Art of possibility

January 5, 2010

Last night we had a Concert Choir “Family Home Evening” with our illustrious conductor, Sister Hall. She taught an inspiring lesson on a theme that is treated frequently throughout scripture, but which can be hard to understand in its real and practical sense:

For with God nothing shall be impossible
–Luke 1:37

The Art of Possbility


She referred to a book she read long ago that changed her vision on this topic, The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. They postulated that almost everything we do in life is bound to some sort of measurement system. Those measurements could be in terms of money, social standing, popularity, ability, time, or any other such thing. Within the confines of these measurement systems, we’re always striving for “enough.” To have enough money, enough friends, enough time, enough talent. To be enough.

But the ironic thing is that as long as we let ourselves be bound by such a system, we will constantly be laboring in the realm of “not enough.” We never have quite enough, or we never are quite enough. That can be an incredibly discouraging and crippling thing.

Thinking outside the box


The well-known nine-dot puzzle illustrates this very well. When given the challenge of connecting these nine dots with four straight lines connected at their endpoints, many people struggle to find any possible solutions. Indeed, within the imaginary square confines of the nine dots themselves, the puzzle is impossible to solve. Those boundaries, however, were never specified in the original challenge–that is, they were artificially created by the person attempting to solve the puzzle. By removing these superfluous restrictions, the solution becomes possible, as illustrated here.

While none of us will ever quite be able to escape this world of measurement, one thing we certainly can do is create our own reality (or perception of reality, if you prefer). If 97% on a test doesn’t satisfy your parents, you can choose to get discouraged about it and draw those imaginary boundaries to that effect around your nine dots. But you can also decide that 97% is “quite good enough,” as Sister Hall put it, and be happy with it by refusing to confine your nine dots to someone else’s perception of success. While you may still be measured by other people, you have the ability to decide for yourself what kind of a reality you wish to have. Removing those unnecessary boundaries enables you to find greater satisfaction and happiness in your achievement at whatever level.

This comes, however, with a cost. Venturing outside the supposed boundaries makes you vulnerable to failure or ridicule if it turns out you were, after all, incorrect in your assumption. But the important thing to remember is that the greatest rewards come at the cost of the greatest sacrifices, and the more you work toward an end, the more valuable it will be to you after the struggles. Extraordinary people are willing to take those risks in order to (perhaps not without falling a few times first) reach higher levels of achievement than they had ever before imagined.

How you draw those boundaries around your nine dots is really only between you and the Lord, not anyone else if your life. While it may be (and often is) valuable to take advice from your loved ones, you are ultimately the one who must live with the reality you create. And you can choose to make that a happy and fulfilling reality or a confined and crippling one.

Sister Hall’s father gave her some excellent advice when she was struggling with an important life decision, simultaneously laboring under that realm of “not enough.” He said, “Why don’t you stop thinking about what you are not and start concentrating on what you are?” That loving counsel changed her life and made possible the career she now vigorously and successfully pursues.

Pursuing the art of possibility is a worthy, indeed, an essential endeavor if you wish to become an extraordinary person and achieve the levels of success you desire. Allowing others to circumscribe your nine dots only limits you. And while there are risks in casting off those artificial shackles, the rewards of success far outweigh the sacrifices.


OC Remix in Guardia

November 3, 2009

A friend introduced me to OC Remix quite a while ago, and I recently rediscovered one of the songs I liked. I also downloaded a few others and have been thoroughly enjoying them. I thought I’d post the links for any of you who are fans of remixed video game music. I’ve never actually played any of these games, but the music is pretty sweet. Enjoy!

Below you can listen to “Blue Skies Over Guardia”:

Gabriel’s Oboe–Nella Fantasia

October 24, 2009

Tonight I attended a concert of the Utah Premiere Brass, as part of the annual BYU OcTUBAfest. The concert featured several pieces arranged for tuba or euphonium solo with the accompaniment of the British-style brass band.

The piece I enjoyed the most was titled “Gabriel’s Oboe,” a song written by Ennio Morricone for the film The Mission. The arrangement they performed featured Brenden McQuay on the tuba, playing a transcription of the oboe part. The song was beautifully arranged and featured well the lovely, full brass sound for which UPB is so well-known.

In researching the origin of the song after leaving the concert I discovered a vocal version entitled “Nella Fantasia“. It features a beautiful Italian text which conveys a longing for a world of peace and mutual understanding. The lyrics are so intriguing, both in the Italian and in the English transcription, that I find it fitting to reproduce it here in both languages:

Nella fantasia io vedo un mondo giusto,
Li tutti vivono in pace e in onestà.
Io sogno d’anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien’ d’umanità in fondo l’anima.

Nella fantasia io vedo un mondo chiaro,
Li anche la notte è meno oscura.
Io sogno d’anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien’ d’umanità.

Nella fantasia esiste un vento caldo,
Che soffia sulle città, come amico.
Io sogno d’anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien’ d’umanità in fondo l’anima.

In my fantasy I see a just world,
Where everyone lives in peace and in honesty.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the spirit.

In my fantasy I see a bright world,
Where each night there is less darkness.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that fly,
Full of humanity.

In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
That breathes into the city, like a friend.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the spirit.

