Friday, November 14, 2014

Muse and Commander

Published March 2, 2004
There is one message I have for you today. It is to find something you love and do it for the rest of your life. — Ray Bradbury
A beautiful world awaits the adventurer who dares to tear himself from the glowing screen. It waits in books, it waits in nooks, if you dare to look beyond that crook, that glowing screen.
It’s easy to sit in front of a television and do nothing. I quit watching TV in the late 1980s after I realized inertia, more than programming, kept me on the couch, and though some shows are interesting, I don’t have time for them. I’m too busy living life to watch it.
Music, words, history and animals are my passions, and nothing on TV can stack up to actions and interactions in the three-dimensional world. Television is eclipsed by the joy of my goat napping on my lap, and improvement in music or writing is only begot through study and practice.
I’m never so bored that I would turn to commercial television. I simply don’t have time, because I subscribe to Thomas Edison’s belief in hard work: “Opportunity is missed by most people, because it is dressed in overalls, and it looks like work.” The meaning of Edison’s most famous quote, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” has been dulled by repetition, and I didn’t truly understand it until I dedicated myself to music: Seemingly magical talent, knowledge and creativity are the result of a mess of work.

Wolfgang Mozart, whose creativity changed classical music in the late 18th-century, knew that natural talent is nothing without industry: “People make a mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over.”
Paul Machlis, in “The Enjoyment of Music,” wrote about J.S. Bach: “From the first, he displayed inexhaustible curiosity concerning every aspect of his art. ‘I had to work hard, he reported in later years’ ... Bach devoted many hours every day to practicing the harpsichord and often neglected his official duties, displeasing the church leaders for whom he composed weekly music.” About George Handel, Machlis wrote, “He produced his works in bursts of inspiration that kept him chained to his desk for days at a time.”
Page Smith, in “A Revealing Biography,” wrote of Thomas Jefferson: “An observer, himself without a ruling passion, has no idea of what relentless taskmistresses the Muses are. They drive their votaries to serve them with a fierce energy no earthly taskmaster could command. These men were driven by their art. No employer watched over their shoulders, no time clock scheduled their days.”
Thomas Moore in “The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life” says, “For me, play, work, and spiritual practice come together in the activity by which I make my daily bread.” I also believe in the power of Henry David Thoreau’s message: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Which do you want: An atrophic brain and body and a life of mediocrity in front of a television, or the joy that can be found only in the active meditation of doing what you love?

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