What Human History Knows Of

On a September day in New England, two hundred or so people sat in an auditorium.

Their four hundred or so ears were listening to a man in a blue blazer, blue jeans, and gray Adidas sneakers play the piano.

I was there. Standing in the dark. Staring at the piano.

The man played a song he’d composed. A huge, beautiful, swoop and soar of a song. More than once, I wondered if the piano was big enough to hold it all.

The song – like most good songs – seemed like it was meant to be. Meant to exist. It made sense that these notes were lined up in this way. It was undeniable. Obvious.

Only after the man finished, pulled his Adidas sneaker off the pedal for the last time, did it occur to me that there was a time when this song – this undeniable, obvious, makes-sense, meant-to-exist song – didn’t exist.

Before he composed it, there was just a bunch of keys waiting there on the piano.

It took this man walking up to those 88 keys. Mixing and mingling them, probably re-mixing and re-mingling them. Likely several times. And then putting them out into the world in a way they’d never been put out before.

What’s obvious, what was meant to exist, didn’t always exist.

It takes one of us walking up to those 88 keys on a piano or 26 letters in the alphabet or 118 elements on the periodic table and deciding to do something different with them. Maybe a little different. Maybe a lot different.

And sticking with it when it doesn’t seem obvious. Sticking with it when it doesn’t make sense. Sticking with that fragile idea until it becomes durable.

Human history knows of few arts, technologies, inventions that dropped from the sky whole and complete. What human history knows of is human imagination, human boldness, human tenacity.

In that dark New England auditorium, 400 or so ears heard 88 keys played in one new configuration. All because a man walked up to a piano and decided to do something different.

And that is what human history knows of.

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