Belshazzar’s Feast: Escape to Optimism

Everyone needs an escape, whether it be sports, music, or family.  It is what keeps us sane.  My escape has always been music.  Music allows people to live out their fantasies, to momentarily become a part of a story.  While it is true that the last decade has not been one to write home about, there is reason to be optimistic.  All someone has to do is look at Sir William Walton’s famous oratorio, Belshazzar’s Feast, for answers.

Belshazzar’s Feast is a story about the fall of the greedy & immoral King Belshazzar.  During a grand feast, the king finds the words ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN’ written.  Belshazzar can not interpret the writing and promises that whoever correctly interprets it will become the third ruler of the kingdom of Babylon.  Daniel was brought before the king and proceeds to do exactly that.

  • MENE – God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it;
  • TEKEL – Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting; 
  • PERES – Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.)

Daniel is immediately made the kingdom’s ruler, and Belshazzar is slain.

King Belshazzar is similar to today’s athletes & celebrities.  Celebrities want larger contracts with more money, and they want more fans.  King Belshazzar and today’s celebrities represent what is wrong with society – greed, ego-centricism, and the unwillingness to accept responsibility.

Daniel represents optimism.  Even though King Belshazzar was immoral, Daniel remained steadfast.  He was hopeful that an honest, God-fearing person would become ruler.  I believe it was Daniel’s optimism that made him king. 

Instead of believing everything the media puts out, which is  mostly negative, we need to believe that things will work out.   If there isn’t optimism, then there is no hope.  If there is no hope, then there is no point to living.


11 Responses to Belshazzar’s Feast: Escape to Optimism

  1. Paul Anater says:

    Is Daniel hope or is he justice? Are they the same thing? Hmmm. Great post!

  2. nice contribution — a little ironic that Daniel hope and justice found in Daniel’s skill with language/ie translation. . . thanks for sharing.

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  4. Steve Mouzon says:

    I haven’t seen Walton’s work, but in the original, Daniel didn’t become king. Rather, he passed up all of that, staying in his same place. Good thing, too, because the king got killed later that night!

  5. Chamois says:

    Let me just say, I squeed at your title! (Just finished reading “Sister Carrie” for American Lit and the title of one of the chapters is “The Feast of Belshazzar: A Seer to Translate) Okay, now on to my real comment.

    Daniel has always amazed me. His consistent optimism and hope are what brought him through some pretty harrowing experiences. Had he thrown in the prayer shawl, so to speak, and called it quits, the entire kingdom of Babylon could have very easily fallen apart at a much faster rate. But he maintained hope and eventually became king. Excellent example of how one person’s optimism can have a big impact.

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  7. Betsy — it just so happened that I was at that particular feast, or rather my soul in a previous carnation was, a bilingual mistrel. the message actually said: the meat isnt cooked properly. But what did that illiterate Belshazzar know? he had sort of an inferiority complex, always a little afraid of David’s relationship w/ God, so might have been a bit off his game. You have to admit, that was pretty clever of David. Oh sure he knew that language, pshaw! Really an even better trick than that little brat Arthur dripping the oil down the sword stuck in the stone while no one was looking. And Arthur and David both got kinged, after all.

    so what’s that tell you about these old stories? that evil never dies? that puzzles arent the best way to select rulers? no, as it turns out, both King David and King Arthur were wise, generous dictators (is that an oxymoron??) Maybe winning at public tricks revealed they were adept gamers, a useful skill for any leader. I’d say that we learned stories always have at least two perspectives… and that’s kept me eternally optimistic! (and hoping you dont mind a bit of humor here!!) cindy @urbanverse

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