It is said that Friedrich Schiller originally wrote the “Ode to Joy” in 1785 and was “enthusiastically celebrating the brotherhood of all mankind.” The poem was originally titled, “Ode to Freedom” but in 1803, possibly out of fear of repercussions for such an “overtly political” theme, he revised it to “Joy.”

In 1824 Beethoven set the poem to music in the final movement of his Ninth Symphony and made it universal, perhaps eternal. I am fascinated by the irony that the poet edited his poem for being too political and that it went on, aided by Beethoven’s genius, to become the twentieth century’s anthem for brotherhood, peace and reconciliation. Think Tiananmen Square. Think Berlin Wall.

It is also said that Schiller later regarded his poem as a failure, that it was “detached from reality.” Again, fascinating.

It is not the job of the creator to determine or decide the impact or possibility of what he or she creates. The creator’s job is to break free of doubt and self-criticism – to break free from fear – and to allow whatever is inside, that part that is begging to be released into the world, to find its way to the page, the canvas, the children, the team, the organization.

It is not out job to decide or even know who will be moved by our work or where our contributions will lead.

It is our job to do the work.


The 1803 version with references to the original is below:

“Ode to Joy” – Friedrich Schiller – 1803

Joy, beautiful sparkle of god, (1785 version: Freedom, beautiful sparkle of god,)

Daughter of Elysium,

We enter, fire-drunk,

Heavenly one, your shrine.

Your magics bind again

What custom has strictly parted. (1785 version: What custom’s sword has parted.)

All men become brothers (1785 version: Beggars become princes’ brothers.)

Where your tender wing lingers.

Published On: March 12th, 2015 / Categories: change, creativity, inspiration, leadership, learning / Tags: /

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