I have always wondered about people who have exceptional talent. It could be in the field of arts, science, or any other field/activity. I would always wonder about the lives of these people, how did they view or understand their talent? What was their inspiration?
I would often find myself drawn to reading about the lives of these men/women. Initially, I was attracted to the lives of musicians namely classical geniuses such as Beethoven, Bach, etc. And the one thing I found common amongst all of them whether it was a Beethoven or Ramanujan, they were all conduits of a higher power. And they all understood it. Another thing common with most of them was, they all found inspiration in nature. It’s almost like they could access the stillness in nature.
The Mother (Pondicherry, Aurobindo Ashram) often mentioned in her talks about how music or art are usually accessed from higher astral planes/ dimensions. And these higher realms are where inspiration as we know it flows in. Obviously, it is different for each individual how much of it they can access. Again for some that becomes there way of touching and experiencing God/divinity. For some they just glimpse it and some may always have access to it through their art form whatever it may be.
I will just share with you little bits from the lives of some famous people, what they felt about their own access to exceptional music they produced or art or a theory.
Beethoven, everybody is aware he lost his hearing early and yet a large part of his work was created after he went deaf. Surely there is divine energy somewhere that doesn’t rely on the physical hearing ability, and still made its way through the human form, what we know as Beethoven. He was also a man known to easily fly into rage. He was often in a foul mood, and there is a story that goes, where a neighbour would stand outside and listen to him practice. One day he realized that he had a listener and instead of appreciating it, he closed the windows in great fury. Amusing.
Yet in a sublime moment, he talks about how when he is amidst nature his spirit rises beyond the constellations and reaches the primal source from which all creation is born. And he would often find it hard to assimilate all that because it was so vast. And he speaks of his music coming from that, if it doesn’t come from that, it is not music, it has no soul.
Handel, another famous composer when he wrote his famous work Messiah, did it without eating, sleeping. Surely this was nothing but a state of trance. And after he finished his work, he told his attendant,“ I did think I saw all of heaven before me, and the great god seated on his throne with his company of angels”.
Closer home, we have all heard stories about the Mathematics genius Ramanujan. He credited his work to the goddess Namagiri. In fact, he speaks about how he saw the solutions in his dreams. Like they just came to him. “An equation to me has no meaning if it doesn’t have the thought of god”.
Everyone has heard about Rumi, he was inspired to write his poetry by his friend and spiritual guide Shams. Anyone who has read his poems will be familiar with the thought where he alludes to how the words just flow through him. And he is not the master of his words. He is more the vessel.
My violin teacher once narrated a story to me. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the violinist he spoke to me about. But this particular violinist was a well-known European musician. He had come to India on a cultural event that had been organized by one of the embassies. My teacher was a young man and had been assigned the job of making the maestro feel at home and tended to his needs. He was quite thrilled. However, before his performance, my teacher was surprised to see this world-famous violinist cry in the green room.
He thought maybe the gentleman was ill or there was some trouble. But when he asked him what the problem was, this famous musician stated he was nervous and wasn’t sure if he would be able to play to please the audience.
My teacher was shocked, here was a maestro and he was crying. And then the violinist turned around and told him, when he went on stage, there was a different energy that descended into him and he was able to play because of that. The nervousness arose from doubts that entered his mind, what if that higher power were to abandon him, how would he then play for his audience. The gentleman calmed down almost automatically after his outbreak and walked out like nothing had happened.
Nobody would have known he was crying a while back. The show went beautifully.
I will wrap this up with a final story, that about Annapurna Devi. She was married to Pt. Ravi Shanker and was the daughter of Allaudin Khan. Anyone who was lucky enough to have heard her play the Surbahar, spoke of her talent as unparalleled. Yet she lived her life in seclusion and never performed in public.
Her students often said, when she played a certain raag the whole house would be enveloped with the fragrance of sandalwood. She herself spoke of this phenomenon where while playing she would feel surrounded by the fragrance of flowers. Her father had told her that this was how Sharada Ma makes her presence felt. And whenever this happened, she should never feel pride, but feel humility.
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