Long ago, in the far away galaxy called youth, I was going to be a musician. On some days, when my fingers know where keys are, it seems possible for a few measures. But the reason I wanted to be a musician was because music literally enthralled me. Certain works and passages convinced me life was worth it. Music imparted hope, even faith.
Today, HBO is re-running their new series "The Newsroom" in preparation for the next season. It is a fine show, but what sold me was the theme music. If you don't know it, you should listen to it before reading on. The rest of this post is about it, so stop and listen. OK?
Here it is.
No, it is not Bach or Beethoven, but there is something hopeful in it that takes me back in time, before my hope of a musical life. Back to being a boy in Washington DC.
Maybe it was the 1960 election, or the inauguration in 1961, or being at the tomb of the Unknowns for Memorial Day in 1959, or something else that has vanished from accurate memory, but for a time I truly believed something wonderful was going on there. The city quivered with significance and hope, and I was there.
Then we moved away to Baltimore. Then I graduated high school and went to college in St. Louis, and seminary in Chicago. I married a high school friend, we moved to Massachusetts for ten years, Texas for four, New York City for eleven, Michigan for 8, had four children and buried two.
Now I am sixty and hearing this music and remembering what it felt like to hope without doubt. There is the parade coming down Pennsylvania Avenue; the new president's smile is visible on the tenth floor where we are watching. Flags snap smartly around the Washington Monument. The air is significant, smelling of the secular temples with their columns and pediments. Just a few feet away, behind those windows, earnest men (mostly men then) looking like Efram Zimbalist Jr. or Jimmy Stewart are shaping the world, and I am there, too.
I want that again, to feel that sort of hope in my country, and in myself. Most days it is vain, but then I hear that music and it seems possible. And what is hope if not possibility?