In The Art of Possibility Ben Zander recounts the South American concert tour of the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic. After performances in prestigious concert halls and endless hours of bus travel, they arrived in the small town of Rosario. Concerned about their fatigue and anticipating a perfunctory performance, Zander asked the students to rearrange themselves in rehearsal so they were each sitting next to an unfamiliar instrument. Then he asked them to play as though they were completely blind. They knew the music well, but their musicality got lost as they clung to a beat with no visible leader.
“When the door of eyesight closes,” Zander said to the young performers, “what door is likely to open?”
“Listening,” was the immediate response. With that in mind, they began to play again.
Zander writes: I walked to the back of the hall as they played, and was astonished to find that a new kind of music-making was emerging in that rehearsal hall like a landscape revealed at last by the dawn.
He then returned to the stage and asked the players to recover their sight and to keep their new listening.
Of that evening’s performance, Zander writes: All eyes fully open and ears tuned to the finest nuance, I had the experience, so often sought, of wholeness of spirit. There was no leader, and there were no ones being led. Harmony was present.
He summarizes: It was a high point not only of the tour, but also of the year, and it took place in a small town between the major engagements, where nothing of importance was likely to happen.
it took place in a small town,
between major engagements,
where nothing of importance was likely to happen
We’ve been programmed to focus on the big stuff, not only the things we think are important, but what others tell us is significant: the next promotion, more income, more things, full calendars, meaningful family activities. You know the routine.
The moments in between major engagements become only a means to get to the next event. We’ve dismissed them as throw-away times. We have no expectation that anything of importance to can happen then.
The Boy (my 2 1/2 year-old grandson) is teaching me about the non-scheduled times, the small moments when nothing is planned. We sit by the wading pool, pouring water, learning to restore the shape of a bent Solo cup, making the plastic fish dive into the pool, emptying the boats of water so they’ll float again, and swirling the water with our hands to make the boats go.
Or the morning when he sat on the kitchen counter while I finished my chores, before our promised morning outside. I plugged the sink drain, turned on the water, encouraged him to put his feet in, and gave him wooden spoons, wire whisks, and metal measuring cups to play with. My clean-up tasks paled in comparison with the fun we shared in the sink.
These moments made my weekend. Not the meals cooked, or the baseball game, or the shopping, or the run to the grocery story. It was the play times in between the daily events that I treasure.
Life in a small town, between performances, where nothing is likely to happen.
That’s where the good stuff is.
Until next Tuesday . . .