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From Sarah With Love – Or From Love?

September 26, 2013

This is not a post about Sarah Connor’s schmaltzy and terrible “From Sarah With Love.” It is, however, a post about – or perhaps originating from – a Sarah.

Last weekend, a friend and I went to see Sarah Slean perform at QBUs in Leiden. Sarah Slean, for those of you who do not have a Canadian friend who tells you how much he loves Sarah Slean at least every other month, is a Canadian singer-songwriter who released her first EP in 1997 and has regularly been performing and releasing new albums ever since. My Canadian friend once recommended her to me when I was looking to expand my lady singer horizons after falling in love with Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan (another Canadian Sarah!) back in the ’90s, but I had never seen her live. Until Sunday, that is.

It was a great show. I won’t bore you with set lists and detailed discussions of all the vocal acrobatics that happened (though “Blue Parade,” very similar to this one in Paris, was a stellar encore which prompted me to turn to my friend and comment that “this is what Florence Welch wishes she sounds like.” And I like Florence + the Machine!), because while I was enjoying the evening, I couldn’t help noticing how much Ms Slean was loving* being there, on stage, in Leiden, in front of what can only be called an intimate crowd. The show was, as she herself described it, a bit of an impromptu variety show, with a local amateur strings sextet (BplusC) accompanying her for three songs, a Twitter follower from Utrecht accompanying her on the ukelele for one song and performing her own, original song – with Ms Slean doing backing vocals – and then her supporting act – the wonderful and fabulously bearded Ian Kelly – coming back on stage for a few collaborations. This all happened between her solo performance of a variety of songs, of course. And it struck me that there is no possible way for an artist to do all that – perform with all these people she never met until the day of the performance, share her spotlight, laugh at herself when she messed up her backing vocals – unless they absolutely, positively love doing it. Love not just showing and performing, but sharing their art with those who are open, willing, and brave enough to give it a try.

Though her vocals and performance were great, this is what I remember best about last Sunday night: just how wonderful it is to watch someone do something they love. Wonderful and memorable and inspiring. That’s the thought I was stuck on all day Monday and Tuesday and the thought I believed this post would center on. But then I realized that there are a great many people who love to do certain things and who have no problem exhibiting that love – and yet I want to punch them in the face. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m a very violence-averse person. As I started thinking about all these people – certain politicians, talking heads, celebrities, and perhaps a couple of folks I know personally – I realized that just doing something you love and sharing that love and enthusiasm with others is not that perfect storm, that magical moment, that I noticed on Sunday. It’s not just about doing something with love; it’s about doing something from love.

Think back on some inspiring people you have met, and you will probably realize (if you never did so before) that part of the reason they touched you was the passion they had for whatever they did or discussed or showed or performed or [insert other verbs here]. That’s doing something with love. Then think back on the most inspiring people, the most special people, who create the most special moment.  They make an active effort to share their love with you, to give you a little part of it, to stretch their love far enough that it can cover a whole community – and not just an individual. That is doing something from love. It is what I can see when I remember my favorite college professors and high school teachers. They obviously loved what they did, but they went beyond that: their teaching practice was brimming with … the possibility that one day my classmates and I, too, might feel such love for something one day. That we, too, would find our niche, and be comfortable in it. That is, in the end, what inspiration is: the belief that one day, you can do or be something that fits perfectly with who you are.

In order to be able to inspire people, one has to (I believe) possess a significant level of self-esteem, self-possession, and comfort with one’s one person and one’s own passion. Without these things, it seems (again, to me) impossible to spark those moments which make others go “Yes, this is wonderful! You are wonderful! I am wonderful! The world is, indeed, full of wonder! Onwards and upwards, my lovelies!” And that is the feeling I had when I traveled home after the concert Sunday night.

So well done, Ms Slean. I saw your love and because you shared it, I got to take a little bit home with me. Maybe, in turn, I’ll get to spread it even further; maybe with this blog post, or perhaps when I’m teaching. Either way, I’ll try to remember to come at things from love, and not just with it. It just seems a whole lot more valuable and rewarding.

*sorry, students! I know I told you one shouldn’t use stative verbs in the progressive form! Please do as I say and not as I do. Thank you.

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