by Sidney S. Stark

“…while wine is made with your hands through established techniques, it cannot truly be great unless the winemaker has a great passion for it.” – Bologna Family (Braida Estate)

Passion suggests intensity, energy, focus and commitment at the very least. It informs us of our humanity in the fullest possible way. What is it about passion that makes people live more fully? What is it that frightens others? Could the magic and the menace both lie in the power of energy? Is that how we know we’re truly living or perhaps less alive as the case may be?

Last summer, I watched a master class at a music camp during their chamber music workshop in August. One of my sons was visiting and accompanied me to the concert. It was warm under the performance tent as is often the case in August on Shelter Island. The air- circulation fans have to be turned off during performances so their sound isn’t obtrusive. As always, the musicians worked very hard; actually they played hard, but it’s the same thing with them.

As each quintet, quartet or trio waited for the Maestro to come up the center aisle, microphone in hand, to critique their presentation the audience watched expectantly. So much skill, devotion, and effort had been shared. Their tortured physical appearances couldn’t help but elicit sympathy. Each one looked as though he or she’d just spent half an hour in front of a smelting furnace without protection. How they were going to remain on their seats and avoid slithering off the stage in a pool of sweat long enough to interact with the Maestro no one knew.  Some wiped their faces and necks with cloths but others just gave up and sat there knowing their personal thermostats were out of control. What had created such a shared meltdown on stage? It wasn’t the weather. It was passion!

One of the faculty members at the camp said to me once that these performers, no matter how old they got, would never be the bored adult professionals you see in some of the big orchestras all over the world. Why? Passion!  It keeps people alive and engaged. When they live their lives doing what they love, every day has meaning and that makes a life that gets more exciting with time instead of less so. This will not be what they do to support a lifestyle; it will be what they do in spite of a lifestyle because they have to live what they love.

Chamber music is the perfect conveyance for the spark. The performers pass their energy to each other selflessly and communicate physically and psychically with every ounce of strength they have. There’s no way to keep that energy captive within the group either. It gets passed to the audience almost instantaneously; until equally exhausted and exhilarated the audience rises almost as one to cheer the performance at its conclusion.

It’s hypnotic to watch someone follow his heart. All too often people reach a point in life where they strike an agreement with the demands placed on them and find a way to go on systemic cruise control to keep their balance. Then the shocking reality of what one gives up keeping the daily peace strikes hard.

Watching the young musicians at another concert last night I was reminded of something else really important: energy begets energy. You have to use it to make more. That’s why people who are passionate actually strengthen others instead of draining them. Passion is the fuel that gives life meaning and momentum; and no matter what your age that’s the best way to live!

Question@You: Do you agree or is there a case to be made for less fire and more ice? Please leave a comment and don’t forget to check back to read replies from me and others to yours.

Join me in two weeks for a discourse on New Beginnings. Thanks for coming.

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