Friday, February 15, 2013

A Question of Substitution

The other day I saw an interview on TVO of author and journalist Chris Hedges about his book, Empire of Illusion. Mr. Hedges is a thought-provoking speaker and his take on all of the topics which the interview touched upon hit home with me. Most relevant was his description of the changing of narratives in professional wrestling. The increasing drive towards a narrative which made wrestling personas relate to their audience, says Hedges, led them to be perceived as real in everyday life. Moreover, the constant spectacle of the media we consume today (television, films, the Internet, etc.) leads us to substitute rational judgments for emotional ones when making decisions in our lives.

A few weeks ago in our weekly performance masterclass, I announced to the group that my motivations towards becoming a musician were in doubt. Books like 'Beyond Talent' and 'The Savvy Musician' as well as blogs on classical music will tell you that if you are considering to be a performer, due to the nature of the market, your chances of success, however you define them, will be greatly increase only if you are completely committed. "You shouldn't feel you could go a day without music." "You can't see yourself doing anything but music." You get the idea. Those sentences describe my state of mind, very much so, but I fear I've been substituting the most important question of my career: "can I make a meaningful difference in my art or in others' lives through my art?" for, "do I want to do anything else?" There's no denying it's important to have this unfettered commitment to music but I feel that my underlying motivators are based purely on emotion. How can I justify a potentially difficult career based purely on the irrational? The sooner I am able to come up with an answer, or at least a partial one, to the question(s) I should be asking myself, the more I will be able to justify continuing after every difficulty.

During our discussion, Tony recounted a few stories of epiphanic moments leading into his career. In hindsight, he suggested that those events could be taken to signify a successful career was ahead of him. Though I wish I could take his method of reasoning a career in music, I see two problems with it. First of all, the narrative of 'it was meant to be' can only be built through hindsight. How am I supposed to know that I will be part of something life-changing? Also, as history teachers often tell their students, hindsight can too easily make events seem inevitable. In fact, they will all tell you that 'it was meant to be' is not a valid hypothesis. Secondly, if I were not to experience 'lightbulb' moments in my early twenties, does that signify I won't have a meaningful career? Furthermore, should I try and find meaning in everything I do, or should I create meaning?

Of course we all have moments which we would like to believe have greater meaning but, fundamentally, is it rational to act upon them?

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