Motivation to persist is a gossamer, ethereal concept. The yearning for some goal or thing is not all, because in order to effectively move us forward, that “something” must be beyond, something greater, as fashion designer Willy Chavarria intimated in his interview for the New York Times Style Magazine (4.24.22 “Letters to an Artist”).
Annette Benning described it as having a hole inside of you that you’re trying to fill. On a movie set one time, she told an older actress, Fabia Drake, that she was nervous, to which Drake responded, “Ah, yes, divine discontent.” Benning interpreted that as meaning that there is “something we can welcome about that feeling.”
I now wonder about the meaning of occasional emotional crises I have experienced during piano lessons or piano practice during my recent two-year journey to learn to play my piano again. Sometimes they are frustration-driven regarding some technical challenge, but sometimes and gratefully, infrequently, they are from my inability in the moment to pause, communicate, and resolve with my teacher something he has said to me or asked me to do that I feel is "too much pressure" or even sometimes, impatient or unfair. Are these feelings actually something to be welcomed?
Recently, I’ve written about silver linings, and if I think about my meltdowns, I can always derive one or two of those silver linings. The feeling in the moment is excruciatingly painful, sometimes accompanied by tears, and it can stop me in my tracks. Strange for an adult student, right? No matter, it’s “my strange,” and I always know that those deep feelings entail a lesson I need to learn.
Some us typically live life closely attuned to our deepest feelings, from being a bit on the more sensitive side, which has its pros and cons. Benning quotes from a story by Henry James (“The Middle Years,” 1893): “We work in the dark–we do what we can–we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Comes with the territory of how we are as an individual personalities, what our preferences are, and our involvement with the arts -- music in this case. I choose to allow my feelings, and that choice slowly becomes a more imperative one over the years. It well could be that feeling deeply helps me know and enjoy being “alive,” as I begin to value being in the world more as the years pass. But maybe there is more?
Reading both Chavarria’s and Benning’s takes on what discomfiting feelings can indicate, gives me hope. What I’m learning is most of all to notice my distressing feeling, let go in and to the moment, remember to be compassionate with myself, and then with a few other pointed strategies, find my way back to calm and receptivity, especially during a piano lesson.
After all, there is both being in the moment -- and something more -- that I yearn for as I persist in piano lessons and practice. As other musicians have said, it’s about learning technique in service to getting my inside music, outside my mind and heart via my piano. Saying more precisely in words what that "more" is, remains a challenge.
I express both of my reasons to persist, in these poems:
First, just allowing and pursuing more, not less, feeling, both the comfortable and the uncomfortable, and second, searching for the “something more" which to me is the being "one"
with all things.
Much is Given
To us whom much is given
And who are mainly driven
To express our soul
And be so bold
To share our joy in living,
Then we must give and share in return
Without expecting much,
No endgaming, no goal in sight,
Just sit quietly in ebb and flow,
Let go and rest in pure delight.
We must all courtesans be,
brave witches and warlocks, too,
ignore those puritans who seek to claim
all virtue, but pleasure they do eschew.
We must all bliss pursue,
and war against those who would
rain on our parade,
and gleefully degrade
our hedonistic bent sublime.
We must all liberties embrace,
as those brave souls do
who by others will be
misunderstood at the least,
rejected at worst, and said to be cursed
when we associate with those
who choose bliss, but others readily dismiss.
We must take care to reject
folks like poor Hanslick* who was seriously bent,
his time misspent in defending as rot
the body divine, the senses sublime
while making music or love
that he found poppycock.
We must avoid chains they seek to apply
to us free spirits who dance in the glee
and float on the wind of sensuous sounds,
choose pleasure as we must, in trust
that the day and this life will soon pass away
if we waste time in denying
the pleasure principle–those apt words
for coming “to our senses,” is our ultimate reward.
*Eduard Hanslick (1854-1885), The Beautiful in Music, regarded
physiological or psychological responses as “pathological.”
It’s never easy, is it, life?
Full of bliss but also strife.
Bittersweet or sweetly bitter,
Woes along our way do litter,
But also flights of fancy light
Our way and thus our souls delight!
One day up and one day down,
Then a smile and next a frown.
But surely one thing stands alone
Our woes and sins to soon atone,
And help survive the daily fray
To live to love another day,
And that is hope, or another word,
Optimism. It’s not absurd
As some might say, but think on this:
’Tis the only thing that leads to bliss!
I am a snake who slipped her skin,
Who slithers now toward birth within.
Left behind in dirt and slime
Remains the shell. Now life divine
Beckons me. No waste of time
Can ever be again. No hate, just rhyme
Can carry me to more of me and unity
Of passions all. Music, art, and dance, those three
Beyond reproach, or cause, or quest–
None of them prevail as best.
The same, all three, the mind and body and spirit be
Just one, even as you and I can see
If we but stand and look
Beyond the page of score or book:
Divinity in unity–all things and beings
One and same. Through gift of sight, eternal spring.