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The City That Raised Me: It's Only Wanting The Stars

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Man, what we wouldn’t do to produce the best.  It’s at the very heart of most of our pursuits.  As artists, entrepreneurs, lovers, gardeners and creators we are in no simpler words looking for: perfect.  But that word doesn’t even touch the feeling.  That deep almost angst that resides far down in the turbulent foundations of a soul that is longing, reaching, stretching to scrape the bottom of heaven with their work.  A writer is not looking to merely put words on a page, but to arrange them in the quintessential, elusive sequence that can spark the readers soul ablaze.  The chef is looking to combine, marinate, and heat in such a way that transforms food into an emotion.  A musician only uses scales and music theory as much as they allow him to create a sonic architecture that melts the stars.

We want ecstasy.  We want stories and movies and songs and experiences that reach down inside of us and pull out this wild desire.  There is almost no language for this obsessive throb to create the perfect.  It’s nothing short of a longing to be consumed by the eternal; for our work to build a bridge to the transcendent.  To take the puddle of our finite lives and reach down into its deep mire and pull out some stardust that can be given back to the universe.  To transfigure the daily bricks of routine into something that vibrates at a higher pitch of reality.

Annie Druyan who picked music to be sent into space as a message from earth as part of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message project said: “The first thing I found myself thinking of was a piece by Beethoven from Opus 130, something called the Cavatina Movement…When I [first] heard this music….I thought…Beethoven, how can I ever repay you? What can I ever do for you that would be commensurate with what you’ve just given me?” .... Beethoven himself had written in his margin of that piece the word sehnsucht, which is German for “longing.”

Even Bruce Springsteen said that “A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fueled the expansion of the universe after the big bang.  They want the earth to shake and spit fire, they want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out.”  Then he paused and said a bit sheepishly, “It’s embarrassing to want so much and expect so much from music, except, sometimes it happens.”

I love this attempt of his to make things logical.  We’re embarrassed by our desire and try to reduce it to some practical, rational, scientific language.  John Paul II said though, that “In this creative restlessness beats and pulsates what is most deeply human.”

So, what is the difference? Isn’t a cup of coffee just a cup of coffee?  Or one bottle of wine the same, within reason, as any other?  I would suggest that the difference is in the producer.  We quip that Grandma’s meals are on another level because they are “made with love.”  But the relentless pursuit of a craft is an expression of love.  Some products just want to give you something to consume and make a buck.  Others are trying to hug your soul.  The first one cares about cost, marketing and resource management.  All important in business yes, but the latter cares about the slightest nuance of your experience with their product. 

The pH of the soil the grapes grew in.  The temperature of the cream going into that Cappuccino.  The lighting in the restaurant.  The old saying warns that the devil is in the details.  I would say it’s the opposite who reigns in them... 

Beauty is a language of the heart.  Unless you’re an artist of some sort, it may be hard to identify with this cry welling up from that deep void in our being.  An ache looking to fill hearts with some atomic energy.  So, we build cathedrals, or try to get that symphony finished.  We plant and sing and cook and write and write and write until someone, somewhere reads your words and finds themselves thirsty.  Sick with desire.  Enflamed to go out themselves and DO….

So, congratulations to this year’s best of YMM!

“He who loses himself in passion is less lost than he who loses his passion.”

—St. Augustine