Saturday, April 19, 2014

Don't Kick the Grasshopper

"I wish I had a fun job,"

We hear that a lot from people who are not content, at the moment, with their lives.  They wonder if they should have taken a different direction.  They have regrets. They think they should have done something fun and easy.  Like radio.

It's an ancient idea that those who create art for a living are swinging in the lazy hammocks of leisure, that we're just people who didn't want to work for a living.  The grasshopper in the fable was punished for the sin of playing his violin all summer (and probably getting really good by that point) by starving in the winter.

Working for food does give people something to live by, but working to create music, or any art, gives people something to live for.

I was invited to a political luncheon a few years ago; I was seated at one of those round, 50-seater tables next to a prominent business man who had done outstanding charity work over decades.  I was pleased to meet him and hear of his work.  He was fascinated by radio and spilled questions through lunch.  Finally I could sense he was winding up for the Big One.  He leaned in.

"Tell me the truth," he said, "With an easy job like that, where you don't need any skill, what are those people like?  Do they just drift around all day and not really care about anything?"

Your average disc jockey is a master storyteller. Although storytelling does come naturally to the human animal, great storytelling does not.  Great storytelling can only come from the obsessive pursuit of the skill. This skill tends to be invisible because everyone imagines himself to be a master of it; it's a common delusion among people who are not master storytellers, since they can't even hear the finer points of what we do.  Most people in audiences nurture a secret belief that they too could sing the song as well as the artist, could be as funny as the comic, could tell a story as well as some chick on the radio.

When these people moan at me that they wish they had a "fun job", I save them with one question:

"Would you be willing to be poor to do what I do?"

The response is always shocked amusement.  "Are you kidding?  Of course not!"

"Well, then," I say, "That career in business really was the right choice,"

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