The final issue of Tao Te Tuesday
I frequently wondered what type of man would be writing these words today. Certainly someone who dedicated at least 5 hours a week for 18 months studying, meditating, and digesting the Tao Te Ching must have something good to say. But no, as it turns out I’m still just me. Still searching. My feet yet to find a place to stand. Having made that clear, I have learned some new things about life and myself. I’ve learned some things about courage, inspiration, discipline and creativity. I’ll do my best to share some of that here.
What you really got from TTT
First I would like to talk about the one thing I can be sure I gave you with this newsletter. A clear wrong answer here would be the Truth. It is impossible for me, or anyone, to share any version of Truth not tainted with my hopes, experiences, fears, and insecurities. That hurts to admit. But there is one thing that I can be sure I gave you: and that is myself. I’m not talking about the few times I shared anecdotes from my life, but the notion that in the space between the many words I wrote to you there is a connecting thread. That thread is a glimpse into my soul. Every single issue of this newsletter has the best of me from that particular day. “The best of me” defined by a very specific feeling I strived for every time I hit send. A feeling that said “I cannot take this piece any further. Perhaps another writer, a better writer, but not me.” For that, I am very proud.
“What, after all, do we listen for when we listen to a composer? He need not tell us a story like the novelist; he need not “copy” nature like the sculptor; his work need have no immediate practical function like the architect’s drawing. What is it that he gives us, then? Only one answer seems possible to me: He gives us himself. Every artist’s work is, of course, an expression of himself, but none so direct as that of the creative musician. He gives us, without relation to exterior “events,” the quintessential part of himself—that part which embodies the fullest and deepest expression of himself as a man and of his experience as a fellow being.”
- Aaron Copland
Fear and Courage
For me at least, hitting send never got easier. It always took a precise mix of courage and a “fuck-it” kind of attitude to share my thoughts and beliefs with you. However, those were not the moments that were the most trying. The worst part, by far, was the blank page. Seconds feel like minutes and minutes like hours when you see the cursor blinking at you in expectation. I had some tricks and hacks to help me in those battles but there were at least 20 times when I thought I had just lost It completely. Those 20 times were when the real courage was required; the courage to wait for the words to appear by themselves. I’m happy to report the wait didn’t fail me once.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
- Lao Tzu Ch.15
Discipline and Inspiration
Was I waiting for inspiration? Hell no. I can count with my hands (maybe even just one hand) the times I felt “inspired”. Aaron Coplan said it best:
“Someone once asked me, in a public forum, whether I waited for inspiration. My answer was: “Every day!” But that does not, by any means, imply a passive waiting around for the divine afﬂatus. That is exactly what separates the professional from the dilettante. The professional composer can sit down day after day and turn out some kind of music. On some days it will undoubtedly be better than on others; but the primary fact is the ability to compose. Inspiration is often only a by-product.
“There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest (inspiration) does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.”
Creativity and Art
The lesson on inspiration I kind of expected. But the one that surprised me the most, and which no one prepared me for, was the fact I have absolutely no idea what will stick and what won’t with my readers. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I wrote a masterpiece and got zero response. And vice-versa with a couple of times where I honestly didn’t think I did a very good job or wrote under weird conditions like a fever or being sleep-deprived and got a lot of positive feedback. I’ll never understand it, it’s a very humbling experience. All an artist has left to do is to make the art that moves him (her). As an Taoist story says, when you want to make an ax handle, the model is close at hand. (your intuition is the model… it’s a metaphor)
One last analogy
About the Tao Te Ching, I hope it’s enough to say that I just started it over again. The Tao is like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. You listen to it once, and you have no idea what’s going on. But you know others like it and it has been around for a while so you give it another shot. It still sucks. But C’mon… there must be something there! You believe in it blindly and give it another listen. And another one. Until one day, for some reason, life finds you worthy and you begin to really hear it. Its the same but different; a silhoutte reddened by a distant sun starts to show. And eventually… indescribable, untransferable, and unsurpassable beauty; in and of itself. Beauty that asks for nothing in return. All we have to do is be patient and pay attention.
I‘m not sure. I’m gonna take a break from writing for a while. At least a month or so. After that who knows. I’ll have to wait for the mud to settle and… you know the rest.
Regarding TTT, my intention is to compile either all or my favorite ones into a book of sorts. You can be sure that you’ll be the first to know if and when that happens so stay subscribed.
By the way, here is the TTT Playlist which contains every non-classical song I recommended these last 81 weeks. That one will stay alive forever but frozen in time.
And here are my two classical playlists with the best music I’ve discovered on both Solo Piano and Orchestral. They are long, but I promise you every single song is there for a reason.
My most heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for reading always, especially to those who have been here since the beginning.