IF NOT NOW -- WHEN ?
Updated: Mar 10
In society, having fun is considered by many to be less valuable than working hard or being practical or "serious." The label of "amateur" serves to denigrate our status in the arts community if we do not earn our living by expressing our art. Creative activities are not viewed as valid purposes in and of themselves. One need look no farther than the December-January 2021-2022 issue of AARP The Magazine ( “Is Jimmy Buffett the new face of American retirement?” by John Colapinto). The article featured an over-55 residential retirement village called "Latitude Margaritaville," sponsored and designed by Jimmy Buffet.
Buffet apparently views retirement years as a time of winding down rather than winding up and becoming “generative,” as psychologist Eric Erickson called it. Buffet equates having fun with escapism (e.g.,“That little layer of escapism that we provide, that little layer of humanity, is what keeps us from going back and being tribal.”).
In addition, I am potentially offended by one comment of my favorite pianist of all time, Vladimir Horowitz. He said that "Without common sense you are a fiasco, without technique an amateur, without heart a machine." Is he implying that all amateurs are not to be taken seriously, even ones with technique and a heart? It seems so!
But what if after retirement, having fun, especially when learning, relearning, or playing the piano or any instrument, is all about moving closer to your generative, creative self?
When you pursue a creative venture, what if you feel like you are coming home, moving closer to your core, truly becoming and living out who you perceive and feel yourself to be in the world? What if being creative is a source of deep peace and calm, and the source of gratitude and amplification of care for ourselves, our families, and our communities? What if playing the piano leads to new friendships and intimacy that are rare these days of agonized politics and remote "socialization" on the internet?
That is precisely what my adult piano lessons restarted two years ago at age 76, and now my occasional piano presentations for friends, represent and feel like to me. These endeavors are not frivolous, they are not surface, and they certainly are not escapist from some horrible reality that I am avoiding. That practicing my piano may help me procrastinate downsizing and re-organizing my cabinets that must go on these days, is undeniable, but escapism? Not really.
In fact, for me these creative activities are delving straight into the bottom of the pool of life, going for broke, going for gold, narrowing my focus down to what really matters, pursuing what truly makes me happy and feel like I'm being creative plus having fun!
A deeply-rooted quest to self-express in creative endeavors has always been with me, and most likely we are all born with it. However, it gets driven out of many of us unless long ago we are among the lucky few who had perspicacious parents or a musical or artistic mentor who knew there is lasting value when we are young, in pursuing self-expressive creative endeavors and drives, or who like me, re-discovered the miracle of music in our senior years.
I hope my musically-related poetry posted here and in several volumes of poetry (Vol. I will be published in December, 2022 on major online distributors in paperback, with ebook planned for spring. Vol II is planned for publication in the spring 2023), plus occasional essays about my pianistic learning challenges and endeavors, will cause a few chuckles, but mainly inspire you to pursue your own creative muse.
I'd love to hear what you think, feel, and experience with music or instrumental endeavors in your own life, and hope you come back from time to time to find out how my dreams and pianistic adventure have expanded and changed.
As for fun and creativity, if not now--when ?
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.