Last week, my oldest daughter and I attended a concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, or as we sophisticated people call it, the LA Phil. The specific concert was titled, “Tetzlaff Plays Dvorak,” which as it turned out, was not a tennis match after all.
You may be surprised to learn that I did not attend orchestral performances growing up in Paragould, Arkansas. We had our share of drama, sure, but not much orchestra. The closest I came was purchasing the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind on vinyl.
But who knew, if you purchase a ticket and have a beautiful date, “LA Phil” will apparently let pretty much anyone into the crazy cool Walt Disney Concert Hall.
I really did enjoy (most of) the performance, but my cultural unsophistication did allow my mind to wander to less-than-cultured places from time to time. Like whether the guest conductor also played Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And how one particularly animated violinist looked like a marionette under the influence of a tipsy puppeteer. And how two gentlemen with a remarkable resemblance to Stephen King and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy were playing an unidentifiable instrument that made them look as if they were smoking fancy grenade launchers.
But the best part of the evening came shortly after intermission when a woman in our general vicinity began to painfully unwrap a piece of candy, which in that hall of hushed reverence sounded like she had trapped a squirrel in a bag of potato chips. The surrounding patrons were silently livid, which my daughter and I discovered to be the funniest kind of livid to watch.
Much more seriously, as we sat side by side listening to classical music in Walt Disney Concert Hall, it occurred to me how far Erica and I have come in our precious years together. I did not feel smug in this thought–as this essay shows, I remain far too ignorant to feel arrogant. And yet I did not feel out of place either, even though that was obviously the case. Instead, I just felt happy . Happy at the honor of allowing such beautiful music to wash across my soul in that spectacular venue in this magical city with such a lovely young lady that I have been privileged to walk alongside for all these years.
I never imagined an evening like that one. I wonder what other evenings I have yet to imagine?
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged arkansas, captain picard, classical music, close encounters of the third kind, dvorak, future, happiness, imagination, jeff van gundy, la phil, los angeles, orchestra, paragould, star trek, stephen king, tetzlaff, walt disney concert hall
A couple of years ago I took StrengthsFinder 2.0 with our new law students as a part of their orientation. StrengthsFinder is a test that reveals your greatest strengths, and the idea was to make sure that the new law students knew that they had strong points before law school did its thing and made them question whether they had any value at all. I enjoyed the test and found it quite useful, but embarrassingly, messed up a bit at the first of the test, which kicked “brainiac” out of contention for one of my top five strengths. Still, my top three—Discipline, Strategic, and Achiever—seemed spot on.
Recently, I retook the test alongside the entire law school staff and was careful to get it right from the start. This time, my top three strengths from the first go-around came in as #1, #3, and #5—but #2 and #4 were new and spot on, too! My second greatest strength, MIA the last time, is Futuristic according to StrengthsFinder. “People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be.” Oh yeah. That’s me.
I have long believed that not only can our greatest strengths be our greatest weaknesses, but in fact they are our greatest weaknesses. I don’t have to look hard at Futuristic to see how this is true with me—I can be so busy dreaming of the future that I miss out on the present.
A Wendell Berry poem in Given punches me in the gut on this particular point:
For God’s sake, be done
with this jabber of “a better world.”
What blasphemy! No “futuristic”
twit or child thereof ever
in embodied light will see
a better world than this, though they
foretell inevitably a worse.
Do something! Go cut the weeds
beside the oblivious road. Pick up
the cans and bottles, old tires,
and dead predictions. No future
can be stuffed into this presence
except by being dead. The day is
clear and bright, and overhead
the sun not yet half finished
with his daily praise.
I do think that looking ahead is important, and I value it as a strength, but looking ahead is important so that we see clearly how to act today. If that element is missing, this supposed strength renders me nothing more than, to quote Berry, “a ‘futuristic’ twit.”
Posted in Original Essays, Poems, Uncategorized
Tagged act, future, futuristic, present, reality, strengths, strengthsfinder, today, weaknesses, wendell berry