I sometimes worry that my blog is not focused enough.  Really successful bloggers seem to settle on one issue and talk about that.  I’m all over the place.  Perhaps not coincidentally, I also have trouble focusing my eyes. 

If you’ve read my articles, you know that when I improved my depth perception I became able to think more clearly and for longer periods of time.  I’m hoping that, by learning how to find focus in my eyes, I can transfer that focus to my work.  So what have I learned about seeing?

A Small Act of Kindness

 

Once a guy named Joe did me a kindness.  I’d like to thank him, but I can’t anymore.  So I’m going to tell you this story instead.

I am transitioning from a steady, reliable job at Atlanta Public Schools into a more fluid freelance life.  There are several things that make me anxious about this choice.  The main one is I am very afraid of losing all my money.

 

There are times when I find myself profoundly lonely, and no amount of communication or reassurance from anyone could help.  My sense of my separation with the world is so strong it’s like being on an island.  The only thing that makes me feel better in those times is to work on a creative project, a story, a poem, a piece of music.

 

There’s a picture of Bruce Springsteen on the cover of his album Darkness on the Edge of Town which shows him staring at the camera with a particularly intense expression on his face.  I recognize myself in that picture. 

When I was just starting out as a pianist, nothing terrified me more than looking up while I was playing.  In classical I kept my gaze down, and in jazz and rock I could never even glance at the other players without losing it.  Many years later, having learned to look up and out, I thought I had discovered all the benefits, but last week I discovered another one, possibly the most important.

Prejudged

 

Once, in my twenties, playing at a coffeehouse in front of my friends, I took care of my nervousness by reassuring them at the beginning that it was okay for them to talk during my performance.  When they talked so much they didn’t hear me, I very much regretted my choice!  I had mistakenly created an interaction where I was seen as a very amateur player, not worth listening to. 

 

I wasn’t an amateur player.  But once I told the audience I was, there was little I could do to change it.  First impressions aren’t correct…they’re just enduring.

 

 

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Image source: Jeremysaid.com

 

How do you feel about uncertainty?  Today I caught the end of an interview with George Saunders, the author of the acclaimed book Lincoln at the Bardo.  He said something that struck me right across my forehead.

Image Source:  www.tinybuddha.com

 

One of the more challenging quotes I ever ran across is “You are not defeated when you lose. You are defeated when you quit.” (Paolo Coelho)  That always struck me as a painful truth: that defeat would be something I would choose rather than something that happens to me.  But I have a better reason to stick with something than avoidance of defeat.

 

It doesn’t matter how good you are at something when you arrive, what matters is how good you are when you leave. 

Image source:  Prisoncellphones.com

 

If you are a classical musician, then you are probably at least familiar with the way we represent music on the page.  Our notation system looks like Greek to nonmusicians, and the truth is, it’s just as confusing to musicians who can play well, but can’t read music.  That’s because it’s fairly stupid.

I was always under the impression that if you’re “feeling it” when you write or perform, your audience is bound to pick up on your vibe.  I was convinced that you should always trust your own impressions when creating or performing.  I have to refine that idea after this weekend.

 

I was listening to a chorus conductor who had chosen a musical setting of an ancient Persian poet, Rumi.  When he read the poem to us before the performance, I was moved nearly to tears.  Yet when he performed the music with the chorus, I was not moved at all.

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