Are You Too Deeply Occupied?

We have countless opportunities to nurture genius, but we must look in unexpected places.  Genius often hides behind the shy eyes of a child, too reclusive to leave her familiar surroundings.  In 1862 Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote a piece in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “Letter to a Young Contributor”.  The response he received, written in a peculiar bird-scrawl began, “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?” It appeared to be unsigned until he discovered a small sub-envelope within that contained a card with the shyly penciled name “Emily Dickinson.” Enclosed also were four poems, and his curious and encouraging response led to a three-decade correspondence with Dickinson, she playing a coy “Scholar” and he bewildered and moved by the flights of her mind.

Emily Dickinson (born on this day, December 10th in 1830) could not have imagined the towering height of the fame which was to come.

Continue reading “Are You Too Deeply Occupied?”

Unadorned Power

Willa Cather (born this day, December 7th in 1873) was an uncharacteristically quiet voice of the roaring twenties.  Unlike many of her contemporaries who delighted in inventions of wordplay, her prose was unadorned and straightforward.  The power of her stories was found in the lives of her characters who were unvarnished and transparent in their exposure to the reader.  A pristine example of her clean, powerful voice can be heard in her novel Death Comes for the Archbishop.

Continue reading “Unadorned Power”

Does Great Art Require Struggle?

51NB7s5AsEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Musical genius Felix Mendelssohn died on this day, November 4th in 1847. His beautiful work was notable for many things, but perhaps most stunning was the ease with which it seemed to flow from his creativity. While many masterpieces are the result of the painful toil of an anguished artist, there are others who seem to produce greatness with little invested suffering. Mendelssohn understood his genius as a gift from God but also recognized his stewardship. He said, “I know perfectly well that no musician can make his thoughts or talents different to what Heaven has made them; but I also know that if Heaven has given him good ones, he must also be able to develop them properly.”

Continue reading “Does Great Art Require Struggle?”