What will be the judgment a century hence concerning the lauded works of our favorite composers today? Inasmuch as nearly everything is subject to the changes of time, and, more’s the pity, the fashions of time, only that which is good and true, will endure like a rock, and no wanton hand will ever venture to defile it. Then let every man do that which is right, strive with all his might toward the goal which can never be attained, develop to the last breath the gifts with which a gracious Creator has endowed him, and never cease to learn; for ‘Life is short, art eternal! Ludwig Van Beethoven
How does one reconcile intense ambition with a desire to live in bliss? First, I think when one is pursuing his true life’s purpose, the effort is more often than not, pleasurable. Second, if the focus of ambition is about looking good or smart or talented or successful or getting rich, or any other external locus, it will result in frustration. Beethoven doesn’t go into any of that here but he was notoriously unhappy, as were many of the great geniuses.
So what is the answer? For me, I am coming to realize that even though I must subject myself to external forces, i.e. auditions, competitions, etc., that doesn’t mean I have to be attached to the outcome for validation of anything. Beethoven was willing to do everything and anything to make his work great. When it was, he enjoyed it (After improvisations he was wont to break out into a loud and satisfied laugh), even if others didn’t understand for some reason. Yet, he adds to learn from critics and teachers, from life.
What I’m coming to understand is that the “Self” of who I am is separate from external forms of identity. For instance, I am not a “successful” or “failed” writer based on book sales. Book sales are separate from the quality of the books I have written. Even the books themselves are separate from “Me,” as passionately attached as I may be to the ideas contained in them. In other words, marketing is an activity dealing with the perceptions of others, which are external forces, not subject to my direct control.
The moral: be excellent in creating your art, in marketing it and in loving yourself. The bliss is found in the process of doing everything and anything to bringing an idea to its fullest realization, whether a motif for a symphony, a Press Release or in standing on your head. As the master points out, the perfect realization of the goal “can never be attained.” Some people are willing to try however, to fight the good fight, to strive to be faithful in the Creator’s eyes, roll the dice and let the chips fall where they may. I think that is bliss.