Few places are more frenzied than modern airports. The nervousness of air travel has only been compounded in our post 9-11 world. There is the agitation of the pre-check, x-rays and the dread of being frisked or having a TSA agent rummage through your carry-on. Florida is no exception, which made a recent trip to Orlando’s airport all the more interesting.
I was there to pick up a friend, not travel. However, the tension in the air was palpable and disturbed my soul. I asked a police officer for directions to arrivals. He was in a hurry and had a look of concern. Who knows what problem was on his mind in our fragile and sometimes violent world? He pointed out the direction, which happened to be where he was also heading.
En route, I suddenly noticed a calming, otherworldly sound. When the officer and I reached its source, we found a woman graciously plucking a harp, my favorite instrument.
“Well, that really calms the nerves,” the officer quipped, passing the harpist. His pace did not slacken, but it was clear that our fortuitous encounter with this unexpected sight had a positive effect on us both.
Since my friend was still on the plane, I was in no hurry. It allowed me to sit, listen and observe. It was a much-needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of an airport that is a tourist mecca for those visiting Disney World.
As the harpist filled the air with enchanting music, I was transported into another realm. In our world, one can rarely enjoy such music in public places. Instead, one finds “music” that is really obnoxious noise that disturbs the soul and frays the nerves. Most people might think, “That’s just how things are.” They may get used to it, but I will not!
With these thoughts, I noticed the harpist’s effect on hurried travelers. Like the officer and me, they likely heard the notes wafting through the air from a distance. When beholding the source of the sound, their steps slackened, and smiles softened their troubled faces. It seemed to provide the kind of balm for the soul which I was enjoying in a nearby chair.
It seemed their thoughts became more elevated, which was manifested on their faces. One particular man had a telltale nostalgic expression as if momentarily removed from the twenty-first-century chaos.
The most striking reaction was an emotional woman who approached the harpist to express her gratitude. “This has made my day,” she said as she wiped away the tears. “The song you just played reminded me of my grandmother.” She was too overwhelmed to say more and walked away, sad but comforted with the thoughts of a loved one.
Lamentably, not everyone had this type of response. Most people were too occupied with their smartphones to even notice. One lady, her daughter in tow, was so entranced with her device she almost bumped into me.
Since many seemed to pay no attention or even notice, I took advantage of the remaining songs to battle the indifference by punctuating the conclusion of each piece with applause.
“Bravo, bravo,” I yelled as loud as I could, “give it up for the harpist.” People from a nearby restaurant joined in, as did many others. Even those formerly engrossed with their phones looked up and clapped with smiles of appreciation. Thank God, I thought, they finally took note.
A lone harpist in a bustling airport is important because it reveals desires for things that are contrary to the frenetic intemperance of a world dominated by the Revolution.1 It is contrary to the way the United States is often portrayed. One would expect woke propaganda but not a harpist in Orlando’s airport. Could it be that this Florida harpist—one paradox among so many we are finding in our country—is lighting the way for America’s Return to Order?
The reaction of a friend from South Africa supported this conclusion. I sent him a video of the harpist, and his response was effusive. “Wow, fantastic,” he responded, “I love the harp. It is so serene. It seems to civilize everything it touches and takes one to a higher place.” He astutely pointed out how “It’s not Gregorian chant, but it’s something in that direction in its effect.”
Yes, it is something spiritual that clashes with the intemperance that dominates our world. It appears unexpectedly in America, and someone from another continent recognized this important fact. It was not surprising for me that his final comment about the Florida harpist was part of a phenomenon that I call “Only in America.”
1. Revolution is defined in Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s masterful book Revolution and Counter-Revolution.