Kuok-Wai Lio, pianist

A Constellation of Gifts

A new judgment born from listening to Chopin’s “The Raindrop” played at the National Assembly.

I have certainly listened to music before in my life, but it may not have been until the National Assembly that I actually heard it.

I knew of philosophical works by ancients and moderns about music, but never suspected them of being anything other than generic commentaries on man and ordered sound. I never thought music could speak in its particularity (pieces and songs) metaphysically. But, reading Guissani’s one page explanation of the meaning of Chopin's “The Raindrop” while it played in the meeting room revealed to me the meaning behind the piece. That basic and ineliminable thirst for God that constitutes my own heart is constant in the midst of the vicissitudes of life. The ebbs and flows of reality are encountered by this person who is a desire for love. I had never considered that music, in a unique way, is able to communicate to me both myself and a glimpse of my fulfillment.

As the night unfolded with prayer and conversation, the existential question of myself in the form of a lingering memory of the Chopin piece did not leave me. The mysterious encounter with Christ was one that was a Presence: in me, in sound, in others, in all things. It was a gifted consolation that I was able to bask in, knowing full well that many of the others around me were unaware of what I knew so consciously at that moment: the astonishment at having been “granted entry” (as Balthasar puts it) in the communion of being. How could Chopin and Giussani – both men in different times and cultures from myself who have passed from this life – so accurately and passionately pinpoint the essence of who I am?

Yet, the best gift was granted unexpectedly. I had just spent ten hours in the car from Atchison, KS to Estes Park, CO with Kuok-Wai Lio, a phenomenal pianist, only to find out after entering the room that he was invited to play this piece live. I have only begun to get to know Kuok-wai who also is different in his culture and upbringing from myself; and, thus, my love for him was only beginning to form. Yet, the constellation of gifts at this moment was almost too much to receive: the playing of this particular piece on an instrument just before me, this piece which immediately before had begun to reveal to me the meaning of music and myself, played by a man whose unlikely friendship had just begun to bud in my own life. That this man was creating this music made a metaphysical combination. A metaphysics of love.

I understand anew, on account of this event, that life is a companionship in which we share the astonishing glory of the gift of being together. Such a companionship is a liturgy, “as incense in thy sight”.

Jeremy, Atchison, KS