Phillip Burgess column:

  • Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012 12:01 a.m.

The New Year always brings me much amusement. It seems that TV shows, advertisements, books, newspapers, indeed all types of media are spreading the message “A New Year, A New You.” The amusing thing for me is the assumption that everyone wants to be made “new and improved” on January 1. Chances are that if something in our lives is in need of repair or improvement, we have 364 other days to work on it. If a light bulb burns out or an appliance breaks in our homes, do we wait until the New Year to fix it? I would hope not. Each and every day our spiritual and physical homes are in constant need of maintenance, repair and improvement.

As part of their training, professional musicians, actors, performance artists etc. are all taught how to take a bow. A bow is a way of acknowledging the audience for their applause and approval of the performance. It is also a way for the performer to say “Thank you” for sharing this time with me. Over the course of my career I have had many performances. Some have been spectacular, and it is easy to turn and face the audience and bow. Others did not go as I had expected, and it is harder to face the audience knowing that I did not do my best. The bow, however, is a time to both say thank you and acknowledge that I am human and do make mistakes.

My friend Laurie Klaus shared a story about a conductor who asked his musicians, “What is the most important note that you will play today?” Most answered either, “The first note” or “The last note.”

He replied, “No. The most important note that you will play today is the one that you are currently playing at any time. Do not think ahead, and do not dwell on your mistakes.”

To me this really puts the New Year in perspective. To reach January 1st and suddenly want to jump ahead six months to shed weight or get out of debt seems like waste of time. It is as if the intervening days are not important and we must live our lives in the future simply marking time until this goal is reached. The sad thing is that most of us will probably fail in our New Year’s resolve and quit before the end is reached.

Each day is a gift from God. Just as a note is finished as soon as it is performed, the same is true with the living of every minutes of every day. Once lived, the day is gone forever. Like a performance, each day can go smoothly without mistakes or it can need more practice.

As the conductor so aptly pointed out, each day is the most important day. We need not think ahead to tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. Nor do we need to dwell on our past mistakes. The performance of our “today” should be constantly on our mind. Each day is yet another opportunity for a new performance and a year will bring 365 of those God given performances to each of us.

So this year, I invite you to live for the day, not for the future. And at the end of the day say “Thank you God”…then take a bow.

Dr. Phillip E. Burgess is director of music ministries at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

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