What do you want?
I know what I want, and I’ve written extensively about it on this site. But when I give myself the time to zoom out, I realize that the things I want for myself don’t benefit the situation much. I practice violin every day in the hope that I will become good enough to perform for a living. But how does this add to the betterment of humankind? Should I be at all concerned about it? If anything, creating such a public life surely serves up another dish of distraction. Is it what we really need? I question the morality of doing what I’m doing, and the argument goes back and forth in my mind. The ultimate decision is reached by feeling, not thought.
Slowly getting better at doing something you enjoy is a rare life privilege. Having a life goal spread out above all the fragmented avenues of your everyday being like an umbrella shields you from some of the disappointments and painful times in life. Having something to hold onto, the faith that comes with focused direction, energizes you in a way nothing else can. It’s unique. Other elements of your life can be in pieces, and many artists have let their life fall apart for the sake of the pursuit of perfection. I call it taking aim.
Taking aim reminds you that the bow is in your hands. You are able to quit your addictions in order to fulfill your direction. You have the strength to overcome your weaknesses, to repair your damages, to extract gold from the mine of your life. Every day you have a growing willingness to go deeper, to challenge your fear, to step forward in courage and proclaim that you are here, and this is what you do. How good you do it is secondary to how enthusiastically you do it.
But I’m tethered to doubt, and even this insightful spark sometimes makes me wonder why. After all, who really benefits from my efforts? Isn’t there enough stuff in the world? How is my making another music album and performing everywhere going to call into being the greater picture, the one required to at least in part change the way things are for the good? Under what circumstances will I be able to look back on my life one day and say I did it right?
I think at the heart of this is the almost academic need to do it the right way, to get it right rather than doing what I want the best I can.
I feel that creativity is a large part of my future, even though my occupations have almost always said otherwise. The music I am privileged to handle, like a precious antique vase that doesn’t belong to me, this is the weapon which I must use in order to change the way individuals think. I have a unique way to be invited into people’s homes, to embed song with thought-provoking lyric and to change the hearts of those who need it. All of these gifts have belong to musicians. It’s a powerful tool for change. I want to use it to be the agent of change, to alter things that seem old-fashioned, immoral or otherwise unwelcome in the present day. Particularly, I want to use this sacred item to create more opportunities to connect with strangers, even if only for a minute. To remind the passers-by that there are roses on the roadsides. That only fools rush forward the hands of the clock. I want the art I make to emphatically draw your attention to the master cogs in the clockwork of your life.
There is no longer any excuse for purely self-serving behavior. Everyone feels the coming changes, even the isolated Amazonian tribes who only recently have begun to witness large birds of steel, they feel the coming change. Every person alive today has to be more aware of the ongoing liquidation of our stable political and social norms. Revolution by Twitter? Man-machine hybrids? Climate change? The neural network of the planet is rapidly tightening, the apocalypse (“lifting of the veil”) is near, however you want to say it. Something big is happening, and me and my little violin have wrench this awareness from the background of my mind through self-examination, and to place it in central view, to scrutinize it thoroughly and to ask myself and others, why is the awareness of an huge impending change not going away? This awareness needs to translate into motivation, and I feel that at present, my motivations are changing from purely self-serving (get a show, make money, be well known, achieve my dreams) to accommodate the impact that this anonymous new visitor will bring. I feel that living life in anticipation of this change has multiple benefits. I will not be caught unawares as to the fluidity of my circumstances. I will not become complacent, and lose my passion, my ambition to ride this wave of change. I will be more interested in the proliferation of my art, how it travels into the hearts and minds of others. Not in a vain way, but as a way of remaining inspired, to understand that there’s a difference between showing people a good time and really challenging them to make more eye contact in life, to open their spirits and to maximize their time.
Quit searching for distraction. There’s a host of passions awaiting you, everything from creating fruit salads to researching the rules of forgotten Polynesian stick games. Surprise yourself with action. Change a habit. Start small. Imagine a situation where you aren’t just tired after work, and addicted to a TV series. Imagine you closed your eyes for a whole hour, and just sensed your surroundings like that for a change. Imagine you called a few friends up and suggested you all do something you’ve never done. There are too many ideas out there, but our focus has narrowed, we’ve been desensitized to our potential, and it sometimes seems that the world around you is entropic, encouraging you to wind down as you get older. There are other forces to be called upon! Not all of them are as easy to follow, but when you make effort to surround yourself in the fantastic, the magical, the visceral, your spirit begins to generate this energy for itself. This means reprogramming yourself. If you find yourself saying, “that’s difficult,” or “that’s for someone else, someone younger, someone freer, someone more XYZ,” then this is the first line of defense against your rejuvenation which needs to fall. Take a chance. Be wrong. Empower yourself to be more than just the stories you keep retelling.
I have my own doubts, but I write “murder doubt” on the walls, and every time I see it I see the desire to become even more light-footed. My constant criticism of writing like this is based in my self-doubt. They’re only words. Other people won’t respond. They’ll criticize, or worse, they’ll ignore them, leaving me wondering if I’m the village idiot nobody wants to be seen talking to. These fears have repressed so much valuable creative energy over time that I now feel like I’m going to spend the rest of my life playing catch-up! The philosophy which I iterate here has nothing to do with your talents, your looks, your abilities, your wealth, your popularity. It’s the great democratic decree of fulfillment, which means that nobody really has an legitimate excuse for not wrenching themselves from the floor of complacency and trying something new. I really believe that – young, old – quit reminding yourself why you can’t be what you want, and take that first step, the riskiest one. Step out and challenge life to deal with you, instead of waiting for the next life test to come along. Write the tests! Control your future by creating the demons you will have to face.
For example, I fear failure. I fear doing my best, and it’s just not good enough. The pain is the same, but at some point I will have to face it. So the way to own it is to fail, willingly, always. Aim to fail. Pitch your fighter jet at the ground and do a nosedive. You’ll die, more than once, and you’ll get good at it. You’ll fail so well that you’ll get over it. And now nothing can stop you. It ends up being almost a waiting game: if I continue doing this the way I do it, to the best of my ability, without fear of hitting the ground, then someday the world will respond in the form of a person or action that begins offering support for your task and continues it for as long as you continue doing. But more important than even reaching that point is the life you’ve created by taking to task all the demons in the dark, unchallenged corners of your life. Now your hand is on the wheel.
I feel I could write all night, but unfortunately I have a plane to catch because I’m going back to South Africa. If I am as inspired to continue, I will place a link to a follow-up post here. If I die on the plane, I have lived as fully as I wanted to with no regrets and am very thankful for that. If I get out the other side, I hope Cape Town is ready for Hurricane Fun.