Below is a recording of Paul Potts singing Nella Fantasia:

Lean on My Ample Arm

October 17, 2009

This hymn text by Theodore E. Curtis from the 1985 LDS hymnal has grown in significance for me over the last few days, as I have personally witnessed the “ample arm” of the Lord extended to me.

Lean on My Ample Arm

Lean on my ample arm,
O thou depressed!
And I will bid the storm
Cease in thy breast.
Whate’er thy lot may be
On life’s complaining sea,
If thou wilt come to me,
Thou shalt have rest.

Lift up thy tearful eyes,
Sad heart, to me;
I am the sacrifice
Offered for thee.
In me thy pain shall cease,
In me is thy release,
In me thou shalt have peace

–Theodore E. Curtis

The storm in the breast, the depression, the difficulties of one’s lot on life’s complaining sea–all these can be soothed by the Savior’s rest as we come to Him in humility. After all, Christ is the One who could and did take upon Himself our sins and infirmities (see Alma 7:11-13).

In Christ we can have peace, both in the storms of this life and in the eternities.

Seussical the Musical

July 19, 2007

Last night I attended Seussical the Musical at Spanish Fork Community Theater. It is based on many famous Dr. Seuss books, with quite a complicated plot. It was an excellent production. I have never seen a more intricate or elaborate set; the music was very well written; the actors performed wonderfully. However, it was a little too suggestive for my liking. Some of the actors in the Jungle of Nool and a few other scenes made me, shall we say, uncomfortable. UPDATE: I should qualify this. It wasn’t the musical itself that was suggestive, just the way some of the actors behaved on stage.

But on the whole, it was good. I am surprised but very impressed a company like SFCT was able to pull off a production of this scale and do it so well. Great work!

Has anyone else seen this musical or have any opinions to share about it?

University Chorale concert

June 16, 2007

I went to the BYU University Chorale concert last Friday (as I mentioned in my previous post) and wanted to write a little about it.

First of all, this group is amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Luckily, they reproduced most of the lyrics on the program, so I’d like to put my favorites here.

Come, with Cheerful Voices Sing

Come, with cheerful voices sing,
On this gladsome, wondrous night,
We would make our praises ring,
And with Thee our joys unite.
Grateful hearts to Thee we bring,
Lord, accept our offering.

For the sweet and pleasant springtime,
Gentle hearts and home’s dear love,
For the autumn’s harvest treasures,
Faith and hope that soar above.
Grateful hearts to Thee we bring,
Lord, accept our offering.
–Johann Sebastian Bach

This text, especially the second stanza, reminds me of “Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends“, a song I love very much.

Sure on This Shining Night

Sure on this shining night,
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.

Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wandering far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
–James Agee

I suppose this poem could mean different things to different people, but when I first heard it, I imagined that some great period of the speaker’s life is coming to a close and he is trying to deal with it. He acknowledges that much good has come of it, but feels a great sadness for the emptiness that is now filling that space he has so treasured.

My Song in the Night

O Jesus, my Savior, my song in the night,
Come to us with Thy tender love, my soul’s delight.
Unto Thee, O Lord, in affliction I call,
My comfort by day and my song in the night.

O why should I wander, a stranger from Thee,
Or cry in the desert Thy face to see?
My comfort and joy, my soul’s delight,
O Jesus, my Savior, my song in the night.

I agree wholeheartedly with this text. Christ is my Savior, and I turn to him for peace and comfort. In my darkest hour, I can “cry in the desert” and He will hear me, bring me back into His fold.

God Sends the Night

June 5, 2007

So I was in the library today (up on the north side of the 4th floor in a carrel). I was trying to study math but with little success. While I can understand the important concepts of linear algebra, I always, always, ALWAYS find some way to make an arithmetic error when I’m reducing a matrix. (And those mistakes are hard to find until you get to the end of a problem and have seven decidedly ugly fractions in the answer.) Finally I got so frustrated with myself and my seeming inability to do correct arithmetic that I just started to cry. It had already been a hard day, and this only compounded my grief. I tried to continue with my homework, but I couldn’t focus. I sat there for a long time, just thinking about my life and where I want to go and whether the things I’m doing now will help me get there.

Over to my right on the stacks, I noticed a very long series of periodicals. (They keep all the music-related periodicals on the 4th floor.) The first volumes of the series looked very, very old. I got out of my chair just to look at them and happened to pull out the 1908 volume. Each issue had a piece of music (which I assume were original for the publication) written in four-part harmony. Next to an insert with a facsimile of a letter by some famous composer I found this song:

God sends the Night

God sends the night to bid us rest
From all our cares, in slumbers blest.
The turmoil and the toil are past,
Peace o’er the earth descends at last;
Then aching hearts may rest awhile,
And sadden’d lips in dreams may smile,
God sends the night; at His behest
The weary world is hushed to rest.God sends the day to bid us wake:
Fresh glories at each morning break.
The world lies glist’ning in the dew,
Each day, each day a world begun anew,
In waking hearts the message rings,
“Oh on to nobler better things!”
God sends the day: the shadows break,
And His creation is awake!

–Text by Herbert J. Brandon

This text was comforting to read. God sends us respite from our cares, but brings again a new day with new opportunities. “Oh, on to nobler, better things!” Each morning that dawns ought to arouse in us gratitude to the Most High, and a determination to do better what we have been given to do. When again the night comes, God will give us rest. With hope, we may look forward to that day when He will say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21, KJV).