Living in Latvia, I’m sometimes flabbergasted at how skewed a picture people have here of America. Or maybe not America, but Americans, which is surely not the same exact thing. Usually, all we need to do in America is turn off our televisions for a while and we get a truer, more focused picture. One of the several things that help me feel not completely adrift culturally, that keep me connected emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually to my sense of home is podcasting. And by far, one of my favorite programs is NPR’s This American Life.
I want to quote a recent program, not because this particular quote seems particularly American, but because it seems to speak so directly to the experience of striving to be a creative person. This quote comes from Episode #73, “Blame it on Art”, (Act Three. Reverb). First, here’s the synopsis of the segment:
Ellery Eskelin never met his father, but always heard he was a musical genius. Years after his father’s death, Ellery started finding recordings of his musical output: he was the king of “song-poems.” These are the songs that result when people answer those ads in the backs of magazines that say, “Send us your lyrics, and we’ll write and record your song.” Ellery’s father’s musical output was prodigious-and very odd. An accomplished jazz saxophonist and jazz snob, Ellery listened to his father’s tunes, and his own musical taste started to change.
Now the quote:
“Ellery’s father reminded me of this writer, Phillip K. Dick, who spent his life doing this intricate science fiction writing, all the while dreaming of writing something completely different, something that would be considered great literature. Huge and influential. A classic, not just a cult sci-fi hit. He died young and obscure. But now, 25 years after his death, you’ve probably seen some of his work without even realizing it. His sci-fi stories and novels have spawned an astonishing number of films: Blade Runner, Total Recall, The Matrix, Minority Report, The Truman Show, A Scanner Darkly. A collection of his writing is now in the Library of America, in the company of Twain, Whitman, Roth.
I think most of us are like that, like Phillip Dick, or Ellery’s father. Most of us are toiling away at daily work that doesn’t seem as important to us as the ambitious dream we have for ourselves, or convinced that we’re not living up to our potential; that there’s a better part of ourselves that just hasn’t expressed itself yet, until the day our lives are over, and what’s left IS that daily work, whatever it is, whatever we gave it.”