Being a contribution

Okay. It’s confession time. Basically, I don’t like to wait. I choose next day shipping when buying from Amazon, and I wish it didn’t take so long to hard boil an egg. And, don’t get me started on how slow microwaves have become…

Well, I exaggerate, but you get the idea.

For many of us, waiting for stuff to happen can be a doldrums-like experience–like someone pressed the pause button on the DVD of your life. “If only they’d hurry up,” you might think, believing that the event (or life) you long for will bring the satisfaction that, until this point, has remained just outside your grasp.

todayRecently, my view of waiting has taken a turn for the better.

As I write this, Gerald Finzi’s “Eclogue for Piano and Strings” is playing on my iTunes. At a precise ten minutes, “Eclogue” (it means “pastoral poem”) is both haunting and bittersweet. Haunting in that there’s a yearning and tenderness in the melody and orchestration. Bittersweet because Finzi meant for it to be the slow movement of a piano concerto that he would never complete. (You can listen to the music here.)

Now, despite my jokes about being sometimes less than patient, I would never think of skipping to the end of the track just to hear the last note. I’ll bet you wouldn’t either. In music, it’s not the final note we savor (unless it’s getting through a Wagnerian opera!) it’s all the ones from beginning to the end that make up the musical story.

But in “the waiting game,” we can be so focused on what will be (the final note of music) that we miss what is. Within the waiting game is a subtle (or not-so-subtle) belief that tomorrow will be better than today. Now, that may be true. But today is the time and place to make a difference. It’s the only time and place we have any influence over.

So, how do you turn waiting into action?

Benjamin Zander, author of “The Art of Possibility” and conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, has a phrase that fits for me. He encourages people to be a contribution. Not to “make” a contribution, but to “be” one. Putting this idea into practice is as simple as throwing yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. And, by being a contribution, you are one—not tomorrow, not when the waiting ends, but during the waiting! Now.

The difference between “being” a contribution and “making” one may seem slight. For me, it’s recognizing that our very life is a contribution should we choose to throw ourselves in. In that life of being a contribution, there is no waiting game to be played.

There’s another post about Benjamin Zander’s book here.

5 responses

  1. I play music at the beginning of every lecture. Why? Well, that’s a blog post all by itself. But you gave me an idea. I will play a single note — the last one — the final chord. Interesting, but not very satisfying.

    See, I teach design. New designers think it’s about the final product that matters most; it’s about getting to the end. Experienced designers know that it’s the journey that matters the most.

    And, yes, I’ll play the entire song… after I’ve made this point. Thanks Jake!

  2. Pingback: Blessed to be a blessing | Savvy Thinker

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