It’s best to listen and watch and pay attention to the things going on around us in our lives because, all too often, lessons abound and if we aren’t ready, we miss out.
I am a some-time pianist and deal with a few more issues than most aging amateur piano plonkers: problems with focusing on the words (notes) on the page, fatigue in my body that gives out before my hands do, and a constant internal conversation about “why can’t I do this the way I used to?”
In life, today, we can never do it (whatever it is) the way we used to. We do it the way we do it now!
We all have our troubles and challenges in our lives and they are all different except for one major thing: they are the troubles in our lives.
Everybody has them. If they’re not having them, they just got through with them; if they didn’t just come through, then the troubles are on the way.
My friend Jessica Roemischer (see her YouTube channel here: Jessica Roemischer) is an accomplished musician and a great teacher of simple, life-changing lessons. She taught me about playing the white keys:
Part of Jessica’s work is with with women who have various developmental differences or medical situations by which expression for them doesn’t work the same as it does for everyman on the street. Jessica is an adaptive pianist who can wend her way through mash ups of combinations of songs that transport the mind away from singing along with some pop tune. They move the listener to a place at which the song that she is playing may not even be the song that we hear as the melody evolves and the listener becomes so immersed in the meditation of the moment.
That’s not nearly the whole story.
When she’s working with students at the piano, she tells them to sit with her and play what it is that they feel/hear/want to say. And there is only one bit of instruction:
play the white keys.
What happens next is the student playing what she is sensing/hearing/feeling with no theory, no sheet music, no lead sheet. At the same time, the teacher fills in the bits and pieces around the student’s music, and from that, the single song emerges.
Here is what I learned:
Many times I’m up against the wall of intense challenge that I cannot scale, or that I certainly cannot scale (or navigate around) by myself. Without realizing what I was doing, in those times I was following the example of Jessica’s students and “playing just the white keys” with what I feel and what I hear around me, and – in return – some teacher is there to fill in all the rest and we create a song.
- A teacher is there to fill in the logic around my emotions and together we create a prayer.
- A physician is there to fill in what I do not know and to translate what I have read and do not understand.
- A helper is there and picks up what it is that I cannot do, and together, we get it done.
Fill in your own example here.
At the beginning of his famous “…ask not for whom the bell tolls” quote, John Donne began by saying:
“No man is an island, entire of itself…”
We are not alone. We are surrounded by family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, santos. That which we set out to do – regardless of how tough it may seem – we do not attempt alone to ourselves, except in our own imagination.
There will always be that most difficult of times in our lives when we must step up to that which we do not know. We must put our hands to the instrument that we do not know how to play. We may be invited by providence to sit for a while and pick out what we feel and what we hear and what we wish to say. Put your hands to the keys and simply… go.
And soon that providence, that helper, that teacher, that God… that extra set of knowing hands is near us, filling in the rest, and from it
We create the song.