Today is Sunday, my quietest day of the week. This morning, I listened to KCSM 91.1 on my TV, DR’s favorite radio station at the moment. Jazz is an acquired taste in my book but for DR – a musician through and through – it’s life’s blood. For Sonny Simmons, music is his life’s mission and his religion.
Simmons gave an interview to this Bay Area Jazz station that rang bells with me as a writer. Talking about his life and the struggles of his career, he said he had seen a lot of great musicians sacrifice their art to temptation. And, we all know what presents itself as the perks of the artist’s life that actually destroy that creative force.
I taught university students who told me that drugs – particularly LSD – had opened their minds to a vision that they would never have seen without the chemical induction. At the time, Tim Leary was king. Drop out. Turn on. Cancel.
Simmons had a different answer. When his career bombed, he held on to the one part of his life he had in his own hands. His life story is a testament to his strength of character and his faith in his music – regardless. He considers music his mission in life.
Most of us don’t have that level of commitment to our work, but we need to have that much faith in what we do – to avoid the many temptations thrust under our noses. There are all kinds of escape routes when we’re feeling under pressure, low, inadequate, uninspired.
Yesterday, I started reupholstering six dining room chairs – our only furniture at the moment. Displacement activity is my chosen escape route. Today, I’m ready to begin the main task. Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls is my current mission. After meeting with a fellow writer at a Berkeley coffee house, I know what I have to do to polish this book. It’s the doing that makes the difference.
Simmons likened his mission to being a soldier on watch: Never Sleep. Be vigilant. Complete the mission. A segment of each generation follows Tim Leary’s easy road to cop-out. Those who find their mission don’t lose the drive as long as they keep their faith in themselves.