July 25, 2022

On The Hardships, And Rewards, Of Following Your Heart


I'm going through Steven Pressfield's latest book, Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be*, and in chapter 25, he transcribes part of an article that concert pianist James Rhodes had written for The Guardian titled "Find what you love and let it kill you."(1)

I found it fascinating, and inspiring, so I'm sharing it here with you as well:

I didn't play the piano for ten years. A decade of slow death by greed working in the City, chasing something that never existed in the first place (security, self-worth, [etc.]). And only when the pain of not doing it got greater than the imagined pain of doing it did I somehow find the balls to pursue what I really wanted and had been obsessed by since the age of seven--to be a concert pianist.

Admittedly I went a little extreme--no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about thirty-five pounds in weight. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not perhaps the Disney ending I'd envisaged as I lay in bed aged ten listening to Horowitz devouring Rachmaninov at Carnegie Hall.

My life [today] involves endless hours of repetitive and frustrating practising, lonely hotel rooms, dodgy pianos, aggressively bitchy reviews, isolation, confusing airline reward programmes, physiotherapy, stretches of nervous boredom (counting ceiling tiles backstage as the house slowly fills up) punctuated by short moments of extreme pressure (playing 120,000 notes from memory in the right order with the right fingers, the right sound, the right pedalling while chatting about the composers and pieces and knowing there are critics, recording devices, my mum, the ghosts of the past, all there watching), and perhaps most crushingly, the realisation that I will never, ever give the perfect recital. It can only ever, with luck, hard work and a hefty dose of self-forgiveness, be "good enough."

And yet. The indescribably reward of taking a bunch of ink on paper from the shelf at Chappell of Bond Street, tubing it home, setting the score, pencil, coffee and ashtray on the piano and emerging a few days, weeks or months later able to perform something that some mad, genius, lunatic of a composer three hundred years ago heard in his head while out of his mind with grief or love or syphilis. A piece of music that will always baffle the greatest minds in the world, that simply cannot be made sense of, that is still living and floating in the ether and will do so for yet more centuries to come. That is extraordinary. And I did that. I do it, to my continual astonishment, all the time.


Sources:

James Rhodes: Find what you love and let it kill you, The Guardian, April 26, 2013 -- full article

*Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission should you choose to buy the recommended item. If the link is an Amazon link, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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