Appreciative Audience

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I saw an interview in which George Harrison was asked about Beatlemania – specifically, the screaming. The screaming would start as soon as The Beatles hit the stage and would continue more or less unabated until they left. It was so loud the band could barely hear themselves playing. “I don’t know who they were screaming for,” Harrison observed, “but it wasn’t us.”

I think he was right about that, though as an artist it can be difficult to grasp. When I was a very young man, I imagined Beatlemania, that wave of excitement and adoration, as the pinnacle of artistic success. Oh, to be able to create something so enlivening and so inspiring that humanity just erupted in appreciation upon its reception. It wasn’t just that my ego craved applause, though it did; it was also that I craved an enlivening and inspiring life. It seemed that if I could just elicit a wave of appreciation from the world I could ride it happily for a very long time.

As with most of my early ideas about art and creativity, this one was well intentioned but totally backwards. The only appreciation I have ever felt with any depth at all is my own. I have felt my own appreciation for an athlete showing me the power and grace of physical and mental focus; I have felt my appreciation for a song or a story or a poem that moves me; and I have felt my appreciation for a major chord struck on a grand piano, for the morning light as the day awakens, for how my cat arches her back in greeting when she returns from her evening jaunts.

And I never begin a story until I have something I appreciate enough to share with other people. It is nice when someone appreciates it too, but the reader’s appreciation can never replace mine. To look for it only in the applause, the thank you letters, the sales ranking on Amazon, is to lead myself away from the very thing I most desire. In the end, The Beatles stopped playing live shows precisely because of the screaming. They couldn’t improve unless they could hear their own music. It is true of all of us. Our songs can be drowned out by thousands of ecstatic fans, or the single thought that nothing is worthy of our appreciation until someone else appreciates it too.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching or group workshops.