Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Seek Truth or Create Reality, an Awkward Choice

[I wrote this by hand in 2003 and put it aside. It turned up today during a reorg.]

Sometimes small things in your life can lead to big insights. Occasionally even small inconveniences can provide his service.

I have the ability to blow anything out of proportion. And, mirabile dictu, I’ll tell myself it’s no big deal.

Feeling ambivalent about so many things that happen, good and bad, has become such a habit that I’ve been unaware of it. First, I over dramatize. Then, I put in perspective.

Until now.

It was the production of Angels in America that jiggled the handle of my habitual consciousness. The day after the last segment, the thought struck my mind that the penultimate issue in the play is the Job Question. (Old Testament Job.)

If you haven’t seen the play, the scene has “the Prophet” accusing God of walking away and abandoning child humanity. In the play’s context, it’s like Job demanding of God, “Why me?”

Notably, the play does not give the Biblical answer, “Because I am God and you are not.”

Instead it moves quickly on to the final issue. “We who suffer will yet impose our reality on the world."

These two issues that bring the play to a conclusion are point and counterpoint. They underscore the two great desires the soul has as it contends with the material universe.

The two desires are: 1. to know the Truth, and 2. to impose our will on the world.

Yes, we desire to know the Truth. Even if we deny the truth to someone else, we want it for ourselves.

We want to know what is the true nature of the world, of our own life, what await us in the future, what lies behind the door of death.

This desire for truth can only be completed by ultimate Truth, which is the being of God. How a partial truth can relate to the complete truth is a subject I can only speculate about. And it’s not a comfortable speculation.

I have the uneasy awareness that my previous partial truths were revealed, in time, to be mostly falsehoods. What credibility does that give to my present partial truths?

If we are determined to pursue truth until we get the whole thing, are we then committed to erasing every bit of ourselves that is personal?

On the other side of the polarity, we all have a story to tell, a song to sing, a dance to perform. We have an idea in our minds. We work to make it real, to manifest it in our lives. We actively engage in creating our own reality.

In short, we have these two ideas side by side. 1. We are seekers after Truth.
2. We create our own reality.

You can see how these two desires are incompatible. And yet, each is inherent in the human condition.

In the voyage of the soul, first we are searching for the truth, then we are toiling to produce our own truth. Then, back to looking for the truth, and again back to manifesting our own passionate desire for our unique truth.

To yearn for the Truth is to be open to revelation and change. The greater thing outside is invited in.

To create a reality means willing a result, reaching a goal, hitting a target. The definite within is manifested in the chaos outside.

How can we possibly have it both ways?

When the full weight of this dilemma landed on my head, my first thought was to let go of the create reality side and embrace only the seek truth side.

But how can this work if both sides are built in to human nature? They are intimately connected as an opposite pair, or polarity twins. Focus on one will draw the reaction of its opposite.

Can we let go of both? We let go of, “I want to know the Truth.” We also release,
“I want to see this happen.” What would you be left with, other than the present moment and nothing more?

And in that present moment, you perceive you have a task that is good to do right now.

Good. Then, do it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Julie & Julia Inspire by Example

When I mention the movie, Julie & Julia, to my musician friends, most of them haven’t seen it. The movie was recently released as a DVD. That makes it easier to access. It’s a smart idea combining two personal stories, very well done.

I have two inspirational hits from this film, one for Julie and one for Julia.

The inspiration of Julia Child is the lesson of finding your passion. She was unfocused until she enrolled in Cordon Bleu to learn to cook French cuisine. That was the pivotal action of her life.

The best seller book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking would never have happened. The TV show would never have been made. It all hinged on that decision to study the subject.

She fell totally in love with French cooking. “Butter!” she says in an early scene. The French word is even more seductive. She is glazed and in a trance over butter.

We all need a pivot to turn from just plugging along to really making a song out of our life. (Or a fiddle tune.) You’ve heard of “find your passion.” Julia Child found hers. Everything followed from that.

The second inspiration is Julie Powell’s goal-intention-project of preparing all the recipes in Julia’s book in one year’s time and blogging about it. The ambitious, but doable project and the one year time constraint act as a wonderful motivational goad.

The project met resistance. Of course it would. Somehow, persistence wins.

The subtext of her idolization of Julia Child is an interesting study of emulation. Ultimately her achievement goes beyond the need for approval from her idol.

A few years ago, I had a similar experience. I set out to play one hundred different tunes one hundred times each. To devote this much time to a tune about twice a week was not completely crazy. But it was not easy for my mind to accept. After a while I got into an accustomed process. I just did it.

It raised my level of playing.

This year, inspired by Julie & Julia, I’m choosing a similar project. The big idea is, Publish 100 Fiddle Tunes from my repertory online. Do this over the next year.

It’s fair to say that I strongly advocate the inspiration from the movie. If you have not connected with your passion, consider a big project to get started.

Even, in the harshest case, you are defeated from achieving your target, you will learn so much about yourself, it’s worth it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A New Look at the Pareto Principle in Music

From Wikipedia we have "The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes."

(See for more.)

Applied to learning music we get this, 80% of the benefit of a practice session is gained from 20% of the effort. Could this be true?

When I get started in the morning I usually play over a tune slowly and carefully. I pay attention to how my notes are tuning in to the open strings. i listen to the sympathetic resonance. This really warms up my ear as well as my fingers and arm.

Playing the tune through the second time is easier. If I play the tune five times it's beginning to sound solid by the end. If the second time through sounds 80% as good as the fifth time, then we have an example of the 80/20 rule.

Until this relationship struck my mind, I had not been aware that practicing by fives lets you employ the Pareto Principle.

Another way to look at it is to ask how much can you gain by additional practice.

If you typically practice about a half an hour. then you could enhance your ability 25% by continuing two more hours. (The half hour is 20% of two and a half. The marginal increase in results of 100% over 80% is 25%.)

How well I play, or how well you play is subjective for us. Even so, I suspect there is at least some truth to the application of the 80/20 rule in music practicing.

One last thought. It may be the number of times you play the same passage, piece or etude. That may be the constraint that brings the 80/20 rule into play.

This concept has a little more detail, especially for music students, at the Music Lesson Plan blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

From the Academy to the Agora

The turning point in philosophy came , for me, when I was done with about 27 hours of grad level philosophy courses. I was about 80% done with the first draft of my thesis. It was in aesthetics.

I had pursued this course of study right after getting my Master of Music degree in Composition and Violin. I intended to fill in my two greatest interests with credentialization.

At that moment I was faced with a choice of how to spend my Thursday nights. Would I take one more class in philosophy, or attend the local Toastmasters Club.

I had heard the recommendations from Jim Rohn and Brian Tracy. Finally, I went to the local club to see what it was.

The value of the educational program at Toastmasters was immediately apparent. As I weighed the choice, I thought, $300 plus for the 3 hour philosophy credit, or $30 for Toastmasters. Both were meeting on Thursday night.

I cold not see the philosophy class as being ten times as valuable as Toastmasters. I made the decision on that basis and never looked back.

One thing leads to another. I was lead to the philosophy of success by the Toastmasters experience.

Preparing short talks on subjects of my choice deepened my study of what success means. The opportunities in the Toastmasters program have directly brought me more personal success. It’s been a good fit.

I think of it as a community service, too. Helping new members develop their communication and leadership skills enhances the whole community.

The Academe is cloistered and sequestered. The Agora is the marketplace. This is where ideas are ultimately tested and proven. I may have started my quest in philosophy in the academic environment. Now it continues in the day to day give and take with people in the normal work-a-day world.