Heart and Soul

Have you ever wondered what separates the good from the great?  Have you ever been moved by a musical or dance performance?  What makes some people’s cooking ordinary and some people’s extraordinary?  I am sure that the first thing that comes to mind is talent.  And yes, talent is important, but it is not everything.  I am going to propose the answer to my questions is heart and soul.

My grandmother was an incredible cook.  I say “was” because she has been fighting with Parkinson’s disease for about twenty-five years now.  It has robbed her of her ability to create, but it has not taken away her joy of cooking or enjoying food.  Even to this day, I can call her and ask her about a recipe.  She was never trained professionally to cook, but she loved preparing meals for her family on a limited budget.

Years ago when I read the book by Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate and watched the foreign film with the same title, I began realizing why my grandmother’s cooking was extraordinary.  In the novel, Tita de la Garza, the protagonist, has an interesting effect on food.  Whatever emotion she is feeling while cooking is spread to those who consume the meal.  So if Tita was sad, everyone who ate is incredibly sad too.  Even though this book is full of magic, I saw a similarity to my grandmother.  Mama, as I call her,  did not just cook.  She put her heart and soul into her cooking.

I believe the same is true for all great artists whether one paints, dances, sings, sculpts, etc.  The truly moving pieces or performances affect others.  I think that the heart and soul of the artist comes out in his/her work.  Some pieces have it and some don’t.

My daughter, Kyla, before her dance performance.

My daughter, Kyla, before her dance performance.

My daughter dances ballet and jazz.  She belongs to a great studio with a wide variety of skill levels.  During the spring recital, the different classes perform at a large auditorium at Texas A&M University.  Regardless of the skill level, there is almost always a dancer who stands out from the rest in each class.  Why?  Because their face is exuding joy.  They are dancing like no one is watching.  They are putting their heart and soul into their performance.

At the same time you can have an extremely talented artist just going through the motions.  The end result might be a nice piece of work, but the art will lack something.  Viewers might not be able to put their finger on it, but they will know that something is missing.  Unlike Tita in the novel, the creator did not pour himself/herself into the work.  He/she held back.

Regardless of what interests you, pour yourself into it.  Get lost for a little while.  Explore it.  Feel it.  Be it.  Put your heart and soul into whatever you do and people will feel it.  Talent is nice, but again it is not everything.  I would rather have less talent and more desire than vice versa.  Talent can only take you so far.  Your desire to put your heart and soul in your project is what separates the good from the great.

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