How do we know what we’re meant to do in this life? What are the invisible drivers moving us to our life’s deep purpose—or at least an enjoyable and satisfying career?
I imagine if you’re someone like Joey Alexander, the wunderkind jazz piano prodigy, you don’t have to think about this much. You’re endowed with a gift beyond human reason and have no choice but to follow it where it leads. In the case of this young boy, born in Bali, growing up in Java, it drove him to the attention of Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones when he was 10 years old and he recorded his first album at 11. Now 19, he has five albums and a trio mostly playing his original compositions who I had the pleasure of listening to last night at The SF Jazz Center. Extraordinary musicians all.
But back on Planet Earth, mere mortals like me are still working out what we’re supposed to be doing here. If we are guided by our gifts, we also get instructions from our passions and interests that persevere even when our talent seems minimal. That’s the spirit behind today’s poem that I wrote some years back.
From the Ashes
No bull in a china shop ever caused more damage than I did
in my 6th grade piano recital
as I ran full-speed through Beethoven’s 16th notes,
knocking them down,
tumbling them helter-skelter into
a jumble of incoherence.
In the back seat of the car, my attempts to sing and drum along with my friends
to Led Zeppelin
missed so many boats
that the Coast Guard was called out.
My high school English papers were returned to me bleeding with the teacher’s red marks
I stuffed them in my hospital drawer,
where they failed to convalesce.
Early in my teaching career, a class of 4-year-olds once bolted out the door and ran down the hall like it was the day after Thanksgiving at Walmart.
With me chasing them. Past the principal’s desk.
Despite these warnings from World, I now step boldly forth and claim
myself as musician, author, teacher.
Feel the daring
of the phoenix rising
from the ashes of my old failures.