Some of us may have acquired a musical instrument at some point during the course of our life. Not all of us who did so made the journey from receiving the instrument to becoming a skillful artist. We may have learned to mimic a few songs, but this is not the same as developing the skills to creatively speak meaningful harmonies. Some of us gave up or lost interest when we discovered how hard it is to practice the disciplines required to realize our full potential. Some of us stopped once we learned to parrot a few songs from our neighbors. Some of us never had the opportunity to connect with a teacher capable of helping us realize our full potential. Some of us rejected the investment in us from our teachers. Whatever the case; instead of a source of harmonious meaningful communication, an instrument can become a symbol of wasted potential. Life is just such an instrument.
We all receive the instrument we call life, but not all of us develop the ability to produce meaningful harmonies with our thoughts and behaviors. Still fewer of us become skilled and creative artists with this living instrument we are endowed with. To develop to our full potential we must practice living in harmony with the nourishing intimacies on which we depend. We must also yield willingly and with passionate commitment to the difficult journey that we know will cultivate many returns. To sacrifice this effort on the altar of diminished effort traps us in a prison of mediocrity, or worse, a mindless parroting of some collection of disharmonies we once witnessed and now mimic.
Some of us grew up in environments with harsh undertones or lax disciplines that crippled our capacity to realize our best self. Some of us, despite this challenging beginning, work to cultivate something in ourselves of much greater merit and meaningful substance than would have otherwise happened if we had we given our silent consent to the strangulating cruelty of mediocrity. It is even harder in some ways for those of us who have had supportive environments. We have had the luxury of coasting with the knowledge that there will always be those to help catch us if and when we fall. In each case becoming our best requires a certain fire from within to forge a meaningful life out of the cauldron of mere existence. It is this persistence that cultivates the highest form of character – that which is intentional and creative – rather than a simple reflection of the other voices in the choir. It is from this crucible of adversity from which the life of a true artist can be forged.