Through Suffering to Joy
SGI President Ikeda on Beethoven (Part 2 of 2).
Translated from SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement in the Dec. 1, 2014, issue of Boys and Girls Hope News, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the elementary school division. Part one appears in the July 21 World Tribune.
In November 1792, at age 21, Ludwig van Beethoven went to the city of Vienna in Austria, a place famous as the capital of music. He performed many of his works there, and became known among musicians in Vienna.
Life appeared to be going well for him at last, but when he was around 30, he started having trouble hearing. He was examined by doctors, but his hearing grew steadily worse.
What would he do as a musician if he could no longer hear?
Beethoven was so scared and anxious about his hearing, which is so vitally important to a musician. But he did not forget the sounds of the piano he had played since he was a child or the various melodies he had heard.
Beethoven was able to pull himself out of the agony of possibly being deprived of hearing and composed many masterpieces, including the Third Symphony, “Eroica”; the Fifth Symphony, “Fate”; and the Sixth Symphony, “Pastoral.”
At age 46, his illness worsened, and he eventually became completely deaf. He couldn’t communicate with people, even with a hearing aid. To understand what others were saying, he had them write in a notepad.
Even amid such daily challenges, Beethoven did not lose his desire to compose music. In fact, the worse his illness became, the more he challenged himself to express his feelings through his music.
He wrote in a letter to a friend: “I am far from satisfied with my past works: from today onwards I will turn over a new leaf.”
Beethoven completed the Ninth Symphony when he was 53. At its premiere, he stood on stage as the conductor. At the end of the performance, the audience was so touched that they applauded tumultuously, but Beethoven could not hear it. Since he was facing the orchestra, he had to be turned around to face the audience to realize how much they were applauding his work.
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Beethoven’s life was a succession of problems and worries— from enduring his father’s strict lessons and losing his beloved mother at a young age to bearing the loneliness of having to support his poor family on his own and struggling with his deafness.
But no matter how hard things became, Beethoven never lost his wish to become a better musician, to continue growing and to compose masterpieces. He composed more than 300 musical works over the course of his life. It was with that spirit that he described his life as moving “through suffering to joy.”
Those who aspire to grow face storms of difficulties and problems. They struggle because they are growing. It may be painful at such times, but having problems and struggles is proof of one’s growth.
As long as we continue to persevere, rouse our courage and keep pressing ahead, we can grow tremendously. We can even change our destiny. Both we and our families will be filled with great hope and joy.
One December, Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda said to me while I was in the midst of a very tough struggle: “Daisaku, suffering is unavoidable in life. Only when you suffer can you understand faith and become a great individual.”
Beethoven would not accept defeat. He triumphed as a distinguished champion of music. You are all lion cubs, so there is no way you will be defeated. I am confident and praying that you will keep advancing toward your dreams and be victorious in the end.
I am looking forward to talking with you all again. Please take good care of yourselves!