A Blind and Toothless World

Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass” is a brilliant, thrilling work. But recently I learned it has nothing to do with Lord Nelson! There are several coincidences connecting the Mass to Lord Nelson: the crushing of Napoleon’s navy in the Battle of the Nile on August 1, 1798, or the Admiral’s presence at a performance of the Mass in Haydn’s hometown in 1800, or the destruction of the Danish fleet in 1801, or Trafalgar and the securing of hegemony over the seas by the British fleet in 1805. Church choirs sing this brilliant Mass with a warrior’s name attached to it, but it’s not a celebration of the violence Lord Nelson left in his wake. In fact, Haydn originally called it “Missa in angustiis” (Mass in time of tribulation).

If Haydn were here today, I believe he would agree with something Tevya says in Fiddler on the Roof: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, makes for a blind and toothless world.” Resistance and vengeance, violence and retaliation are unnecessary if we work together to weave justice into the fabric of everyday life. In James Crawford’s words: “If we will ground our relationships in mutuality and solidarity, friendship and hope,” society will make a U-turn and thrive with peace.


I’m watching the Hulu series, High Fidelity, with Zoë Kravitz. The show’s tagline is: “Getting over heartbreak. One killer playlist at a time.” In Episode 2 of the show, Zoë details how to produce a memorable playlist. In her words:

Making a playlist is a delicate art. It’s like writing a love letter, but better in a way. You get to say what you want to say without actually saying it. You get to use someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. And then there are the rules:

  • It’s gotta be entertaining.
  • You gotta tell a story.
  • You can’t be too obvious, but you can’t be too obscure either.
  • You can’t double up on songs by the same artist unless, of course, that’s your theme.

She goes on to note that assembling a good compilation of songs isn’t easy. She’s adamant: “The most important track is Number One.” You miss getting off the starting blocks with the right song, you may as well forget it. The music slips and fizzles like seltzer. Number One has gotta be familiar but also unexpected. And most importantly, it’s got to make you feel good (Nick Hornby, Sara Kucserka, and Veronica West).

After the show, I wanted to make a playlist, but I choked. Each time I thought I had my starter, I folded. Always unsure I’d made the right choice. I wrestled with the idea of the almighty Number One for days. Then I remembered something I love from Corinne Bailey Rae.

Yep, I think I’ve got it.

If you think it’s easy choosing a lead song from the wonderful world of music, give it a try; then let me know how you get off the starting line. How you begin your masterpiece.