Lately, I‘ve been pondering the thought what’s in store for my new baby boy over the next century and all the ‘what ifs’ that come with it. I know I’ve written about it in past blog posts before, but world events happen that bring me tears of deep frustration because I just don’t know what to do about it–or how to cure it and make it all go away.
It seems I am not alone, either. For example, an Italian chap called Francisco worried about the same thing 800 years ago.
He used to plea to the heavens in prayer:
Make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
I bring up these gorgeous words from Francisco (who later became known as the honoured St. Frances De Assisi) because literally, when world events feel sticky, unjust, and sometimes unacceptable, I ask myself ‘how can *I* be some kind of instrument of peace?’ And ‘is it even possible?’
I’ve come to the conclusion that my music making is going to be one of the best hands I can play at the moment. I think that it could be yours, too. You know why? As soon as you play, you have no control if , how, when or why showing up for your art might impact someone.
As quoted in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic:
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create”
I think this is relevant even if a) you’re the next Rampal or b)think you sound like a drain pipe because your playing feels like it’s falling apart . You have no control over how, what and when your music might bring someone else Faith. Hope. Light. Forgiveness. Joy. Inspiration. Clarity. Optimism. Energy. Remembrance. Compassion. Buzz. You know, the things that St. Francis wanted to cultivate, too.
Ok, let’s be realistic here, sometimes your playing might have absolutely no tangible bearing on anything or anyone. Like the time that my neighbour complained of my shrieking high D’s in the Prokofiev. But no big deal, you play anyway (and hey, I took that neighbour Nestle Black Magic). You show up even when you don’t feel like practicing; you wait for the magic, you ride the ebb and flow of creativity, even in serious droughts.
But how about if your playing does bring some serious beauty currency to somebody?
Here are some of the stories that have been shared with me by various students over the 20 years I’ve been teaching:
- When my neighbour saw me play flute through the window, he told me that it made him want to pull out his ukulele that he hadn’t touched in decades
- My friend’s daughter is currently begging for lessons because she keeps hearing me play flute when I babysit her
- After my performance at the care home, a lady came up to me and told me that the song I played reminded her of dancing with her husband — he passed away last month.
- I was playing at a gig last week and someone said that they never heard the flute sound like that before, and it really made them sit up and listen in a new way
- This week I inspired my partner to paint a watercolour to reflect the Debussy solo I’ve been playing… I didn’t even know he was listening!?
Though the above sounds wonderfully Oprah-ish and all, I think it’s misguided to only create music because you might ‘help’ someone. Because sometimes, as the quote goes, ‘you have to be the change you wish to see in the world’. And that starts at home.
For example, my playing these days has nothing to do with anything except the Temple of Me. It’s my self-centred therapy: playing clears my river, shakes of the cobwebs of my daily mundanity and gives me a detox on a soul level. I become an instrument of peace automatically after I play my flute, because usually I am
- Less grouchy to my husband, more patient with my fussy baby, more compassionate to our black lab who usually drools on the wool carpet
- More energetic and inspired to create even more things that are non-flute related (making out-of-season pumpkin bread, dancing to Havana-na-na-na with my baby, and writing this blog post)
- Cleansed from my anxiety and Mom Guilt that seems to sneak up on me
- Able to brush off actions of people that tend to annoy me and moan about them less
You see, I find this philosophy not dissimilar to The Butterfly Effect–the discovery that little things, like simply showing up to your playing, can have disproportionately large effects over time. It’s my lean-in when any overwhelm and crappy world news appears because all I have to do is simply play my flute for my playing to have impact. That’s it, really.
Sometimes this thought alone 1) keeps me from packing it all in, buying a camel and becoming an eccentric desert nomad 2) makes me want to pick up my flute RIGHT NOW.
I hope it inspires you to play soon, too.