I have come to realize that more than a scattering of my posts here have consisted of a few decent ideas and a lot of griping on my part. I was discussing that fact with my young friend Andrew a couple of weeks ago and he offered a brilliant bit of wisdom, which I have decided not to adopt. As he helped me with some of my many “grunt” jobs (e.g., cleaning instrument cases, tuning guitars, sorting invoices, etc.) he opined that since it was my blog, I could just tell you that “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To”. On its face, that seems to be good advice, but after further thought, I have decided that I won’t be putting this policy into practice in the foreseeable future. One thing my years in retail business have taught me is that I have to give the public what they want, or they’ll just go somewhere else. It’s no good crying if there is no one to listen to me, so I may just have to entertain a bit, too. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been at that, but if you’ve stuck with me this long, perhaps you’ll hang around a little longer. It may get better.
As I was pondering how best to entertain you today, my mind ran through another recent conversation I had with Andrew. This young man has become quite a musician, finding himself playing a number of “gigs” of late, both by himself and with other, older players. He has been initiated into the world of performing and so, we talked a bit about the consequences of entering that world. Over the many years I have performed and talked with others who perform, I have come to a conclusion about performing and performers. I wondered if this young, un-jaded musician had any thoughts on the matter, only to find that he had come to almost the exact conclusion that I have. It took me fifty years to puzzle it out, while he has a firm handle on it, being still in his teens. I must be a really slow study.
Our conclusion? Performers thrive on attention, perhaps more to the point, on approval. That’s not really news. The intriguing (and sometimes sad) part of it is that as we perform, we need more and more of it. I would describe it as much like a drug, which offers a sense of euphoria, a “high” if you will. The first few times you perform, the acclaim and the positive reinforcement is stunning. The feeling cannot be understood until you’ve experienced it. The sense of accomplishment, of triumph, is palpable. The next time it happens, the same feeling takes control, and the next time, and the next. Over an extended period though, something happens. Actually two things. The folks who encouraged and slapped you on the back early in the game, now have elevated expectations. You wowed them for a little while, now they anticipate improvement, with you stretching to a new level as a performer. The “atta boys” don’t fall from their lips as easily because they sense a need in their being for something bigger and better. The second thing that happens is that for the performer, the same level of approval isn’t enough either. We need more…more acclaim, more excitement, more widespread approval. It’s a vicious circle, drawing both performer and audience into its snare.
You don’t need the depressing litany of the names of performers…artists…authors…stars, who have succumbed to the demands of the public and, eventually failing to measure up, chosen to find their fulfillment in drugs, liquor, and even self-inflicted death. The list grows longer daily, and we demand more and clamor for better, all the while tossing aside the gifted human beings who have failed to satisfy our lust for entertainment. Gifted, did I call them? How did a horrible affliction like that come to be called a gift? Is it not rather a great burden instead?
What’s that you say? Depressing subject? Oh yes! I did say I was going to entertain you, didn’t I? But, therein lies the problem. What I mean to say is that, at times I see myself here as a performer, providing entertainment for the reward of your acclaim. But, as I’m reminded (and have reminded you today) of the heavy cost of this mindset, I also realize that, as the Lovely Lady suggested gently to me recently, I don’t write this blog for you. I write it because I need to – for me, and more to the point, for my Creator. I don’t mean to be presumptuous. It’s not my intent to say that God called me to write. What I do know is that He calls each one of us to do everything, every single thing we do, to the best of our ability and to do it for Him.
Do you sing? Paint? Wash windows? Sell used cars? Play alternative rock guitar? Teach? Fill in the blank yourself. What you do is important to your Audience. No, not that audience that demands and screams your name, only to forget you when you can’t wow them anymore. Our Audience of One knows us, knows our weaknesses and still is well pleased with what we offer. I’m pretty sure that when we get our priorities straight, that other audience will still be there too. Only, this time, our performance isn’t dependent on their reciprocation…just on sharing our gifts. Oh yes…they are indeed gifts, and not burdens.
So, no pressure…but, I think you’re up next on stage. Break a Leg!
“Come to me if you’re weary and burdened. I’ll give you rest…My yoke is easy, my burden,light.”
(Matthew 11: 28, 30)
“Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.”
Henry Frederic Amiel~Swiss writer~1821-1881)