How many do you touch in your life: One, fifty thousand or half a million?


Today it is July 4th, the Independence Day in USA. True to the traditions there will be music concerts and fire works in many cities to celebrate this annual event. Boston’s celebration each year includes a symphony concert at the Esplanade conducted by maestro Keith Lockhart. He was interviewed on radio as a prelude to the concert this evening.

Mr. Lockhart was asked: “How do you stay focused and not get distracted by some one in the audience?” Mr. Lockhart replied: “You have to keep your purpose in mind. You are not playing the concert only for the lone person with the strange hat, but you are playing for the whole audience”. Then he was asked, “How do you play for the half a million people in the audience?” He replied, “Whether you play for fifty thousand or half a million it is all the same. You can not see much farther than fifty thousand people in the audience!”

The above seems to be an appropriate summary for the larger principle on how to conduct one’s life! Almost all of us live to please some one else. The pleasure may come from direct feed back, such as the clapping of the audience as an expression of their appreciation of the fine music. The pleasure may also come from the indirect but instinctive understanding that the music is being listened to, enjoyed and thus appreciated. The direct as well as the more subtle and nuanced recognition happens not only for music, but in every facet of life.

How does one conduct the activities of life? Clearly it is a performance to please certain audience. It may be to please the children, parents, siblings, spouse, some one near and dear. These are like the lone individual with the funny hat! They are easily identifiable and can be recognized readily as the audience in our theater of life. But, we need to keep in mind, the larger purpose in life, to serve the needs of a larger community. Of course the person with the strange hat is part of the larger audience.

There is a subtle difference in playing music and in the conduct of life. In playing music the rules are clear. The man with the strange hat has the same understanding of the rules of music as does every other person in the audience. But, in life such rules and understanding may not be clear. Hence clarifying such rules are the essential first step to create good music in the theater of life. Let us also keep in mind that no one becomes a maestro simply by a mere wish. It takes years of hard work and practice. Spirituality in Practice is a worthy process to refine such rules of music in life.

How large a community should we serve? What should be our goal or target? As Mr. Lockhart points out, after some size it does not really matter. As we move away from the person with the strange hat to a larger audience, the emphasis shifts from specific tasks to meeting larger goals and principles. For a poet, alphabets and words do have their place, but the emphasis shifts to larger themes, ideas and emotions. For scientists specifics of experiments are critical but they take their due place and become part of an orderly arrangement in the thoughts, reasoning and understanding of the phenomena of nature. For the conductor the music transforms from words and poems and their collection to a seamless experience that binds every one together. In this transformative process, the size of the audience or the size of the community we serve, after some modest size does not really seem to matter.

Each of us have the capacity to touch the lives of many and a few more; just like the maestro is recognized by the larger audiences he performs to.

Happy July 4th!

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2 Responses to How many do you touch in your life: One, fifty thousand or half a million?

  1. Jay says:

    I am always impressed how some common people can speak casually on camera and yet on occasion (such as the 4th of July) make thought provoking comments in a non nonchalant manner. Thank you for expanding on the Maestro’s comments and giving us something to think about.

  2. Murali says:

    nice. Having a positive impact is more significant than “pleasing” someone even though in a lot of cases, both go hand in hand. nicely written.

    By the way, i do miss Arthur Fiedler. We never missed his July 4th performances in the 70s!!!

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