Born on May 11 of 1894, Martha Graham was an American modern dancer and choreographer. Her style — known as the Graham technique — reshaped American dance, and is still taught worldwide to this day. She passed away in early April of 1991, a few weeks before her ninety seventh birthday. But only after she had danced and taught for over seventy years.
As amazing as all of that is, it’s not the reason why I’m bringing her to you this morning. At least not entirely. Someone in the group had sent me a quote of hers, and we both agree that it needs to be shared with the rest of you. It’s a little long as far as quotes go. But I will both read it, and share it in the chat. And then I’ll take a minute or so to unpack it a bit, and highlight what I believe is it’s main point and value.
Graham is specific in her language. But the power — I believe — is in the grand concept she’s presenting. So while I invite you to listen carefully, at the same time, just let it wash over you…
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
So, what’s she saying?
Well, here’s a bit of what I think…
We — all of us — are unique. Regardless of who we think we are when making comparisons with others around us, we all contain a beautiful, brilliant, powerful life force. And it is our job to allow this force to show up and come through. This responsibility — and it truly is a responsibility — exists outside of our judgment and assessment. In other words, the value is inherent. There is no decision as to whether we should or should not. We absolutely should… express ourselves. In various forms of course. To allow our particular brilliance to arrive and join the world.
And, in this forum, consider that doing good business is one form of expression.
The other thing that occurs for me to consider is that fear is likely one of the greatest blockers of this, of staying open. And it requires tremendous courage and persistence and trust to succeed here.
Can you imagine what it must have taken for Martha Graham to grow up and live through almost the entire twentieth century in America? And to make the difference that she’s made?
She trusted her channel, her instincts, her desires. She kept it open.
And as leaders in our own right, so must we.
Don’t get stuck on how perfect it is. Don’t waste time wondering. Do whatever it takes to live in a way that is clear, authentic, and expressed.
This is what it means to truly live.
What we think we’re seeking, may not necessarily come in the form of satisfaction we often covet. It may show itself in that “blessed unrest.” That force that keeps us advancing, and feeling truly alive.
Thank you Martha Graham for your power and brilliance. And for your fun and joy and wit as well.
She was also quoted as saying, “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”