The Maestro weaves a note to Les Blank
I came across this passage in Thoreau’s Walden, which you may have read at one time. I thought I would stimulate your day by sending it along for you to read again.
…a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. “Do you wish to buy any baskets?” he asked. “No, we do not want any,” was the reply. “What!” exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, “do you mean to starve us?” Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off, – that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed, – he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man’s to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other’s while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one’s while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.”
In many ways, as I look back over my thirty years in the arts, I was like that poor disillusioned Indian. I was sure, when I started out, that being a true artist was all that was needed to gain standing in the world of art. That if I was true to art, everything else would fall in place, as naturally as the flowers bloom every spring. I was enthusiastic and ready to play my part. It seemed reasonable to me to believe that money and commerce and profit played no real part in the world of art. That stuff was just the frosting on the art cake. I was totally mistaken, and, as Thoreau did, I had to study how to avoid the “art world” so as not to be contaminated by it.