This line from Mary Oliver’s poem has haunted me for years:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I used to read that and think, ‘I’ve only got one shot at this, I’d better get it right!’; ‘Am I doing it right?’ (lyric from a John Mayer song); ‘So many things to experience in this world – am I blowing my one opportunity at life?’
Focusing on time, and how I am spending it, is the trap. Worrying about the infinite things I was giving up by choosing the thing I was doing now … that’s what robbed me of enjoying the thing I was doing now.
It’s taken me almost 50 years to realize it doesn’t matter so much what I’m doing. Almost ironically, letting go of everything else – confronting my own finitude and accepting the reality that I will never be able to do everything – was the key. Choosing to be here now turns this moment’s experience, however exotic or mundane, into something worth paying attention to. It makes it possible to simply relax. It’s going just as it should, in the direction it should, at the pace it should.
The only way to waste our time is to let it slip by unattended.
Life is finite. We have to choose a few things, give up everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.
By the way for anyone interested, Oliver Burkeman digs deep into this topic in his book 4,000 Weeks. He’s much more eloquent than me and I recommend taking a look. He also has a series of audio recordings in Sam Harris’s Waking Up app. Book and series have both been helpful on my journey.
Stories are all around us. The skill is to pay attention. Finding stories in the everyday and actually writing them down instead of just noticing them and moving on.
Stories are as ephemeral as soap bubbles if you don’t write them down. I know that deep in my heart and yet I let so many float away on the breeze.
The piano at my house had a bad note. One of the pins that held one of the strings kept slipping in its hole, and the string could not stay in tune. The result was truly obnoxious. . When I sat at the piano I found myself expending energy to avoid the note, modifying my playing to stay away Continue reading “One Bad Note”
I used to keep a notebook in high school filled with ideas for song lyrics and poems. None of them were very good. I think many of us had such a notebook, either in the back of our trapper keepers or tucked away under our mattresses. While I didn’t hold my writing in high regard I do remember Continue reading “Diamonds Toward You and Rubies Away”
What makes us like a song? The first time I heard Romeo & Juliet was a cover version by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. It’s a raw version and I was gripped by the naked emotion of Ray’s voice and her exposed acoustic guitar. In college this song was on my top-10 favorites list, and years later Continue reading “Romeo & Juliet”
The carrying case for my digital piano. For years, I resisted putting stickers on my case. I wasn’t sure I wanted them there, because I don’t usually prefer the scattered disorganization, and I knew once the first sticker got stuck, there was no going back. Finally, when my daughter was about 5 years old and Continue reading “A Place To Put The Stickers”
In creating original music, I used to bring fully formed songs to the band. All the chords, all the changes, all the lyrics. This worked reasonably well although I was never completely satisfied with the outcome because I could always hear more potential than I was able to communicate to the other Continue reading “Sausage Making Songs”
Some New Years Day thoughts about how music, and all art in general, meets three primary human longings.
First, we as humans long for community. We long to share our experiences Continue reading “3 Reasons We Create Art”
Something about performing music always brings me precisely into the present moment. There’s a difference between expectation and experience. Expectation is what we hope for, what we long for. Experience is what’s actually here. Letting go of expectation so we can stay focused in the Continue reading “Expectation vs. Experience”
I met another musician at a wedding several years ago who shared a perspective that has been formative for me not just as a musician but also as a leader, a father, and a friend.
He said once you’ve taken your place on stage with instrument or Continue reading “The Value of Constant Preparation”
Every musician I’ve played with cares about the music. To play to the best of our ability, or create the right vibe, or reflect back the energy of the crowd, or do right by the original artist. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we aim for quality and the music matters. The notes matter.
Continue reading “Notes that Matter”