New York City
December 20, 2014
Program for this event (PDF)
VIDEO ("Dona Nobis Pacem" and Introduction)
The Schiller Institute Manhattan Project uniquely addressed the crisis season unfolding in New York City and internationally with a sing-along of Handel's Messiah at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This occurred at the very moment that the crisis intensified with the assassination of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn. A full report on the organizing process and response to the event is forthcoming. What follows is the text of our program, written by Dennis Speed, and the leaflet that was distributed in the thousands for the event, also by Dennis Speed.
The will is the species character of man, and reason itself is only the eternal rule of the same. All nature acts according to reason; (man's) prerogative is merely, that he act according to reason with consciousness and will. All other things must; man is the being, who wills."
Precisely for this reason is nothing so unworthy of man, as to suffer violence, for violence annuls him. Who does it to us, disputes nothing less than our humanity; who suffers it in a cowardly manner, throws his humanity away.
--Friedrich Schiller, "On The Sublime"
Human beings are not beasts. When they act as beasts, they deny their humanity, and are lower than beasts. When the absolute authority to kill at will is asserted by the state; when unjustified, unprovoked killing is deemed not worthy of investigation by the courts of the state, then it is the duty of the citizen to protest and to resist with all the powers of his mind and soul. It is the duty of the free citizens to use what Martin Luther King called the "Strength To Love" to call forth their fellow citizens to stand against the despotism of arbitrary violence. If they do not, then they will reap the bitter harvest of their inaction.
We therefore gather today to celebrate the sanctity of human life, and that divine spark of creativity that makes us more than beasts, of which all human beings are capable, and to which all human beings must have the right. George Friedrich Handel's Messiah is a most fitting way to hear and sing that divine spark.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently told 20,000 people in New York's Madison Square Garden that the 1.2 billion human beings of India were all and each a gift from God. He said that the young people of India were the greatest source of wealth of that country. "For unto us a child is born...and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" says Handel's Messiah.
Is this how we regard our people, particularly our youth? We used to. The imitation of Christ required today, in New York City, in the aftermath of the Garner tragedy, and earlier occurrences such as the Amadou Diallo and other tragedies, is to return to that outlook, by bearing witness to injustice, even in the face of adversity. Martin Luther King told us, at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967, that Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. He finally publicly opposed the war in Vietnam, because young men should not be born to die in needless wars.
And so it is today. Whether it be torture, systemic murder of American citizens, financial dictatorship, forced mass unemployment of youth, we, the citizens, have the power to reverse all of that. We can make the United States join Narendra Modi, China's Xi Jinping, Russia's Putin and other nations in ending injustice everywhere, creating a human economics that says: the new name of peace is development.
Handel wrote Messiah in 1742 to finance Foundling Hospital, Great Britain's first public children's charity. Composed in 24 days, Messiah's topic, the birth, execution, and resurrection of Jesus, is about the strength to love. In today's New York City, we have an obligation to act to strengthen our citizens to love--love their country, humanity, and one another. It is to that end, that today's recollection of Handel's Messiah is dedicated.
The 2014 holiday season has been marred by international, national, and local examples of horrible injustice. The value of human life itself has been placed in question, by unspeakable practices, all conducted in the name of "defending our freedom" and "rule of law."
It is time for New Yorkers to come together and heal ourselves of this barbarism and injustice, which is imposed upon vulnerable people by those who have power. Instead of justice, these actions bring to mind the biblical phrase: "the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law." Justice is above law. The arc of the moral universe does not bend toward law, but toward justice, and the practice of justice, as informed by Agape, or Charity.
Yet, though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels, and have not Charity, I am become as a sounding brass or tinkling symbol. And though I give my body to be burned, and have not Charity, I am nothing.... Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.
When composer George Frederick Handel wrote his famous oratorio, Messiah, he used it to fund the first public children's charity ever established in Great Britain. He wrote the piece in 24 days. He tried to personify in his creative musical effort the practice of Agape. That is what Martin Luther King famously called the Strength to Love. To that end, The Schiller Institute invites you to join us in a re-creation by the people--you and your neighbors--of Handel's great work. This is not just a "sing-along"; it is an invocation, by the citizenry of the sacred principle of sanctuary. We must uplift ourselves and our spirits, that we become worthy to represent the necessary triumph of justice over law.
Justice must proceed from love; only then, will true law proceed from justice. "O grave, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting?"