Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sisyphus Unbound

It began with a meeting with someone who had come to our Pentatonics Jazz Concert and was impressed enough to inquire about future opportunities for kids concerts. My favorite topic! I felt my energy rising as I talked, left the cafĂ© with a warm handshake and went out to do some errands. I noticed a new lightness in my step and a smile starting to emerge. Was it a coincidence that after two straight weeks of fog, the sun had finally come out? Suddenly the world was shining brightly and because my shouldered burdens had started to slip away, everyone who walked by seemed less weighted down as well. “All things change when we do” said the old Japanese poet Kukkai and he was right.

It has been a brutal few weeks of pushing the heavy stone of arranging workshops, flights, book inventories, concert invitations and the like up the hill and everytime I felt like I reached the summit, in came 10 e-mails with action items and deadlines. Down the stone rolled to the bottom of the hill and off I went again. Sisyphus, I know exactly how you must have felt.

But today, on the verge of two weeks of travels, the stone stayed balanced on the top and I could stretch and feel a taste of the freedom of actually living instead of constantly preparing to live.  Heck, maybe I’ll just push it off the other side— it really is exhausting rolling that thing uphill day after day! But dream on. Ain’t no joyful livin’ in today’s world without the ant-like patience and detail work of arranging things. At least in my field of music teaching and music concerts. And as I’ve written several times recently (Seed Planting/ Bean Counting, for example), the ant’s meticulous labor and the grasshopper’s spontaneous fiddling each carry their own pleasure. (I can feel my high school English teacher breathing down my neck here, red pencil poised: “How did the ant and grasshopper get mixed up with Sisyphus? And wouldn’t they both be crushed when the stone rolled down? No mixed metaphors, young man! “)

Complaining to my men’s group buddies last night, one of them mentioned the closing sentence to Camus’ essay, where he compared the old Greek myth to the countless business tasks of contemporary society, If I remember correctly from high school English class, the essay was mostly about the absurdity and futility of modern life. And yet he closes thus:

“The struggle itself [...] is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

Well, maybe. But my happiness came from the moment of release, about to board the plane to Calgary, Beijing, Yokohama and Tokyo to do the real work I’m meant to do.

But first I gotta pack.


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