If you haven’t read my previous post about the emotional epiphany that was watching “Tick Tick Boom” you can go find it here.
After Jonathan Larson’s profoundly painful realisation that there are absolutely no guarantees in showbiz, no matter how talented or hard-working you are, he finally begins to write in a new way: profoundly personally.
(That he gets some words of encouragement from Stephen Sondheim on the way no doubt helps keep his spirits up!)
Then… he writes “Rent”. A musical which goes on to break all kinds of records at the box office…
…and he dies of a sudden aneurysm the night before it opens.
He never even gets to see the impact of his insanely hard work. He dies without even a clue as to the legacy he’s leaving behind. He never hears the gasps or applause of an audience, he never sees the “sold out” signs on the theatre, he never receives the money or financial security or comforts that he’d thus far managed to avoid by sheer commitment to his craft.
He never even gets to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
Does that mean it was all a waste of time?
Of course not.
He did what he always set out to do:
“I make a vow
Right here and now
I'm gonna spend my time this way”
And he succeeded.
And now his legacy - that he never even knew existed - is still moving and inspiring others. Both in the work itself, and in the way he lived his life.
My own mother also died way too young, also of an aneurysm (though hers was a brain one, not aortic like Jonathan).
At 33, she’d passionately pursued her career as a singer/songwriter, she’d just won a competition which awarded her a recording contract in Sydney, but never made it down there to claim it. Her creative ambitions never came to fruition.
Does that mean she wasted her time?
Her pursuit lives on - both in recordings we have of her singing and in the example she set about how to go about this thing called life.
Those recordings of her songs - some in a studio, most in what sounds like somebody’s kitchen or lounge-room - still move the heck out of me, and I daresay, others who hear them.
But even if they were never heard by anybody again, even if every song she ever created got locked in a vault or was lost to the ethers of time, that would STILL not make her efforts wasted because there is magic and power and wonder in the act of creating itself.
What a way to spend a day.
What a way to spend a season.
What a way to spend a life.