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Lessons from love

It may be our weakest parts that most help us communicate with others.
By Eliza Blanchard
Summer 2012 5.15.12

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Johnny Cash, 1969 (AP Photo)

Johnny Cash, 1969. (AP Photo)

Your style is a function of your limitations, more so than a function of your skills. —Rosanne Cash

In an interview about what qualities make music emotive, the daughter of a famously talented singer shares what she learned from her father, the secret of his signature communication style. Johnny Cash, a hard-working, hard-playing, hard-worshipping man, brought empathy, humor, creativity, and desire to his music. His life, never easy, grew more complex as he wrestled with alcohol and other demons.

Cash brought his whole complicated heart to his vocation, and so when his daughter refers to style, I think she means the unique way in which we each express what matters most to us. And isn’t it a relief to know—after perhaps decades of trying to erase or temper them—that it may be our weakest parts, more than our talents, that most help us communicate with others?

Many people, as they reflect on their lives, say that what matters most in a full and meaning-filled life is connection—to other people, to the natural world, and to the Mystery. We connect by expressing our appreciation, empathy, thoughts, sympathy, love, and much more. But Rosanne Cash suggests that we connect most effectively and powerfully not through our triumphs, not through brilliant debating technique or perfect melodies, but by sharing the stumblings, doubts, and inadequacies of our hearts.

If we are fortunate, we can become teachers and examples to others in showing them that they are worthy of love by sharing the imperfect wholeness of ourselves.

This essay is excerpted with permission from The Seasoned Soul: Reflections on Growing Older (Skinner House Books, 2012), ©2012 by Eliza Blanchard. See sidebar for links to related resources.

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