Based on what I’ve seen @ Twitter and the contents of my email inbox, it seems like this past week beat the crap out of the ol’ CelloFamily. Not to toot my own horn *pulls out sousaphone* but I give a pretty good pep talk. I thought I would maybe make a little stick figure movie or write something to rally the troops, but each time I made an attempt, I just couldn’t make it into anything inspiring and sincere.

It’s the sincerity part that gets me. Love me or hate me, you have to admit I’m sincere. Genuinely horrible, truly ridiculous, deeply whatever. Fine, but it’s a function of sincerity, which is a vital component of art. What I came to realize, after this abortive movie attempt (which I think is funnier without the voiceover, so I deleted it…can you guess the plot? Janis, you should not watch it!)

…is that sometimes a little bit of suffering keeps us honest. Suffering is not the flush of frustration when you miss a shift or squeak on the A string for the 87th time today. Suffering is the place where you feel your humanity acutely, after you’ve asked yourself the hysterical questions and played out the melodrama in your head.

The oft-repeated mantra goes something like, “To be an artist is to suffer”. Now when I hear that, I think of people generating no art at all, living the so-called artist’s lifestyle in Los Angeles, making bad life decisions and being generally self indulgent. But maybe I can muscle the intention out of it by rephrasing, “To be an artist is to use the suffering we encounter as fuel for the creative process, for the betterment of humanity.”

I added that last part because I’m just done with misery makers. Finding beauty in melancholy is one thing. Poking a hornet’s nest, being stung from head to toe and then writing about the injustice of hornet stings is silly. And it’s not art. It’s irony.

Art is something done so well that it defies linguistic explanation, though we’ll go on at length trying. If you’re taking your efforts even half seriously, you’ll work and work and step back and your mistakes will glare at you in distain, generating ever more grist for the mill churning in your guts. That’s where the rest of this blog comes in. Laugh, cry, cheer: just persist. This week reminded me that there is a difference between being allowed to observe the causes of suffering and indulging in the negative behaviors we seek to try to alleviate it. For me, it was time to stop fixing everyone’s problems: even my own, and just notice them. What was interesting is that I felt unburdened the moment I stopped trying so hard to have all of the answers.

Oh, Rilke, you say it so well:

Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final. 

Rainer Maria Rilke

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5 Responses

  1. Wow! You mean it's possible to squeak only 87 times a day on the A-string?

    All kidding aside, some of my best practice sessions have started out poorly and brought me to the brink of tears before, having decided to play for just a few more minutes, the exhaustion and frustration drop away and suddenly there's music flowing from my into my cello.

    Letting go of the need for it to be something and accepting it for what it is makes all the difference in the world sometimes.

  2. OK, I read the blog more carefully and the lack of voiceover was intentional. I uninstalled and re-installed the plug ins several times in hopes of getting sound. Still, as I like your voice, I wish it were there. Oh well.

    Thank you for the entry.

  3. "Poking a hornet's nest, being stung from head to toe and then writing about the injustice of hornet stings is silly. And it's not art. It's irony."

    This is why I stopped listening to Mahler.

  4. NIcole:

    Although Gustav and I have an understanding, and he's definitely on my list of composers I love to play, your comment made me laugh so hard I nearly snorted tea through my nose.

    Good thing I didn't, because that would have surely attracted hornets.


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