When I was in graduate school, I taught as an adjunct at several colleges in western Massachusetts. My car was old – it still had a tape deck – and I listened to a lot of mix tapes on those drives. My tape with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Oh Me Oh My” among others by Aretha Franklin got worn out and broke one sad day. Even today those songs take me back to the winding roads around Amherst.
No doubt like many people around the world today, I’ve spent the morning listening to Aretha Franklin’s music. I am wondering what makes one so sad when we lose someone whom we didn’t know personally. My only response is that when a great artist goes, we are reminded of all of the reasons that their art elevated us. Great art reveals the vast depth of human potential. That is exciting, joyous, delightful. If eyes are the window to one’s soul, then great art functions like a window into our own divine nature. Surely, we think, Aretha’s voice must have come from a sacred place.
It is that place where Mozart’s concertos, Shakespeare’s soliloquies, Paul Robeson’s spirituals, Handel’s oratorios ….. all originated. Great art not only touches our spirits, it reminds us that we all have inside of us a spark of the eternal flame that is divine. Our great artists are like a bridge that help us to touch that place in ourselves that is most precious. They remind us of the human capacity to create something which is truly beautiful and uniquely authentic. It is natural to mourn the loss of one our intermediaries to the divine. However, their passing does not change the light and love they created through their art. Like the divine spark that is in each of us, it is everlasting.
Check out the Operavore on Aretha Franklin.