In praise of amateurs

Coffee shop conversations with my friend Glen led to me asking to share this…

the liner notes he wrote, as the director for the Whistler Singers, when they produced and recorded their own CD.

I’d been telling him of a writer friend who had just crafted the most exquisite short story and I wanted to see her publish it. He said, “or not.” And then elaborated. Sometimes, when something is done purely for practice and passion, and not contaminated by the commercial world, it maintains a certain purity.

It just is.


“Amateur” is an interesting word. Etymologists tell us that the word is derived from the Latin “amator”, which means lover, or from “amare”, which means to love. Lately, the word has come to be used a  more disparaging way: we expect “amateurish” performances to be shoddy and lack mastery; we excuse amateurs because the implication is that they lack commitment and are content to elegantly trifle in the arts.

When we consider the word more carefully, and come to understand its origin, we must ask ourselves if there is any other word which expresses a more noble sentiment. After all, professionals pursue their activities in order to sustain themselves, perhaps even to sate their excessive lifestyles, while the poor amateur bravely soldiers on, investing time, skill, commitment and love into his work. Remuneration or accolade is seldom the motivation.

In this place we love, I’ve heard of hosts of youngs who glorify the “career goal” of turning pro as athletes – as if being seen, commercially, will validate their skills and passion and effort.

And yet, in this space, the Wellness Almanac, we celebrate the amateur, the backyard, the homegrown and lovingly cultivated expertise, that comes from paying deep attention to something that snags your attention and begs you to go deeper. Deeper into the richness of being. Whether anyone else is watching or not.

Because of that, it’s not always easy to hustle people out of their private places, and entice them to share their words, photography, passions, art…. but it’s always so enriching when they do.

This is not a place for experts. Because wellness has a million faces and pathways. I can’t see how there could be one expert on this topic. It’s really about crowd-sourcing life-won wisdom, so we can all benefit – even if just from the act of listening.

amateur by glen irvine

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