I’m back in New York again, after three months of traveling. It’s been an amazing summer. Challenging, fun, successful, thought-provoking, exhausting, and hot, hot, hot. I did my first radio show in Sweden. Hosted an hour and a half of talk and music. What would you say and play if you had the opportunity? Tough question, I found. In the end, it was hard to narrow the script down. There is so much. Being the only classical musician to be chosen for this show this summer, I felt a little responsible to represent just a little…. But I did play a variety of music, because I listen to all sorts – and my life has been filled with, and been given meaning by, such a vast variety. I was happy to get many responses from people who could relate to the topics I covered. The red thread in my program was the futility of perfectionism… Especially in the un-edited world of live music performance, certainly, but in real-time day-to-day life as well. How paralyzing it can be. And how detrimental to the art of music-making, and the art of being alive.
The process of putting together this program, the process of learning Abigaille for my Danish production of Nabucco, the process of putting myself on a small stage in the middle of a shopping center in Tensta (a part of Stockholm almost entirely populated with immigrants, and one rarely visited by the cookie-cutter Swede) as part of a cultural initiative – all these had one thing in common. I had to summon up all my courage and go ahead with something I had no idea how it would turn out.
There is mystery in life, and sometimes I think we don’t tap into its vast powers enough. Living inside the mystery, inside the questionmarks in life – that takes something. I think most of us have an urge to understand, to tidy things up, to complete the pictures, to get a handle on circumstances. Before we stick our necks out and go at it. But the truth is, we can’t. And the more complex your life becomes, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to sustain a “tidy” status quo. Besides, messy can be fun! :-)
One way to be “safe” is to refuse having a complex life. But I have certainly come to the realization that that is not for me…. It is only with complexity that life and relationships gain depth and color, and it is in our surrendering to it that we “get” the miracle that it is to be alive.
Someone once said that extraordinary people are people with really BIG problems. Meaning, they’ve chosen to dedicate their lives to solving really big issues, and in the process, they have become big human beings.
Audrey Hepburn said, “If you’re depressed, go out and do something for someone else”. She, of course, did great things for others.
I don’t know just yet how my desire to contribute will express itself. For now it is through singing – even in unlikely places, to people who wouldn’t normally listen to anything but pop radio. But, I can feel bigger problems coming on… I guess I will have to be patient in exploring them… What I do know is that life is too short to be spent obsessing about insignificant or “small-minded” problems. It is perhaps where our culture leads us, and we all have a weakness for it, but we also all have that part of us that is wanting, itching, yearning to be inspired, called upon – aching to be counted on. I have yet to meet anyone who in an unguarded moment can’t be lured into admitting that they actually really want to be called on for something meaningful. They’d love to feel that their day wasn’t spent flipping channels, or their words only used to multiply misery and boredom.
Because, basically, people are good and loving – and we want to see evidence of it – somewhere in the real world, not just in our own minds.
One of my favorite word-plays is on the word “responsible”. I am not a big fan of assigning blame in different situations. My basic belief is that people do the very best they can – sometimes it’s just not enough to make everyone happy, that’s all. But I do love when people take responsibility – as in response ability.
We will all mess up at times, that’s a given. But is there anything more stunningly amazing, inspiring, and disarming than when someone follows a mistake with taking responsibility?
It’s almost better than making no mistake at all. It’s an opportunity for something priceless to take place. To heal.
So I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately…. Where and how do I have the ability to respond? Not only within my own life circumstances, but on the planet – with and for people I don’t even know yet? Where are those priceless opportunities for responding and connecting?
I thought I’d live with those questions for a while. And let inspiration guide me to an answer, or two…