Life-Art: Following Dreams or False Myths

I’m reminded of a quote from “Rocky Balboa” perhaps one of the most mythical characters in movie history.  Like “The Karate Kid,” which Rocky inspired, his is a story of coming from behind—an underdog with the heart and resilience to keep getting up when others would stay down.  Rocky’s advice to his son reveals his philosophy:  that life is no different than the boxing ring.  What we do in our chosen fields requires the same resilience towards building a worthwhile life for ourselves.

There are times in life when we just want to “stay down!” Shut the doors, close the curtains, turn out the lights, stay in bed and just slowly decay!  A very dark thought to be sure!  But how many of us have had exactly those thoughts and sometimes even stay down for a while? None of us is immune!
Our progress in our chosen discipline (in our case classical singing) is met with similar challenges:  frustration in our developments, financial pressures related to just continuing to be an artist, little reward for our hard work, etc…

But little reward only if we are waiting for it from the outside!  

Keeping our optimism is the greatest challenge! Optimists are heroes not because they have been lobotomized to not feel the anxieties and depressions that come with life’s deceptions, but rather because they meet the darkest hours looking for the faintest light to be steered by.  They look for a reason to go on and in the process discover how immense their inner strength can be.  The path to success is a process of inner expansion and enlightenment that ends up radiating outward calling others to the light.  But that experience of glorious achievement comes with a very high price on our hearts and our souls.  The more deceptions we experience, the harder it is for us not to experience that need to shut down and stay down.  Yet it is precisely in those moments that we are poised to make our most extraordinary steps.

How do we know? Because the signs are there!  In deeply depressive moments, we can discover that suddenly our voice has taken on a more natural balance; we may discover we have reached a healthy balanced relationship with a family member—all the while every cell in our body from some kind of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) is wanting to shut off and give up because life seems to make no sense.  These are the moments when the optimist is tuned to notice the little sparkle of light that says: “there is still hope!  Get up! Get up!”
However, one of the greatest battles we face in today’s “fast-food” world is that everything should come easy.

Those who achieve great things are especially gifted!—Lie!  

It does not matter that those that achieve greatness, almost without exception, will emphasize the importance of resilience and hard work as much more important than whatever “gifts” we may have been given.  It is so much easier to say that this one or that one was especially gifted.  It is as much a reason for not trying to develop our inner talents as any—A convenient excuse for not taking on the extraordinary challenge of fully developing ourselves.  Is becoming an opera singer any less difficult than becoming a boxer? Or a basketball player?  How many very “gifted” basketball players do tricks on neighborhood courts and never make it to the NBA? Thousands literally! How many young singers with great voices never feel the boards of a professional opera house? Thousands literally! What do they lack? Mostly discipline and work ethic and what Rocky exhibits in all his movies: “HEART!”

What does it mean to have “heart!”  It means to go on when it is difficult to do so; to rise up when it is much easier to stay down; to be hopeful when everything seems impossibly hopeless…We have arrived in a period of such darkness that songs like “The Impossible Dream,” which inspired me 35 years ago to follow my unreachable star, is now derided by jaded 20-year-olds as corny and unrealistic. Don Quixote de la Mancha once considered the greatest of heroes is now branded a “loser” by today’s generations and even teachers. 
Art, sports, even our daily job as waitresses and taxi drivers, done with a sense of personal honor and service, can change the world right before us.

Gifts are just abilities developed before we were conscious of the work we were doing to develop them. 

Many among us tend to give up when they become aware how much work it takes to get to the higher steps.  I applaud those who understand the “daily grind” and persist along the hard road until they achieve their inner development!  With such development we are armed to confront a world in despair and desperation.  With a history of development through persistence we can defy the world’s easy pessimism.

As Prometheus to Zeus:  “There are no Gods!  We men are the Gods!”  

This statement should not be seen as addressing a superior being, but rather as a statement against the idea that some are more “gifted” than others–The manifest destiny of singers is no less fallacious than that of European monarchs before the French Revolution. The God I believe in gives a passion that must be developed into talent.

Life is not fair and some come into it with opportunities that may make their paths easier.  But among those with much opportunity are often the ones who push themselves the most to become worthy of their opportunities; and among them are also those who squander their inner worth because they can always find food and shelter without having to work for it.  Same can be said for those who begin with little.  Many strive to get themselves out of destitution and others blame the “gifted” for their sorry lot.

In my culture, which has a fear of snakes, there is a saying: “The road to Heaven is covered with snakes!”  No doubt! You will feel your heart burst inside your chest and your legs give out like over-cooked spaghetti and every avenue will appear shut down before you, as the snakes close in.  What do you do? Should you just give up? Those that want to give up should!  Then there would be less noise and distraction for those of us who have no choice but to go on! We are optimists, we are star-catchers, dream-makers.  The last breath must be taken from us!  We will not give it up willingly!

© April 2, 2016

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