Beethoven’s Lifestyle Regimen and the Secret to His Superhuman Vitality

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler

In praise of “vigorous ablutions with cold water, a scrupulous regard for personal cleanliness, and daily walks immediately after the midday meal.”

Our popular imagination tends to cast creative work as the product of the mind and the disembodied spirit. But any writer who has ever felt neuronally severed from her own cognitive faculties by sleeplessness, any artist whose paintbrush has trembled with the pangs of ravenous hunger, any musician whose strings have thundered with the oxytocin of a kiss, knows how intimately entwined our creaturely conditions are with our creative vitality. Rilke captured this symbiosis beautifully: “I am not one of those who neglect the body in order to make of it a sacrificial offering for the soul, since my soul would thoroughly dislike being served in such a fashion.”

But perhaps no artist embodies this interdependence of the creaturely and the creative better than Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770–March 26, 1827), whose outsiderly exceptionalism was the source of both his tragedy and his genius.

In his 1927 masterwork Beethoven the Creator (public library) — that uncommon and impassioned ode to “the joy of suffering overcome” — the French dramatist, novelist, essayist, and art historian Romain Rolland describes Beethoven’s superhuman strength and vigor, as extolled by the composer’s contemporaries:

He is built of solid stuff well cemented; the mind of Beethoven has strength for its base. The musculature is powerful, the body athletic; we see the short stocky body with its great shoulders, the swarthy red face, tanned by sun and wind, the stiff black mane, the bushy eyebrows, the beard running up to the eyes, the broad and lofty forehead and cranium, “like the vault of a temple,” powerful jaws “that can grind nuts,” the muzzle and the voice of a lion. Everyone of his acquaintance was astonished at his physical vigour. “He was strength personified,” said the poet Castelli. “A picture of energy,” wrote Seyfried. And so he remained to the last years, — until that pistol shot of the nephew that struck him to the heart. Reichardt and Benedict describe him as “cyciopean”; others invoke Hercules. He is one of the hard, knotty, pitted fruits of the age that produced a Mirabeau, a Danton, a Napoleon.

Rolland outlines the lifestyle regimen which held the secret to Beethoven’s extraordinary vitality:

He sustains this strength of his by means of vigorous ablutions with cold water, a scrupulous regard for personal cleanliness, and daily walks immediately after the midday meal, walks that lasted the entire afternoon and often extended into the night; then a sleep so sound and long that he thanklessly complained against it! His way of living is substantial but simple. Nothing to excess; he is no glutton, no drinker (in the evil sense of the word) as some have wrongfully described him. Like a good Rhinelander he loved wine, but he never abused it — except for a short period (1825–1826) … when he was badly shaken. He was fonder of fish than of meat; fish was his great treat. But his fare was rough and countrified: delicate stomachs could not endure it.

Rolland bridges these physical habits with the psychological constitution of this visionary artist, whose work ushered in nothing less than a creative revolution:

He who has freed himself from the bonds and the gags of an old rotting world, freed himself from its masters, its gods, must show himself to be worthy of his new liberty, capable of bearing it; otherwise, let him remain in chains! The prime condition for the free man is strength. Beethoven exalts it… There is something in him of Nietzsche’s superman, long before Nietzsche.

Complement the fascinating and beautifully written Beethoven the Creator with the young composer’s stirring letters to his brother about the loneliness of deafness and his passionate love letters, then revisit Mozart’s daily routine and the habits of great writers.


Evil Triumphs in These Multiverses, and God Is Powerless



MATHEMATICAL MULTIVERSE: According to Tegmark, for every possible way in which mathematical models dictate that matter can be consistently arranged to fill a spacetime universe, there exists such a

How scientific cosmology puts a new twist on the problem of evil.

The challenge that the multiverse poses for the idea of an all-good, all-powerful God is often focused on fine-tuning. If there are infinite universes, then we don’t need a fine tuner to explain why the conditions of our universe are perfect for life, so the argument goes. But some kinds of multiverse pose a more direct threat. The many-worlds interpretation of quantum physicist Hugh Everett III and the modal realism of cosmologist Max Tegmark include worlds that no sane, good God would ever tolerate. The theories are very different, but each predicts the existence of worlds filled with horror and misery.

Of course, plenty of thoughtful people argue that the Earth alone contains too much pain and suffering to be the work of a good God. But many others have disagreed, finding fairly nuanced things to say about what might justify God’s creation of a world that includes a planet like ours. For example, there is no forgiveness, courage, or fortitude without at least the perception of wrongs, danger, and difficulty. The most impressive human moral achievements seem to require such obstacles.

