Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bon Iver, Artistry and Hard Gratitude

Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon receives the Grammy award for Best New Artist.

"It's really hard to accept this award," Vernon said humbly. "There's so much talent out here on the stage and there is a lot of talent that's not here tonight. It's also hard to accept because when I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I'm a little bit uncomfortable up here," Vernon continued.

"With that discomfort, I do have a sense of gratitude. I want to say thank you to all the nominees and all the non-nominees that have never been here and never will be here."

Vernon ended his speech by thanking the Grammy voters for the "sweet hookup" and closed with a shout out to his home town: Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

I love his declaration that he made songs for the inherent reward of making songs. My friend Kay asked this past week: "...writers/artists, would you rather create work that you love and nobody else does, or work that everyone else loves, but you don't?" I think Vernon's statement and goal answers that with a resounding "work I love."

It seems that should resonate with most creative artists and writers, except for those rare few that are grasping at fame. They may get there, but their self-promotion and desperation makes those they encounter along the way somewhat suspect of their friendship.

Eucharisteo is an attitude of thanks. Life-filling gratitude. The Joy Dare asks us to list three hard eucharisteos today. Hard. I number them as gifts.

119. Work. It's the same life-fill as exercise. I don't like going, but once I'm there, it's fulfilling and rewarding. There are days I don't even want to quit at quitting time, but to start is a different story. I wish I felt different but I don't. I would rather stay home and sleep in. There are a few ways in my work where I can be an artist and create work I love, but more often, I fulfill a utilitarian role. I can express the hard eucharisteo because in my work, I offer it to God. He called me to this work. He provided it as a gift and it is the answer to my prayers for a way to supply a financial need. A hard, life-filling gratitude.

120. Our son's independence. He's emotionally independent but not financially so. Just like I was. When I went to school eight hours away, I didn't miss home. I loved my parents as best I knew how, especially my mom, but she and I were similar in many ways. Home demanded much of me and there were strict rules. I calculated that being away at university would guarantee my freedom and autonomy. My folks still called. More often than not, they would end the conversation before I was ready, but I really wasn't homesick. For three years. I immersed myself in school, studies, music, friends, travel, entertainment. Saw my first movie, drank my first liquor. Lather, rinse, repeat. Even when I married and moved away, I had no idea how much that must have weighed heavy on my mom. I was her only daughter, 2,400 kilometres away. I know now.

Do I begrudge our son? Not at all. Am I proud of him? Fiercely. Do I trust him? Quite so. Will he make mistakes? Definitely. Will I always love him? Without question. Do I miss him? Absolutely. Does he miss me? I have no idea. He's a guy. Doesn't talk much about his feelings. The eucharisteo is life-filling gratitude for his healthy, appropriate and normal separation from us, his self-assurance and maturity. It may even have been our weaknesses that make it possible for him to separate more easily. He is a man. He asks when he needs something, but he handles almost everything on his own. The hard part is not being needed in the same sense as when he was fully dependent. While I do not cling to it - that would be abnormal - I do miss it, and I remember it fondly. It will always be a treasure. It was for a time and that time is past. The hard eucharisteo.

121. My own weakness. "In my weakness and my failing, Lord, my heart draws near to thee." The hard eucharisteo: life-filling gratitude for how my weakness makes way for true power and strength to rise as I trust in the One who cannot help but love me - because this One is Love. I remember.

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