10 Lessons I've Learned from J.S. Bach (part 6)

The sixth lesson Bach taught me is to be persistent, even in the face of opposition and misunderstanding.

I've already enumerated several of the trials and tribulations Bach had to endure in previous blogs, but let me just sum it up by saying that it wasn't an easy ride for him.   Most people think that if you're talented enough, then you can just sail through life on easy street.  Obviously, that concept doesn't work in the real world.  At some point all of us are going to have to fight our way through the difficulties life throws at us.  The Apostle Paul admonished his student Timothy to "fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience". (I Tim. 1:19)  Again, the Apostle Paul writes, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore... (Eph. 6:13)

Bach, a Bible student, had undoubtedly read these passages.  To whatever extent he meditated upon them, I don't know.  What I do know is that he lived them in the life-decisions he made.  He always seemed to 'weather the storm', even when it looked like the odds were stacked against him.

He probably knew the Bible story of Nehemiah, who fought against insurmountable difficulties and persecutions from people who were trying to stop him from achieving his dream: re-building the walls around Jerusalem.  There is a Scripture passage that says, "Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon." (Neh. 4:17)  His team of volunteers had to both build and be ready to fight while they were standing against the enemy, pursuing their vision.  

Bach patiently, and almost defiantly stood against the numerous misunderstandings he had to endure.  I don't know what his personality make-up was, but based upon my study of him, I would guess that he was what I refer to as a Melancholy-Phlegmatic.  In other words, he was detailed, yet stable, not wanting to 'rock the boat', unwilling to be moved from his convictions.  One weakness of this type of personality mix is that they hate to be misunderstood.  They will do almost anything within their power to help others understand why they do what they do.  This seems congruent with Bach's high motivation to teach and train those around him, through the music book 'teaching tools' he created and his daily schedule of training his family and community.

Yet he was constantly plagued by situations of misunderstanding, those who really didn't care about the whys.

As artists, we deal with materials that cannot be easily understood.  Take sound, for instance.  It's a subject that can be scientifically measured, but yet it's unseen.  Everyone has a different set of ears, and different life-experiences which cause them to 'hear' (psycho-acoustically) a little differently from someone else.  The subject is fraught with subjectivity.  And yet for those of us who have spent our lives working in music and sound design, there are foundational truths that we have come to rely upon in our creative processes.  But these things are not easily explained, especially to someone who really doesn't want that much information in the first place.

It's easy for people to make knee-jerk assessments of what is good or bad, whether they know what they are talking about or not.  Everyone has an opinion.  Many opinions, unfortunately, are driven by popular culture, peer-pressure and a desire to 'fit in', rather than careful perception of excellence.  Pop culture changes like the wind, but that which is excellent withstands the forces of nature.  It takes on its own stability, even beyond the control of its creator.  It stands undaunted by the whims of culture and takes on an almost 'eternal' quality.  Why?  Because it is standing on Truth.  Truth doesn't move.  (I know I'm speaking contrary to popular situational ethics in these concepts.)  Nevertheless, Truth, Integrity, Character...these things can be, and are, present in the works of art that have been handed down to us through the ages.  The depth of these characteristics that are present in the works are directly proportional to their lasting nature.  A little compromise here and there will mean a shorter life-span of historical impact.

Bach knew, created and lived these principles unmoved by the situations, murmurings and antagonistic attitudes around him.  "Having done all to stand, stand therefore..."  He just kept standing.  He just kept creating and living a life of integrity to the best of his ability, because he knew it was the right thing to do.  He knew that if he continued to stand on the Truth, that the Truth would eventually defend him.  And you know what?  It did! 

In conclusion: Don't allow people's misunderstandings and negativity to 'get under your skin'.  Just know that they can't see what you see.  Just stay steady, keep 'building the wall' with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.  Keep fighting the good fight of faith. (I Tim. 6:12)  As you stay steady, weathering the storms, God will bring you to the other side victoriously.