This morning, we listened to a selection of songs by the timeless and elegant Judy Collins. One of the songs we heard was “Clouds,” in my opinion, an American epic. The thought that occurred to me, as always, was imagining having a singing voice with her clarity and pitch.

Although I’ve had that thought many times, I always stop in my tracks and remind myself that Judy has the exclusive right to her voice and that I have the same exclusivity for mine. It is a matter of competence, something that so many of us seek.

Two questions arise from the subject of competence. When do we reach it and why do we seek it? Perhaps many who sing, professionally or otherwise, never aspire to sound better than they do. That sounds like an excellent place to be. The same holds true for those who bicycle, run, play tennis or write. In their cases, doing what they do is sufficient and rewarding.

For the rest of us, competence is elusive and nebulous. Having had some voice training, do I consider myself competent? If so, when did I reach that status? If not, why do I seek it?

Conclusions are easily reached. The purpose of any activity, whether it is skiing, surfing, cooking, cleaning or coaching, is enjoyment and gratification. The act of performing any of these should constitute competence, whether that is sought or otherwise. In other words, singing as well as Judy Collins is a gigantic waste of time because I enjoy my participation in a local choral ensemble and it’s all subjective anyway.

Does that mean that we should not try to improve? In my opinion, the answer is no. Regardless of the activity, I’m thinking that doing our best or performing well enough to enjoy what we’re doing constitutes competence. To be sure, Judy Collins continues to be far beyond that status. But I don’t need to sing “Clouds” as well as she does simply because I don’t.

My best guess is that I’m not alone in my search for competence. Many of us are not happy with adequacy or being average. Ultimately, I think that’s a good thing. Aspiring to greater heights is what results in discoveries, cures and other celestial conquests. Shalom.

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