Thursday, May 19, 2011

Simple Suggestion #7 of 100... Learn to play an instrument

How can learning to play an instrument be an act of simplicity? Well, if you're not a music lover, maybe you want to wait for Simple Suggestion #8... No, wait -- please read this anyway. I make suggestion #7 because I believe that part of living simply is choosing to be creative participants in life, not just passive observers. This month, my Ministry of the Arts calendar quotes Osho, who says:
To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.
I play an instrument, but my ability to enhance life's beauty with my guitar is pretty questionable. I've never had a lesson, and I rarely take time to practice. Even so, being able to play has brought me hours of joy and pleasure, though real musicians would say that I'm a hack.

The thing is, being able to play even one song on an instrument gives a person a sense of accomplishment. My youngest daughter plays her ukelele repertoire of four pieces over and over. She's a chip off the old humanity. If you ever learned to play a song as a child, I'll bet you remember what it was, how you played it, and who listened and congratulated you.

A couple of years ago, my dearest friend, who is a good pianist, memorized Anne's Theme for her cousin, and my friend commented that she wished someone would learn a song for her. So I foolishly decided, in spite of my poor note reading/grade two piano skills from 30 years before, that I would surprise her. It took me almost two years to learn Anne's Theme. Two of her birthdays came and went, and I still hadn't mastered the thing. Finally, when a significant number of years was being marked, and I had yet to play the entire thing without a mistake, I called my friend and played it for her over the phone. Earlier this year, I relearned it, and put it together with a poem I wrote, and sent it to her a second time (still with a mistake -- oh well). That's when I realized that, though Anne's Theme was originally intended as a gift for my friend, it was also a gift for me. Practicing, or just goofing around with notes is relaxing, and something I don't do nearly often enough, whether it's guitar or piano or something else.

When I took music training for my teaching degree, my music prof insisted that everyone has music in them, but with too many people, it gets squelched rather than encouraged. As a result, a lot of us won't even use the instrument we all possess -- a singing voice. To anyone reading this who fits that category, I wish I could introduce you to Lucy. Lucy is pretty much non-verbal because she was born with Cerebral Palsy. On Monday when I was at L'Arche, Lucy and I had the job of folding forks and knives into napkins. Not a terribly exciting job, so I decided to liven it up a bit by singing. And Lucy joined in, singing with me, high and tunelessly. It was quite possibly the worst rendition of the song ever sung, but it was sung with joy on Lucy's part, and delight on mine. Everyone who heard us couldn't help but smile.

Playing an instrument or using the voice is something we were born to do (I was reminded of that fact again this morning at the Clothing Room, as a little girl sang to her baby sister, oblivious as to who might be listening). Making music is a creative act, one that gives expression to emotion, one that lifts our hearts and souls to another level. We can sit and listen to music, but it's just not the same as when we make music ourselves.

When I say, "learn to play an instrument," I don't expect anyone to complicate their lives by running out to buy a saxophone and signing up for lessons. Really, I'm suggesting any activity that uses creativity rather than electricity, anything that contributes to life's tangible and intangible beauties rather than to global climate change. Personally, I've always wanted to start a kazoo orchestra. Maybe I will -- it would be worth a lot of laughs. Anybody have a few combs and some tissue paper I can use?

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? See here.

1 comment:

  1. When "Anne's theme" came playing through the phone I had tears streaming down my face. The most beautiful gift.

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