Never before in the history of the world have so many appliances conspired to steal our attention. It’s a wonder any of us can do more than stumble through a haze of conflicting impulses. It’s like being stoned all the time, wondering why you walked into that room. Was it to brush my teeth or make a cup of coffee? Is this early-onset Alzheimer’s or merely run-of-the-mill Facebook addiction?
I alone am the Gatekeeper of my mind. In my struggles to master and memorize simple Baroque keyboard compositions, I am reminded of the prodigious and profound output of both Bach and Handel. These two German musical contemporaries were a study in contrasts. Bach, the humble choir director, had a large family to support and was always scrambling to make ends finish that Sunday’s oratorio, while Handel, probably a homosexual, arrived in the lap of luxury the moment he arrived in England. Each cranked out several pieces a day, all of which were wildly successful.
How were these men able to maintain focus? No matter how talented you are, composing music takes diligence. In a time before copy machines and computers, it also took the ability to sit down with a pot of ink, quill and paper and to not only compose but copy the final manuscript.
I was not born untalented, but seem to have squandered an awful lot of that talent as well as my time on this planet by chasing illusions. In my twenties, creativity seemed second nature and I was rewarded for tossing off this or that, while now I struggle for hours to get anything accomplished. Even running a few errands seems like a full day’s work. I can’t imagine being employed again, and thankfully, neither can any of my potential employers.
If I had any advice to give those who are still young, it would be this: life is shorter than you imagine, and what you allow inside your head takes up space. If reading the stupid things Ted Cruz or Donald Trump say truly delights you, then by all means, wallow in Facebook’s meme mire. But if you hope for more for yourself, now is the time to batten the hatches. Allowing yourself to be constantly distracted by entertaining illusions is a bargain you make with the devil.