The inauguration, blessedly, has happened.
A wonderful calm settled during the performance of “Air and Simple Gifts,” a piece composed for the occasion by John Williams, the official composer of the Hollywood blockbuster. The new vice president had been sworn in, and we still awaited the new president. As well as a nod to Aaron Copland’s adaptation in Appalachian Spring, the song was a contradiction in terms, a richly-layered orchestration for an ode to simplicity, played by a star-studded quartet. “Simple Gifts,” so boisterously out of its original context of an apocalyptic anti-sex movement, represents a lesson in the odd movements of history. The things we do are not our own. As time goes on, our descendants will cast and recast the fruits of our endeavors, making of them whatever beautiful abomination they see fit for the moment. We do the same to our ancestors. And yet the whole thing, at its best, is nothing but an act of love.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.
As Obama calls us to remember an imaginary past, we stand before an unimaginable future, bound in communion with both. Simple yet complex, imaginary yet actually happening, rhetorical yet practical—a grand new beginning to what has always been and always will be.
tags: becoming, millenialism, politics, powers, responsibility, ritual, utopia