I was at the Rush concert the other night, and I was watching Neil Peart play the drums. I thought, “Everyone else should just quit.”
That’s how good the man is. Everyone else who owns a drum kit should just throw it away. No one will ever even be close to this man. He’s in another realm.
And it’s not just God-given talent. Watching him work is like watching a master craftsman. He has such an intensity and focus that I wondered at how someone could make their mind and body work together at such a level.
There are others in this world like that. Harlan Ellison immediately comes to mind. Ellison is a writer of speculative fiction, essays, television and other forms and genres. His use of language, his creativity, his mastery of the written word is such that he makes me feel like a hack who should throw his laptop in the trash. Compared to Ellison, the rest of us are just monkeys banging on typewriters.
The list goes on. Johnny Unitas in football (“It’s like being in the huddle with God,” Colts tight end John Mackey famously said about playing with Unitas.) Ted Williams in baseball. Cary Grant on the big screen. Lucille Ball on the small one. Whether it’s Leonardo DaVinci with a paint brush, Ludwig van Beethoven with sheet music or William Shakespeare with a quill, we’ve always had people who could entertain and enlighten who practiced their craft in ways above and beyond.
It’s not limited to arts and entertainment. Great scientists and thinkers have struggled to innovate with the same intensity of purpose with which Peart banged those skins on Wednesday night. Where would we be without long nights in the lab from Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk and Bill Gates? (Though in Gates’ case it was his garage.) What would our worldview be without Galileo telling us exactly where in the universe the world was (and dying under house arrest because of it)?
And oh, how we could use those traits in leadership now.
We’ve had them in the past, of course. Teddy Roosevelt busted up the trusts. John F. Kennedy stared down the Russians and pushed us to the moon. Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union, at the cost of his life.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone like that now? To have a few someones would be even greater. How refreshing would it be to have leaders who stood up for what was right, not what was quick, for what was best for everyone and not just best for themselves?
How much better off would we be if some of our leaders focused so intently on leading instead of on preserving power, on becoming master statesmen instead of master politicians?
But no, ours are so afraid of losing power that instead of debating the very important issue of extending tax cuts, they packed up and went home, their focus only on getting re-elected. And we keep on letting them get away with it.
Which brings to mind the lyrics from a Rush song:
When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
— From “A Farewell to Kings” by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.