I was recently talking with Helen about the death of our mutual friend, Jim Rivers. “Jim had such a rich interior life, work was almost a break for him,” Helen reflected. “In his eulogy, the American composer Charles Ives was mentioned. A colleague and friend of Jim’s approached me after the memorial and commented that noting Jim’s affection for Ives was the perfect choice. Jim, like Ives, had a traditional office job, but it was his interior life that defined him.”
Born in a manufacturing town in 1874, at a place and time where building a career as a musician was met with little understanding, Charles Ives’ proclivity towards music was supported by his father. After studying music at Yale, however, Ives chose a career in business instead of music, a choice also encouraged by his father. So this is the part in the story where we may feel regret, reflective of all the risks we choose not to take – a prodigy chose not to make a career of his talent. Ives’ choice of business, however, freed him from following the conventional, accepted rules of music he preferred to break. Ives, wildly successful in the insurance business, established a company with his business partner, Julian Myrick, which went on to be one of the largest insurance companies in the country. Ives’ success permitted him to compose for the joy of it, not for the establishment of music.
Charles Ives found happiness in duality, as did Jim Rivers. Lives lived as theirs remind us that there are many definitions of work and many means to finding fulfillment.