I went to a Van Morrison concert Monday evening. Van is nearing his 60's and the crowd was probably a little more experienced than the average concert crowd.
I noticed also that the musicians in the band edged toward the experienced side of life as well.
What caught my imagination was that the music itself was so sharp and so good. It made me keenly aware of the value of experience and the remarkable art that results from working ones craft into a form that others can so deeply appreciate.
Prior to the concert I had been reading a little about Morrison’s indifference to his audience and his somewhat negative reputation for giving uneven concert performances. Wrapped inside an interview with Morrison was a give and take about audiences not wanting to hear the new and inventive music, preferring instead to hear the old chestnuts from the 70's. Morrison gets restless with audiences because he feels he cannot take them along on this search.
This struck me as a clear disconnect between artist and non-artist. Taking the thought a little farther it would appear the artist is always restless and seeking, never completely content with where he stands. The art consumer, in this case Morrison’s audiences, are perfectly content to experience the art without searching additionally because the beauty of the art is completely whole for them.
Shift gears now to another night this week.
On Wednesday evening I was doing my track workout at the local university track. I was also sharing the track with a group of professional track athletes that train regularly there. These are the 20 to 25 year old physical wonders that are paid handsomely to race the European circuit and are among the top track athletes in the world. When I finished my workout a group of these sprinters were working on their block starts. That is the process where they crouch in the starting blocks awaiting the starter pistol. When the gun sounds they move as quickly down the track as possible.
I watched in awe as these amazing athletes worked. The speed and strength in which they left the blocks and buzzed the track was reminiscent of Morrison’s music on Monday evening. It was art in motion. The finest in the world doing what precious few others can do.
When they returned back up the track the coach would tell each of the four what was not exactly perfect with each of their starts. The concept expressed by Morrison about his music was being played out in front of me yet again. Here were the very best in the world engaged in a restless pursuit of a place higher than even the highest of spots.
This saddened me for a bit. The inability to be satisfied with your effort, always seeking, left me wondering when enough is indeed enough.
As I drove home I continued to turn it over in my mind. Then as will often happen I bumped up against the truth unexpectedly. The world of elite performers was doing as it must.
You cannot be elite in your field if you ever stop seeking. It is the search for more that creates our progress and for those precious few among us, their ‘elitism’. Anything else is much like a siesta when there is work to be done. The artist can be satisfied I think, but he or she cannot stop and sit. The very good lies behind us, the best of what we can be remains in front of us.
The artist or performer must always be chasing the elusive in order to wear the title 'artist' with dignity.
We are all artists at something. I believe this about us all.
So my friends, search on for the higher place to take your art and do it with confidence, dignity and zeal. Most of us will love you for being right where you are, but you will always know better, will you not?