Years ago I went to see Chick Corea’s Band. Chick on keys, John Patitucci on Bass and Dave Weckyl on drums. In case you don’t know, these are musician’s musicians, at the absolute top of their craft, playing fusion and traditional jazz. These are awe inspiring, gifted players. But, for the most part, I was there to see Dave Weckyl. I grew up playing drums. I was never great at it, but I like to play. So I saw Weckyl play, and my emotional response was that I should never touch a drum again. It was like Salieri seeing Mozart’s sheet music in that Amadeus movie. He was stunned and destroyed because he knew that, no matter what, he would never be that good. That great. It was not going to happen. And it made him bitter to the point that he wanted to kill Mozart.
I wasn’t bitter, so Dave Weckyl is safe. But some part of me, probably the American part, felt like, “Why bother! What could I say with the drums that this guy hasn’t already said a million times better.” It was childish thinking. I mean, what if only the “best” basketball player in the school was allowed on the court? No game. What if only the “best” musician was allowed to play? No band. What if only the “best” teacher was allowed to teach? No education. Think about it. It’s stupid.
If you can be original, that’s great. If you’re the best at something, hey, that’s great too. I’m not trying to take away from that. I could watch Michael Jordan jump-shot replays all day long, and I don’t even like sports. Dave Weckyl, Michael Jordan, Mozart, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Tiger Woods: that kind of talent can be taken as evidence of divine creation (I said talent, not morality). I think that if people can relate to and enjoy what you say or do, that’s great. It adds to your sense of community. The more the merrier. It might even make you some money, especially if you express yourself through plumbing. And who says you have to be original? Who says you have to be the best or sell a million whatevers? Where do these rules come from?
Be all you can be. Go for it. Just do it. Don’t quit. Never give up, never surrender. Boldly go where no one has gone before. Please do. But at some point you’ve still got to think about why you do what you do. People may not want to pay you for the thing you love to do, and maybe they shouldn’t. If that’s the case, then you won’t be putting food on the table with that particular thing. And so what? That doesn’t mean you have to live like a sponge, absorbing forever and a day. Perhaps it’s time you allowed some of your heart and mind to move off into the world around you. Produce something. Maybe it will just echo back for your own pleasure. Maybe others will hear and want to hear more. Maybe they’ll throw you a tip. Who knows.
Did you know that Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime? Why do you think he kept painting? Was he just crazy? Maybe he was.
If only we could all be so crazy.
From what I’ve read, it was apparently van Gogh, the man who sold one painting, who originally said, “Winning isn’t everything...it’s the only thing.” This is why he’s remembered as a painter and not a philosopher. No wonder he chopped his own ear off.
Please believe me, and I’ll try to believe myself. You don’t have to be the “best” at something to express yourself. You don’t have to be “market worthy.” You don’t have to be the winner of some opinion poll or have the biggest house, car, following, church, sales record, whatever. Simply treat your expression, your art, your talent, your thing you do because you are you – whatever it is – treat it as the sacred act that it is. Enjoy it. Develop it. If it’s what you do for income, then do it the best you can. If it’s not, then do it the best you can. Imagine that whatever you do – no matter how well you do it at the moment – imagine that you’re doing it, not for Donald Trump, not to impress people, but for God.
Are you alive? Signify.
Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2010