Of all the wicked things I've heard spoken, the worst came out of the mouth of a record company A&R* man. He said: "If you've done your best work, quit." He said this at a panel discussion during Canadian Music Week in Toronto. The room was full of young people like me eager to hear some insider insights from veterans of the biz. But instead of wisdom we got bitterness. Instead of encouragement we got the sort of contempt usually found festering in deposed dictators. It was obvious that this sad and defeated man despised us. Worse, he hated us because we were everything he used to be or wished he could have been: optimistic, creative, open-hearted, free.
I don't need to make a list of all the people who did their "best work" later in life or after they had been burdened by some sort of handicap. And I don't need to fall back on clichés like "hold on to your dreams."** It's obvious to anyone who cares to think deeply about such things that life is always about improvement, actualization, realization. Despite the failures, the setbacks, the obstacles, life's journey is driven by the need for completion. Desire is neither diminished by age nor defeated by death. One's "best work" is always ahead, always over the next hill. Movement is the meaning of life and activity both the means and the end.
What had embittered the A&R man was not his long-lost dreams but the emptiness of what he had in abundance: status, wealth, power and prestige. Everything he had placed the highest value upon had turned out to be false, fleeting and insubstantial, while all that he had dismissed as inconsequential—love, friendship, honesty—had turned out to be the real riches, the true blessings of life. In the end his great failing was not his dim view of existence. Rather it was his refusal to humble himself and embrace striving for its own sake. Life has no winners and losers, no eternal reward for the well endowed, no places of honour for the strong. Everyone, both high and low can share equally in gift of the struggle.
Giving in to cynicism and despair is a turning away, a rejection of world, a betrayal of humanity. Life is not a competition, a race to some imaginary jackpot where everything is easy and pleasure is poured out for the idle. True happiness is found in striving for something, sharing the work and the bounty of life with your fellow man. Quitting is never an option and your best work is the work you do today. Failure is usually equated with the inability to attain some sort of goal. But the only real failure is in failing to see through the lies of those who would have us reject life in order to justify their wickedness. There is evil in the world but it doesn't look or sound like what we've been taught. Instead it usually wears designer shirts, drives a Lexus and says things like, "let's do lunch."
* Artists and Repertoire
** A great song no matter what you think of Triumph