Thursday, January 28, 2010


At a solo trombone recital I recently attended, a particularly convoluted piece (composed by my mentor, Art Gottschalk) was half musicianship and half performance art. It ended with the trombonist asking aloud, Warum? Several days later, that moment is still simmering in my head. Why?

Children are famous for asking the question incessantly, but almost everyone I know is intrigued by this question on some level: Why don't I have any money? Why did I get a promotion? Why is that person famous? Why are those people wealthy? Why did my grandmother die? Why can't I be in a functional relationship? Why did I get sick? Why did they make that decision? Why did that movie get made? Why is gas so expensive? And on and on.

In my life, I have been asking a lot of why questions, too. Why does composing matter to me? Why is it important to me that other people hear what I create? Why do I want to teach? Why do I want to live where I am? I want to know the reasons underneath my decisions and my actions, primarily so I can ensure that what I'm doing is based on something that matters rather than on my fear of what might happen.

The problem is that sometimes people will accept any explanation as an answer. Why don't you have any money? Because you haven't taken the right courses. Or because you work in the wrong industry. Or because you spend it unwisely. Or any other number of reasons. And there are enough answers that one can ignore the unappealing possibilities and focus on the more palatable ones. And justifying which explanations I accept (and act on) has been one way I've kept myself from truly creating what I want.

The truth is that sometimes we don't get to know why. Sometimes people get sick, and it doesn't have anything to do with their behavior or God being angry at them. Some people become famous or wealthy, and it might have more to do with their persistence than anything scandalous or worthy of criticism. Of course, it might seem more satisfying to come up with a convincing explanation that taps into our judgments and beliefs.

I could spend so much time researching or inventing feasible reasons why things are the way they are that I risk forgetting the most important thing: I can create what I want in my life. It requires knowing what I want, and it helps if I have a strong purpose. But there isn't a secret formula out there that is going to create it for me, and there isn't a proper way to do things that I need to learn. I'm not missing anything I need. It's just a matter of living out what I want to be. Why? Because I am who I am. No more and no less.

1 comment:

  1. So you think that answering the "why?" question has no value? I have to disagree. I think the answer, if heeded, will reinforce the purpose and make your conviction even stronger. Or it may make you see that your purpose isn't as clear or as important to you as you first thought it was and move you onto a different course.

    As always, everything has to be taken in perspective. While all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. We have to be careful how we answer the "why?" questions and make sure we are being true to ourselves and not just look8ing for excuses.