Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Perils of Pride

This week (Feb 6) TheNew Yorker published a humorous essay –  “Flight of the Concord” by Jeremy Denk, a classical pianist. It’s not about the French Concorde, nor the Flight of the Conchords, the crazy New Zealand music-comedy duo – it refers to a sonata by Charles Ives and Denk writes about the perils of the recording studio. Really worth reading, even for folks who have no idea what it means to "lay a track."

A critic heard Denk play Concord and insisted he needed to record it; “You’re having A Moment with it, and one never knows how long such things last.” Suddenly, Denk is prey to the idea that he can do this better than any other. And maybe he even did. He writes, “You might imagine that making a recording is a lovely occasion: you go to the studio with your entourage; there is banter; you lay down tracks, locate our groove; the producer gasps in admiration…”   

It’s that gasp of admiration I recognize. Denis gave me one at supper last night, about a pretty little thing. I’d gone to the kitchen about an hour before, looked in the pantry, pulled out wild rice, dried apricots and cranberries, a few other ingredients, toasted some pecans and dished up a savory main-dish salad. It gave me a flash of pleasure for having hit it just right. But that he concurred? Even better.

Is this universal?  That we have moments of thinking we can distill 50 lifetimes of thought and practice into X better than anyone else? I don’t think it’s wrong to find genuine pleasure in doing something well, or in receiving recognition for it, but I think my problem is hungering for that gasp because it cancels a sense of self-doubt. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s a sneaky form of pride.

Bruce Ray Smith’s insights during his battle for humility at least give me hope that I’m not alone in the struggle to ferret out the wounded pride that just crops up everywhere – in writing, raising children, or just living. I even want someone to tell me how well I pay the bills! In WinterLight, He writes,

“As for my pride, what is it I renounce? Myself: that grand self I imagined, an illusion, something which does not exist.
            I said no, I am saying no, to nothingness.”

And so, as we head over to a L’Abri conference that begins tomorrow morning I will be aware of that Grand Self that accompanies me. We will listen to a roster of eloquent speakers, people who love God and love to love people. One of my heroes, Jerram Barrs, will be there. I will plunk myself down among folks who’ve seen every relevant movie, read all books published in the last decade, understand quantum physics and how it applies to postmodern art – and oh, they can also remember all the details – but I will admonish the Grand Self, “You’re listening to a demented voice. They haven’t. They don’t. We all have broken hearts and that’s what this Christian thing is about. We can’t fix ourselves, but we can get a few pointers on which way to go for help.  

1 comment:

sarah k said...

Good stuff. I know that sneaky, perilous pride very well. How to use the gifts God gives us to the best of our ability, but keep the ugly monster from popping up every time someone admires what God enabled us to do: that's tough.