Inspiration or perspiration?

As a violin student I became accustomed to hearing my teacher's version of Thomas Edison's comment about genius. "Genius is ninety-nine per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration." Quoted in Matthew Josephson, Edison (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959), p. 435 . My teacher would say, "Practice is I percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration." These words were calculated to get me to work when I had been sitting around waiting for the inspiration to hit and consequently getting nothing done. But for all the good this saying can do, it also has its limitations.

After a while, one feels the demand is for 100 percent perspiration, with inspiration a lost jewel. The buoyant joie de vivre seems lost. For instance, sometimes an orchestral musician, who plays the same music year in and year out, may begin to feel as if life is an endless bombardment of Brahms's Fourth or Beethoven's Fifth.

If we are feeling some endless bombardment in our work, we need to stop and think for a moment. And we need to pray. But how? The very fact that we have stopped to think, or to rethink, is a step toward prayer. It indicates a desire to change something in our thinking; it reveals humility; it means that we are willing to listen for a higher thought. Desire, humility, and willingness—three active elements of prayer; now we are quietly ready to receive angel messages from our beloved Father, God.

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October 27, 1986

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