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Writing to Schubert

How many hours
do I sit here
aching to do

what I do not do
when, suddenly,
he throws a single note

higher than the others
so that I feel
the green field of hope,

and then, descending,
all this world’s sorrow,
so deadly, so beautiful.
– Mary Oliver, Schubert

Today is the anniversary of the death of Franz Schubert, who passed away at the shockingly young age of 31 on the 19th of November 1828. It’s shocking because of how much he accomplished in such a short span of time. Not so shocking when you consider the state of modern medicine at the time: he was treated with mercury to cure what was believed to be syphilis. I’m grateful for a lot of things in my life — being born at a time where medical treatment is a bit less hit or miss is right up there on my list. But having better treatment options guarantees nothing. We still must produce while we can.

The inspiration with Schubert is in the mastery he had reached in his last few years. It’s something we can draw from in our own creative lives, as Mary Oliver clearly did, and I regret not leveraging his soundtrack more often myself. But then again it all comes to us at different times, doesn’t it? We all reach that point of creative inspiration when we wake up and finally see the truth. If Schubert offers any warning from his grave, it’s that we shouldn’t wait. Memento Mori.

Schubert’s brief and brilliant life informs: we can do a lot in a relatively brief amount of time. And surely, there’s still time to do it today. But maybe not tomorrow. Carpe diem. Now get to work.

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