I feel amazingly lucky to live in such a time when there are so many talented people sharing their gifts with the world. Not just scientists who make our lives better and those who invent fun phones, but especially artists, film makers, poets and musicians. So, as its been the season of presents, let me ponder gift giving and the death last October of the rock and roll musician Lou Reed.
The arts move us, connect with us and express what’s in our deepest spirits. I’m delighted with myself at the moment for finding a new piece of music, which affects my emotions so powerfully it makes me cry every time I hear it! (if you’re interested, it's Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 cover of Dylan’s 'I Want You'). Lou Reed was a bit like George Herbert, who burned bright but brief, but whose influence was huge. Read was a in a band called The Velvet Underground which only made one album, yet everyone who heard it seemed to form a band of their own, and those who quote him as an influence are legion and legendary. Why only one album? Because Lou broke up the party and didn’t want anything to do with it.
Like many with big egos, he left the band at its height and tried something new. It wasn’t going that well, until he collaborated with Brian Eno and David Bowie and made some of the most iconic songs of the last century - such poetry! But once again, when it was going well, he broke it up and moved on. Such re-invention or refusing to stick to one style is not wrong or unusual. Herbert and Bowie both do it, like Dylan going electric, or the Beatles using violins - creativity is not a tame thing! Yet the sad thing about Lou Reed is that he appeared to want to destroy all his past creations.
So although Reed was amazingly gifted, it seemed as though he was aware of his talent but refused to use it, or didn’t want to share it. Surely that is the worst thing - to have a gift and not to open it. Or to have opened it and then not share it with the world.
What have you been given? What can you share?
Herbert’s poems may have been for private use in his lifetime, but thankfully he offered them to Nicholas Ferrar for publication, letting him decide if the world could use a such a present, or whether they should be consigned to the fire. Fortunately for the world, Ferrar recognised the true worth of the 'little Book' entrusted to him by the 23rd Rector of Bemerton.
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