Work That Matters: Herb Alpert and Stan Getz (or: Is your work your art?)

You know the feeling when you do something you love – eyes closed, lost in thought, no worries, no little professor on your shoulder critiquing how you’re doing it, no looking at the clock, wishing away the day.

It just flows.

Everyone has an art – whether it’s gardening or painting or writing or the art of accounting – whatever your passion is, whatever you love to do and which comes to you effortlessly, ask yourself why you’re not doing it every day.

True, for some people, when they turn their art into their work, they lose the passion and ruin it. We don’t want that.

But I was listening to a radio interview with Herb Alpert and he was saying that he was simply searching for purpose and meaning in life. “That’s what we’re all looking for, isn’t it?” he said. 

He described jazz musician Stan Getz as admitting to imagining he was standing in front of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, swaying in prayer, when he played his music. That was his place of meaning and holiness, and he poured it into his work, and it showed.

Alpert talked about hearing the silence between the notes as holding the meaning, and I heard it as the “science” between the notes, and I thought, both poetic lines aren’t bad at describing what we’re doing here on Earth.

That’s the thing. We have such a short time here, we’d better make sure it counts. 

A life’s work doesn’t have to be trudging to a day job to collect a paycheck to pay bills and wishing you were somewhere else. We CAN love what we do. Frankly, we should.

And I realize it’s not always possible to turn your painting into a moneymaking endeavor of to do so might mean you cheapen it. I get it. I’ve seen my paying work morph many times over the years, while the stuff I love to write doesn’t always pay the bills.

I still write it. And if I’m smart, I’ll write more of it, so that every day I’ll have something that lets my soul sing. Then the other stuff – the drudgery, the laundry, the dish-washing, the floor-scrubbing – doesn’t matter so much. Not when the good stuff resonates.

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