Needs or Desires

What is enough? Since moving my mother out of a 2,500 square foot house (with about 2,000 sq. feet of basement) that she lived in for 50 years, I’ve been rethinking stuff. I am a collector. I love books, paper, bottles, glass, jewelry, and most things that sparkle. Most of my “things” have stories to them. It’s the stories that make them seem alive.

I also collect supplies to make stuff with. The trouble with that is I gather more than I need and then I move onto another project that needs different stuff and I gather again. I’m in another “which is more important” stage. Right now it seems to be space. If I had less stuff, I would have enough space. Then again, I try to be grateful that I have to move the stuff I have that helps me do one project so that I can get to another project.

Some things that came up in my pondering of what is enough: money; space; material; work; sex (good sex); attention; love; influence; public recognition; standards; legacy…What is a need and what is a desire? What is enough to satisfy that need? If it’s satisfied once does it need more to satisfy it again?

My friend, Matt, has mentioned to me that he noticed I am concern about my legacy. I somehow got the idea that just by being born, I have a duty to leave the world a better place. It is not enough for me to just exist. But how much better is enough? I have to remember the starfish story. It still chokes me up. (if you know it, just skip this next paragraph.)

A young girl and her grandfather are walking on the beach covered with washed up starfish. The child picks up a starfish and throws it into the ocean. She then picks up another to toss it back into the ocean. Her grandfather says, “Dear, why are you doing that? It doesn’t matter. Look at all these starfish.” The girl holds up the starfish she just picked up and replies, “It matters to this one,” and she throws it into the sea.

It reminds me why I teach. It isn’t about having credentials at a school, or having a student become the next gift to flute playing. It’s about that one student and what they are dealing with in the 45 minutes of that one day of that one week that we get to work together. I question is affecting one life for one hour enough of making the world better?

I sometimes fantasize about playing for a large concert hall where my playing could reach hundreds of people at once. Would that be enough or would I then want to reach thousands?

I’m fascinated watching bees. They don’t question if it is the right or best flower. They just go from flower to flower until they are so filled with pollen that they must fly back to the hive. I want my creative work to be like that. I practice or write or draw or sew or solder or cook until I’m done with that task and then I go to the next one.

I wonder what do I give up when I choose beauty over practicality? And whose sense of beauty is it? Is it mine or something that I learned to appreciate? Does it bring me pleasure or does it reflect a certain status? My sister is not into fashion—at all! She says clothes are just to cover her body. They are clean and neat, but in my opinion there is no style to her way of dressing. She says she doesn’t care about making a fashion statement, but no matter what you wear, you are still making a fashion statement.

I’m lucky that I have enough money. Sometimes I wish I had more so that I could travel, live in a larger space, eat out at all of the prix fix restaurants in Los Angeles, have help around my apt, play in music festivals around the country that don’t pay,  produce recordings, film and videos without needing to look for funding…but I don’t need it. I have enough.

I had asthma up until a few years ago. So every day that I wake up and don’t have to think about my next breath, it is enough. In college, I often ran out of money at the end of the month and I made free tomato soup with hot water, creamers and catsup. So when I run out of what I want to eat, but there is still food in the ‘fridge, I realize, I have enough. I was trying to find the name of the writer who said he was fine if he had enough money for “a cigarette and an Italian meal.”

My friend Cesar plays this game where you ask yourself how much money someone could pay you to  ____ (fill in the blank).  It’s a fun game to see what your values are and what you would sacrifice (or sell out) for cash.

Just from twenty minutes of playing this game, it opened my eyes to different possibilities.What is enough for you? And what is it balanced out with it? You can’t have everything. If you are monogamous, you can’t have many lovers. If you chose to be child free, you can’t experience what it is to have your own offspring. If you work at a job you don’t like until the retirement kicks in, you can’t do what you want from 9-5, but when you retire, you will receive a yearly retirement payment and have all the time to do what you want. If you are self employed, you can do what you want from 9-5, but you don’t have a year stipend waiting for you when you hit 65.

Even with music. Is there ever enough time spent in the practice room: working on scales, intervals, licks, intonation, tone, dynamics, extended techniques, classic literature, new works, improvising. Is there ever enough time spent listening to music, writing music, studying scores…

I once heard someone say the only thing that we are all given the same amount of is 24 hours in a day. Everything has a trade off. Are you receiving enough of a payoff for what you are trading for it?