The one conclusion that I have reached after a year's mulling is simply the ancient cliche that the certainty of one's knowledge decreases in proportion to thought and experience. The moment you have time to intellectualize your perceptions, established certainties will begin to crumble, and the "other side" of any controversy will beckon appealingly. The inevitable result is that one's liberalism becomes stretched to the point of absurdity.
If I may be pardoned for a quasi-existential paradox, I suggest that the answer is in the questioning. By experimenting with the problem, by feeling it out, by living with it, we are answered. All our lives are spent in the attempt to resolve conflicts; and we know that resolutions are impossible except by hindsight. We can make temporary decisions...but it is only after death that it can be finally perceived whether we ever succeeded in resolving our conflicts. This is patent, since as long as we live we continue the attempt to resolve them. That attempt is the very action of living.
[They] give you what you yearn for secretly, what our bright todays and tomorrows lack. The romantics gave us back our moon, for instance, which science has taken away from us and made into just another airport. Secretly we all want the moon to be what it was before-a mysterious, hypnotic light in the sky. We want love to be mysterious too, as it used to be, and not a set of psychotherapeutic rules for interpersonal relationships. We crave mystery even while we forge ahead toward the solution of one cosmic mystery after the other.
Which brings us back to the date: isn't this WHY we celebrate New Year's Day? The promise of a better tomorrow, of what might be, for better or for worse? The latter might sound strange; who wants a "worse" year? But that's not to suggest that we are hoping for the worst, but that the possibility of new adventures requires, since we are NOT omniscient, that sense of danger? If it didn't, we would simply be hoping for more of the same in the form of security and comfort. And yet, there is still the appeal of the different, the dangerous, the subversive, even...for Bernstein, the thrill of the "devil in music" remains:
As a conductor I am fascinated by, and wide open to, every new sound-image that comes along; but as composer I am committed to tonality. Here is a conflict, indeed, and my attempt to resolve it is, quite literally, my most profound musical experience. And if this sounds far too existential for an old romantic like me, well and good.
And with that, I find myself at the same "pass" as Bernstein at the end of his sabbatical. Like Bernstein, I have "two answers to everything and one answer to nothing." Once upon a time, I resolved to find the answer the questions to Rand's musical challenges. While I don't think it's impossible, I don't think that's my primary goal anymore, and it certainly isn't my goal to convince others that I do have the answers for THEM, because ultimately, what matters in any "Romantic" endeavor is the individual choice. And as long as there is a world of choice, there will remain, if not "infinite," an ever-growing world of music. So I'll give Lennie the last word:
There are two solutions...the choice between them lies in the question "Which one is true?," to which there is no single answer.