I've never seen the 1987 Danish movie "Babette's Feast," but I do know a famous quotation from the film:
"An artist is never poor."
The movie would make for excellent Thanksgiving viewing, as it centers on a woman, Babette, whose ultimate art is the creation of fine French food. Except the woman - a trained chef who had worked in a famous French restaurant -- can't fully practice her art. She is now a refugee from war, destitute and living in 19th-century Denmark, working as a cook for two sisters who are part of a Lutheran sect that rejects such pleasures of the flesh.
After living in austerity for many years, Babette wins the lottery. But instead of using the money to return to Paris, as everyone expects her to do, she spends all of it preparing a very special dinner for the sisters and their small congregation on the occasion of the founding pastor's 100th birthday. Though the sisters are reluctant to try this potentially sinful food, they agree to do so and everyone loves the dinner in the end. In fact it serves to unite the community. Later, when the sisters discover that Babette actually spent ALL of the money this way, they are dismayed -- now Babette will always be poor!
And that's when she says, "An artist is never poor."
But wait, isn't she still broke?
Well maybe so. But "poor"?
Anyone who counts music -- or any other art form -- as a significant part of his or her life has a certain kind of abiding wealth.
Can you practice your art, can you make your music? Do you have opportunities to appreciate it in others? Do you carry it around as part of you? Does it capture your imagination?
Given a bag of gold, the artist might spend it on violin strings, or paint brushes, or one very fine camera lens. Imagining something and then creating it - this is the ultimate reward to an artist, and little else competes with that.
The artistic mindset allows one to continually see beauty and imagine potential the world. It's a lot like gratitude.
I'm grateful my life centers on music: exploring it, teaching it, discovering it anew. I'm grateful for the little girl who visited my third-grade public school classroom and sparked my initial desire to play the violin. I'm grateful for the times I've played my one small part in a huge orchestra, for that larger-than-life feeling of oneness and deep harmony, created by so many people cooperating to one end. I'm grateful for the remarkable performances I've witnessed. I'm grateful for those times when I'm standing alone in my studio, playing Bach, and suddenly I feel a connection to the past, to my soul. I'm grateful for the moments when I say something that helps spark a new kind of creativity or understanding in a student.
Such rich experiences.
What makes you feel grateful?
Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving (if you are celebrating it!) and a holiday season full of music.
You might also like:Tweet
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.