All my life I have been writing, talking, marching, donating for politics, but the truth is that I do not really enjoy it. I am not a happy warrior, and these days, I am in a more or less constant state of agitation, anger, outrage, frustration, and disappointment. All of this was brought home to me unexpectedly a day or so ago when I was driving home with Susie after running a series of errands. I turned on the car radio, which is tuned to a local classical music station, just as the announcer introduced an early baroque concerto for lute and flute. Quite unbidden, a feeling of peace descended on me as the music began, and for a few precious moments the agita that is my constant companion evaporated.
Afterward, I reflected that during my entire life, there have been two things, and only two, that can bless me with genuine inner peace. The first is early music. The second is laying out, in my mind, a complex, powerful, beautiful idea that I have managed to master until I can explain it so simply that my imaginary audience can see its power and beauty. Often when I am walking in the morning I will imagine myself addressing a group of students or a university audience about Kant, or Marx, or Game Theory, setting forth an argument transparently and quietly. I feel at peace.
I remember once seeing YoYo Ma at Tanglewood, playing a Bach Suite for unaccompanied cello. His eyes were shut, and he was leaning back away from the instrument as though he was not so much playing it as listening to it, having long since mastered the technique of playing and settled on an interpretation of that immortal music. I do not think I was wrong to think that he was at peace.