One of my favorite vocal coaches is fond of characterizing people who focus on their own singing to the point of losing track of and/or sticking out from the rest of a performance at inappropriate times as expressing their “individual enthusiasms.” I’m doubtful I would be as tactfully euphemistic. We’ve all seen and, more importantly, heard concerts where one unplanned solo ended up hijacking the whole event, and it’s hard to forget what was so frustrating and embarrassing about it for the other performers and the audience and even harder to remember all of the probably fine or even excellent things that were supposed to be the stars of the day.
The same is true, naturellement, outside of musical performances as well. Our individual enthusiasms lead us to speak out of turn, act squirrelly in the middle of serious events, blurt out exceedingly inconveniently unfiltered thoughts, and generally act like little kids at the best of times. At worst, they make us deeply uncivil, unwilling or unable to negotiate, and self-centered to the point of implosion. Or, more often, explosion. This world does not need my opinion, unless I’m willing to get the rest of the passionate populace to engage in the conversation and collaboration that will make it needful. And in that case, they’ll quite generally be on board with my enthusiasm already and there will be little to negotiate.
None of this means that everyone should think and act in lockstep. What a horrific idea! Most of the great performances of our time are not solos, even those that feature soloists, but rather collaborations with the entire cast, crew, production staff, and audience, at a minimum. The deliberate and thoughtful give-and-take of everyone performing his and her part to the very best level possible is what creates the ideal of harmony, even in times when fruitful dissonance is desirable to throw that harmony into beautifully sharp contrast. Music is obviously full of grand examples of this stuff, but so is life in general. The sorrows and hardships, if they are carefully shared burdens, throw the joys and pleasures into higher relief, and the larger song of human experience continues to grow in beauty.