Still, many horrifying things happen with nothing seemingly gained from them. And, Everett’s many-worlds and Tegmark’s modal realism both seem to imply that there are huge numbers of horrific universes inhabited solely by such unfortunates. Someone like myself, who remains attracted to the traditional picture of God as loving creator, is bound to find such consequences shocking, and will wonder just how strong the evidence is for these theories.

The many-worlds interpretation arises from a problem in quantum mechanics. The Schrödinger equation, the fundamental law of quantum theory, is a description of the evolving states of particles. But some of the states it predicts are combinations—“superpositions”—of seemingly incompatible states, such as a coin landing both on heads and tails. We can wonder: What explains the fact that we don’t ever observe the combined incompatible states, but only observe coins that land on heads or tails? One answer many theorists provide is that there is more going on than the Schrödinger equation describes. They add a process called “the collapse of the wave function,” which results in a definite outcome of heads or tails.

But in the 1950s, Everett proposed a bold alternative. His theory has no collapses, but instead holds that all the parts of these combined—or “superposed”—states occur as parts of equally real but relatively isolated worlds. There are some complete copies of the universe in which the coin lands heads, and in others tails. And this applies to all other physical states—not just flipping coins. There are some universes where you make the train and get to work on time, and others where you don’t, and so on. These slight differences create multiple overlapping universes, all branching off from some initial state in a great world-tree.

Everett’s many-worlds and Tegmark’s modal realism both seem to imply that there are huge numbers of horrific universes.

Old-fashioned quantum theory assigns a tiny likelihood to things going really badly in the future. It also implies that, from any point in our actual past, things could have gone much worse than they actually did. Since the many worlds interpretation takes these possibilities as actual occurrences, it predicts that there are branching universes in which things do go as awfully as possible.

For example, whenever there is a minute chance of a catastrophe that leaves all human beings utterly miserable but just barely healthy enough to reproduce, there is a branch in the world-tree in which this sorry state of affairs actually happens, generation after generation. So there are worlds in which the emergence of the human race proves to be an unmitigated tragedy—or so it seems…



Rhythm of Breathing Key to Controlling Fear and Emotional Behavior

by Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer, Waking Times

We live in a fearful world with exposure to a deluge of stressors everyday. As much as fear is a result of reacting to the actual or perceived events in our lives, it is also a biological function of the human body, and when equipped with an understanding of how the body manages the emotional system, we can easily outsmart it, tricking ourselves into emotional balance.

This perspective is scientifically validated by new research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago Illinois, which discovered how the various rhythmic patterns of breath profoundly impact memory recall and the emotional body, specifically the fear response.

The brain creates electrical impulses which link physical functions to emotional reactions, and the electrical activity of the brain is deeply affected by our breathing patterns. The outcome of this balance is determined by whether or not we are inhaling or exhaling, as well as if we are  breathing through the nose or the mouth, as each variable creates a different electrical response within the brain.

In the Northwestern study, participants were shown images of human expressions, some frightful, while engaging in various patterns of breathing. Researchers observed that people more easily process fear, and more readily recall images, while inhaling through the nose.

“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation. When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.” ~Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study

READ: The ‘Muscle of the Soul’ may be Triggering Your Fear and Anxiety

The amygdala is decisively liked to the processing of emotions, especially those related to fear, while the hippocampus is strongly linked to memory recall, and the breath, which originates with the diaphragm, plays the critical role of regulating their function.

“Breathing is modulated at the diaphragm, and it is also the location where many physical symptoms associated with fear and anxiety manifest.“ ~Brett Wilbanks

The differences in brain activity which occur during unique breathing rhythms were recognized by looking at brain activity during the introduction of fearful or surprising human faces, finding distinctively heightened activity during inhaling. Knowing this can be highly advantageous when you realize that your fear reaction is working overtime.

“We can potentially use this fact to our advantage. For example if you’re in a dangerous environment with fearful stimuli, our date indicate that you can respond more quickly if you are inhaling through your nose.” ~Christina Zelano

Furthermore, this further validates the importance of meditation, which commonly centers of developing control of the breath in order to quiet the mind and normalize physiological function in the body. The long-term results of a dedicated meditation practice include more stable and optimal emotional reactions to the world around us, indicating again that breathing is a critical component of living a fearless life.

This is viewpoint is backed up by this research, as noted by Zelano.

“When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network.” ~Christina Zelano

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for and Offgrid Outpost, a provider ofstorable food and emergency kits. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.

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This article (Rhythm of Breathing Key to Controlling Fear and Emotional Behavior) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.