1993 was transformational for me as I worked to step way beyond myself, and perhaps the hallmark of this year was my being compelled to constant acts of giving. Issues of social justice had haunted me for years as I grew from my education with extraordinarily brilliant and kind professors at the University of Massachusetts Boston. But 1993 was my year to move beyond simple awareness to actualizing change. I will leave it as God’s will, but I came up with the idea to hold a fundraiser for children living in poverty and homelessness. With absolutely no experience in event planning, a group of us decided we would put on an event at Carnegie Hall in the Big Apple. For my tribe, childhood poverty and homeless was unconscionable; Even in 1993 it was estimated there were 15,000 to 20,000 homeless children in New York, with many teens were brutalized for their alternative sexual orientation. We felt it was no life for us to hide behind our luck of
being born into privilege, and it was a moral obligation for us to give.
It was only by divine luck that this event could occur. My friend Samuel Brodsky had been preparing Elliott Carter’s 1945/1946 Piano Sonata for a number of years, and had lived with it long enough where he felt ready to perform it publicly. Arguably Carter’s sonata is one of the hardest pieces in the piano literature, and many famed pianists refuse to perform it publicly. A performer cannot hide behind its twentieth century anonymities, and the piece takes years to competently play given its extraordinarily challenging shifts in rhythm and tonalities. But, perhaps most challenging is the artist must convey a piece that hangs beautifully between the world we knew and the world we are discovering. As one critic noted, “The sliding tonalities suggest layers of distraction or obsessive concern; and too the chaotic disintegration of modern urban life, mechanized and poly-contextual.” And yet we are also freed of “the sort of musical clichés which usually limit our apprehension of fascinating sound(s).” There is no room for imprecision, but there also are exacting requirements for expression.
In a previously blog, Marcia wrote about playing by heart, which she sees as a special connection to something that brings one to a point where we no longer need to consciously think it. Perhaps Marcia would say there is something about the nature of love that frees us to be selfless. Or, perhaps the nature of love engages the self in engrossment with that which is not us. Likely, one power of love is that it can do both.
Yet that evening Sam did something that perhaps went beyond playing “by heart.” He played this superhuman piece so well that it was as if he was playing from thy heart. In other words, he somehow was a vehicle to something so much greater that he seemed transcendent. As he performed he was with us, and he was not, as if he almost was being commanded from the heart of God. Thy heart.
We ended this event humbled by what we achieved, and aware that much of what we achieved could only have come from thy heart. Twenty-three years later I am still extraordinarily grateful for being a part of something I consider miraculous. Six chefs from the Culinary Institute of America donated their time and the food. Numerous companies helped us to sponsor the event and create an amazing raffle, and there was no better organization to work with than The Center for Children and Families. Homeless teens from the center helped to make the evening very special, and many friends came together to pitch in.We generated resources, awareness, and art that resonated through the city that evening. How I loved that everyone was welcome with open arms.
May we love this life with all thy heart, with gratitude when we are graced to move beyond ourselves.