The Joy of Suffering Overcome: Young Beethoven’s Stirring Letter to His Brothers About the Loneliness of Living with Deafness and How Music Saved His Life
“Blessed and blessing, this music is in some sort the equivalent of the night, of the deep and living darkness,” Aldous Huxley wrote of Beethoven’s Benedictus in his exquisite meditation on why music enchants us so. But he could have well been writing about Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770–March 26, 1827) himself — a creator suffused with darkness yet animated by the benediction of light.
Like Frida Kahlo, Beethoven sublimated a lifetime of unbearable bodily suffering to the irrepressible vitality of his creative spirit. Bedeviled by debilitating physical illness all his life — the anguishing pinnacle of which was his loss of hearing at the age of twenty-eight — he nonetheless became a servant of joy. Even Helen Keller, herself deaf and blind, conveyed the timeless transcendence of his music in her moving account of “hearing” his Ode to Joy./.../