Monday, August 9, 2010

Beyond Perfect

Am I good enough
to do these things
out in the world?

Too often I hold back because I'm not 'good enough' in some way. Whatever ruler I'm using, I just don't measure up.

So what can an ordinary, less-than-perfect person, such as myself, bring to the world?
* * * * * * *
My friend Rhonda learned something about this in music school. She was in a vocal literature class as a music major in college.

The first assignment of the class was to get up and sing a song in front of the class. When the assignment was explained by the professor, her stomach got queasy. Sing in front of everybody! I can't sing — I'm not a vocal major!

Rhonda — and likely every other non-voice major — dreaded what was to come.

One of the very first students to sing for the class was a very polished performer. She was a vocal major who had obviously spent years studying and perfecting her craft. This singer got up and sang not just any song, but an art song.

Every note was near perfection. No doubt she had worked on this song over years until it was truly polished -- honed to excellence by all technical standards.

"I'm glad I didn't have to get up and sing after that beautiful performance," Rhonda commented. "But someone had to."

"You could see the next singer literally trembling in front of the class. This young woman was a timid sort of person to start with, and she was a piano major, not a voice student. A soft spoken kind of person who usually sat in the back of the room, she was the last person who would want to call any attention to herself — much less sing in front of the class."
"But she had to do this. So she did.

"It took her a minute to get her voice working. The whole class was still enough to hear a pin drop.
"What we heard was a very quiet voice that had a slightly squeaky quality to it. Not a beautiful sound by any means. I doubt she had had any vocal training at all. She had her hands clasped tightly in front of her, I suspect to keep them from shaking so much."

"However, as rough and awkward as her performance was, one thing quickly became clear to everyone in the room: she loved this song."

"As we listened, we could feel the love and presence that she brought to it. And I was moved. I was touched. It was so beautiful."

"As I reached into my purse for a tissue I noticed that I wasn't the only one in the room that needed to wipe an eye."

"When the song was finished, I sat there, a little breathless, and amazed at what I had experienced. The strange thing was that the first performance with the polished performer hadn't touched me in the least. The first singer was excellent, maybe even perfect, but I now realized something was missing. It had no heart. No love."

Instead of Perfection

Rhonda made a few points for me after the story:

► These days I'm moving away from worrying so much about the technical details of my performances and presentations and trying to just work on my state of consciousness before I go on stage.

► I am not always excellent — in fact, sometimes my talks are a bit awkward and strange — not nearly as polished and professional as they used to be. But I think I'm bringing more of myself to the table, more presence, more love, and more trust that everything's going to work out just the way it needs to if I can just get out of the way.

► I think it's important to do our best, but at the same time, I think that doing our best will never be perfect, and usually not even excellent, because it takes so many years to excel at any one thing.

► Many of us are generalists and do not choose to go deep into one or two things. Our gift is that we bring a little of everything to the table.

But we can still do our best at that, and above all, do it with love and for love. Then it is beyond excellent — it is an expression of love. And that comes through.

A Secret Ingredient

I read about someone who saw the great opera singer Pavarotti backstage before one of his performances. Pavarotti was saying to himself, outloud, "I love my audience. I love my audience. I love my audience."

There are a lot of good singers. Perhaps Pavarotti brings something more to the audience that makes him great.

God doesn't look at how much we do, but with how much love we do it.
--- Mother Teresa

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  1. This is a wonderful story. Makes me wonder if there are other folks in addition to me who read this, are now preparing to do something in the company of others that they've held back on for one reason or another, and do it. Do it with heart.

  2. Thank you for this post. It somehow strengthens me to take my own next step. I'm so grateful for your honest sharing. -Therese


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