I e-mailed a friend, a former student of mine, the other day as we hadn’t communicated for a while. Naturally, I asked how he was and the answer came back just as I had hoped. He was fine. His family was fine. His job was fine. He added that he was reacquainting himself with the piano, an instrument he’d always loved. Surprised by this new information, I wrote back, asking the usual questions. What kind of music did he like? How long had he been playing?
His reply was full of deprecation. He wasn’t good at the piano. He’d never been good. He enjoyed playing music, but he had no talent for it.
People so often react in this apologetic manner when they admit to a pastime they love. I wrote again to say he was being hard on himself. If a playwright paused each time to think of Shakespeare before picking up his pen or sitting before his computer to create, there would be no one left to compose. Fortunately, writers do go on in spite of the Bard and I am grateful for it. Imagine a world without David Sedaris, Erma Bombeck, Garrison Keillor or Molly Ivins. I can’t. Shakespeare, I suspect, would agree with me. Had these authors kept their silence, the rest of us would have been the losers.
What matters in life is what makes us happy, not some ponderous obligation to art. I remember a time when playing chopsticks on the piano made me smile. That was good enough.
(Courtesy of artsedge.kennedy-center.org)