An uncommon Ode to Joy


In 1801, at age 31, Ludwig van Beethoven had become suicidal. He lived in poverty, was losing his hearing, and wallowed in the depths of withdrawn despair and hopelessness. Twenty-three years later, utterly deaf, no longer suicidal, and, instead, energetically creative, he immortalized Schiller’s life-affirming “Ode to Joy” in the lyrical chords of his Ninth Symphony. His transposing of Schiller’s inspiring words, “Be embraced all ye millions with a kiss for all the world,” reflected his remarkable ability to triumph over the tragedy of his hearing loss. He had triumphed over his tragedy to be able to construe the world in ways that can forever help all of us feel the joy he experienced by hearing his miraculous music.

Beethoven can be seen as one of the superstars of thriving. He did not suddenly transform himself from someone living in helpless despair to a person living in constant joy and elation. Like all ordinary thrivers, he continued to suffer through many terrible times and remained prone to dark moods throughout most of his life. In an 1801 letter to his friend Karl Ameda, he wrote, “[Y]our Beethoven is having a miserable life, at odds with nature and its Creator, abusing the latter for leaving his creatures vulnerable to the slightest accident. . . . My greatest faculty, my hearing, is greatly deteriorated.”

For years, Beethoven heard mostly humming and buzzing until, for the last and very productive years of his life, he became totally deaf.…


Do life anyway! Whatever the issues and problems you have, do life anyway. Don’t give in. Ever. This is the journey. In the depth of your despair their is still and ode within you. Always. Beethoven Apparently wrote his suicide note which was found in a drawer years after his death. Even though he contemplated suicide as his hearing was ripped away from the magical-muso, he held on and wrote his best work years later, half deaf but thoroughly living. When he decided not to act out on that suicide letter, he awakened to his higher and sacred self changing and founding the world of music as we know it today. Push the same boundaries, create the same passion and vow to be the change that awakens others. Now, always and forever.

Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.” – Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Why this story is so very special is that, not only did Beethoven have an awakening experience of his own through great trial and suffering, he transcended it and lived fully. This is your job. To be 100% YOU. It is the task set before us which is to be:


He doesn’t commit suicide, instead he commits (choice) to keep on keeping on just as I am beckoning you to do. Beethoven instead returns to Vienna and writes masterpieces that changed the world forever. He found his courage through deep emotional suffering. He then lived his purpose despite the odds, the situations and circumstances and he lived!! As you and I must do today, now, here. Be impeccable with yourself. This means to be sin-less against yourself as Cain should have been before he projected his jealousy, bitterness and rage onto his brother.

Lessons from Beethoven about the wonder of the human spirit

Being deaf, Beethoven could hear the music of the Universe, unheard by the rest of us. The String Quartet No. 14 in C? minor, Opus 131, played without pause, seems to gather the slow and steady rise of the sun, mixing it with the unyielding turn of the Earth around the fire in its center. An uncommon Ode to Joy like this one somehow weaves the discord of all the roots on Earth gripping further in the ground with the harmony of the winds that swirl through the mountains and over the oceans. Within this is the slight pump of all the hearts stunned to be here. Listening to a performance of this quartet, Franz Schubert, a contemporary of Beethoven, remarked, “After this, what is left for us to write?”

Completed in 1826, Opus 131 was considered groundbreaking as an uncommon Ode to Joy, offering seven movements instead of the traditional four. Beethoven’s compositions for string quartet rush players into dynamic and intimate relationship, the way we can only know the wisdom of experience through actual relationship, learning how to play the music of life together.

This is the inspiring lesson of Beethoven’s Opus 131: it mirrors the non-stop demand of life to have us make music of what we’re given, not knowing what will happen next. Inevitably, having to play seven movements without pause, the instruments will go out of tune. With no time to re-tune their strings, musicians have to adjust and improvise within the structure of the music. In this piece, Beethoven insists on allowing both the harmony and discord of life to be present. He challenges musicians to see the movements through, even out of tune.

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine. – Beethoven

Likewise, we are challenged every day to say yes to the movements of life, to see it all through, without pause, staying in relationship to the music of life and each other, adjusting as we go, not knowing what will happen next. Yet even out of tune, this messy and magnificent practice, so essentially human, will let us hear–briefly–the music of the Universe being the Universe. To hear this larger music, to see an uncommon Ode to Joy, while grinding out the smaller music of our lives is what sages of all traditions have called glimpsing eternity.

So, though there are times to rest and times to rehearse, the blessings and resources of life rush into the flawed and raw openings that come when we keep playing without pause, reaching for ways to find the unknown harmonies between us. For all his brilliance of composition, Beethoven’s strength of heart confirms that a moment of meeting life completely is more rewarding than an ounce of perfection. It’s inspiring and helpful to realize that saying yes when we feel depleted and out of tune wakes the sleeping genie of our soul who smiles to say, when looking at our trouble, “I’ve been waiting for this. You have everything you need.”

The hauntingly beautiful poem ‘Ode to Joy’ was written by German poet Friedrich Schiller in 1785 to celebrate . He revised it in 1808 and Beethoven then used it in his final fourth movement of his Ninth Symphony. Beethoven also slightly adapted the words by adding this intro:

Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
and more joyful ones!


the original lyrics to Ode to Joy?

An uncommon Ode to Joy

Which was first the chicken or the egg the lyric or the music one may wonder. Does it even matter. Sometimes in life we bear witness to wonder and marvel in uncommon hours. The world needs hero’s and stories of triumph over disaster. This to me is one such story. It is an uncommon Ode to Joy. It is well worth a contemplative listening. Allow it today to stir up your soul just a little.

Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity [or: of gods],
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly one, thy sanctuary!
Thy magic binds again
What custom strictly divided;*
All people become brothers,*
Where thy gentle wing abides.

Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt,
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Add his to the jubilation!
Yes, and also whoever has just one soul
To call his own in this world!
And he who never managed it should slink
Weeping from this union!

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breasts.
All the Just, all the Evil
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us and grapevines,
A friend, proven in death.
Ecstasy was given to the worm
And the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, as His suns fly
through the heavens’ grand plan
Go on, brothers, your way,
Joyful, like a hero to victory.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss to all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Are you collapsing, millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy!
Above stars must He dwell

Published by Mark L Lockwood

Mark L Lockwood (BA)(Hons)(psy) teaches spiritual transformation and is the founder of Contemplative Intelligence. Author of The Power of Contemplative Intelligence, Autotherapy and Recovery Magic. Our work is about the science of finding your spiritual self.

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