All Together Now

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.

Photo montage: In the Works

Instead of throwing a spanner in the works, why not find ways to make them run more smoothly together for a more harmonious performance?

One in a Million

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Homage to Popularity

My Distinction

If I should need some camouflage, should want to truly blend,

I’d better watch my persiflage and learn not to offend

By wearing last week’s trendy style, my hair too short or long,

Or failing, yet, to reconcile which Party’s Right (or wrong)

To run the government; which church is favored most by God,

How not to leave you in the lurch when I have been a clod,

Appalling with my social gaffes, faux pas and frightful fouls;

I may accept I’m built for laughs, but using the wrong towels

Or forks or traffic lanes, That Word in company unfit—

I hope I don’t seem too absurd as-is, but that’s just it:

My imperfections, my unique design as Me, are such

As might make me appear a freak if I am Me too much.

But, truth be told, while I may work to fit in with the rest,

I hope you won’t think me a jerk for liking myself best!

I will blend in, keep pace, behave, up to a point, to please,

But lest you think me fashion’s slave, I think it a dis-ease

To seek conformity and bow to other people’s rules

When I’m quite nifty anyhow, and others may be fools.

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Fingerprint Beats Homage

Not Just Another Pretty Face

At some level, most of us—no matter how disdainfully we might pretend to look upon those Others who obsess over appearances—wish to be thought beautiful. We want to fit in with others, to belong in the pack, to be loved.photoOf course, we know that even those who do fit in do so if and as the hierarchy of the pack allows. We are put in our places and told who we are, where we belong, what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we should accept that fate as though it were a natural law. After all, we tend to believe that nature is fact-driven and therefore we, who are mere specks in its vastness, must play our little roles as prescribed in the absolutes of existence. We sit here and take it. In many ways, that’s a useful approach to life, because, well, nature does drive a lot of what is and what happens, and bucking that can be counterproductive or even quite dangerous. And worse, perhaps, such refusal to accept the norms others have agreed upon as right and correct and natural puts us on the fringes and at risk of rejection. Someone along the way is sure to reject the rebel or misfit. Someone will think I’m unfit or, yes, Ugly.photoIt’s a wonderful thing to remember that besides all of the weird and dangerous and unpleasant and otherwise negative possibilities in stepping outside of the normal and expected course of events or refusing to be other than myself in order to seem to fit in better where I really don’t, there are also a vast array of glorious and splendid maybes waiting out there for me to dare to reach for them. Much of what is good and beautifully new in the world happens because one person dared to think, do, and exist differently from the pack, the mass of ordinary people, and brought about an increment of change. How wonderful if I can shed my fears, my need for conformity borne of desire for universal acceptance, and become ever so slightly more notable, one little nth more dazzling, than I was when I was only hoping to be like all the other creatures that I knew.