Of the 427 weddings in my present parish during the past eleven years (I have lost count of all the others), the band—for want of a better word—at the most recent reception was the loudest I can remember. Conversation was impossible, so some of a certain age complained loudly but not loudly enough and others of a lesser age laughed at their complaints. I have come to realize that for many of them, conversation as an art is an unknown thing.
This reminded me of the line about the morally tranquilizing effects of “intolerable music” in Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard Class Day address. On another Class Day four years later, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta mentioned Jesus thirteen times, but the edited account of her speech in the “Harvard Magazine” gave no indication that she had mentioned Him at all. The 1978 speech upset far more commentators than the offended scholarettes in Cambridge who stomped their feet at Mother Teresa’s mention of virginity and the protection of unborn babies. Rosalyn Carter responded at the National Press Club in a speech reported to have been written by herself: “Alexander Solzhenitsyn says he can feel the pressure of evil across the land. Well, I do not sense that pressure of evil at all.” She added that Solzhenitsyn would not have accused America of shallow materialism if he had known about our many voluntary organizations that bring neighbors together. Evidently, news of those wonderful groups such as the United Way had never reached the Gulag to cheer the inmates. But what really made the lovers of intolerable music hiss Solzhenitsyn in 1978 was his warning: “On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.”