh, Arie! I am so glad you feel at home here! You are most welcome! I love the thoughts you share and we are the richer for your presence. Feel free!

    Greg – what can I say, but amen. Me too! And Mouse .. thank YOU for that.. It means the world to me.. I am so glad you are here!

    Odes of Joy to all!
    – B.

  • December 16, 2008, 9:17 pm Anonymous

    Hello Beth Owl,
    Thanks to Wall-E my kids have discovered Beethoven. I showed them the clip from Immortal Beloved where the Ninth is being performed and he can’t hear the applause. They were pretty impressed when I explained he still wrote the music, even though he couldn’t hear it. Thanks for a great post.