Monday, July 07, 2008

And Never Stop Dancing

Gordon Livingston's Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart is a rather visible book that can be found easily in the self help sections of many chain book stores, but his sequel, And Never Stop Dancing, is much harder to find in the "real world" (though it is easy to find on line).

I usually don't go out of my way to read self-help books (unless they are cultural relics from another time), but this is a book that kind of transcends the concept of the quick-fix, follow-the-book approach to solving the universal problems and concerns that we all have. Livingston does not offer faith-based solutions, and he doesn't go out of his way to give advice. He does, however, go out of his way to tell the truth, which I really appreciate.

So why am I writing about this book here? In a chapter about fear, Dr. Livingston offers the following story:
A patient told me the following story: In 2003 she was at a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert. they were playing the Brahms Violin concerto when suddenly the light went out. In the utter blackness of the concert hall her immediate thought was the Baltimore was under terrorist attack, a fear no doubt shared by many in that audience. She is uncertain how long they were in darkness before the dim emergency lights came on --probably only a few seconds, though it seemed longer. What amazed her was that the orchestra kept playing. Sitting in the dark, unable to see the conductor or their scores, the musicians played on, flawlessly. No one in the crowd made a sound, though she remembers the ovation at the end of the piece as especially heartfelt.
Of course I wonder who the fiddle player was, but then again I know that it could have been any one of the hundred or more regular soloists on the major American violin soloist circuit in 2003. That kind of action (playing if the lights go out) is basically standard practice for a professional orchestra with a professional soloist (particularly when it is a piece of standard repertoire), but to the audience it becomes a heroic moment--a moment where the soloist and the orchestra defy the greatest and most immediate fears of each audience member.

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