quartet for the end of time

I was watching the last installment of the PBS series “The War” when they came to a segment about the liberation of the death camps across Europe.  The music chosen for this was Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.

How appropriate – this music which largely ignores the concept of human time, and goes for the inexpressible language of Eternity.

I’ve been hearing the cello/piano movement in my head – “Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus” (Praise to the eternity of Jesus) today.

So ecstatically slow (a metronome marking of 44 to the sixteenth note) that time seems to stop.  Like for those poor souls consigned to the camps, like those of us waiting for news of a desperately ill friend, colleague, loved one, daughter, sister, aunt.

Time is in suspension – we almost dare not draw a breath, for that would move time forward – we will our hearts to stop, for time to really stop.

So the inevitable will be rendered moot.

It is times like this that remind me why personkind invented religion.  We need a way to make the infinite, inevitable, instinctual, ineffable somehow manageable.

Pax tibi in vitam aeternam

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