If you are a connoisseur of “A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS” you know what today is…as Schroeder pointed out, it’s BEETHOVEN’S BIRTHDAY! “Schroeder” is a role I played in the musical, “YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN”, and enjoyed it immensely…years ago, when I could actually sit on the floor of the stage, playing a toy piano, and just spring right up on my feet without taking an hour to do so.
Anyway, Beethoven is not one of my favorite composers. I don’t dislike his music, it’s just not my favorite…but oddly, he IS one of my favorite people, aside from his music. I learned quite a bit about him in college, we spent an entire semester researching, learning, getting to know old Ludwig. I also found out so much more about him in a book by Russel Martin in 2001: “BEETHOVEN’S HAIR” (highly recommended if you haven’t read it.)
But one interesting “Beethoven thing” happened in college. I attended a small art conservatory on a hill in Seattle, filled with the greatest combination of people, art, and night-life. There was an older man who was seen frequently on the main drag by my college. His hair reminded me of photos of Einstein, he wore a trench coat, always. He carried around a portfolio, which I later saw filled with handwritten music manuscript. He appeared to have a “girl-friend”, about his age (late 50s?…it’s hard for me to remember now because when I was 21 everyone older than me seemed to be ancient) who would pretend to meet him for the first time at a bus stop (we witnessed this often) and they would strike up a conversation as if they had never met.
In any case, one morning I walked into the front door of the school and into the office…to see him bending over the copy machine making copies of the hand-written music in his well-used satchel. The secretary noted the look on my face and pulled me outside the door.
“Have you not met Ludwig?”
“That guy’s name is Ludwig? No, I haven’t.”
“We don’t know what his actual name is, but he believes he is Ludwig Beethoven. He comes in and the President of the school has authorized him to use the copy machine when he wants to copy his music.”
“He thinks he’s Beethoven.”
She was right…he did, and everyone just went along. Partly proven by an event that happened just the next week.
The school had a small choral ensemble, and we were prepping a performance of a Beethoven piece, “CHRIST ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES” (SIDE NOTE: our Chancel Choir has sung the “HALLELUJAH” from that work) and our Director informed us, at rehearsal that day, that a special guest would be coming into class that day to “give us notes” on performing (wait for it) HIS piece.
I was REALLY looking forward to this.
He walked in the door. Everyone stood. Our Director welcomed him, introduced him and gave him the floor. Graciously, warmly, and lucidly, “Ludwig” smiled, began informing us of his “vision” for the piece, finishing by opening up the time for questions, while reminding us to speak up…since he was going deaf. Shockingly, our Director asked the first question, and “Ludwig” answered astutely.
I have to say, everyone “played along”, our Director never indicated in any way that he didn’t believe this man wasn’t Beethoven. And as for “Ludwig”, I think the actual Beethoven would’ve approved of his answers and demeanor.
Were we cruel or loving to “Ludwig”?
I ask that, as a BELIEVER & FOLLOWER, to see what you think? You see, we propagated his “untruth”. We played into his “delirium”. We pandered to his “illusion”. Was that OK? As far as I know I was the only person in the room who identified as “Christian”, but I have to say: I was SO impressed by the love shown to this man…and must add that moment to all the times I have learned more about Christian behavior from non-Christians than from people who identify as “Christian”.
What I learned was: “Truth” (in the life of a BELIEVER & FOLLOWER) should always be defined through the filter of love. Was it more important to make sure he understood he was not who he thought he was OR important to make a “relationship connection” with him?
I have acquaintances (who identify as “Christian”) who believe we should’ve prayed over him and his mental healing. I have acquaintances (who identify as “Christian”) who would’ve at least believed we shouldn’t call him “Ludwig” (because that’s not really his name) or continued to let him use the copy machine because that’s not really “loving him”…it’s only helping him continue to live a “lie”.
It’s sad, to me, because I don’t think Jesus said, “the facts shall set you free.” I think He said, “the Truth will set you free”, and Jesus, the way I hear Him at least, says over, “love one another”.
The Truth is: relationships are the only currency you can take with you.
The Truth is: “consider others greater than yourself…”
The Truth is: no matter whom HE identified himself as, MY business was to show love to him. And MY business was to know that whatever was going on in his brain was none of my business.
I learned the truth about acceptance of others, no matter what, without compromising Jesus who lives in me…from people who took him for who he said he was.
“Ludwig” reminded us that day that “CHRIST ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES” was not a “concert piece” but a sacred one. That it should be treated and sung as a sacred work: it was not about RELIGION (he told us), it was about the person of JESUS. That person who, on the Mount of Olives, cared more about us then Himself.
“Sing,” Ludwig said, “as if you owe Him your life.”
I never did actually learn his real name, but that year I learned LOVE is the greatest thing, and THE TRUTH certainly does set you free.
(PS – And a HAPPY 250TH BIRTHDAY today, to the real Ludwig Van Beethoven.)