Dissonance and Harmony (or consonance - for you music geeks)
When I taught music theory while I was getting my masters degree I used to tell my students that dissonance existed to make harmony look good. What is dissonance? It is more than one tone sounding at the same time that doesn't sound good. Harmony is when tones sound together and do sound good. Dissonance can range from slightly unpleasant to REALLY horrid and harmony can range from nice to almost unbearably exquisite. But most of the time the beauty of the harmony is directly related to what horrible dissonance came just before. In music we call it resolution. In life it is the same thing.
I will never believe that we are here to suffer. I do believe that our job is to understand, I mean really understand beauty and love and happiness (the divine and the human kinds). I think it just takes contrast to see things sometimes. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, good things look a whole lot clearer and are more easily understood when they stand next to something bad.
I am writing all this now because as I stood in my kitchen making bread, listening to "At Last" sung by Etta James and watching my little man bouncing in his seat I felt a moment of lovely, happiness. I don't ever seem to get it when it's my turn to experience the hard and the ugly, but every time I turn the corner and the good and the beautiful wash over me I learn the lesson all over again.
*In case you're interested, here are a few pieces where that whole dissonance/consonance thing really makes for true exquisite beauty:
and the most striking of the three: