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      IN A STRANGE LAND by Tim Sharp (Mr. Sharp is the Executive Director of the AMERICAN CHORAL DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION.)

      thom444The question “How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137) still haunts me. In the last few weeks, this is the very question we have asked ourselves over and over throughout the choral community and in a variety of ways as we wonder “how,” in a practical way, we are to sing anything in this newly found “strange land” caused by a worldwide pandemic, and “how,” in a spiritual way, can we sing anything in this time of despair and hopelessness. . . .

      In his book Where Good Ideas Come From, innovation writer Steven Johnson cites the theory of “desirable difficulties” as an optimistic way to work toward innovation. Desirable difficulties are challenges to our thinking or to our work that would normally appear as obstacles to forward progress.

      These disadvantages force an individual to adapt and be better prepared against future difficulties. Viewing such challenges as “desirable” is an optimistic view, knowing challenges only help to sharpen ideas and bolster the resolve to move ahead.

      It is a beautiful way to approach the world—and ultimately, the only one suited for a time such as the one we are in now. To avoid difficulty would mean complete retreat, not only from social interaction, but from life. It would mean hiding in ignorance. Instead, we can embrace the moment we have and strive to welcome challenge. I choose to rejoice in the unexpected and work to turn despair into something new by owning it. I have found that tension is my wake-up call to new levels of learning and experience and growth.

      "From the Executive Director," Choral Journal (May 2020)

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